Johnny FD is a prominent digital nomad who has built up the digital nomad community and openly shares business advice and earnings. He has been featured on articles like Forbes and Business insider. In part 2 of 3 from Taipei Taiwan we compare food and rent in Taiwan vs Chiang Mai, food airlines in Asia, banking, and his business. The real gem comes at the end of this epsiode when Johnny talks about the abundance mindset.
In this episode of the Greg Hung show I take a shift from the video world to focus on travel and life in Taiwan. I used a working holiday visa to live in Taipei , study chinese, teach english and continue working on my video business. Later I came up with the idea for an ebook called “Waiguoren” （外國人） The Taiwan working Holiday. The book was to be a compilation of stories about my 2.5 years living in Taiwan.
Some highlights of what you’ll hear in this podcast.
So you made the decision to relocate to Vancouver. If you’re an expat, international student, digital nomad or new to the city then keep reading. Vancouver is a beautiful city on sunny days especially when there is still snow on the mountains. There are few cities that can compete with its natural beauty. It offers world-class winter sports, high standard of living, beautiful nature and international foods. Vancouver is also an expensive city to live and cold and wet for most of the year. If you’re looking for a cheap city to live then you’re better off looking at other countries in Asia.
I’ve lived in Vancouver for over 23 years, but have lived abroad in Asia for the past 2 years in Taiwan and Thailand. I’ve visited Vancouver two Holiday seasons for a row during that time. This trip I’ve been here for over two and a half months so I wanted to write this while the experience is fresh in my head. I’m 37 and I’m not a backpacker. I’m an ex corporate guy who is used to certain comforts like a steamroom, leather chaise, a convenient apartment located close to the Canada line and the seawall. Staying at a hostel is not an option for me. My style is value comfort.
Best time to Visit?
Vancouver is often ranked highly on the livability surveys. What is doesn’t measure and is not often talked about is the weather. You can expect long cold grey rainy days with short daylight most of the year. The best time to visit is between April and September when the weather is sunny at a comfortable 23-27 degrees Celsius. During this period Vancouver can be one of the best places to live not factoring in the expensive cost of living. If you want to enjoy beautiful views with snow on the mountain you may want to visit in March. Its still cold and wet, but you can expect a few sunny days where you can get great photos.
Where to live for long term stay
Even though my family lives here I’m often asked “Why didn’t you stay with your family? Well there is no room so during the last couple of years I’m in a similar boat as you except I have local knowledge. Vancouver real estate is extremely expensive with costs in desirable areas like central Vancouver, Downtown, Burnaby, and Richmond going up since 2005. The rental market is also expensive. The location depends on where you will spend most of your time. Most of Vancouver’s businesses, International school and entertainment centers on Vancouver downtown. Downtown is easy enough to walk to most destinations, and has a decent transit system. Within downtown, waterfront areas like Coal Harbor and Yaletown are highly sought after. I’ve lived most of my time in Vancouver since 2009 living in the Yaletown area of downtown. It is a modern trendy area that is central to the seawall and parks, the Canada line, good restaurants, and the business and shopping district. It is also at the edge of downtown right across from central Vancouver so it isn’t far to commute to the City center or Richmond. Another area I would recommend is Olympic Village. This area has developed nicely since the Olympics and offers similar benefits to Yaletown, but is a newer community and is just outside of downtown. You can also look for rooms or basement suites anywhere that is walking distance to the Canada line. Some convenient Canada line stations include City center station, King Edward, Oakridge, Langara, Marine Drive station, and Richmond center.
I was lucky to stay at an Airbnb for $30 canadian a night. I managed to find a private room with shared kitchen and shared bathroom in a new house near the newly developed Marine drive Canada line station for $30 Canadian a night. I ended up paying $365 Canadian for 12 nights, which is incredibly cheap. A good option if you were staying a week or 2 in Vancouver. I could have booked longer, but there weren’t many reviews and it ended up getting booked up for months after I booked my room. I consider myself lucky.
If you needed a longer term more comfortable option to stay you can search on craigslist. You can find a basement suite in a Vancouver suburb for about $1300 Canadian. The problem is that the majority of landlords want 6 month to a year leases. These places are unfurnished and you’ll end up spending hundreds more to get set up with your essentials.
If you are living here for 1-3 months most likely you’re going to need something fully furnished, wifi, and central. There are not many options here in Vancouver. If you google short-term accommodation your top results will be the Standard, The Lex, and Rentwithconcert. Those apartments cater to corporate executives that have afford to have their companies footage a 3-5k a month bill.
I was fortunate to find the new GEC Student hotel. Don’t let the name fool you this used to be the best Western Plus hotel converted into short-term hotel accommodation.
The suite is located at Granville and Drake at the foot of the Granville bridge on the downtown side. This area used to be a bit seedy, but I can see it has gentrified. Downtown Vancouver is small, but the funny thing is you can be in shady area one minute, and a nice condo residential area the next. Try to avoid Granville street at night especially on the weekends. I recommend taking Seymour or Horny for a more pleasant walk.
The suite is a fully furnished studio with wifi. It has a 40 inch lcd, private bathroom with a shower and hot tub. The desk is solid with a nice view looking up the entertainment district of Granville with a view of the mountains. In my second month I upgraded to a studio with a kitchen and king sized bed. It is also a downgrade in terms of the view and a lower floor.
A so so gym area with hot tub is on the rooftop. The seawall is a 3-4 minute walk away, and the Canada line is 8 minutes walk away. There are bus stops right outside that can take me anywhere in downtown or even to my parents. This is a good lifestyle for a month or 2. It doesn’t come cheap.
Studio $1450 cdn
Studio with kitchen $1580
I had a good stay here. The staff and service have been great the past 2 months. The wifi has been up and down, but more than good enough. They have just recently opened up a business center which offers computers and printers. They have a decent fitness center, parking, sauna, and laundry. In short everything you need in a convenient location.
Where to work from?
This section is for the Digital nomads and location independent workers that work from a laptop.
If you’re looking to find work in Vancouver I can offer deep knowledge as someone who built a 13 year career in Vancouver. For 5 of those years I worked as a manager where I was hiring people for a company. I’ll share knowledge about that in the Vancouver living guide.
Vancouver offers a lot of coffee shops, cafe/restaurants, and public areas with free wifi.
