In 2011 I took a major risk. I sold my apartment in Vancouver Canada to fund my dream of starting a travel related business. I left a stable high paying IT manager job in Vancouver after getting my MBA degree. Why? I wasn’t happy. I knew it was time for the next chapter of my life. I discovered my passions for Travel, Video, and Business. After the travel venture didn’t work out I ended going on a tour of Asia for my friends wedding in Taiwan along with my SLR camera. It was eye opening, but I eventually ran out of money.
I went back to corporate life again in 2013 all the while I was experimenting with creating my first product. It started as a trip to Asia on vacation and then a working holiday to Taiwan in 2013. I sold my apartment, car, and packed a laptop and my camera with my dreams. 6 years later I found myself sharing my lessons learned with the next generation of travel videographers
After a 13 year career in IT in Vancouver Canada and a university and MBA degree from SFU I decided to needed a change. I went through a process of self discovery to determine what my values and passions were. (Travel, Business, Video). It started as a trip to Asia on vacation and then a working holiday to Taiwan in 2013. I sold my apartment, car, and packed a laptop and my camera with my dreams. 6 years later I found myself sharing my lessons learned with the next generation of travel videographers in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Chiang Mai, was an important part of my Entreprenuarial journey and it’s great to be able to give back some knowledge to the community.
The Gluten free Nomad and I explorer where we are on our entrepreneurial journey and how we would spend 20k on our business. It’s a fun exercise to go through to think how would you invest those funds back into your business. Would you spend it on office space, new software, new camera gear, or some assistant or interns? find out.We also explore a number of topics from the Golden Age of Chiang mai to co-working in Kuala Lumpur.
As a Travel Videographer 2018 turned about to be a great year in many aspects. As you’ll see there was plenty of travel and my camera came along for the ride. I brought my camera in each of these locations for my Stock Footage subscribers. I’m still playing a bit of catch up with too much content sitting on my hard-drives. Be sure to check outmy Youtube Channelto see some of the videos.
Upgrades – Purchased some gear upgrades. New Windows laptop (Huawei), Backpack, lens adaptor, luggage
Upgraded Adobe photoshop, Adobe Premiere
New Canadian passport for the next 10 years!
Plans for 2019
I would like to slow down my travel and prioritize more time on getting more content online. 2018 was a wild ride, and somewhere in there I turned 40. I plan to spend more time in Malaysia instead of Thailand in 2019. I’m pretty sure I’ll be back and forth between the two. There is also a lot of places to explore in Malaysia such as Sabah, Ipoh, and Sarawak. My grandmother is in Singapore, and I may be be due for a visit there and refresh my footage as well. Kuala Lumpur has great flights to Cambodia, Shen Zhen, and Sri lanka so don’t be surprised if there are some side trips there. I also want to try to return to Canada in the summer. I want to check out Montreal, Toronto, New York and enjoy a summer in Vancouver with the family.
Resolutions for 2019
I would like to lose some weight from 181 lbs to 165 lbs through exercise and better nutrition
Double the earnings for the business
Visit my family and Canada twice during the year
Less travel and more quality content online and marketing
Master Adobe Premiere on the new laptop
If you’re wondering how I sustain this travel lifestyle throughout the years I offer Video services and have many online passive revenue streams. For example, I offer freelance Videos to client in the Asia region and in Canada. I can also offer video editing services for clients that shoot footage on vacation and don’t have time to edit. If you want to learn more about how I create an online passive income using my footage and other business skills you need please check out my online course “How to Start an Online Business from Anywhere using Video” using this sale price link.
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Chiang Mai was my introduction to Thailand. It was an easy introduction thanks to the entrepreneur community, low cost of living, helpful information, and ease of finding a place to stay. I never really gave Bangkok a chance. It wasn’t until I stayed in the residential area of Ekamai near the Hubba workspace that I started to think I could actually live in Bangkok. I’ve already flirted with Bangkok several times living there a month at a time expanding my comfort zone of the city.
