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Is the Era of Being a Digital Nomad Over?

With the Corona Virus impacting all of our lives I can’t help but wonder if the era of being a Digital nomad is over for awhile at least. The allure of being a digital nomad is closely linked to Travel, which is the hardest hit industry. Countries have closed their borders to foreigners, and even transiting through an airport is not possible at the moment. Airlines and Airports have started to downsize staff, and operations making less flights available. I and some friends are currently in various parts of Asia went this pandemic suddenly accelerated into a full lockdown.

Era of Being a Digital Nomad Over
the stereotype of a digital nomad or freelancer working at a cafe

The last 7 years have been a bit of a roller coaster with ongoing travel and what seems non stop hustling and grinding to scale our businesses. It’s also a good time to reflect a bit on highlights of the digital nomad lifestyle.

I would like to share a bit of background before I continue. I have been a digital nomad since 2013 before I even heard of the term in Taiwan. I first heard of the term from a Canadian Digital nomad named Nigel while in Taipei in 2014. I’ve been able to earn an income regardless of location using my video and creative skills in freelancing and online business and sustain it for 7 years. I consider myself a veteran in this game due to my age and time in the game and share my creative, travel, and business knowledge in my Creator Academy School. I have digital nomad friends that are 10 years my senior as well as the younger group that are 10 – 15 years younger than I am. Although I don’t consider myself a digital nomad because I tend to stay in a location for 3 – 6 months I do identify most closely with this group.

Creator Academy
I share my knowledge through Video, Travel, and Business Courses at my Creator Academy https://phantom3.teachable.com/

Traveling itself was never an essential requirement of being a digital nomad although it has been one of the perks being able to travel primarily to lower cost countries with a good lifestyle. The term nomad implies not having a home base, and there are different flavors of the digital nomad from slow to binge traveler. The issue is that regulation and government visa’s haven’t adapted to technology and the new lifestyle possibilities that digital nomad’s have enjoyed in recent years using tourist or social visit visa’s. Digital nomads often use creative means like visa runs where they change location every 1 to 3 months to another country often returning to their home base country to reset the duration of their visa. If you spend any length of time in Thailand especially in Chiang Mai you’re bound to hear a visa run story.

Work hard play hard. Celebrating Thailand Songkran in Chiang Mai with long time friends

If the traveling lockdown does ever end and I think we may be looking at a very different environment for travelers and digital nomads. Travelers are already in the crosshairs of governments seen as the primary carriers of the coronavirus. In the future we may be looking at countries that make non essential travel a lot more restrictive than ever. Of course digital nomads are just a minority of the potential victims of a post corona fallout. We’ve already read stories of airlines, hotels, tourism operators, and travel companies like Lonely Planet take a hit.

Human’s are naturally curious and I think the rules will relax over time to allow travel again. I’m not sure how long this period could be. It could be 6 months, it could be a year or many years. By this time there will be a larger group of people with home base businesses with the ability to live a digital nomad lifestyle. There may come up a point where pent up demand meets a relaxation in traveling again potentially creating the next larger wave of digital nomads.

The original crew Chiang Mai, Thailand enjoying Beer o Clock outside Nimman Punspace. Rip Christian. This was my second night in Chiang Mai Thailand and the beginning of long friendships.

How are Digital Nomads coping with the lockdown?

For this year 2020 at least I think the established Digital Nomads are in good shape partly because most will benefit from the rest of the world spending more time online than ever. They had a period of 5 years to ramp up their knowledge and skills to make a sustainable living without the need to return back to their home countries. They are highly independent and it is normal for them to solo travel and work in isolation at home or from a co-work space or cafe.

I myself teach online courses and I have seen all-time highs of my teaching minutes as well as watch time on my Youtube Channel. Most established digital nomads are able to earn an income purely online so that they don’t have to be in physical contact with people. They have learned specialized skills in areas of affiliate marketing, online teaching, dropshipping, ecommerce, youtubing, video editing, teaching english, teaching online courses, translation, search engine optimization, stock trading, licensing video and templates and more. It’s true there has probably never been a better time for someone to make a living online due to the technology we have available and the number of people spending time online in isolation.