I recommend trying to use your apartment or room as a home base. This is where you can do the majority of your work and have access to everything you need. This means somewhere with a desk, solid wifi, and power. I also look for a large screen tv with HDMI access for video work or playing movies from my laptop.
The room at the GEC hotel served as a good base, but I needed to get out once in a while and find high speed Internet for uploading.
I’ve worked out of coffee shops like Starbucks Marine drive station. Although it ticks all the boxes it’s got too much in and out traffic for me to relax. This is good for a couple of hours. I’ve also worked at the Starbucks across from the downtown Library. There are 2. I worked at the one further west on Robson.
The downtown Vancouver library offers workspace and free fast wifi. In late 2015 it made a major upgrade by introducing the Inspiration Labs on the 3rd Floor. This facility offers rooms, computers, and equipment you can use to content. This means sound proofed recording rooms for podcasters, musicians, online teachers, and even computers with software to video edit. They even offer a green screen recording room where they offer a camera and lighting to create a professional production.
Vancouver Library Inspiration Labs
I’ve also worked from the Inspiration labs at the downtown Library. The recording and sound rooms have been a great resource to create some high quality content. The Wifi is super fast in the work area within the Inspiration Labs. I’ve been able to reach close to 85 mb/s upload speed. The rooms allow you to use equipment like lighting, condensed microphones, greenscreen, and sound mixers. In the hands of someone who has some knowledge like myself you can take full advantage on this free resource. Thanks to the Vancouver Library. This resource was one of the reasons why I decided to extend my stay. I’ve even developed a content schedule to make the most of my studio time. The one drawback is that this library also attracts a lot of bums and the bathroom can be disgusting. You often have to ask someone else you can trust to watch your things while you run to the bathroom. The best workspace is by the tables with the video editing computers. This space serves it’s purpose and is free. If you can obtain a library card the library offers free access to the online learning resource called Lynda. This is an excellent free benefit and I suggest you use it.
In general there are a growing number of co-work spaces located in Gastown area. They don’t generally offer daily or weekly rates, but start with monthly rates start at $300 Canadian. Some of the names I came across included Hive, Suite Genius, Werklab, nd Kickstart (International Village mall).
My freelancer friend had a daypass to the cowork space called HIVE located in gastown
Hive was a decent work environment. The hotdesk area where I was sitting was busy. The wifi was solid and it’s a trendy design with different workspace areas. I worked out of the hot desk area. There were other areas for fixed desk workers. The vibe was fairly quiet and people kept to themselves. There was a mix of solo independent workers and some groups. It’s a comfortable work area with a kitchen if you were to fix yourself a lunch and a lounge area. There are plenty of options around the area such as noodle box or subway.
They had a couple of phone/skype booth areas for private conversations. There is a sustainable theme where they attempt to provide a contribution to the community and the environment. There were plenty of racks for people that commute on bikes. In short I found this to be a solid establish option if you were in need a co-work space in Vancouver.
Cafe’s and Coffee Shops
Urban Fare (Olympic Village)
This grocery store/cafe chain has a modern lounge feel with plenty of desks, food, wifi, and beautiful views. You are footsteps away from the seawall and the popular Craft Beer Market
This café is centrally located near the city center Canada line location. It offers everything you need and some good priced happy hour wine and beer. My favorite Vancouver beer Four Winds IPA is sold here. It’s also located within the Whole foods store should you wish to do some shopping after. After you’re done work you can find any convenience store you would need from post office, liquor store, restaurant, electronics store, or drug store. It’s fairly busy so it’s not the quietest place to do work.
BC’s best coffee (Near Granville and Drake)
This hidden gem offers plenty of comfortable seating and marble desks space if you like to stand up and work. It’s not that busy and offers everything you need. I like it because it is spacious, has all the essentials and isn’t too busy.
Roundhouse Community Center
I actually haven’t worked here,but this is the community center that serves Yaletown residents. If you can find a desk here you can benefit from free wifi and work here for a couple of hours. It’s close to the Yaletown Canada line and is close to the seawall if you want to take a walk.
Waves Hastings locations
Waves is a coffee chain that offers everything you need. The coffee is average, but the location on hastings was a good location to work from. This is close to SFU and international schools so you might find many students studying out of this location.
Gas town and Yaletown remain the trendy district that people like to go to hang out. I enjoyed a drink at the Oxford and even the local chain restaurants like Earls, Milestones, and Cactus are still strong bets for a good night out. Granville Street is the entertainment district and is home to a lot of the clubs and bars that appeal to the younger crowd.
Digital nomad lifestyle in Chiang Mai Thailand & Taiwan
The Digital nomad lifestyle in Chiang Mai and Taiwan are two of the cities I’ve chosen to follow my dreams and pursue my passion for video. These just a peek at a typical week in either of these cities.
Chiang Mai Lifestyle
Imagine waking up to at 10am to sunshine and looking at the mountain outside your balcony. You walk 3 minutes across the street to order an americano at a trendy coffee shop/co-work space and setup your laptop for the day working on something you love and enjoy. Imagine eating delicious Thai dishes like Chicken Pad Thai or Chicken cashew nuts with rice for $2 US for lunch. You call it a day at 3pm and go for a swim and beautiful swimming pool with wifi for $2. At night you share a Hawaiian pizza with a friend for $6 and then listen to some live music and a large Singha beer for $2.80 US. You take the next day off and ride your scooter up the mountain to get some fresh air and relaxation at a monk temple with a view of Chiang Mai. You attend the nomad coffee meet at healthy B cafe to hear the latest in online business and meet new friends before heading for some drinks to start your weekend.
Imagine waking up and heading to the local taiwan restaurant for a chinese pancake and coffee for $2.45. You take a 5 minute metro ride to the local co-work space Maker Bar. For lunch you head to the famous electronic area to find some delicious Taiwanese dumplings and soy milk for $2.30. It’s 4pm and you feel like unwinding so you grab a Taiwan beer while you wrap up work. You are meeting some friends for tomato Taiwanese beef noodles at the famous Yong Kang street. After you rent a ubike to ride past Da-an park and ride home. The next day you take an amazing bike ride to Tamsui to enjoy a beautiful sun set and drink before enjoying some a delicious chicken wrap.
This is the question I’ve been pondering the past several months. This post is largely personal, but perhaps you are at the same point or you may get to this phase of your digital nomad journey.
