Peggy Bree Tam moved from Canada to Colombia and plans on staying there.
Peggy Bree Tam
Peggy Bree Tam works remotely for a Canadian-based company as a project manager.She’s been in Colombia since 2021 and believes Toronto housing prices have gotten out of control.Tam’s money goes farther in Colombia and she’s now accustomed to the lifestyle she can afford there.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Peggy Bree Tam, 30, about her experience leaving her hometown of Toronto, Canada, to pursue a digital nomad lifestyle. Tam, a project manager, currently lives in Santa Marta, Colombia, and has no intentions of moving back to Canada. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
I first started working remotely in 2016 as a freelancer. I’ve worked from Peru, Thailand, and Mexico. I got to Colombia in October of 2021.
When I wanted to embark on this nomadic journey I relied on my freelance clients. It was stable, but it wasn’t something that I could’ve relied on if I wanted to have savings.
I’ve been working remotely full-time as a project manager for eight months or so. I’ve found that working nine-to-five for a company is pretty great. I don’t have to constantly go out and hustle. Everything is set — I have benefits and my laptop is provided.
In the beginning, I was driven to work remotely by my curiosity of what it could be like to try a different structure outside of what I had grown accustomed to in Toronto, and by the difference in cost of living.
I remember being so excited in 2016 that my rent in Mexico was $200 a month. That opened my eyes to the fact that it’s a possibility to actually live comfortably, because all I’d known were Toronto prices where rent now has to be at least 800 Canadian dollars a month.
Toronto has become too pricey to live comfortably
My motivation to work abroad has changed since 2016. This recent commitment to moving to and working in Colombia is because Toronto is too expensive.
I have a condo in Toronto that I’m renting out to a tenant, but there’s no way I’d be able to live there and have savings with all of the living expenses that come from Toronto’s pricing. There’s just no way.
I bought my condo in 2019, right before COVID, for around CAD$500,000. It’s a one bedroom in a new building. I had help from my parents and that’s the only way that could ever exist in my name. Right now I’m renting it out and that covers the mortgage, so I’m not making much money from it.
When dabbling in these other locations, I realized that everything was so cheap. Every time I would go to these places and come back to Canada, it just never made sense to continue being in Canada.
Obviously I have property in Canada, but when I think about being able to afford the lifestyle that I live now in the future — based on the income that I’m currently making — I would not be able to match it in Canada.
Tam said coworking spaces in Colombia only charge around $4 a day.
Peggy Bree Tam
I pay about CAD$600 to CAD$700 a month for my apartment in Santa Marta. It’s a pretty good sized space. There’s two bedrooms, and I have a living room and a kitchen.
There’s no way that price could even be a thing in Downtown Toronto.
Colombia offers me more adventure and financial freedom
Sometimes I feel so guilty for saying how cheap everything is in comparison, but everything is cheaper than in Canada to be honest: food, phone bill, internet, coworking space. It’s like 20,000 Colombian pesos [about $4] a day to work at a coworking spot here, but in Canada I think that you would have to pay more than CAD$200 a month.
I would say if you were to make $3,000 a month and live in Colombia, you’d be able to live like royalty.
Because I’m able to afford my living expenses and my food, it makes everything else so enjoyable. I can go on weekend trips and not break my budget.
I love that on weekends I can do random things. I can enjoy weekend trips that are uncommon. I don’t think just anybody can say, “Oh, I went to Machu Picchu over the weekend.” I just love those little adventures that I go on during weekends.
Tam enjoying a weekend getaway to Manizales, Colombia.
Peggy Bree Tam
I don’t really see myself going back to Canada.
Aside from being able to sustain myself monetarily, being able to really do good here in Colombia is another thing that reinforces my decision to stay here.
There’s a church here in Santa Marta that I’m helping build and that has definitely fulfilled many things in my heart, and that makes me want to stay even longer.
I enjoy that I finally have somewhere I can live and not have to worry too much about spending. I’m able to just be comfortable.