Why nomads and digital entrepreneurs continue to choose Chiang Mai


When Erica Blair left Chiang Mai in 2011, she knew it wasn’t a goodbye forever. Blair had spent a year teaching English in the northern Thai city and planned to return once she established a sustainable business.

After developing an online marketing brand in Boulder, Colorado, Blair returned to Chiang Mai in December 2015. She already knew the benefits: low cost of living, mild climate, beautiful countryside. What she didn’t expect to find was a thriving digital nomad scene.

In the years since Blair left, Chiang Mai has become a destination of choice for online entrepreneurs, freelancers, and remote workers – in other words. digital nomads. An increasing number of expats are choosing to relocate to Chiang Mai as they launch digital businesses or expand their already successful businesses.

“It’s been nice to connect with people who are really at the top of their game… [and to be inspired by] really successful people, badass entrepreneurs, ”said Blair.

City of possibilities

Chiang Mai offers a mix of affordability, infrastructure and quality of life hard to find elsewhere. Monthly accommodation in Chiang Mai ranges from $ 100 to several thousand dollars per month, depending on budget and preference. Dining options range from $ 1 street food to gourmet cuisines. Travel + Leisure recently named Chiang Mai the best city in Asia and second best in the world, thanks to its relaxed atmosphere, good food and historical significance.

Blair, a marketing strategist, takes advantage of the city’s affordability by decreasing the amount of work it does with customers. She focuses on the development of training materials and strategic guides, what she calls “the evolutionary side of my business”. She shares a glimpse into the digital nomadic life as “theericablair” on Snapchat.

Dan O’Donnell has also moved to Thailand to increase his online income. O’Donnell was already making money from Google’s AdSense revenue when he landed in Chiang Mai. But his main goal was Better me, a board game based on personal growth. O’Donnell hosted numerous gaming sessions around town to get feedback from other entrepreneurs ahead of its official launch. Gambling is now his main source of income, and he says living in Chiang Mai has provided him with the freedom and resources to do so.

“For bootstrappers this is great because of the community and what you can learn from others, the cost of living and the overall quality of life,” said O’Donnell. “As people do better [financially], it’s still a pretty cool home port. I’m not pinching pennies and my expenses are $ 750 USD.

This amount varies depending on the person, the neighborhood they live in, and the amount they are willing to spend on food and shelter. But even lavish lifestyles are affordable in Chiang Mai.

“It’s really hard to spend over $ 2,500 a month here,” said Sam Marques, an entrepreneur and angel investor who sold his e-cigarette business for $ 100 million in 2013.

Marks owns a condo in Chiang Mai and spends three to four months a year there. He first visited in 2012 and was struck by the peace and the amenities.

“I think this is the best place I’ve ever been in terms of work-life balance,” Marks said.

An ecosystem for success

Reflecting on Chiang Mai’s continued popularity, Marks said he believes good collaborative workspaces put cities on the map of digital nomads. Chiang Mai also has one.

Euam and Vichaya Sirisanthana opened Word game space in 2013. Both had worked as programmers in Bangkok, and they lacked a central workspace. Punspace has become so popular among the location’s independent crowd that the husband and wife opened a second location in 2014, where they have since hosted events hosted by Amazon and Fiverr. The BBC will organize a exclusive design and UX event at Punspace Thapae Gate on July 28.

“If it hadn’t been for Chiang Mai, I would never have met other entrepreneurs and digital nomads who have helped me grow [my] businesses, ”said Johnny FD, who has created a number of profitable income streams in Chiang Mai.

FD started a dropshipping business in 2013 and figured if he could only make one sale a day he would earn enough to cover his expenses in Chiang Mai. But he did more than that. Since that initial sale, he has built several dropshipping stores, written books, launched Udemy courses, and set up Affiliate Marketing Income Streams. He regularly publishes income reports on his site johnnyfd.com, and he recently shared that he almost did $ 83,000 in passive income in May.

FD also pays him in the digital nomad community. It hosts a weekly nomadic café-club, a free gathering where independent people discuss business practices, opportunities and ideas. He also founded the Nomadic summit, an annual weekend event where participants learn from experts in different fields.

When asked why he offered this support to the community, FD said: “There was a good chance that I would have resumed a normal life, returned to a job in a company because I would have been afraid”, s ‘he hadn’t found a way. towards independence. “I almost feel like the crab that came out of the cage. I feel like I have an obligation to lower that ladder for everyone.

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