First let me giving you a little background in case you’re just getting to know me.
In 2 days I will have spent 4 months living in Chiang Mai Thailand and almost 2 years in Taiwan.
My journey to freedom and living abroad in Taiwan
My first taste of corporate freedom came on May 2011 when I told my director I sold my Vancouver apartment and I was leaving my job to pursue my own thing. I eventually made my way to Asia for 2 months that left me wanting for more. It would have to wait because I needed to return to corporate and get a job in May 2012. It was a good gig. I had a 9 to 5pm job that paid well and even had a decent cafeteria and on-site gym I could play basketball after work. I made the 25-minute commute in my Acura TL sedan from my Yaletown studio condo to Richmond every weekday morning. Still my heart was not happy and yearning to live abroad. This was my 2nd chance to live a normal Vancouver life.
On May 2013 I left my Business Team Lead job in Vancouver sold my car and set off on a journey to Hawaii, 2 months in Australia, South Africa, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, before living abroad in Taiwan. I got an apartment, enrolled for Chinese classes at Shida, and lived life. I made friends, had romantic relationships, had great food, and was still trying to get figure out this business thing. Eventually I started teaching English at a cram school. I hated it so much that it forced me to really figure out this business thing. I discovered a way to earn an income from my videos in 2014 using stock footage and my on-line courses. My on-line earnings grew to the point I could get my time and location freedom back again. I met a digital nomad from Vancouver named Nigel during this time. He introduced me to the idea of the digital nomad lifestyle and the nomad list. Through my research I discovered that Chiang Mai seemed like the destination to be.
Return to Vancouver
I went back home to Vancouver for Christmas in 2014 to visit family and friends for a month. I enjoyed craft beer, shot stock footage, flew the drone, and saw my family and friends. It was great, but I still didn’t feel like it was time to come home to stay. The grey clouds, long rainy days, and cold didn’t help to convince me to stay. I had seen and experienced too much.
I still had unfinished business in Taiwan and Asia. I needed to improve my Chinese. I needed to improve my on-line business, and I need to travel deeper into Asia.
At the beginning of this year I began dating a Taiwanese girlfriend, and began focusing on scaling my on-line business. We went to the Pingxi festival and we wrote our dreams on our lanterns before we lit and set them off into the sky. It felt my life was starting to come together in Taiwan. I started volunteering as the photographer at a professional expat social club called Internations. I joined the local co-work space in Taipei called the Makerbar. I worked at the space during the day and would hang out with my girlfriend at night.
During the year I thought more about Chiang Mai. Sometimes it is difficult to live the life of the digital nomad especially in Taiwan where it is more common to work a traditional job. The environment offers a lot, but there is a very small on-line digital nomad community.
I met a well-known Asian American entrepreneur, Johnny FDK, who was living a good life in Chiang Mai. During a family visit to Singapore I stopped by Thailand for the first time. As I took my taxi from Chiang Mai airport to the neighborhood of Nimman I already was being charmed by the city. I returned to Taiwan with plans to relocate to Chiang Mai. I scored an amazing video opportunity with a foreign company just before I left Taipei. This would give me the funds to follow my 2015 vision.
I traveled to Okinawa Japan before moving out to Chiang Mai. I even got sponsored by an on-line company called curious to produce a drone course that I would film in Chiang Mai. My sister ended up visiting Taipei and helped me move into Chiang Mai.
I traveled deep into South East Asia with my sister and Taiwanese girlfriend visiting countries and filming Bangkok, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Myanmar.
I had settled into my life in Chiang Mai. I had a nice modern apartment in Nimman, I started to meet a group of solid friends, and went to work. I rented a scooter from Mango bikes for about 2400 baht a month. I was filming a drone course in the mountain jungles of Chiang Mai and the university. To get paid to film a course teaching people to fly and film with a drone in Thailand was freaking cool.
During the day I would visit the co-working spaces of Mana and Camp during the day and produce my videos. At night I would frequent the restaurants and bars of Nimman and drink cheap Singha and Leo beer. I would enjoy the live music at the rooftop bars at Nimman hill, chill with friends at Deejai Gardens, listen to live jazz at Mojo’s, or enjoy a carafe of red wine at Kafe Vino. I found some of my favorite food spots for cheap pad thai at the Maya, curries at K’s Kitchen, and even good western breakfast at Bake and bite. Once a week I would treat myself to a foot or oil massage for $6.80 US. I got back into the dating scene and started dating a local Thai girl.
Coming home to family
Still during one of my weekly Facetime calls my parents asked me to come back. I started to think about returning to life in Toronto or Vancouver. Thinking started to translate into flight and apartment shopping. Returning to Canada wouldn’t be as simple as booking a flight back.
Prices for just about everything especially accommodation is more expensive. While I can make a comfortable living in places like Chiang Mai with my on-line business is not at a stage I can enjoy time and location freedom in Canada. My dad tried to place the urgency on summer in Vancouver ending. Chiang Mai is like summer everyday so I didn’t feel that I needed to rush. In Canada thoughts crossed my mind to return to a corporate job. Yes a corporate job mostly probably related to my 13 years in IT leadership. There is a good chance with my MBA and career experience I could return to the workforce and earn a $70-90k (CDN) a year job. I also need to pay off the loan for my MBA still, which hangs over my head. My on-line business and what I love would need to take a backseat to my corporate job. Most likely if I did nothing I would bringing in an additional $28-32k Canadian a year in passive income. This could be a good scenario financially earning 100-120k (CDN) a year. I would have tons of stories, experiences, and information to share with Canadians who wanted to pursue a similar once in a lifetime adventure.
I feel like I’m taking steps forward to achieve my dream of financial freedom in Chiang Mai. I’m busy working hard on my on-line business here. I feel like I have the workspaces, fast upload Internet speeds, and supportive community to take my business to the next level. The atmosphere of working in co-working spaces together with people who made similar sacrifices certainly helps to keep me on track. You end up talking with digital nomads, and it is hard not to increase your knowledge of the familiar Internet business topics of e-books, seo, Kindle books, affiliate marketing, blogging, or building a sales funnel.
The problem is that I’ve failed to reach my financial targets. All the work I’ve produced in Chiang Mai hasn’t necessarily translated into the financial success I imagined. The longer I’m out here the further I’m delaying earning the salary I mentioned earlier.
