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When the pandemic untethered millions of workers from their offices, a new species of digital nomad was born. They set off with laptops and passports, and have made it clear they’re never coming back. Now, on a sun-dappled island in the middle of the ocean, a group of them is engaged in a novel experiment that might foretell the future of work.

Soon enough, the morning grind will begin again. The congested traffic, the crowded trains, the elevators and escalators whisking workers to their designated boxes. But that’s not how the workday begins here in Ponta do Sol, an ancient village on the subtropical island of Madeira. It starts at sunrise with clifftop yoga.

“Inhale, reach for the ocean,” Lindsay Barrett, a nimble, sandy–blond instructor tells a half-dozen millennials one crisp, clear morning last October. They’re perched on a stone patio a few hundred feet above the Atlantic, which noisily crashes against the lava rocks below. Pink-orange light spreads across the vast blue horizon, far past the green terraced mountains and cascading waterfalls.

But these aren’t trust-funders on vacation. They’re professional-class international expats who’ve moved here during the pandemic to live and work. Thirty-one-year-old Barrett used to punch the clock at a giant New York accounting firm but booked a one-way ticket here in 2019 to reclaim herself. “I want to work hard,” she says, “but I also want to enjoy my life and not do the rat race.”

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