Bangkok overall is a bit tougher than Chiang Mai. It’s larger, more crowded, and a bit more expensive. However, it offers more opportunities for business, dating, a better travel hub, better public transport, and better co-work spaces. Bangkok is a huge city and you need time to find the area that you can feel comfortable as your base. It’s definitely a bit harder to find good short-term accommodation in Bangkok, but you can find somewhere good to live on a longer term contract.
I now have an opportunity to live in a good area of Rama 9 in Bangkok for 6 months at a similar if not cheaper cost than Chiang Mai at 14,000 baht ($446 US). Chiang mai has some of the lowest cost short-term accommodation (monthly) for fully furnished studios. Once you start to add 1 bedroom and a kitchen to the equation the average living costs in Chiang Mai jump to 14 – 17000 baht, which is comparable to Bangkok.
As someone who no longer wants to ride a motorbike I find Chiang Mai a bit limiting. After 2 motorbike accidents I no longer want to gamble and take the risks. I’d rather walk, take a taxi, uber, the MRT or BTS train system in Bangkok to get around.
I originally came to Chiang Mai for the digital nomad community. After diving in deep my first year attending events and meeting people I got fatigued of the scene. I found it was mostly new people coming in and out of Chiang Mai wanting to sample the digital nomad experience. The material in the talks started to become repetitive, and I stopped attending so many events. I’m still grateful for these events for the good people I met, but I understand that people are at different stages in their entrepreneur journey.
In the end I found out there were videographers, but noone was truly making an online video business with their videography. I found I was the one doingmost of the teaching when it came to monetization for videographers through stock footage or teaching online. I learned a bit about online marketing and cryptocurrency from my time in Chiang Mai. I’m thankful for that
I find that there is a strong scarcity and price sensitive mindset in Chiang Mai that I’m not fond of. I’m all for low cost living, but I like to enjoy life and would prefer to live comfortably instead of aiming to live within a $600 monthly budget. The people that are in Chiang Mai are friendly and down to earth, but I find that the low cost of living attracts people that don’t have an abundance mindset. I find when I’m here too long I find that what I thought was cheap is not really cheap. There is always someone that knows where to stay and eat cheaper. When does it end? I think focusing too much on finding cheap things all the time takes away focus from earning and living a comfortable life.
Chiang Mai is an easy city to live and relax, but I get restless staying here for longer than 3 months. It feels too small, and yes I know i’m guilty of staying in the bubble of nimman.
After a chaotic year of traveling the world (Bali, South Africa, Penang, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Vancouver, Seoul, Koh Tao) I wanted to roam the world less and have more of a base and hopefully more of a normal lifestyle.
It’s another burning season and I will be leaving during the month of March. The question is do I go away for short-term and come back or is this my opportunity give Bangkok a chance?
In a perfect world I would be able to have a place in both Chiang Mai and Bangkok. I could escape the concrete jungle and enjoy the nature and peacefulness of Chiang Mai. One thing is for sure. Chiang Mai’s climate is a great place to be from November to February. It’s a place where I can definitely spend part of my year here. I’m just not sure if I want to spend the whole year here.
Is the magic still in Chiang Mai Thailand leading into 2018?
Does Chiang Mai still have the charm and magic for digital nomads and location independents as we approach 2018? Was it overhyped? For many people Chiang Mai was the starting point or ground zero to bootstrap and get your business off the ground. I started my journey in Taiwan for 2 years on a working holiday before I came to Thailand. After spending more than 6 months in Chiang I got bored and the little cultural frustrations started to mount. I and other nomads started exploring many other destinations around the world from Bali, Budapest to Medillion. After living long term in other destinations it’s easier to see where a city excels or is lacking. Is Chiang mai still a top choice? After exploring Bangkok, Penang, Bali, and Vancouver I was wondering the same thing.
After enjoying the cheap craft beers and plentiful high quality marijuana in Vancouver, the great ocean vibes and food of Penang, and world class co-work spaces of Bangkok where does Chiang Mai stack up?