After all the recent traveling for Chiang mai visa runs I’ve become a bit travel weary and a bit homesick. I want to be able to cross the street as a pedestrian and not have cars try to run me over. I want to have random friendly conversations with strangers. I miss being able to walk straight on a sidewalk an not have someone cut me off frequently.
It’s harder for me to imagine, but I’m usually a bit more senior in terms of my age in this digital nomad community. If I were 25 years old perhaps I wouldn’t think twice continuing what I’m doing. However, I’m 37 and because of that I think a bit differently. Maybe I’m a bit grumpier too I would love to have some kids, have financial freedom, take care of my parents, and be able to see my family more often. Is returning to Canada, starting a job, getting married, buying a home, and living with kids the solution? Should I be not be content with what I’ve seen, done, and experienced already?
Chances are I would bored and chained up to a company after a year or 2.
Is there another way to think of this? A redefinition of what I refer to as home. One of my longer-term goals I envisioned having more than one home in the world. A home you could come to 3-6 months at a time to escape the weather and high prices. Every city has something to offer and pros and cons. Vancouver has awesome Cantonese foods, mary jane, beautiful scenery, the seawall, and generally a higher quality of life. The downside is the fall and winter grey clouds and non stop rain. All if forgiven because our beautiful 3 month summers where all we want to do is get outdoors, exercise, drink coffee on the patio, or do something near the seawall or water.
Taipei has an excellent transportation system, is super convenient, cheaper than the west, and excellent noodles and dumplings. However, the buildings are old and owning property is super expensive. There are the regular typhoons and earthquakes and almost everywhere is crowded. There is a small digital nomad community and there are the language barrier issues.
Singapore is the most developed English-speaking city in Asia, one of the safest and cleanest, and is a great travel hub. However, expensive prices for most things from accommodation, driving, and booze set back this city. The Island is pretty small and the perfection can be boring for some.
Chiang Mai has regular hot weather and beautiful mountain and jungle scenery. Nimman is a trendy and upcoming neighborhood that offers everyone one could need. It is a renter friendly city allowing one to rent a scooter or apartment with ease and no hassles. The lifestyle here is easy and cost of living some of the lowest in the world. You have a strong community of Digital nomads and it’s easy to rent here. However; Thailand’s one-month tourist visa is inconvenient leading to visa workarounds to extended stays. I would be great to have more pavements and pedestrian traffic crossings that are longer than 7 seconds long. The burning season from February to April results in thick smoke making it unbearable to live here during these months. The heat combined with the air pollution from the tuk tuks, motor bikes, and red trucks leads to lower air quality that I’m used to from Vancouver.
Perhaps I have to redefine what I call home? After all my travels one thing is for sure. Chiang Mai is definitely a place I could see myself coming back on a regular basis living here for part of the year. Some places like Tokyo are great to visit, but destinations are great to live. Chiang Mai is one of those places.
What conclusion have I come to? I am grateful for the great lifestyle that I’ve had in Chiang Mai. The business opportunities that have come my way. I’ve traveled and experienced more in this part of the world than I could ever imagine.Would I like to travel more. Of course I would!
Working in a corporate job for a short time, can help me with financial stability. Perhaps I would be happy to pay off the MBA loan and regroup. Can I see myself going through 2-hour meetings and waking up at 8am every morning to commute to work? After the freedom I’ve experienced I would have to say no. Perhaps I could develop my video business in Canada and North America. The video opportunities I’ve had in Chiang Mai will lead to an impressive video portfolio. Sometimes I have to wrestle with the rational side of my brain tries to over analyze and calculate before making a decision. I still have faith and belief that following your passion and heart will lead to success. I’m enjoying the journey. This journey has taught to have the courage and faith to follow your heart. It has taken time to develop the instinct to trust my feelings to make a decision that feels right.
Right now it feels like its time to return home to Vancouver for now. To answer the question of what is it time to go home for yourself I believe you also have to be honest with yourself and learn to trust your feelings. I don’t know what the future holds. I do know what I want. I want to spend some time with my family. I want to do paid talks to inspire Canadians and Westerners about the freedom lifestyle that is available to them. I want to teach people to learn to find their passion and calling and to develop the courage to pursue it. I want to do aerial videography in Canada perhaps for golf courses or resorts. I want to enjoy a cup of JJ bean coffee, Christmas parties with some craft beer and cabernet savignon with my friends, and home cooking with the family.
I want to build a business with solar energy and bringing and cleaner air to countries. I want to empower locals in popular digital nomad countries to build their own businesses and improve their lives. I’ve seen how clean and developed cities like Singapore are. I want to bring some of that cleanliness and fix the pavements in Chiang Mai. I have grand ambitions beyond just being a digital nomad. How will it all happen? I don’t know.
For now If I’ve inspired you to live a free live and to listen to your heart this long post would have been worth it.
Where to go to relax and exercise in Taipei, Taiwan
If you are living in Taiwan and want to know where to go to relax and exercise in Taipei, Taiwan I got you covered. This article is targeted at the digital nomad on-line workers. I’ve met younger guys in their twenties that drink a lot, but don’t seem to exercise that much. As someone in my late thirties with a Dad constantly reminded me to take care of my health I’ve taken a healthy lifestyle to heart wherever I go. This includes exercise and eating healthy. I’m not a perfect role model by any means, but I believe I live a balanced lifestyle.
My first 6 months spent in Taipei were at the National Taiwan Normal University more commonly referred to by locals as “Shida”. If you are a student at the school you can purchase a monthly pass for 500nt. The gym offers free weights and some machines. There are limited hours for the gym, but the price is cheap and if you are studying it is a good option. The gym is located almost across the street from the Chinese school in the basement.
Public sports centers
These are the equivalent of community sports centers back in Canada except you don’t need any membership. There are numerous sports centers throughout Taipei, but not are equal. The sports centers offer a pretty modern gym with most of the free weights and machines that you need. Depending on the sports center they may offer additional facilities like swimming pools, full-size gyms, or even yoga classes. To use the weight rooms cost 50nt and they all enforce a strict one-hour policy and mandatory towel. It’s amazing how productive you can be with a paid time constraint. All these sports centers offer free water and free and paid lockers. They even offer a weight machine and high tech blood pressure machine.
