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.
Cebu Phillipines – Gregs Guide for Digital Nomads & Travelers
Since relocating to Asia in 2013 the Philippines has been on my radar. I heard of the beautiful beaches like Boracay and more recently the more unspoiled island of Palawan. However my trip research revealed bad and expensive flights and I had the impression it was an unsafe country.
First a bit about my Digital Nomad background. I’m a Travel Videographerthat has already lived in Taiwan for 2 years before relocating to Thailand for over 3 years. I’ve already traveled deep in to Asia, which you can read about here.
Cebu is the most populated island in the Phillipines and is often the place most visitors want to go instead of overcrowded and dirty Manila. I actually haven’t been to Manila this is just what I heard, and I don’t have a strong desire to go there. I heard many good things from Filipinos from Canada and in Asia, Japanese, and vloggers like Lost Le Blanc.
After traveling here I can tell you that Cebu has a lot to offer and amazing experiences. Highlights include swimming with whale sharks in Oslob, seeing the Tamulog waterfalls, daytrips island hopping, and eating amazing food like chorizo sausages, mexican food, ribs, pulled pork, legit burgers, legit pizzas, italian food, legit phto and even Japanese Wagyu BBQ. The craft beers and wine are often cheaper than Thailand and in most of Asia. As someone that has developed into a foodie I can say that you can really indulge at more reasonable prices compared to Thailand.
Getting into Cebu
In December 2017 I met a french digital nomad in the Hubba cowork space in Bangkok that told me that Phillipine Air had opened up direct flights from Bangkok to Cebu. I decided to give it a try. Roundtrip flights take around 4 hours and go for about $320 us roundtrip. The flight times are not that great so you may be flying late arriving early or flying late and arriving late. On the positive you can can skip going through Manila all together.
How did I like Cebu
I stayed 6 days during the Sinulog festival. Sinulog is one of the largest annual festivals in the country. It meant that accommodation prices and availability were higher than normal.
Overall I enjoyed my stay. There is a lot of natural beauty to see from the paradise islands to the whale sharks. You would need months or longer to really explore Cebu. I really enjoyed the international foods at good value. There are a lot less tourists than Thailand so you may be able to enjoy an island paradise all to yourself.
I wasn’t impressed with the downtown areas in Cebu City as they are dirty and crowded. You do see a lot of poverty and dirty areas. The IT park and Ayala Mall Terrace are the nicer areas to spend your time. I got a couple of chances to get out of Cebu city. We did a whale shark and tumalog waterfall day trip, which was a once in a lifetime experience for me. It gave me a preview of more gems to explore if I were to stay in Cebu longer.
The people in Cebu are nice. Their english was not as strong as I thought it would be, but they can understand you at least. In my opinion there is a lot more poverty outside of the bubbles of IT park and Ayala. Because of this you can feel a bit of desperation from the locals that I don’t feel in Thailand. Generally I feel safe, but not as safe as I do in Thailand. i wouldn’t want to leave my laptop in a cafe and go for lunch like some do in Chiang Mai or Bangkok.
We managed to try out living in IT Park, one of the better areas in CEBU to live. It is an enclosed area with condos, upscale restaurants, shops, and coffee shops. Everything you need to be comfortable and live in a bubble. I also stayed in the island of Mactan, close to the airport. The roads were not as good, and the actual building was old. The entire room was renovated to a modern western standards, and it was interesting to live outside of usual expat bubbles.
I’m just doing a mock monthly budget for myself based on my trip costs and lifestyle. All prices are in US.
Studio Accommodation with wifi in IT Park 24000 pesos ($471 US)
Fancy Coffee 3600 pesos ($ 71 US)
Daily Western Breakfast 6000 pesos ($117) (Western breakfast obo 200 pesos)
Sim Card 800 pesos (obo $16 US) 1.5 gb data goes for 100 pesos.
