Remote work for digital nomads – and their kids

Less hostel partying, more primary schools – as remote work opens up to new audiences, businesses like Boundless Life have started thinking about the whole family.
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After founding and exiting two property-technology companies, last year Brazilian business owner Marcos Carvalho took a much-needed break to consider his next steps. He and long-time business partner Mauro Repacci made plans to buy properties around the world where the pair could live and work, fueled by their shared passion for travel.

But the challenges quickly became clear. Mauro, a father of three daughters aged two, four and seven, also wanted to give his children a consistent education, even if their lifestyle was defined by constant movement. 

‘We were observing the rise of some of the biggest trends in the future of living, and how connected that was to the future of work and remote working, combined with a growing desire for a more alternative education system,’ says Marcos.

‘We thought: what if we could go from one place to another, but solve those needs around the education part – and how are we going to make sure people have a community, so they aren't isolated?’

‘Work from anywhere’ families

Remote work used to be a perk for digital employees or reserved for the often young and unattached digital nomads who hopped between idyllic vacation destinations while on the job. But the past few years upended workers' connections to the office and opened up the possibility of remote work to people who may not have considered the option before: surveys show that 80% of jobseekers now want to live where they want rather than where a company dictates, while 70% of these ‘anywhere workers’ have children. However, family commitments are a big reason why parents don't take the plunge to work abroad. 

Through interviews with more than 1,000 families over six months – a significant number of whom were enthusiastic about embracing more travel if their children could be taken care of – Marcos and Mauro confirmed that there was a place for a service that catered specifically to remote-working families. 

Enter Boundless Life – a family travel experience that combines property, education, co-working and community for about 20 families per group. Marcos and Mauro aim to create a ‘village-within-a-village’ feel by taking out long-term leases on properties that are walking distance from one another, and close to Boundless Life's central co-working and education hubs where parents can work and children can study.

A new sort of studying abroad

As part of their fundraising, Marcos and Mauro raised a ‘roll-up vehicle’ (whereby a company can raise money from up to 250 accredited investors with a single entry on the capital table), aimed specifically at interested families who wanted an early stake in the company. 

Those founding families became part of Boundless Life's first group earlier this year, living and working in the medieval hilltop town of Sintra in Portugal, just 25 kilometers north-west of Lisbon. A new destination has since rolled out in Syros, Greece, while another, in Pistoia, Italy, is slated to open in January. Families can choose between three-, six-, nine- and 12-month packages – and move to different Boundless Life locations every three months. 

While Boundless Life offers summer programs, aimed at families who are out of the country for six weeks while school is out, there's also the option for an extended stay – and that's where Boundless Education comes in. Inspired by the Finnish system, the program draws largely on experiential and project-based learning, with a portfolio of skills and projects that help children slot back into their home school. It's been developed and is being taught by a qualified education team – led by education-tech entrepreneur and Boundless Life's third co-founder, Rekha Magon – and is currently available for children up to 12 years old, though there are plans to expand to older age groups (and potentially launch it as a standalone global flexible education model in the future).

Boundless Life has built a significant following among startup founders, small business owners and consultants, the sort of people who previously may not have been able to leave their jobs to live abroad for months at a time. Yet of the 110 families it will host across its locations by the end of this year, there's a decent number of corporate nine-to-fivers, too – a share that could grow. Since the start of 2020, remote job postings in the UK have increased 329%, a market that Boundless Life is working to capture more of across more regions as it plans to expand its footprint next year to Turkey, Bali and Japan.

Currently, Boundless Life is only really fit for premium customers. A three-month stay in Sintra, with two-bedroom accommodation and one child at the Education Center, plus a co-working space and inclusions like return airport transfers, a weekly cleaner, yoga and other activities, can run up to about €5,200 per month. Stays of six months or more tick down slightly to €4,500 per month. 

However, those who go it alone have to sort out their own daycare and school (some of which won't take children temporarily), find a summer camp, source a nanny, or find a co-working space with childcare – all of which might require reduced working hours between parents or commit one parent to taking care of the kids or homeschooling. Marcos and his team are confident that Boundless Life's offerings are plentiful enough to make it a superior option to what's currently available to working parents wanting to embark on extended travel. 

Beyond logistics, the program also offers a built-in community somewhere new – Marcos believes this aspect is responsible for repeat business: 80% of the first two groups went on to book six- and nine-month packages.

‘We have single parents, people in corporate jobs, entrepreneurs that are starting out, and those that have sold their companies, all hanging out in the same committee,’ Marcos says. ‘You have this trusted community where not only do the children make friends but the parents also really enjoy each other – and that's priceless.’

A version of this article was published in the Courier Weekly newsletter. For more useful stories, tips, tricks and simply good advice, sign up here.

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