Basic needs come first and Chiang Mai is the top destination to find comfortable and affordable accommodation. After the frustration I went through to find a good place in Vancouver Chiang mai is a nice relief. Not only is the cost affordable, but the rent process and structure is so straightforward. Rent a week, month, 3 months or long no problem.
Chiang Mai is not the cheapest for everything. Co-work space memberships, western food, and craft beer are often pricier than other destinations. When you factor in your overall monthly costs Chiang Mai is probably one of the cheapest destinations I’ve lived in without compromising quality of life and safety. My estimated monthly budget for value comfort living is under $1000 US. You can go a lot lower than this if needed.
Aside for watching out for car traffic or if you choose to ride a motorbike I feel safer in Chiang Mai than in Vancouver or Capetown South Africa. The local thai people are in general not as aggressive as Canadians and when you leave your laptop at a cafe or your phone in your bike there is a good chance it will still be there. When I work from a cafe or library in Vancouver I constantly worry about theft. When I was living in Gastown Vancouver there are a lot of sketchy characters and areas around with a chip on their shoulder. Vancouver suburbs are a lot safer in general, but Vancouver downtown depending on your location and time of day there are times I do not feel safe. Yes I know Vancouver is ranked one of the most livable cities in the world.
Nowhere I’ve been compares to Chiang Mai for meeting great digital nomads, expats, or just down to earth friendly foreign or local thai people. The Chiang Mai sophmore’s or veterans can get meeting new people fatigue, but I found it interesting that these old faces migration patterns have been in synch with many familiar faces returning to Chiang Mai at the same time. The time with the best weather perhaps? Sure Canadians are known to be friendly. In my experience this means they are polite to you when you’re small talking. There are social walls when it comes to breaking the lines between working and hanging out. People in Chiang mai are open to meeting and if you’re a digital nomad there will be plenty of opportunities to meet them.
I arrived in December (winter), which is about high 20’s to low 20’s at night. Compare that to 3 to 6 degrees celcius and rain from Vancouver, and people that appreciate the sun will appreciate Chiang Mai. December to February is a great time to be here. The burning season (Feb-March) is probably not the best time to be sure for air quality and extreme heart.
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Proximity to airport
The ride from the airport to Nimman is about 15 minutes. This is probably the shortest ride from the airport to your hotel or apartment of any destination. A great benefit after a long journey or experience for trips away.
Where does it fall short?
Just like I’ve found in most destinations it’s hard to find utopia. Chiang Mai is a bit rough around the edges, but that is part of the charm. Whether it’s receiving the wrong dish because of a server’s english, no ocean, a desk that is uneven, a rat running across your path at night, booze midnight curfew, no crosswalks, no public transit system, or lack of pavements I accept it for what is is. As Michael Jordan said we can choose to focus on the positive or negative of most things and for the most part I choose positive.
Who is Chiang Mai for?
Chiang mai’s slow place and affordable pricing are great for new digital nomads, returning digital nomads, people that want a holiday or time away from home in the west. Chiang mai internet speeds continue to increase, there is still a strong organic community, people are friendly, and plenty of places to work. Everything you need to ramp up your business to create more options. I encourage people to set up a base here, but not become a prisoner of Chiang Mai’s cheap prices. I found after staying here long term that I developed a bit of fear of expensive prices because almost everything becomes expensive once you leave Chiang Mai. There are many great places to live and explore.
Chiang Mai, Thailand and Thailand in general is a great destination to start your journey as an online entrepreneur or digital nomad. However, it’s also good to have some alternatives or other options to base yourself for burning seasons, get tired of visa runs, or if you want a change. March is typically the bad time of year to be in Chiang Mai because of the burning season.Before moving to Chiang Mai I lived in countries like Singapore and Taiwan for an extended period. Since then I’ve scouted other locations on visa runs. In this episode I give my reasons for leaving and share some alternative destinations for your to try during the burning seasons or for a change. Check out the podcast episode to find out more
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.
