This year kicked-off fueled with motivation as the Shangri-La Hotel in Chiang Mai hosted the annual Nomad Summit. The four-day conference welcomed like-minded people from all over the world to share valuable lessons, boost their enthusiasm and make them feel at home.
Veni (I came)
Vidi (I saw)
Manebo (I will stay)
The Autumn of 2018
The morning light caresses my eyelids, urging them to open and celebrate the new day. As I stretch in bed, I feel a weird tickling sensation somewhere inside me. No particular place – just here, there and everywhere. Impossible to put in words, even though words and I are friends, the tickling becomes more than irritating. There is something terribly wrong, I think to myself. As I try to configure the essence of the situation, my mind depicts an itch of the soul. Yes, there is definitely something wrong and I have to fix it! Some thoughts and decision-making later, I click on the BUY button for a ticket to the Nomad Summit 2019. Soon after, I have my one-way ticket to Chiang Mai. The irritation disappears. The journey begins.
The Digital Nomad Philosophy
We all search for happiness. According to the ancient philosopher Epicurus “pleasure is the beginning and the goal of a happy life”. He would further analyze his three essentials in the following way:
Friendship – who you eat with, matters more than what’s on your plate.
Freedom – ‘from the prison of everyday affairs and politics’.
Thought – because rational thinking keeps pointless anxiety at bay.
Open to interpretations, one could link those essentials to the hip lifestyle of a digital nomad:
If it is more important who you are with than where you are, better eat cheap street food (which could be a great delight) with like-minded people. Sharing the same vision, passion and interests in life can create unexpected friendship bonds within the timeframe of a random street-food meal.
Freedom from the everyday prison of doing the same pointless task at the office, pretending it is something crucial to the existence of humanity, yet feeling discouraged as the grace of time welcomes you to its rabbit hole. Freedom to chose your own way.
Thinking of and creating that which infects your mind and makes your eyes spark. You know, that delicate space on the Venn graph that is home to your passions and skills. Dedicating time and effort to what you find interesting and worth your while. (It has to be scalable, though, and answer to the market’s demands!)
If by chance you haven’t come upon the term, or are still unsure of its meaning, digital nomads are location-independent professionals who work while living a nomadic lifestyle. It is important to emphasize on the two components – they work while they travel.
There are many nuances to the description of a digital nomad. Some change locations more often than others. It may be so that one’s online business requires a lot more day-to-day work compared to another’s, who has it automated. Some run their own e-commerse businesses, others freelance or work remotely. You will find them in co-working places all over the world, focused on their laptops with big headphones which seem to create an impenetrable bubble. Fear not! Once they wrap up with their agenda, the nomads are open-minded people, always ready for networking or a chat.
With the rise of the digital nature of businesses, the potential of adopting the digital nomad lifestyle has also grown. Thanks to online market places, supporting services, co-living/co-working communities, and employers open to the idea that “they won’t be seeing the eyes of that new guy they hired from closer than a retina display”, the digital nomad movement is no longer an Instagram mirage but a well-established lifestyle.
For a fifth year in a row, nestled in a mountain, the city of Chiang Mai hosts the annual Nomad Summit. Once the capital of the ancient kingdom of Lanna, the city has now transformed into a creative hub with explosive 4G connection and a preferred destination for both aspiring and well-seasoned digital nomads.
The community here is strong and even if you are new to the lifestyle, you are only an event away from learning new skills and meeting like-minded people. And while there are different events on a weekly basis, no doubt the biggest of them all is the annual Nomad Summit.
Founded by Johnny FD of the Travel Like A Boss podcast, the conference aims to help digital nomads of all levels. Whether you are just starting, or you are already well into the lifestyle, the buffet of the summit will answer to your cravings.
It kicks off with a pre-registration party and a mixer at the Shangri-La Hotel where one could mingle with the fellow participants. As you register and get a badge with your name (much needed in my case, you know – Tzvety), you get to choose among stickers of different colors representing different fields of competence.
“Look for those who match your colour.” – I hear someone say and think to myself that it would be much more interesting to chat with those who don’t.
Even if you are introverted, there is practically no ice to break once you set foot at the mixer. Everybody is open for a conversation, friendly and curious. As ideas flow in the air, people share the vivid emotion of motivation.
