Imagine swapping your cubicle for a beach.
For Kansas City-native Shawn Hansen, that’s not a dream — it’s real life. Sometimes that beach is Rio, sometimes it's Mexico — it doesn’t really matter where, as long as he has his laptop and a decent Wi-Fi signal.
Hansen gave up his permanent residence in Kansas City in January 2014, opting instead to travel the world doing freelance writing, technical consulting and teaching English.
There’s a term for people who leverage technology in order to travel freely around the globe: digital nomads.
And although Hansen chose to leave his hometown for saltier waters, some digital nomads find their oasis right here in Kansas City.
Chris Baran is a native of New York, but he’s been living the nomadic lifestyle for six years. He first came to Kansas City for one reason — gigabit internet.
For Baran, who works as a union craftsman, entrepreneur and programmer, the advantages Google Fiber offered were a big draw.
“That was the main reason that I came to check out Kansas City in the first place,” he told Steve Kraske on KCUR's Up To Date. He founded Traveling Nuker here and also works for Kansas City-based startup SquareOffs.
“I was a big proponent because one of the things that Google Fiber does is it's a synchronous connection, so it really pushes forward crossing the digital divide for lower-income people and it creates a lot of job opportunities knowing that you can create content at the same speed you consume it.”
What he found here was more than super-fast Internet.
“I met over 50 people in the business community and it was one of the warmest receptions I'd ever gotten from a brand-new city,” Baran said.
Though he’s worked in 178 cities during the past six years, Baran has made Kansas City one of his home bases, traveling between here, Miami and San Francisco.
He says he found real connections within the entrepreneurial community — he even began working for SquareOffs while he was living in the Hacker House, a home that rents rooms for entrepreneurs on Airbnb.
Although more cities have started to deploy gigabit Internet (with even more in the works), Baran thinks that the initiatives Kansas City has started, like the Cisco Smart City, will keep the metro a destination for founders and programmers.
Jason Rehmus, another nomad, spent a few months in Kansas City over the summer, working from the Cowork Waldo space.
Rehmus didn’t come to Kansas City for the fast Internet speeds, though it was a perk of being here.
“I had completely forgotten that Google fiber was in town and then I went to a coffee shop and I was getting speeds that were, like 100 times faster than any other place I'd been ... I didn't want to leave at that point," he said.
He did leave, as nomads are prone to do, but it wasn’t just the Internet that he enjoyed in Kansas City.
“I met such great people down in Kansas City, it was really hard to make the decision to move,” Rehmus said.
Lisa Rodriguez is a producer with KCUR's Up To Date. You can find her on Twitter, @larodrig.