Johnny FD is a prominent digital nomad building community and sharing business advice. He has been featured on articles on forbes and business insider. I discovered Johnny through his many youtube videos about Chiang Mai. Learn about Johnny and his journey, business, and thoughts on living in Taiwan Vs Chiang Mai as a digital nomad
If you take a look at Chiang Mai Thailand on the map you can see that is nearby destinations such as Myanmar (Burma), Laos Cambodia, Vietnam, and Malaysia. In fact South East Asia is home to Siem Riep and Hanoi, which are currently within Trip Advisor’s 2015 top 5 destinations. I’ve been working and living from Taiwan for the past 2 years and for the past 3 months Chiang Mai has been my base. I’m going to explain why living in Chiang Mai is an ideal base to travel deeper in South East Asia.
Chiang Mai is currently one of the most popular destinations for digital nomads, people who earn their living on-line through an overseas income. The reasons for this are many from great weather, good Internet, it’s safe, cheap, and easy to find monthly accommodation. Digital nomads like to live in a location from a month to 6 months and then move onto the next destination. Even if you are not a digital nomad Chiang Mai is still a great base if you prefer slower longer-term travel and want to explore more of South East Asia as I have done.
As a creative digital nomad in my late thirties I prefer a little comfort and have become more settled. I’ve found 2 places in the world other than Vancouver I have lived and called home. That is Taipei, Taiwan and Chiang Mai Thailand. Thailand offers 30-day tourist visa’s for most Western countries if you just show up with your passport. Some digital nomads like to get the coveted triple entry 60-day tourist visa. This allows you to maximize your stay in Thailand for up to 9 months. I’m not the visa expert here and this is not the scope of this article. My point is that if you choose Chiang Mai as your base you can travel to a neighboring country and return for another 30 days to relax in Chiang Mai. Here are some countries I visited during my stay in Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai, Thailand – an ideal base to travel deep into South East Asia
Chiang Mai is one of those special destinations in the world that has a lot of offer with few trade-offs. It’s surrounded by mountains and blessed with mostly sunny dry weather. You can enjoy local living in the trendy area of Nimmanhamen, which has an abundance of bars with live music, restaurants, coffee shops, massage shops, and co-working spaces. Many foreigners enjoy living here or want to live here for this reason. I credit discovering this area to a prominent digital nomad named Johnny FD who shares a lot about living life here. Of course Chiang Mai is not all about Nimman and you might want to take a Red Truck or Tuk Tuk to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple up on the mountain. You can even rent a scooter for $70 US a month and have real mobile independence. The night market is good to get some good cheap buys like a wood smartphone cover, elephant pants, or a cool t-shirt. If you want to live here it’s as simple as walking to an apartment to ask for the price and take a look at the suite. Get a simple studio for $200 US or get a comfortable luxury condo for $500 US and you’ve got your base in Chiang Mai
Highlights of Chiang Mai
My comfortable apartment and enjoying living in Nimman and Chiang Mai
Meeting new like-minded friends to work and party with
Working at cool co-working spaces like Camp and Mana
Good cheap local food like Pad Thai’s and Chicken Basil Rice
Enjoying a Leo at a local live bar or from the Nimman Hill Rooftop
Renting a scooter to drive up into the mountains to visit a Buddhist Temple or enjoy the scenery
Taking some photos in the cage with Tigers at Tiger Kingdom
Going for good cheap Thai, foot, and oil massages
I believe Myanmar (Burma) just opened up to tourists in 2012. Myanmar’s main city is Yangon, which is a comfortable one-hour flight for less than $127 US. The people in Myanmar are so friendly and curious about where you are from. I think it’s because they recently opened up to tourism and are not used to seeing tourists. In July 2015 the first KFC opened in Yangon and Western fast food. It was crazy busy, and compared to some local options is a luxury experience. This is the exception though and most of the country is still unspoiled by the west. The country is safe and the food was excellent.