The following day is something like a big TED-style talks conference. The speakers this year are as follows:
Sean Dalton – Freelancer to Passive Income: How to Stop Trading Time for Money
Lýdia Machová – Expert Business from a Small Market to Making Six Figures: Why Starting Locally (And Offline) May Pay Off
Lewis Smith – Dropshipping to Location Independence
Joanne Bhaloo – Ethical Six Figure Business – Turning Good Business into Feeling GREAT
Tom Rogers – Turning Passion into Profit: 6 Changes to Help You Scale a Business You Love
Johnny FD – Millionaire Retirement Hacking: How to Retire as a Digital Nomad
The fields of expertise vary, yet all speakers share the spark of well-versed professionals, passionate about the subject of matter. One could hardly help but notice another mode among the presentations – that of the book “The 4-Hour Workweek” by Tim Ferris. The Bible, they call it. I guess if you are at the beginning of your digital nomad journey, putting your hands on that book may be a good starting point. I recommend you don’t fall into the tempting 4-hour trap, as if you are in it to win it, you will first have to work hard so you can later play hard. Some call it universal balance, others – well-established passive income.
The information the speakers share is valuable and inspiring; their stories – relatable. From “how to convince your partner to get a one-way ticket to Chiang Mai and set up an online business” to “how to scale up and retire young”, the honest examples keep my attention all day long. And, yes, I finally get to understand what drop shipping and Amazon FBA mean! But it is not only the speakers that you can learn from. The entire event is one huge networking pool. Everybody is open to sharing experience, ideas and know-how (except maybe for those secret drop shippers, “So, what is your product, eh?”).
The setup and organisation of the event are flawless. From pre-event guidance to post-event arrangements, the Nomad Summit team makes it feel as if we had all rehearsed for it. The venue itself offers nothing but the best service and catering. While fuelling with energy during the coffee breaks, networking keeps bubbling up the premises. The lunch buffet is a delightful pleasure for the gustatory senses and yes, we all secretly say thank you to the sponsors for that – Empire Flippers and Safety Wing.
It is a day full of useful information, positive emotions and colorful characters. As dusk wraps the city and a hug of street food scent fills the air, everyone makes their way to the November Bar by the river. Some still talk business, planning projects ahead, others enjoy their cocktails lighthearted and in a good company. What happens after midnight, one cannot be sure of, but deducting from the following day’s cues, I dare say everyone is having fun. After all, we are all about work/life balance here.
Sunday is a fun day. The Shangri-La Hotel hosts a pool party for the summit’s attendees. It is all about laughs, bikini, cocktails and sharing impressions. A great way to hang out with new friends and potential business partners, digest the overflowing information from the previous day and create space for what comes next.
After a day of recovery, it is time to get down to business again. The last official day of the Nomad Summit is all about skills. There are four consecutive workshops on:
Tax Savings for Americans by Grace Taylor
Estonia’s e-Residency by Christoph Huebner
E-Dropshipping on e-Bay by Joanne Bhaloo & Johnathan Lien
Starting a Profitable Blog by Tom Rogers & Anne F.
The best way to learn is by putting your knowledge into practice. I only attend the bloggers’ workshop as it is the one that falls into my circle of interest. Tom and Anna do a great job walking us through some very practical exercises. They manage to skillfully provide a lot of information without turning on the spam alarm in the brain. Time slips away quickly as it happens when one is engaged in something interesting. At the end of the day, I chat with other attendees, only to confirm my overall impression of an event created with love and passion.
The official part is over, but it only marks the beginning of a new journey within a welcoming community. For those who are still around, the following days are coloured with co-working hours, putting into practice all the knowledge. Some of us ditch the buzz of Chiang Mai’s city life and welcome nature. After a day at the famous sticky waterfalls, we catch up at the airport to board on a flight to the island of Koh Lanta. With Johnny FD as a leader we are in it for a “travel like a boss” trip. After all, one has to live up to all those Instagram expectations. Plus, is it really a nomadic lifestyle, if there isn’t a beach somewhere on the road?
The Nomad Summit Island reunion is all about adventure. At the core of it is a day of diving at Koh Haa. And while for some of us it is a first-time dive (definitely not a last), others already have their diver’s licence and manage to swiftly document the experience while enjoying the underwater world.
There is a bit of it all – sand, sun, volunteering to walk dogs from the local shelter, talks about affiliates, scaling, traffic…you know…coconuts, laptops, jam sessions, Insta stories and true stories, but most of all there is a feeling of unity and belonging.
A big thank you to Johnny and the whole Nomad Summit team for putting together this unforgettable experience!
Feature image photo credits: Necmettin Karakaya
Collage images photo credits: Johnny FD, Narcosis Nick, unknown participants