My favorite gym was Songshan sports center (臺北松山運動中心) located at the Taipei Arena MRT. They have a large but busy weight room. They have punch bags that I loved to use for a cardio workout as well as a stress outlet. Songshan sports center also has a running track outside that can be seen from the weight room’s patio. I also loved that there is an Olympic sized running track 1-minute walk away. You are also minutes away from the local hip area of Dunhua Sogo area and plenty of good eats. They have a swimming pool at this center although they strictly enforce that men wear tight speedos and hair caps. Even if you wanted to wear these speedos they are not cheap. One of my favorite places to work is also near here. They serve good coffee have comfortable seating and good desks with reliable Wi-Fi. I‘ll talk more about places to work in my digital nomad guide.
Zhongshan sports center (臺北市中山運動中心) located a 5 minute walk from the Zhongshan MRT is also one of my favorites. Located in a trendy area with good eats the gym is a little quieter, smaller, and harder to find. What I like about the Zhongshan gym is that is has a pretty good swimming pool and spa facility. I used to make a long journey to the Da-an sports center just to use their pool, steam room, and water massage machines. Zhongshan offers all these facilities and is usually not as busy. Best of all you can use this pool with western style swim-shorts.
Running tracks & trails
If the gym is not your thing Taipei have plenty of good and free options for you to run. As previously mentioned I think the Taipei arena at Songshan is a good option. In addition to the sports center just beside the center there are 2 cushioned running tracks. One is smaller and the other is an Olympic sized arena. I loved running in the Olympic area. It is a cushioned track with water machines and bathrooms. The stadium also filters out a lot of the city noise and wind. It closes at 10pm
Other running options and basketball
You can also run around Da-an Park and on the trails. Even though this is the largest park in Taipei there is a lot of people and bicycle traffic to compete with. There are many bike paths on the city outskirts by the riverside that are also quieter and serene.
There are many schools throughout Taipei with basketball courts and tracks. After school is finished (usually by 5pm) the public can use the facilities. The Taiwanese are crazy about basketball, so it should be easy to find a pickup game.
Being a formerly ranked competitive junior tennis player I became a pretty decent player and brought my tennis rackets with me to Taiwan. There are courts near the Dajia riverside and Guting Riverside Park with lights. It’s difficult to get to these areas if you don’t have a motorbike or bicycle. Even if you do make it there you need someone that is at a similar level. I was lucky to meet a Taiwanese girl through a site called Tennis tonic in Singapore who introduced me to some Taiwan friends that were good players. Once you find one good partner its not a bad idea to challenge other good pairs to doubles and expand your network.
Biking can be a good way to get exercise in Taipei. New Taipei city tends to have smaller and crowded sidewalks. You can buy a bike or if you have an easy card you can easily rent a U-bike. An easy card is the public metro value card. The rate is 10nt for every 30 minutes for the first 4 hours. Once you’ve registered you just tap your card at the many bike stations throughout the city. Once you tap out it automatically deducts the value. You don’t need a helmet, but perhaps it is a good idea to wear one if you are riding in the city. The app lets you know where the bike stations are in the city as well as how many bikes are available. My favorite rides were along the dajia riverside where you get a nice view and it’s peaceful. If you want a nice long ride go from Yuanshan Park to beitou, but just be warned that there isn’t u-bike park stations there. For specific map routes and pictures you can see my digital nomad guide.
Taiwan has many hiking routes. I’m not a regular hiker, but when I do I always recommend going up to the Elephant mountain trail (象山). There are no elephants here, but this is a well-paved 30-minute one way-walking trail that offers the best view of Taipei 101 and the downtown area. Lucky you the city recently built an MRT station (象山 Xiangshan in Chinese or Elephant mountain) a 5-minute away from the start of the trail. Bring a camera, water, towel, and maybe some beers to celebrate at top around sunset.
I’m sure by the time you read this you would have heard about the Beitou hot springs located in new Beitou. The cheaper hotspring which is called Millenium is more backpacker style with a senior crowd and coin operated hot showers. The nicer hot springs are at the nice hotels, which are more expensive and require you to go nude with the same sex.
My favorite spot to relax and meditate was at the pool at Da-an sports center. I would use the spa area to water massages at the many machines. For about 110nt you can use the pool. I think it was either 3 hours or unlimited. Either way it is long enough to enjoy the water-bed and steam room.
The Dharma Drum center is a Buddhist organized offering foreigners free meditation classes in English. Don’t worry you don’t need to be Buddhist, but I recommend you try to respectful of the their beliefs and listen to the monk or instructor and you will be fine. The main center is near Taipei main and ximending MRT and classes are usually half day. I enjoyed just doing some light stretches and guided meditation in a group setting. It is very relaxing and a chance to work on your meditation in a comfortable environment.
I will mention a secret and quiet beach area in Taipei. It has almost nothing there, not many people and very peaceful. My ex-girlfriend introduced it to me and we had a beautiful day on the beach. Since it is past Tamsui you can head there after for a nice drink at sunset.
Taiwan is a convenient city and you can easily find many clean parks in your neighborhood with benches and pagoda’s. One of my favorite things to do was get some lunch and city at the park and watch the kids play at the playground. You can easily loose your thoughts and relax in the park.
In this 4 part video series I’m going to chat with Johnny FD about Chiang Mai and Taipei digital nomad lifestyle. If you read the current blogs on the web in 2015 and recent years there seems to be a consensus that Chiang Mai is the digital nomad capital of the world. Some of the factors include the low cost of living, weather, great food, and large digital nomad community. Taipei offers most of these benefits as well to varying degrees including friendlier visa policies. After my interview I came to the conclusion that the largest difference between the two was the lack of a digital nomad community.
My research about the Chiang Mai lifestyle led to me finding Johnny FD, and American who came to Chiang Mai and built his new life and business.
As March and April are the 2 months to avoid Chiang Mai I managed to connect with him during his visit to Taipei for a 4-part series video interview filmed at the Maker Bar.
I will be traveling to Chiang Mai during April/May 2015 to sample the lifestyle first-hand in Chiang Mai.