Highlights of Myanmar
Walking around taking in the sunset and night atmosphere of the Shwedagon Pagoda
Buying good and cheap Myanmar whiskey, rum, beer, and coffee
Checking out a chic Shisha rooftop Martini bar
Riding an e-bike temple hunting in Bagan
Enjoying the wide selection of curries and rices
Siem Riep Angkor Wat
Siem Riep is a 1 hour flight from Bangkok and Chiang Mai is 1 hour from Bangkok. The main reason to come here is to visit the famous Angkor Wat temple and the other surrounding temples. You can enjoy a comfortable stay with a swimming pool at a good price. You can hire a Tuk tuk to enjoy the sunrise and visit Angkor Wat and visit the Angelina Jolie temple (Ta Prohm), where the Tomb Raider movie was filmed.
Highlights of Siem Riep
The experience waking up early to see an Angkor Wat sunrise
Temple hunting on Tuk tuk
Renting an E-bike to self ride through the city and the temples on my own
Relaxing at my hotel with a swimming pool
Chilling for drinks and food at Pub street during day and night
The delicious jungle burger
Using US currency
Going to Vietnam is a different experience than the other countries. It’s worth it for the food though. Hanoi is less than a 2-hour flight from Bangkok and you’ll need to apply for a visa in advance. It costs about $45 US and $18 US to ride into town. I recently discovered that like Saigon it has heavy scooter traffic where crossing the street is an experience in itself. You can try Chicken noodle soup for breakfast and some pretty good western food. You can walk through the old quarter and enjoy good eats and shopping. Trip Advisor’s poster image gave me the impression that Hanoi would be more laid back and offer natural landscapes. However, I made the best out of the situation. I stayed in the old quarter at a central well reviewed trip advisor hotel for $18 Us.
Highlights of Hanoi
Good and cheap chicken and beef pho
Cheap and good Vietnamese sandwiches
Excellent spring rolls
A food tour where I got to discover street foods
Enjoying Vietnamese coffee French style people watching
Good shopping for Fedora or military style hats
Going for a sunrise walk around Ho Kiem Lake
Enjoying a Hanoi beer with cheese sticks
Making local friends at Gecko bar and Highlands coffee
Enjoying a Hanoi beer at Avalon lounge with a view of the lake
Filming the craziness of Ta hien
Getting my selfie stick from the market
Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) City
Saigon was my introduction to Vietnam. I heard some good things about it from other Digital nomads. If you haven’t been to Vietnam before you may find it chaotic and noisy. I found a great cheap well-reviewed hotel in Trip Advisor that made this stay more comfortable. It was hard to find but was located in a narrow alley that introduced us to the morning street markets right outside our hotel. I enjoyed French influenced foods like crepes and sandwiches. Some of our favorite restaurants were located in the French area near the Notre-Dame Basilica. The military museum is interesting some fun photo ups with military tanks and planes as well as learning about the war. I hated the night market and if you’ve been to the Taipei night markets this doesn’t compare. This city will keep you on your toes and isn’t boring.
Highlights of Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) City
Trying out Vietnamese coffee and buying a coffee maker and bag to take with me
The Chu Chi tunnel tour – The friendly and funny guide and making a new Irish friend
Getting buzzed at a Chic Australian owned lounge at Happy hour
Cool photo ops at the War Remnants Museum and the cultural experience
Pho for breakfast and crepes for dinner
I know I’m just scratching the surface. If you’re interested in learning more about Chiang Mai , Thailand, or South East Asia then sign up to my newsletter. I’m thinking of creating guide to include the following
Chiang Mai living guide
The actual hotels I stayed at, flights I took, and how I got around
Sample costs so you don’t get taken advantage of
Where I got travel insurance for myself and my gear
Survival tips – How to get around and not get taken advantage of
Must try foods and restaurant recommendations
Info on Sim card plans
Tips on where to get the best Photo and Video ops
Food and drink maps
I’m also thinking of writing why Taiwan is an ideal base to explore Japan, China, and Hong Kong
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