As we move into our final six weeks of Chiang Mai life, I’m trying to make the most of this city and the life we’ve built here. After failing to set down roots in Spain last year, being able to so easily slip into this lifestyle has been a huge relief. This city has given us exactly what we needed: the ability to live comfortably while focusing on our goal of building a sustainable freelance income. With that in mind, here are five of the things I’ll miss the most about our Chiang Mai life when we leave at the end of April.
Since we left the UK in 2013, Andrew and I have travelled independently through 18 different countries. As an obsessive travel planner, I don’t mind the hours of research that goes into finding the cheapest flights, searching for accommodation and looking up ways to get around countries using local buses, trains, tuk tuks, boats and taxis. Travelling independently allows us to save a lot of money which buys us more time on the road, but what if you have less time to spare and a bigger budget? Could an all inclusive holiday be a better choice for you?
Somehow, five months have dissolved since I last published a report of our progress towards making a digital nomad living. So, what have we been up to? Well, we’ve made visa runs to Penang and Hanoi, taken a spin on the Mae Hong Son Loop, celebrated our four-year travelversary and taken up yoga. Oh, in case you missed it, we also got married and started planning our onward adventures to Nepal and Sri Lanka. That might all sound exciting, but daily life in Chiang Mai has mainly been all about work. So, what have we achieved?
Sapa, Northern Vietnam. The very words conjure images for me of green-yellow tiers of rice, towering peaks, buffaloes wallowing in mud pools, Hmong women in brightly-patterned headscarves and the smell of fresh alpine air. However, in the two years since we last visited Sapa, the town has transformed into a giant construction site. Diggers crowd the streets and the air is filled with dust and the sound of drilling and hammering. What’s more, during our visit last week, Sapa was cloaked in freezing fog so thick we couldn’t make out a single mountain view. The trip was a total travel fail.
Welcome to Vietnam,” says the khaki-uniformed soldier with a broad smile, while he casually shifts his slim black rifle from one shoulder to the other. He must have clocked the camera around Andrew's neck and assumed we're tourists, which I suppose we are now. Except, instead of coming to see a monument or museum, we're here to revisit our old home in Hanoi.
As time speeds on here in Chiang Mai, a slow itch is returning to my feet. It feels like an age since we got a real taste of adventure, so lately my thoughts have been occupied by our upcoming trip to Nepal and Sri Lanka. I can’t wait to hike in the Himalayas and explore UNESCO sites in Sri Lanka. That being said, I’m also slightly anxious about how our budget will cope when freelance work takes a back-seat to travel. With that in mind, I thought I’d take a look back at some of our cheapest and most expensive travel experiences over the last four years.
Fancy getting married on a white-sand beach surrounded by crystal waters? I’m sure that’s how most people imagine a Thai wedding, but Andrew and I decided to keep things much simpler. In fact, it took us just a few days of planning and less than £300 to tie the knot here in Chiang Mai. If you’re thinking of getting hitched in the Land of Smiles, here’s our step-by-step guide on how to get married in Thailand.
Work-wise, January has been a good month for me. In fact, for the first time since we left the UK in 2013, I’ve managed to make as much money as I used to in my full-time writing job in London. That’s great news for our travel fund and digital nomad goals, but I’m not getting too comfortable just yet. I know that freelancing can be a risky business and I’m still very much finding my feet. With that in mind, I thought I’d share eight things I’ve learned so far about working as a freelancer here in Thailand.
Last week Andrew and I got married in Thailand. We didn’t have a ceremony, exchange vows or change our names. There were no guests, rings or fancy outfits. Aside from telling our immediate family and some friends, we chose to keep the whole thing under wraps because to us, it wasn’t a big deal. In fact, marriage has never been part of our life plan, so why did we decide to tie the knot here in Thailand? Well, it all comes back to travel.