In the interview some of what you will learn are:
• Drop-shipping business model
• Cost of living prices of Chiang Mai and Taipei for apartments and foods
• Comparing Taipei and Chiang Mai as ideal destinations for digital nomads
• Where to get cheap flights from Chiang Mai to Taipei
• Food tips in Taipei and Chiang Mai
• Talking about co-working spaces in Taipei and Chiang Mai
• Visa-runs in Chiang Mai and Taipei
Please sign up to receive links to the 3rd and 4th videos as well as great footage and posts on Chiang Mai after my visit.
Resources for Chiang Mai and Taipei Digital Nomad lifestyle
I’ve been working here for a month now, and thought I would give my honest review of the Maker Bar. It is a large creative space with a mix of long tables and standing work stations. I like the standing desks as there are actually some health benefits and these are hard to find in Taipei. There are plenty of the basics: 2 bathrooms, water machine, fridge, power, space, and even a meeting room that can be booked. My productivity has gone up as a result of being able to focus on working without worrying about distractions of people at a coffee shop. While there are not many digital nomads I’ve started to meet some of the regulars who are a mix of developers who touch on video and on-line crowdfunding learning platforms. Monica, is one of the co-founders, is from Vancouver and speaks English. She has been friendly and accommodating to me, which I appreciate. There is even a fridge stocked with apple juice and Taiwan beer for those times you have a craving.
I also think the location is excellent with the closest MRT being Zhongxiao Xingsheng MRT exit 2. It is central to Taipei and is close to cheaper and mid-tier restaurants as well as the Guanghua Digital Plaza, and the Huashan Creative Park.
On the down-side the Internet connectivity fluctuates occasionally, which can be frustrating. It isn’t fast enough for me to do my large video uploads for Udemy or Stock footage. I do these uploads at home and do less intensive Internet or off-line work like my filming, video-editing, or any writing related work. Sometimes it can be a bit noisy with the machinery, but I’ve learned to tune it out and put on my headphones. There are also some occasional workshops in the evening and on Saturday’s, which can be a little disruptive. The last thing that could be improved are the hours. Hours are 10am to 9pm on weekdays and 12pm – 6pm on Saturday. I’ve adjusted my schedule to the hours by sleeping later and working later.
In a nutshell, this has been a good decision especially for a freelancer or digital nomad who needs a space to get some work done. The creative environment is a better space to work from than my apartment for sure. It feels like I’m coming to the office and can separate my work and personal life a little bit better. You might see me here one day. If you do say hi.
Where and how much
copy and paste this address into google maps. It is a 6 minute walk from Zhongxiao Xinsheng exit 2
台北市100中正區金山南路一段9號5樓 2000nt a month 300nt a day
5F no 9 Jinshan s road Taipei City, Taiwan
M-F 10am-9pm Sat 12pm-6pm
Since developing into a digital nomad I started embracing the lifestyle. I started looking for the best Cafe’s in Taipei to work from. There are a lot of them and not all of them are equal. However, when I first interviewed my friend Raj in Vancouver he introduced me to the idea of a co-working space. In this article I’m going to give you the scoop on a good Taipei co-working space.
What is a co-working space?
A co-working space is an office space that you share with other people. Usually it offers the basic necessities you need to work like fast internet, bathrooms, water, and desk space. It caters to people who work from their laptop.
My criteria for a co-working space
Nice and creative atmosphere – large enough that I don’t feel claustrophobic
Good value – A cafe you spend on average 100nt X 30 days = 3000nt (so less than 3000nt).
Fast Internet – (10mb down at least 10mb up) for video work
Desk and chair
Reasonable hours – at least 9am -5pm Mon – Fri
Other people – Chance of meeting like-minded people
Since returning from Taipei I was hit with some major expenses from living a month in Vancouver and expenses for the websites that all seem to hit at the same time. I decided to work from my apartment since January to save on some costs. My apartment is a decent sized studio for Taipei. The Internet was fast and I had everything I needed. The issue was that I didn’t have a separation between my work and my personal life. Even though I considered myself to be disciplined I found that I was increasingly slacking off in my PJ’s.
Working from Cafe’s is not always ideal
Occasionally I would go to Cafe’s to work. Cafe’s are okay to work from, but I think that working at a co-working space would be better suited to a digital nomad. Why?
Cost – Cafe’s minimum drink are often 100nt. Usually they serve you water. If you drink like a camel like I do then you usually have to bring your own water, which is an additional cost
Crowded – Cafe’s in Taipei are often crowded especially Starbucks on 2 for 1 days. Good luck getting a space
Competition for resources – Because of the dense population in Taipei sometimes you have to compete for the good tables with power. You have to wait for bathrooms
Safety – Taipei is pretty safe to begin with, but after drinking water you’re going to need the bathroom after awhile. When you go to the bathroom there is always the risk of your stuff getting stolen
I don’t want to be totally bias. There are pro’s to working from a Cafe.
You get access to better coffee and food selection
There is probably better eye candy if that is your priority
You have the flexibility of choosing the cafe you want to work from.
Today I take the next step
When I returned to Taipei I began looking for a co-working space. I found a spot from nomadlist.com called the Maker bar. After a meetup at Huashan creative park I went with a friend to find this space. I liked the space, but I didn’t want to pay 1500nt upfront at the time. However, after working from home for 2 months I felt that I was getting stagnant working from home and cafe’s. I felt it was time to visit this space to see if it help take my creativity and productivity to the next level.
I visited the Maker Bar today. Before I came I decided to have some Kimchi vegeterian handcut noodles for 75nt. The food is important. They have since increased the price to 2000nt a month, but I still think it is good value for what you get. What do you get exactly?
Free Wifi (Fast Wifi 22 mbps down, 24 up)
Free water (hot, warm, cold)
Large creative space – They do 3d printing here and it has an industrial feel that reminds me of Gastown in Vancouver
Location – 5 minutes away from Zhongxiao Xinsheng MRT, which I consider the center of Taipei. It’s also close to Guanghua digital plaza with plenty of electronics and good cheap eats.
Beer and soft drinks in the fridge
I can also use the meeting room to film my videos like courses or tutorials in a more professional setting. This sealed the deal for me. I can use the meeting room to film videos like tutorials or youtube videos. Sweet. So far I’ve written this blog post and have taken a face-time call from South Africa. I met one of the people here who helped me take these photos. So far so good. I feel like I’m a part of the start-up scene working in this space. The hours here are 10am – 9pm.
