Mark Johanson 26th January 2022 (BBC Worklife)
The new world of remote jobs has small towns and cities exploding with growth as workers explore alternatives to big metropolitan areas. Is this good or bad?
At the tail end of a strict five-month-long lockdown in Santiago, Chile, a sprawling city of about seven million residents, Gonzalo Fuenzalida finally reached his breaking point with urban living. As the owner of Chile Nativo, a travel company that specialises in adventure, he’d always wanted his family to live closer to nature. So, in December 2020, they took a one-month exploratory trip to the woodsy resort town of Pucón, which lies in the shadow of a puffing volcano 780km (485mi) south of the Chilean capital.
Three months later, Fuenzalida rented a house in Pucón near Lake Villarrica, where he and his wife now spend their free time biking, hiking and stand-up paddleboarding. Their seven-year-old son attends school in the neighbouring city of Villarrica, where Fuenzalida rents a two-metre by three-metre office to work.
“In all senses,” he says, “our life has been better.”
Of course, the move has not been without its challenges. The 56-year-old says internet speeds are nowhere near as fast as in Santiago, making it difficult to run his company from his home, which he says “lies in a black hole”. And he hasn’t exactly escaped from traffic, either, which can back up for hours during the area’s peak summer tourism season, especially now that the number of permanent residents has skyrocketed.