We are fortunate that technology is where it is today in 2020. Internet speeds, smartphones, laptops, and essentials apps and platforms have made this lifestyle possible. Starting in the period between 2013-2015 developing and lower cost countries like Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Malaysia offered everything that a Digital nomad needed and then some. Things like good weather, safe environments, cowork spaces, fast wifi, nice places to stay, and the opportunity for new friendships and relationships. Established digital nomads are quite tech savy, adaptable, flexible, and can operating a business lot of overhead. My Videography production side of the business has been impacted, but I had build a business on the foundation of diverse income streams. For example, I have online course, license footage, and still freelance by video editing for clients.

Co-work spaces

Co-work spaces were also an important, but not an essential requirement of the digital nomad. In fact it was in 2019 that co-working spaces had reached the mainstream where giants like we-work had become the domain of team startups and even larger firms. In Thailand and Malaysia I had seen cowork spaces sprout up to serve Digital nomads, students, and businesses. Co-work spaces for some were essential to get the necessary environment to do their work, for some a place to get inspired and get out of the house, and for some it was a place to network and community. However many cowork spaces will likely loose a lot of money and business during the lockdown and may even shutdown and not reenter the market. I hope this is not the case.

Is the Era of Being a Digital Nomad Over?
the coco kala cowork space in Chiang Mai Jan 2020
The Hubba Discovery cowork space in Bangkok Thailand
A popular 24/7 Cowork space Camp in Chiang Mai Thailand

Chiang Mai, Thailand was considered the global capital for Digital nomads. In my opinion it reached it’s golden age in 2015 where there was peak interest and there was a strong organic international community. It was a great time to meet other like-minded people, exchange ideas, get inspiration, make friends, and attend business and social events. This year in 2020 the dreaded burning seasons started as early as January and still continues to plague Chiang mai even into April. Digital nomads value the basic essentials like fast wifi, good weather, but also value good air. I see digital nomads spending shorter periods of time here in the future unless this changes.

Enjoying a sunset with friends at the baristro cafe in Chiang Mai January 2020

When stripped down to the bare essentials needed to run my online business it is fairly basic. I need a power laptop, hdmi cable, fast internet, monitor, and comfortable desk and chair. If this is the last season for awhile to being able to enjoy this lifestyle I will have no regrets. I’ve had a lifetime of experiences being able to make good international friendships, relationships, scaling my business, and experiencing living in different cities around the world. Some digital nomads and travelers currently abroad including myself are currently in Asia anxiously awaiting to see what will unfold during the lockdown. There are many factors at play like government decisions on lockdown’s, visa length, airport closures, flight costs, and even health and safety being in a plane and airport with other travelers.

Chiang Mai House Party 2016
a vlog from my latest visit to Chiang mai Jan 2020

We may end up staying in our current destination longer than expected or our options may dwindle down to one, which is to return home. Whatever happens I will treasure the remaining time abroad. If travel is restricted, if cowork spaces close, if we have to return home it mark a different chapter for many digital nomads. 2013 to 2020 was a good run and I’m grateful for it. Thanks Thailand and Malaysia for the memories. If you have enjoyed any of these digital nomad vlog videos be sure to subscribe to my digital nomad Youtube Channel.

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Taiwan experiences

Where to go to relax and exercise in Taipei, Taiwan

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

Where to go to relax and exercise in Taipei, Taiwan
The weightroom at the Zhongshan sports centers are modern, clean , and have good equipment

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

Where to go to relax and exercise in Taipei, Taiwan
The bike trail to Beitou

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.

 Tennis

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

Where to go to relax and exercise in Taipei, Taiwan
ubike’s a great to ride for practical or exercise purposes

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.

Hiking

Where to go to relax and exercise in Taipei, Taiwan
Enjoying some exercise and the view of Taipei from elephant mountain

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.

 Relax

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.

IMG_1685
Enjoying some redpoint beer in Daan park. Yes you can drink beer or wine in the park just clean it up after and don’t cause chaos

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.