It is a hot summer night, and there is a lot of laughter coming from the restaurant’s balcony. Scott and I are sitting at a long wooden table with 15 other internationals. It’s the beginning of the weekend, and stories in British, American and Spanish accents are flying across the table. We are at our first Friday-Meet Up for expats living in Da Nang, Vietnam.
‘Hi I’m Lucia’, the young lady sitting next to me introduces herself. I trace a slight Canadian accent. She has almond shaped brown eyes and a big head of dark curly hair. She speaks full of enthusiasm about her new teaching job. She’s not working at a school, but online as a Digital Nomad. The last decade has seen an incredible surge in Digital Nomads - who work online and are location independent. I turn to Scott with big eyes and engage him in the conversation. That night I can’t sleep because my head is buzzing with all the possibilities.
It feels so bold and different from our initial plan. When we left The Netherlands five months ago, we just assumed Scott would find a local job in Vietnam and we would visit nearby places on the weekends; like a standard 9-5, but than in the tropics. In the meantime, we met so many Digital Nomads that what seemed an impossible dream in the Netherlands turned out to be the norm in this part of the world.
‘What if we focus solely on working online, and then travel anywhere in the world?’,
I said eagerly to Scott a couple days later. He hesitated. Could he make enough money with online teaching? We were making friends here, felt at home, and had a nice apartment.
What we needed was a bit of #psychological #flexibility. Every job application demands it. As an entrepreneur you need it in your work. Being flexible is big business, even when you are traveling for a year. How do you get a flexible mindset? For me, I needed to get some distance from all my buzzing thoughts. We discussed once more the reasons why we decided to take a year abroad - for the adventure. After a couple of weeks of research, we took action. Like true digital nomads, we decided to follow the weather. Monsoon rains came into Da Nang, so we went out. We booked a flight to Chiang Mai Thailand, the Digital Nomad capital of the world, and conveniently cloudless sky, comfortably warm and sunny in late Autumn.
สวัสดี Sà-wàt-dee kha - Thailand
What a difference with Vietnam! Where Da Nang is still on the rise and doesn’t always seem to know what to do with Western tourists, Chiang Mai is hardwired for tourists. For the first couple of days we had booked an apartment in a neighborhood called Nimman just outside the old city of Chiang Mai. The place to be if you want to spot a Digital Nomad. The area turned out to be so Western that it took me a minute to realize I did not just step into a neighborhood in New York or Rotterdam. On every corner there was a hipster coffee shop, vegan restaurant or yoga studio.
The challenge of working as a Digital Nomad is that we don’t have a clear living or work space. It is incredible to travel the world and work online, but sometimes relocating can be a bit stressful. Scott and I were looking to stay in a predominantly Thai neighborhood with a few western shops, to get as close to the real experience without being lost in translation. After a couple of days cruising around Chiang Mai and visiting about 25 apartments - we found a winner. A gorgeous Thai hotel/apartment with a gym, mini library and coffee shop to work in.
“Welcome to our Coworking Day! What’s your name?”, Brittnee invites me kindly. She is a woman in her thirties with bright red long hair and grey shorts. She gestures at the long table. Nine Digital Nomads of various ages say hi. I’m at my first meet-up event in Chiang Mai, this time to meet other entrepreneurs and work together for the day. I smile and introduce myself. It feels good to settle in a new place with a whole group of Digital Nomads.
---- Next Up ----
I’m just starting to realize how much bigger the digital nomad scene is than I originally expected. It’s huge. More on that and the Thai smile next month!
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