When I leave here I hope to leave my work here so I can give myself personal freedom time away and not trapped into burning myself out. I want to leave my apartment for my personal enjoyment space. This is one step close to realizing my 2015 vision and I’m excited to come to work. Again I have to thank Raj for giving me this idea, but this is an example of how listening to others peoples ideas and taking action can pay off. Look out for our interview coming on-line soon.
If you have any questions about working as a digital nomad lifestyle in Taipei sign up for more updates
UCC Coffee – If I do work at a coffee lounge this is my favorite one to work from. This is a Japanese coffee house with good coffee originally from Kobe, Japan.
Cafe a la mode – I like the location in Zhongshan. They have good food and are quiet
Mr Brown coffee – Many locations. Their Wifi has no time limit and you can pour your own water
Starbucks at Nanjing East road and Jianguo – A new starbucks location a large space and not crowded. GPS coordinates for google map 25.052490, 121.537274
Yes that’s right. Traveling, coding, and eating a Tarantula spider in Cambodia. Today we have a special guest Nigel Fish, a Vancouver digital nomad in Asia on “ghunglive”. I met Nigel in Taipei thanks to the introduction from my Taiwanese friend Serena in 2014. I credit Nigel with taking me deeper in the world of the Digital nomad and making me realize that I myself have become a digital nomad. Nigel is the first digital nomad that I’ve met in Asia actually from the same hometown. While I prefer to use Taiwan as a base and take less frequent trips to nearby countries in Asia, Nigel is more “nomadic” as he travels more frequently than I do. The truth is I would love to more freedom to travel like Nigel.
Why should you watch this video?
Catch a glimpse of Nigel eating a Tarantula in Cambodia
Learn more about the life of a Canadian web developer who makes a living traveling and working from different countries
Get useful insight as a digital nomad in countries like Thailand, Cambodia, and Taiwan
Learn about the type of digital nomads Nigel has met in Bangkok meetups
Hear about Time Zone Freedom – The idea of not being chained to a 9am – 5pm schedule. Nigel is able to do sightseeing in the day and do some work at night
Digital nomad essentials and useful resources
How regular working people can get started into the Digital Nomad lifestyle
Talk about visa allowances for Canadians in Asian countries
Payment systems that are used to get paid over the Internet
Way to meet people on our journey’s using Meetups and tinder
The idea of becoming a Digital indefinitely
I think it’s great to meet people like Nigel that are not just talking about being a digital nomad, but that are actually living the lifestyle. He is so optimistic about giving it a try that it actually inspires me to push on. Nigel touched on the lifestyle stuff like green space and going for a run in Cambodia. I think its important for Digital Nomads to take into account the lifestyle that a city offers other than just cafe’s, low cost of living, and the Wifi availability. In Taipei I can go to the local sports center gym for 50nt for ($1.98 cdn, $1.59 US) for an hour or run at an Olympic style track for free. You can take out a U-bike rental with the Easycard to the riverside for an hour or two for less than $1 US without any sign-up or insurances hassles. What is the transportation and convenience like? Do you need to take a taxi to get to space that you can run? Do you need a car? In Taipei I can take the MRT just outside my apartment for 1 station and be at the track in 7 minutes. Everyone has a different lifestyle. Perhaps you like having a larger house in the suburbs with a car and commuting to work and back for an hour each day is your lifestyle.
Getting paid over the Internet as a digital nomad in a foreign countries has some issues. For me receiving money through paypal means I get his with a fee from my domestic bank and the local bank here costing me about $25 US for each withdrawal. I also loose some money in the conversion process. I’m not sure what the best solution is yet.
Lastly the idea of being able to get a business visa in Cambodia and being a digital nomad indefinitely was very interesting. Not having to worry about visa issues really does open up new possibilities to setup shop in Asia.
Digital nomads any thoughts or comments on this episode?
This was my first Skype video interview that I setup from Taipei while Nigel was in Cambodia. I hope you enjoyed this format, and if you enjoyed it please sign up for the newsletter and comment below!
Meditate for business success like Russell Simmons in Taiwan
Do you meditate or have you thought about meditating for business or personal reasons? Is it all wishy washy, foo foo, or fluffy stuff. In this article I’m going to explore how to meditate for business success like Russell Simmons. I’m going to share the experience of my full-day meditation and what tell you what I think meditation can do for you as a digital nomad and entrepreneur.
I’m a strong believer in a balanced life as an entrepreneur. Although my friends may think I enjoy going out socializing for drinks, which I do. I also try to strive for balance in terms of health and spirituality. I believe as an entrepreneur it is important to have a balanced and healthy life, and to try to evolve as a person.
Recently my friend Serena convinced me to attend a one-day meditation retreat in Taipei. She observed that I had too many things on the go (which I do), and I was making poor decisions and mistakes. I think in today’s world with smart-phones, email, instant messaging, multi-tasking, multi-tabs, and multi-social media platforms I think this is normal life. I think we are surrounded by distractions that sadly I surround myself with. Being an entrepreneur that spends a lot of time checking my phone with multiple Firefox sessions with over numerous tabs open I felt that I could use a digital detox and give my mind a vacation.
I’ve flirted with meditation during my days working out in the Steve Nash gym in Vancouver. They had a meditation class that I would attend and even the Yoga classes would dedicate some time to meditation. I enjoyed these classes, but these were shorter sessions. Serena introduced me to the Dharma Drum Mountain group in Taipei. They offered free half-day meditation sessions, which I tried once. It was a good experience, but I found myself falling asleep a lot and didn’t get much out of it.
I decided to skip a Friday night out drinking and get some decent sleep. This retreat was scheduled for 9am on a Saturday in the North of Taipei near Qiyan MRT。A group of 24 of us were led to a large modern temple. As I looked at the schedule I was expecting a 3-hour commitment, but saw this was going to a 9am – 5pm affair. “I don’t do this this often, but I should. I’m here so I might as well make the most of it.” I thought. Besides they offered a free vegetarian lunch.
We went to the grand hall. A large impressive space and what appeared to be a large Buddhist statue with 24 meditation mats facing it. The décor was impressive on each side of the statue. I think there about 2000 mini illuminated Buddhist statues. The meditation mat had a firm round cushion and we were given a towel. We were forbidden to use cell-phones, talk, or wear shoes inside. It was quite a structured day. For example, right side for men and left side for women.
