A digital nomad in Manila

He can do his job from anywhere in the world. Twenty-seven-year-old Manuel Schuster from Thun in the Bernese Oberland followed his girlfriend to the Philippines, where he now advises businesses on online marketing.

This content was published on July 29, 2017 - 11:00

SWI When and why did you leave Switzerland?

Manuel Schuster: I have always dreamt about being able to work from anywhere in the world and discover it at the same time. For this reason, I decided to travel through Asia in 2016. When I met my present girlfriend, who is originally from the Philippines, in Barcelona in October 2015, my decision was made. I was already on my way to the island country in Southeast Asia by November 2015.

SWI What were your first few months like in the Philippines?

M.S.: I spent the first few months in Manila, and it was unbelievable. Traffic is horrendous and poverty is omnipresent in some parts of the city. But still, Manila has a certain charm and a lot to offer. After about two months in Manila, my girlfriend and I decided to move to BoracayExternal link for a while. There you find white sandy beaches and beautiful sunsets like on a postcard. We usually spent our evenings having a cocktail or a beer at “Wahini”, our local pub, watching the sun slowly disappear into the sea. However, during the day I still had to earn a living, which is definitely a lot easier with a white beach on your doorstep.

SWI Is this a trip of no return, or are you planning to come back to Switzerland one day?

M.S.: When I left Switzerland, I wasn’t sure how long I would stay or whether I would come back at all. However, as I have not only fallen in love with an amazing woman but also with a beautiful country, the decision to stay was pretty easy. I still try to visit my friends and family in Switzerland at least once per year.

SWI What do you do for living? How did you become a digital nomad? How is it going?

M.S.: It has always been my dream to be able to work from anywhere in the world. In 2014, I heard the term “digital nomad’ for the first time, and that’s when I realised that some people actually manage to make their living this way. In Switzerland, I used to work as an online marketing manager and together with my girlfriend, I set up the online magazine PhilihappyExternal link, which is rapidly growing. This online portal highlights the positive aspects of the Philippines, as this country has a lot more to offer than most think. Due to a high demand from people wondering how it was all going, I started my own personal blogExternal link in June. Here, I give advice on online marketing, blogging, and now also on how to become a digital nomad.

SWI Where do you live at the moment and what’s life like where you live?

M.S.: We are currently back in ManilaExternal link, as our online magazine is expanding and Manila is the business hub of the Philippines.

I have tried a lot of other things, including street food. I love the Philippine diet. There is an abundance of fresh seafood and I am the biggest fan of Sinignag, a sour soup, which is one of the Philippines’s national dishes. However, apart from the national cuisine, there are also a lot of other culinary delicacies.

SWI What makes the Philippines more attractive than Switzerland?

M.S.: First of all, the weather of course, and people seem more open and content. The lifestyle is more relaxed and people are a lot less stressed. As mentioned above, the choices of restaurants and cuisines are endless, and the food is delicious. And of course, prices are a lot cheaper.

SWI What is the biggest difference compared with Switzerland?

M.S.: Apart from the fact that the Swiss are rather cold and uptight compared to the people of the Philippines, public transport here is a lot worse. It takes ages to get from A to B even if it is only a short distance. The few public vehicles are in a very bad and unsafe state.

It’s not a surprise that most people drive a car, which leads to congested roads and long traffic jams. I have certainly learnt to appreciate Swiss public transport since I have been here.

SWI Looking at it from a distance, how do you feel about Switzerland?

M.S.: Even though the Swiss system obviously works a lot better, the people in Switzerland seem a lot unhappier. Maybe it’s the weather, but I’m not sure. Of course, I love my home country and the fresh mountain air that goes with it.

SWI What is the political situation like in the Philippines? Do you actually notice President Duterte’s tough drug war or the martial law in the South in your everyday life?

M.S.: You don’t really notice these things in Manila, or at least I don’t. I try hard to keep well-informed; however, I find it difficult to gauge the situation and the president’s decisions. The many casualties caused by the drug war and martial law in the South are awful.

I try to keep the Swiss neutrality and support the country elsewhere. As soon as our online magazine makes enough money, we want to support various charities. I have already started meeting with a few organisations.

SWI What do you miss most about Switzerland?

M.S.: The fresh mountain air, the delicious bread and of course, my friends and family.

Interview conducted via email.

The points of view stated in this article, especially about the host country and its politics, are the interviewee’s points of view and are not necessarily in line with’s position.

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