14 Oct We’re not Weird in Chiang Mai!
“I’m a Dropshipper,” the guy from Finland told us as we relaxed in the pool. “Ah, we work online too,” Andrew replied, and we began to exchange stories about living as digital nomads in Chiang Mai. Now, when we tell people in the UK that we’re making a living online while we travel, we generally get a lot of perplexed responses along the lines of: Well, you’re pretty weird. Here in Chiang Mai though, which has one of the highest concentrations of digital nomads on the planet, we just fit right in.
Chiang Mai: the Digital Nomad Capital
At any given time in Chiang Mai there are hundreds of digital nomads industriously working away on their laptops. The city’s co-working cafes are full of freelance writers and graphic designers, vloggers and bloggers, online marketers and teachers, social influencers, Instagrammers and website builders. All of them have come to Chiang Mai, perhaps for just a few weeks but often for months or years at a time, to work on their various online businesses.
Read more about digital nomad life in these posts:
Our first digital nomad report
Digital nomad challenges
Working as a freelancer, 8 things I’ve learned so far
Making a digital nomad living
Digital nomad destinations: Romania
Digital nomad destinations: Turkey
These are people like us who’ve chosen to pursue a life of location independence and the freedom to work anywhere in the world. People who, for whatever reason, have decided to kick the daily grind in their home countries, step away from an office and say goodbye to daily commutes. You can connect with these people at weekly nomad meetings, writing workshops and through blogging and Facebook groups. In short, you will never be alone as a digital nomad in Chiang Mai.
So why do digital nomads flock to Chiang Mai? Is it the cheap living costs, fast WiFi, delicious food or easy-to-navigate visa regulations? Perhaps it’s because Thailand lies at the heart of the Southeast-Asia backpacking trail, or maybe it’s just so easy to get set up here. Whatever the reason, Chiang Mai has become known as a digital nomad hub and we fit right in here. This sense of belonging is a welcome change from feeling like social oddities, as we so frequently do when we’re back in the UK.
Feeling Odd in the UK
In Chiang Mai, we can tell a random stranger that we’ve been travelling for the last few years and making money online and they won’t bat an eyelid. Actually, they’ll probably start talking about their online business, offer us advice or ask questions about what we do. In the UK, this information is often greeted with raised eyebrows and interrogations about how we afford to ‘be on holiday’ so much and questions about how we ever plan to have a mortgage or start a family. We often feel like we just don’t fit in when we revisit our home country.
I think the root of this lies in the UK’s rigid life structure which goes something like this: study, get a job, get married, buy a house, have children, retire. That’s the generally accepted formula for life success in the UK. Along the way you work long hours, buy lots of stuff and live a comfortable life. Since Andrew and I are not currently following this pattern, we often feel at odds with UK culture and like we don’t belong there. Sometimes, when we’re with a group of people chatting about office politics, babies, wedding plans, DIY or house prices, we feel like absolute aliens.
At Home and not Weird in Chiang Mai
I’m not trying to bash UK culture, by the way. Andrew and I know many people who have amazingly happy lives there, but we want something different. We love working and living abroad, travelling to new places and collecting experiences rather than possessions. We’re using the skills we’ve developed to work for ourselves doing things we love and here in Chiang Mai, we’re surrounded by people with similar mindsets. It feels great to effortlessly belong and not have to explain or justify our lifestyle.
The UK will always be our rainy little island. Many of our favourite people live there, a huge slice of my heart remains in London and I will always be addicted to tea and Marmite in a way that only a Brit could. One day we fully expect to return to the UK once we’ve figured out how to make a sustainable living on our own terms, with the ability to continue exploring the world. Right now though, I’m so happy to be in this city nestled in the Thai mountains with other like-minded souls who are working towards building a life less ordinary, just like us.
Where in the world do you feel most at home?
PattiPosted at 16:45h, 14 October
So that’s why I see SO many blog posts about Chiang Mai! 🙂 Makes total sense, it’s affordable and the country is acceptable and open.
AmyPosted at 04:44h, 15 October
Yep, it’s such a great place to live. Wherever we go in the world they’ll always be part of us that wishes we were in Chiang Mai!
Michael T.Posted at 04:18h, 15 October
We know exactly how you feel. Our families and friends back in the US treat us the same way. We are not “Digital Nomads” but we did find a way to give up working and travel full-time in our mid/late 40’s. We have been doing this for 1 1/2 years and BTW we are also currently in Chiang Mai. Now that we are traveling to other countries, we are meeting people who are doing the same. We no longer feel like black sheep.
Kudos to both of you for striking out while you are still young. We may be a little late to the party but we did show up.
AmyPosted at 04:46h, 15 October
Hi Michael, thanks for reading and commenting, it’s great to hear from likeminded people. It sounds like you have created an awesome life that works for you, we’re still at the beginning of this path but hopefully it’ll become a sustainable lifestyle for us soon. If you ever feel like meeting up, give us a shout 🙂
KristenPosted at 11:31h, 15 October
My dream is after Spain to find a way to make a living online, so I’m loving this view into it. I am excited to follow your journey and am sure you’ll be successful. Basically, I want to be you when I grow up, hahaha. G and I are already talking about extending out “year RTW” to two years, and I’m following Almost Fearless because she had babies on the road. It can be done!
AmyPosted at 05:14h, 16 October
Ha! Once you start travelling I’m sure you guys won’t want to stop either! It sounds like your teaching experiences in Spain will set you up for working in other parts of the world nicely. I love Almost Fearless too!
RhondaPosted at 19:01h, 15 October
Oh I so feel you! Life in the US is, of course, very similar to life in the UK and even most close friends and family think we’re totally bonkers for not having a retirement, not focusing much past the immediate business plan, etc. It is constantly refreshing to meet other, like-minded, souls. Driving the PanAm, more of the travelers are truly just on a long term trip, one reason why our discussion has turned to possibly heading back to Chiang Mai at some point; cheap living, amazing food & culture, and a wonderful society. Glad you’re finding friends who understand.
AmyPosted at 05:14h, 16 October
I knew you’d understand Rhonda 🙂 I think you guys would fit right in here in Chiang Mai too!
LoesPosted at 22:03h, 15 October
I wasn’t quite a digital nomad but I do recognise the brows and people wondering how you could afford such a long “holiday”! Happy to hear you guys fit right in!
AmyPosted at 05:12h, 16 October
Thanks Loes. Yes, the holiday comment does get annoying when you’re slogging away on a laptop all day or teaching classes in Vietnam!