Chiang Mai Digital Nomads - Bunch of Retards? - Phil Hawksworth

Chiang Mai Digital Nomads – Bunch of Retards?


Of course, not everyone in Chiang Mai is a retard, but there are a lot of people who are. Which is fine if they keep to themselves, but they seem intent on selling a dream to guys that is going to leave them in a bad place…

In this podcast I recorded last week with Will of Revolutionary Lifestyle Design, and Brian of Loser 2 Winner we discuss the state of the “Chiang Mai Digital Nomads” scene. Things to expect, what you need to do before you move abroad, and some of the realities that most people ‘selling’ digital nomading don’t tell you.

Check out the podcast here:

I’ve written about Chiang Mai as a place to live if you work online a few times before. I reluctantly use the term “digital nomad” in those posts, because it’s the search term people will use in the Googles. However, I would never use the term to identify myself in real life, and nor does anyone else I know who is actually living a long term freedom/travel based life.

In the podcast we talk about the difference between the dictionary definition of a “digital nomad”, which I would be, and the identity people want to attain from calling themselves “digital nomads”. The latter is a huge turn off and it seems like Chiang Mai is ground zero for all of the people who are looking for an identity to attach themselves to.


Digital Nomading is not a business…

To succeed as a digital nomad, you simply have an online business and travel around. Yet many of the Chiang Mai digital nomads manage to fail on both of those counts.

They come out to Chiang Mai chasing the identity; without a business, any experience making money on their own, especially online, and sometimes without even any valuable skills they can sell.

Inevitably they spank a load of money on a course to learn how to be a digital nomad from the digital nomading guru, fail as most first (any) businesses do. Then they go home with their tail between their legs and move back in with Mummy, or go back to working for the man, because they couldn’t cut it alone.

I’m 100% an advocate for people working for themselves, living a free life that they choose, and travelling – if that is part of your agenda. I just want you to be realistic about things. If you’re never ran a business or made money on your own before, you are going to be in for a rude awakening.

Business is hard. Selling is hard. It will chew you up and spit you out. Being in a new place where you don’t know anybody, don’t understand the culture or language, have culture shock, and you’re thousands of miles away from the support of friends and family… is probably not the best place to go through the ringer of your first year in business.

Like Will says in the podcast, if you have $10,000+ in the bank then you will be good, as you have that safety net. If you don’t, think long and hard about whether you actually have means of making an income.

If you’ve been in business before and/or have valuable skills, then you don’t need to worry so much. I left home with about $4,000 in my bank. However, I have been running my own business since I was 20, and I had skills and contacts that meant I could easily make money freelancing if my business didn’t work out.

I’d also been grinding for 4 years to achieve the freedom to travel. I was very driven and once I got there, I was not going back, no matter what. As the boys mention, if you’re coming with a back-up plan to go home, the chances are you will.

Travelling is great, but be honest about what it is and just go backpacking if you want an adventure for a few months before going home. If you’re serious about travelling/living abroad permanently, there should be no going back.

On the second point; most “Chiang Mai digital nomads” aren’t nomadic at all. They can only afford to be in Chiang Mai, which is about the cheapest place in the world that has an internet connection and flushing toilets. They live here and scrape by, but cannot go anywhere else. That’s cool for a little while to build a business, but hardly a good long term life plan.

First person view of my “how to be a digital nomad” course… Just write about digital nomading…


But “digital nomading” is great…

The intention here is not to put you off living your dream of travelling and working. The freedom is amazing. My quality of life has shot up immensely since I left the UK, and I never even had a boss, mortgage, or cubicle prison to bring me down when I was still at home.

Like I said, there are many people who live this lifestyle successfully all around the world- they just tend not to be the ones promoting it, or identifying themselves first and foremost as “digital nomads”. I’ve met many people all over the world who have great lives and businesses. It’s very much possible and within your reach, just expect to do some work to achieve it.

A weekend course and 3 weeks setting up an Amazon store might work, but if you have no experience, the statistics tell you that it probably won’t.


Chiang Mai is also great…

Chiang Mai is also a great place to live. The quality of life and value for money is insanely good. I leave and travel around, but I always end up getting pulled back here every few months. It is a beautiful place to live and I do encourage people to come here. Just beware of why you’re coming here, and who is trying to sell you a dream.


Getting started on your journey as a digital nomad? 

Download The Ultimate Digital Nomad Starter Guide: a handy checklist detailing everything you need to take, not take, set up, remember to do before you leave, and get organised so you hit the ground running smoothly in your new life. 


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