There are various reasons as to why an individual would want to be a digital nomad. A lot of people see it as the perfect way to be location independent – the ability to travel the world with little more than a laptop, and an internet connection, all while earning money!
The traditional job that requires you to clock in at 9:00am-5:00pm is becoming a thing of the past. The allure of working remote is that it provides not only a benefit to you, but also your employer. Being a digital nomad allows you to be more productive and gives you the freedom to design a work schedule that suits both yourself and your employer.
These factors (along with my manager’s guidance) really pushed me to get out of my comfort zone and travel while working online. Prior to this, I was working remote for one and a half years at Larvol in the comfort of my own home. Travel was something I was definitely always interested in, but never something I was able to do for more than 2 weeks at a time. The fact that Larvol allows you to be location independent really pushed me to travel and work. So in February of this year, I bought a one-way ticket to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam with the intent of traveling Southeast Asia.
Although I got a one-way ticket, I had a rough timeline of the trip I was going to take: Ho Chi Minh City, Chiang Mai and Bali. Since this was going to be more of a test run for me, I knew that I only wanted to spend roughly 3 months working abroad – one month in each country. I didn’t want to move around every 2 weeks and travel to a new city because I really wanted to familiarize myself with the location and develop a routine.
Ho Chi Minh City – Vietnam
I chose to travel to Vietnam first because it is my motherland. I’ve only been to Vietnam once before when I was 10, so I didn’t get the chance to appreciate everything the country has to offer. Ho Chi Minh City’s low cost of living, delicious food and fast hi-speed internet made it an amazing city to start my digital nomad journey. The only downside would be the lack of a digital nomad community (compared to the other countries I’ve visited), and pollution (public transport is really non-existent and people rely heavily on their motorbikes).
Chiang Mai – Thailand
Next on the itinerary was Chiang Mai, Thailand! I’ve heard so many great things about this city and how it’s supposedly one of the top destinations for digital nomads, so it’s no surprise why I chose Chiang Mai as my next location. The food in Chiang Mai was simply delicious and cheap – you can get street food for as low as $1 a dish. One of the best things about the city is that its immense popularity with expats means there’s a thriving digital nomad community that you can immerse yourself in. With so many location-independent workers, there are plenty of coworking spaces and cafes in Chiang Mai. As far as internet speed goes, Thailand has one of the fastest internet speeds in Southeast Asia, and can be found everywhere!
Bali – Indonesia
Last but not least was Bali, Indonesia (one of my favorite places on this entire journey). Prior to arriving in Bali, it was difficult to decide between Canggu – the chill surf beachtown, and Ubud – the spiritual oasis. Ultimately, I ended up going with Canggu because it’s the #1 hotspot for digital nomads from around the world. The community here is amazing and everywhere you go, you meet friendly expats. Bali is home to the most instagrammable places, whether you’re visiting a coffee shop, waterfall or catching the scenic sunsets. Canggu has some unique cafes perfect to get your work done and also snap that brunch shot for the ‘gram. The downsides to Canggu would be its traffic and spotty wifi connections (I relied heavily on data usage). Other than that, Bali is definitely the number one place I would recommend for a digital nomad!
Despite the amazing experience I had working remote in Southeast Asia over the course of 3 months, it wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns. The biggest challenges for myself were juggling different time zones and achieving a suitable work-life balance. Working in Eastern Standard Time had me accustomed to working in the mornings and afternoons, while my evenings were generally free. While I was in Southeast Asia, it was difficult not being in the same time zone as the majority of my colleagues. Therefore, it’s really important to create a routine – the major factor contributing to success when working remote.To juggle time zones, I mainly did my work in the afternoons, evenings and night. Even though it does take some time to adjust, finding a schedule that works best for you actually forces you to work more efficiently. For me, I was able to do all of my “touristy” things in the morning and then start work after. It really allows you to take advantage of time! Surprisingly, I found that I was more focused on my work when I was travelling compared to when I was at home. This was probably because I was motivated to get my work done so I could enjoy the exciting and new environments!
Would I travel and work again?
Some digital nomads keep on traveling, some slow it down while others stop altogether. For me, working while traveling Southeast Asia was an amazing experience. I was able to immerse myself in different cultures, try local foods I’ve never had the opportunity to taste, and meet wonderful people from all over the world. It really expanded my perspective allowing me to develop a wider world view. So would I do this again? Definitely!