The master was dressed like a monk and she gently spoke on the microphone to instruct us in English. We started the first meditation session. I crossed my legs, closed my eyes, with hands facing upwards resting on my knees. I was ready to reach my blissful state. There was no “ohming” or yoga music. Just silence. At first I was worried I was going to get bored just sitting there for 8 hours. Being in this space with these 23 other people put me in the right mindset to take this seriously. The master told us to get comfortable “not to get attached to the wandering thoughts” to “put them down”. We were here to let go of the garbage in our minds. Sounded purifying to me. It was very quiet and still except for the occasional scooter sounds outside. As I closed my eyes my mind started to wander from thing to thing. Constantly I would just try to blank out my mind. Think nothing. Simple. “Be still” I told myself. I think the session was about an hour. Surprisingly the time passed very fast. I actually got 6 hours of sleep the night before unlike the others so I would only sleep for short periods during the hour meditation.
We had 3 of these sessions throughout the day. The interesting thing was that various thoughts would pop in my mind during the day. Some of them were creative ones or solutions to problems that I had. I didn’t want to loose them. Since the goal was to put the thoughts down I would imagine I had a mental version of Evernote and park these ideas in my mind for later. We ended each session with light self-massage and stretching.
I’ll share one example of a creative idea or solution that I put into action.
Connect laptop to my 32-inch LCD TV.
I have been working from my apartment a lot lately. Since I work on a 15-inch laptop screen I’ve been interested in saving up to purchase a larger LCD screen. Having already window-shopped for monitors I know they start out at 5000nt or $157 US. I just don’t think it’s a priority at this point so I didn’t do it yet. Besides if I were to travel more buying more this wouldn’t be able to go with me. During the meditation I envisioned my work desk with the laptop connected to my 30 inch LCD TV screen. Brilliant I thought. This would be making good use of the resources I already had. When I got home I relocated my work desk in front of the TV and moved the coffee table. My gosh! the desk was the perfect height to use the TV as my external monitor for my laptop. This is going to make reading and working on the laptop so much enjoyable for my eyes. I had a couple of other ideas throughout the day that I’m looking forward to putting into action. It was an AHA moment to get a creative idea from meditation, do it and have it work out!
I thought this excerpt from Successful Hip Hop Entrepreneur Russell Simmons Entrepreneur.com’s article was spot on.
When you sit quietly and let your mind settle, all the innovative, inventive and inspired ideas that have been hiding out in the depths of your mind are going to begin to bubble to the surface.
We did other interesting type of meditations. We did a walking meditation where we walked slowly and in a clockwise direction. We meditated with out eyes open. We were reminded to adopt a feeling of gratefulness. We should be grateful that we are healthy enough to walk. I think gratuity is a great mindset to adopt. Instead of trying to think of things that we don’t have we can be thankful for the things we already have, but take for granted.
The lunch meditation was interesting. Women and men were separated across the dining hall facing each other. Men sat side-by-side as did the women. No talking was allowed and we were instructed to focus on chewing our food 30 times to enjoy it. This was an interesting experience. Usually when eating food I’m talking to someone or if I’m eating on my own I study Chinese or use my phone. This exercise forced me to focus on enjoying the food. “How voluptuous, big, and juicy the mushroom looked” I thought. It tasted great btw. How green and perfectly shaped the green beans were cooked an opened so I could see the beans. I don’t see any business application to this exercise, but I think it is good to be aware of what you are eating.
We also went outside to do what was called a direct contemplation. We stopped at a park area and were asked by the master to look at something in the park. Furthermore, we were asked to ignore distractions such as noise and avoid labeling the first things that would come to mind. For example, when I was staring at a lake I was supposed to stare at it, but not think of it as a thing called “a lake”. I think through practice this exercise could help to train your mind not to make quick judgments on things you see.
We wrapped up by sitting in a circle and sharing our thoughts about the day. Some people re-iterated the importance of getting the body comfortable to allow the mind to settle. One person spoke about how sore his leg was that it distracted him from concentrating on the remaining meditations. My legs would get sore so I would alternate once them once in a while to avoid getting them numb. Many people found the direct contemplation interesting because actually looking at something rather than closing their eyes allowed them to avoid wandering thoughts better.
Overall, with my experience and after reading Russell’s article I believe that there is value of regular meditation. I used to use a nap as my poor excuse for meditation. It is different. In meditation are you still in wakeful state to control your thoughts although you can sometimes drift into a sleep during meditation. The master mentioned that during meditation we learn about ourselves in that we learn what thoughts we might be attached to. She mentioned that we were trying to get to place where we could become unattached. I think there is some parallel if you read Russell’s explaination about how we get caught up in the highs and lows of our professional lives. We try to celebrate the big successes and throw parties and become depressed when we fail. He refers to neither reaction as sustainable as the journey of an entrepreneur will have it’s high and lows. He suggests focusing on the process of work and “not the fruit of our labor.”
I believe that we can learn a lot about ourselves through meditation and in my early experiences of meditation I see it as a way to exercise and control our mind and our mindset. If we can train our mind to be still and reap the ideas that are submerged in the depths of our mind we can unlock great creativity within ourselves.
Personally I don’t think I need an 8-hour 1-day or 1 week retreat, but the goal for myself in 2015 will be to try to make time to do meditation and do it consistently. All the talk of “being still “reminded me of Oprah, arguably the most influential women in the world. Specifically in her Stanford graduation ceremony address I remember Oprah encourages us to take time to “get still” and slow down and listen to our feelings. Could it be that Oprah’s “stillness” prescription and meditation are similar allowing us to literally “tap into our inner power” and reach our business success? Is meditation one of the missing keys I need for business success in 2015?
I’m not sure, but one of the things I am good at is taking action on ideas. The challenge will be to do it consistently. For a digital nomad I’m sure you deal with numerous distractions working on the Internet and your smartphone. You also deal with a lot of change as a result of adapting and living in a new country. I can see how meditation can help you reserve time to help solve your own business problems. It’s also great for learning more about yourself and relaxing your mind. I think the idea of remaining unattached from successful and failures may be something great to strive for; however I do love the thrill of getting a sale from my own products. Perhaps for now this is something for me just to keep in mind.
Stay tuned. What have your experiences being with meditation as it relates to business?