Metaverse Enabled Mass Migration is Around the Corner

September 22, 2021
The Metaverse

You slowly wake up to the warm ocean breeze drifting in through the window. 

A quick glance over to the clock, 8:43 am. That never gets old. 

You used to wake up at 6 am, get ready for work, sit in traffic for an hour, get to the office in Palo Alto by 9 am. Meetings, Janice in the break room talking about her new puppy, maybe two hours of actual focused work, then another hour in traffic back home. 

That was a long time ago though. 

As you make some coffee you look out the window at the gentle turquoise waves lapping against the powdered sugar beach in front of your house in the Caribbean. 

You bought the house for slightly more than the down payment you’d been saving for a place in the Bay Area.

With your cup of coffee in hand, you slide into your ergonomic office chair. The leather is cool on your skin. You set down your coffee and pick up a sleek, lightweight pair of goggles. The display turns on and you scroll through a few notifications then teleport to work. 

You’re floating through the International Space Station. Every morning you meet with coworkers for a quick standup in the Metaverse. Every day it’s a different place, today is the ISS. 

It’s been so long since everyone worked in the Bay Area or New York, or London, or New Delhi that you don’t even know where some of your coworkers live in real life. Mark lives in Argentina you think, but maybe it was Chile. Doesn’t really matter, you’re all here on the virtual ISS together.

We’re sitting at the eve of the largest migration in human history and no one is paying attention.

The pandemic blew open the doors to remote work and Americans responded quickly.

Tech workers fled San Francisco as soon as they understood the pandemic was here to stay.

Miami was a tech crowd favorite and featured prominently in the twitterverse, but most tech workers, like myself, moved to lower-cost, warmer parts of California (Source: Bloomberg).  

Once people got that sweet, sweet taste of freedom, they didn’t want to go back to the office. In fact, in a recent survey I’ve cited before, only 2% of respondents said they absolutely want to go back to the office, while 65% said they prefer to work from home (Source: World Economic Forum). 

You can’t put the cat back in the bag — remote work is here to stay. 

Early in the pandemic Tahoe, a popular ski town near the Bay Area, exploded in popularity. But it’s not only nearby skiing destinations that saw massive inflows. Other popular vacation spots and picturesque villages did too — igniting the trend of so-called Zoom Towns. 

Ski towns first, the world next

This isn’t a US-only phenomenon either. Countries in Latin America, like Costa Rica, are launching new remote worker visas to encourage immigration. They watched Estonia, a country that's been courting remote workers since before the pandemic (Source: Quartz).  

US migration was only the first step. Remote work is inherently global — the whole world is an option. It's not easy to do yet, though, and that's why there’ve only been some young pioneering digital nomads that have tried it. But a few key technologies and trends are converging to make the whole world viable for all remote workers. 

Once the whole world is viable, then only time zones will matter in the short run. In the long run, companies will adapt to remote and adopt more asynchronous working practices. This will remove time zones as a consideration, but that's a way off. 

For working with US companies the entirety of Latin America and the Caribbean become not only viable, but preferable. Lower cost of living, beautiful beaches, delicious food, but with the continuity of US income levels.

Working with European companies? Leave Germany and the UK for Spain, Greece, or Italy. If you’re more adventurous, head to Marrakesh, Kampala, or Nairobi.

Work with Asia? Then of course there are some classic digital nomad spots like Bali and multiple cities in Thailand. Balaji, the investor/entrepreneur/savant is calling it for Guam.

The effects of this mass migration are myriad, including wealth redistribution on a global scale that we can’t even imagine right now. 

Some of the most beautiful places in the world are also often the poorest and rely on tourism dollars. 

Remote workers are more stable and bring in a lot more money. 

According to Nacho Rodriguez, an entrepreneur who works with the government of the Spanish Canary Islands to attract remote workers. He says “an average tourist in Europe goes on a trip for 5.2 nights and spends $70 per day or $356 per trip.

Meanwhile, a high-income tech worker from the U.S. or London makes ~$150,000/year. If they'd relocate to the Canary Islands and spend just half of that, that's $75k/year put into the local economy. That amount of money can create 3 local jobs at local average wages.” (Source: Pieter Levels).