Transport 9000 pesos (obo $176) Based on 300 peso transport budget. trips vary from 100-300 pesos
Cowork space hot seat member 4000 pesos ($79) Based on Tide coworkspace
Lunch & Dinner 18000 pesos ($354) Western meals with 600 peso daily budget
1 hour Massage 1200 pesos ($24) weekly 1 hour massage
Weekend Drinks 2000 pesos ($40) 500 peso weekend budget craft beer 240, local beer 80, wine 120
Monthly Projected Budget
$ 1348 US 68,549 pesos. This may seem a bit on the high end. Keep in mind this is just my rough budget. Everyone has a different lifestyle. We could make adjustments to the food, transport, and cowork space and bring this down about $200 US to 1148 US. You can eat local meals, skip alcohol, and take local transport instead of ubers all the time.
Would I recommend CEBU for Digital Nomads?
There are already a few digital nomads, but it is nowhere as popular as chiang mai or bali for community. I would recommend Cebu for a visit or a visa run from other Asian countries. There are some decent airbnb options to stay at short-term from $20-40 US a night for a good private apartment. It is harder to access local pricing unless you do what is considered a short-term lease for cebu (6 months). If you do a 6 month studio lease at the Avida towers with utilities and wifi you are looking at around $500 US a month
The Internet is not as reliable or as fast as Thailand. I suspect that uploading video would be frustrating living here long term unless you work from a cowork space. I did hear there are some areas that have access to Optic fiber.
My friend Kevin has opened a cowork space called Tide in IT Park; however I didn’t have a chance to check it out unfortunately. From my perspective Cebu could be an interesting place for a Stock footage Videographer or Vlogger looking to capture beautiful scenery.
Getting around was pretty easy with uber, grab, local taxi, and motorbike taxi.
The Internet is good enough for nomads not doing a lot of high bandwidth uploading. The Tide cowork space offers high speed Internet of 50mb up and down. I don’t think there is an established community or co-work space scene in CEBU yet, which is why my friend opened his cowork space to fill the gap. Cafes I went to gave me the impression that free wifi and outlets were a lot harder to come by than Thailand. If this is your thing you may want to try Bo Coffee or Starbucks (they have a 1 hr limit though and it’s often crowded).
Surprisingly, there are not a lot of foreigners I saw. It feels like CEBU is a bit more of the wild west compared to Thailand. While there are as many foreigners as Thailand, locals are comfortable and friendly to foreigners.
There is a lot to do and enjoy in CEBU. This is a good lifestyle to be enjoyed and CEBU has a lot to offer. I easily see people wanting to come here for a visit or even stay up to a month. The amazing indulgences, low prices, english friendly, decent accommodation options, whale sharks, and amazing sites make CEBU an amazing draw. My recommendation is to come for a short visit and see if you like it before committing for a month. I’m also writing this from the experience of a visitor so if I lived here for longer I would have more insights.
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Bangkok is a vibrant and exciting city to live that has a lot to offer for Expats, Digital Nomads, and English Teachers. Bangkok is known as a popular tourist areas destination, but once you make the decision to live like a local and have insider information you can live a great lifestyle at an affordable cost.
Bangkok has excellent resources and infrastructure to get around, high quality and affordable medical care, a gear variety of food, plentiful and world class co-workspaces, and plenty of entertainment. Bangkok is also a great travel hub, offers world class shopping, and is more affordable than Western Cities.
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I met Vil in Bali through the Dojo Bali Facebook group for members. I was looking for help with some video footage. It turn out he has entertaining, funny, and high quality Youtube channels that started out in Seoul Korea. In our podcast we talk about Youtube sponsorships and life in Seoul Korea ad Bali as a digital nomad and foreigner.
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I went from Chiang Mai to Canggu Bali in search of an interesting social personality to interview. Enter Colin Shipp who I met at a beers after work event at the Dojo Bali Co-work space. He focuses on providing youtube ad consultation for online teaching agencies. We picked the quiet and rustic Red Salt Cafe in Canggu Bali for this interview. Colin figured out at an early age that he didn’t like and what he was good at and focused just on that. After listening to this podcast he had me thinking. Do I want to be that artist behind the screen spending hours of my time video editing or do I want to run the business? At this stage of my business I’m steering more towards the business side of things. Check out Colin’ story of how he started from a suburb community in Detroit to end up in beautiful Canggu Bali living that location independent lifestyle. It’s also refreshing to know the younger generation still values the important of building face to face relationships. In this podcast we are going back to basics to cover some practical tips to start and exit a conversation with strangers as well as how to actually continue a conversation. Golden stuff!
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
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.
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.