Stable jobs in the service industry supporting remote workers is only one part of the global wealth redistribution. The second, and most amazing, is that the barrier for the locals for those 150k jobs is greatly reduced — opening up opportunities for talented, ambitious kids around the world to join the upper-middle-class regardless of where they live. 

This migration will reshape the world.

Zoom pioneers, Metaverse Settlers

Zoom and current tools and processes are already the early pioneers, the next big step will be enabled in the coming decades by the Metaverse. What is the Metaverse? 

It will be an always-on, shared set of virtual experiences that are seamlessly connected. It’s not virtual reality, or augmented reality, or spatial/3D internet. It will be all those things and more.

I wrote about this in my Guide to the Metaverse

Working in the Metaverse will be better than working remote, and working remote is better than in an office — no commute, more family time, work from beautiful places, your own toilet (the best benefit if we’re being serious). 

Sure, Zoom fatigue is real, but even today the upsides of remote outweigh the downside of Zoom fatigue. 

Metaverse and even just some near-term solutions like Facebook Horizons, VR Chat, or Spatial enable you to still get critical face time — that connectivity, that feeling of presence during collaboration sessions. 

Zoom’s downsides are solved by the Metaverse

  1. Whiteboard jam sessions
    Just not great right now. There’re some cool tools like Miro that get close, but we’re not there yet
  2. Side conversations
    You can’t whisper to the person next to you in Zoom. You sit and stare at yourself in a grid of faces. It’s unnatural. 

We’ll save this all for a future piece, but needless to say that Metaverse will allow you to work effectively anywhere.


Well, you’ll still need a strong internet connection, but Starlink has entered the chat. We’re about to blanket planet earth with high-speed internet.

Ok, ok, but HR says they can’t hire in {insert your country of choice} country

Yeah, that’s true right now for some countries, but it won’t be forever. Why not? 

  1. Companies are limiting their own pool of qualified candidates
  2. Crypto has entered the chat

Crypto and the blockchain are keys to unlocking truly global workforces. Crypto enables people to build smart contracts and get paid in crypto to their wallet - regardless of their physical location. HR departments are still stuck in current processes and tax laws, but they won’t be for long. Crypto/blockchain is a huge unlock.

Last, even if you get home sick, you can always buy a plane ticket with the cash you save from your reduced cost of living. 

Or if a flight halfway across the world takes too much time there will be earth-to-earth rockets.

SpaceX has entered the chat. They’re on the verge of pioneering earth-to-earth flights. Fly from anywhere in the world to anywhere in the world in less than an hour. That’s just insane. 

What about the kids!

Ok, so you’re almost ready to pack your bags, but what about the kids? 

We’re on the eve of alternative education going mainstream. The Metaverse coupled with some in-person education for the social aspects will surpass the quality of our current education system by leaps and bounds.  

Today we’re already seeing an uptick in alternative education companies and people using technology in more radical ways, see Synthesis school, Dev Bootcamps, and cohort-based courses for ongoing education. 

Also, I don’t think in the long run we’ll see most families cruising around the globe as nomads. They’ll settle down. With families settled and putting down roots it will be easy to connect with other expats and build community with the locals too. You and your kids will make friends and the kids will be more well-rounded culturally.

It all sounds like Klingon to me

“But, but I don’t speak the language where I want to go”, you say. 

Well, putting aside most British and American’s lack of foreign language skills for a second, you are likely reading this article in English, which is fortunately for you the most important global language, and fast becoming even more so. Nowadays there are more people speaking to each other in English as a second language, than native English speakers talking to each other in English. 

Plus, English has already become the global standard for tourism. Wherever you choose to go, some of the locals will know English, which will tide you over till you can get some conversational skills in the home country's language. 

All it takes is the early pioneers

At first, the idea that millions of knowledge workers will migrate around the globe sounds a little crazy, but all it takes is a few pioneers building on the existing expat communities and digital nomads to really make it easier for those that are a little more risk-averse. 

Like a frontier town builds off the first saloon, later migrants will come once some baseline infrastructure is built: websites, forums, more real estate agents that speak English, more alternative schools, etc. This is a migration movement that will build on itself, and we’re going to watch it happen, or maybe you’ll join the early pioneers. See you somewhere warmer next time!  

Special Thanks
Vadym Barda
Meenal Balar
Rachel Koppelman
Karena de Souza
Joel Christiansen
Corey Wilks

Top photo by Nicole Keller on Unsplash

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