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9 Reasons Why We Love Living in Chiang Mai

9 Reasons Why We Love Living in Chiang Mai

During our seven month adventure in Southeast Asia, we spent four months living in Chiang Mai – Thailand’s second largest city located in the mountainous north. Lacking the much loved tropical beaches, and famous tourist hot spots that Thailand is known for, we were often asked why we chose to spend so much time in this lesser known city. With plenty of research and discussion behind our decision, here are the nine reasons why we decided to spend four months in Chiang Mai – and why we’ll keep returning.

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1. Safety

Safety is always a huge concern for us while travelling as we’ve both been victims of theft, and travel with our valuable mobile office setup. Even though we take every precaution to make sure that our personal belongings are secure, staying in a safe city really puts our mind at ease. On various occasions we’ve put ourselves in situations where our valuables could have easily been stolen, and were pleasantly surprised when they weren’t.

On one occasion I forgot my iPhone in a restaurant, and had the waitress come running after me to return it before we left on our scooter. On another occasion, Sean forgot his camera in the front compartment of our scooter while we went shopping, and find it exactly where he left it when we returned. It’s having the peace of mind, knowing that the people of the city can be trusted, and the way our valuables are respected that truly made us feel super safe in Chiang Mai.

2. Low Cost of Living

From the accommodation to the food, Chiang Mai is an extremely affordable destination. Our  serviced apartment (one bedroom with kitchen and lounge), including unlimited Internet access, two flat screen TVs, a pool, a gym, weekly cleaning, and a 24-hour reception cost US$830 per month. Our scooter rental cost  US$70 per month, with  a tank of petrol (for the scooter) costing less than US$3! And a delicious vegan meal cost less than US$2. We lived extremely comfortably even enjoyed various private tours, regular visits to the cinema, and countless beers on the rooftop of Maya Lifestyle Centre.

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3. Fast & Reliable Internet

Coming from South Africa, our expectations of fast and affordable Internet compared to the rest of the world is pretty low. Being used to generally slow and expensive Internet connectivity we were impressed by the fast, efficient, and often free Internet access in Chiang Mai. Whether we were working at a co-working space, our apartment, or a cafe, the Internet was always effective enough to do our work productively.

4. Digital Nomad Hub

One of the main  reasons we chose  Chiang Mai to base ourselves was because we had done a lot of research into digital nomad hubs, and Chiang Mai often came out on top of review lists. Regular meet ups and networking events, makes it is easy to meet other online freelancers, entrepreneurs and travellers. With its large expat and digital nomad community, Chiang Mai was a great place for us as first time location independent travellers.

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5. Authentic Thai Culture

Many tourists (unfortunately) only make it as far as Bangkok or Phuket for a short holiday only seeing the tourist attractions and never really venturing out to see the real Thailand. In Chiang Mai locals outnumber tourists, which gave us plenty of opportunities to experience the diverse, more authentic Thai culture. From watching monks collect their donated food as the sun comes up, to heading to restaurants where we were the only Westerners, we truly got an authentic Thai experience, and not the water down version that most tourists get.

6. Scooter Culture

In Thailand scooters rule the roads! Scooters are affordable, convenient and the number one transport choice for most locals. Malls have designated scooter lanes and parking areas, cars on the roads will give scooters right of way, and parking is never a problem. We had a permanent scooter rental while in Chiang Mai, which gave us the freedom to explore to our heart’s content, which included trips to the Chiang Mai Quarry, Samoeng Loop, and Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.

Before renting a scooter, read our post – The Risks of Renting & Riding Scooters in Thailand.

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7. Relaxed & Convenient Environment

As self employed online professionals we prefer to avoid stress whenever possible, and Chiang Mai offers us an amazingly relaxed environment that kept our stress levels low and our productivity levels high. Being less touristy compared to Bangkok, Phuket and Koh Samui, Chiang Mai often felt like a small town with big city conveniences including an international airport, modern malls, co-working spaces, restaurants and great accommodation.

We based ourselves in an area that was no more than a five minute drive from the Old City, numerous shopping malls, co-working spaces, and restaurants, making our lives easy. With a pharmacy, laundromat, 7 Eleven, scooter repair shop and a fresh produce market within walking distance of our apartment, we never needed to travel too far to get anything we needed. In most bigger cities you’d pay no less than US$1000 for a location surrounded by all these extra conveniences. This convenience at such a reasonable price made it an extremely relaxed environment, and comfortable living situation.

8. Vegetarian Food

As vegetarians we often find it difficult to find food that is meat-free, not carb based (pizza or pasta), and delicious. Unlike most cities, Chiang Mai is a huge advocate for vegetarianism, and we were blown away by the quality, taste and variety of vegetarian food and restaurants. From markets that offer a selection of cheap and tasty veggie options, to restaurants like Anchan, Free Bird Cafe, and Imm Aim, we had plenty to choose from.

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9. Thai Massages

During our monthly long stay on Koh Samui we found that massage therapies were very popular amongst tourist. We enjoyed a few of them on the island, but found the best and most affordable massages in Chiang Mai. There is nothing better than going for regular massages to destress and relax. Lying on a massage table in a air conditioned bamboo shed, listening to traditional Thai music, with the smell of tiger balm in the air as you get the tension massaged out of your limbs is something we miss every single day.

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Let us know if you have any questions about visiting or living in Chiang Mai. We are happy to share more of our experiences and make recommendations.

Ban Sua: Our Apartment On Koh Samui

Ban Sua: Our Apartment On Koh Samui

Finding rental apartments in a vacation destination like Koh Samui can often be difficult, but we luckily stumbled upon a blog post by Freelancers On The Road which described the type of apartment we were looking for. Called Ban Sua Samui, these family-owned apartments seemed like our best bet, and we quickly enquired about availability, and booked our month long stay at what would become one of our favourite apartments to date.

Why We Loved It

Location

Located on the slopes of a jungle covered mountain, in the quiet area of Chaweng noi, Ban Sua overlooks Coral Cove Beach. The location is perfectly placed between the crowds of Chaweng and Lamai with a less than five minute drive to either area.

Internet Connection

With two routers to choose from, the connectivity in our apartment was excellent. During our month long stay we didn’t have a single problem with connectivity and throughly enjoyed working from our apartment.

The Views

There is really no other way to describe the views from Ban Sua than breathtaking. Being halfway up a mountainside, you get a 180 panoramic view of the bay with Chaweng in the distance. During the day we enjoyed watching boats sail by, and by night the entire bay is lit up with green lights from squid fishing boats.

Friendly Owners & Staff

From enquiring about availability and making our booking, to arriving at Ban Sua and throughout our stay, owners Klaus and Dara where so welcoming, and helpful. Whatever we needed they did a great job at assisting us. They provided scooter rentals, laundry services, and great restaurant recommendation. The staff where also professional, friendly and always willing to lend us a helpful hand.

Amazing Pools

Yes, Thailand has amazing beaches, but when it’s 38 degrees with high levels of humidity, it is far more refreshing (and convenient) to take a dip in one of the two infinity pools at Ban Sua than in the 28 degree ocean.

Scooter Rental

Ban Sua conveniently offers scooter rentals to its guests and we had no problems when it came to renting our scooter for a month.

Privacy

Because Ban Sua isn’t a resort or hotel, you can expect a whole lot of privacy. With limited apartments, you’ll avoid the crowded pool, and noisy neighbours.

Daily Cleaning

Most serviced apartments only offer weekly cleaning, but we were spoilt and had the staff come in and clean our apartment daily.

Things To Consider

Due to the apartment being halfway up a mountain on a very narrow, steep road, taxis, songthaews, and even tour company vehicles won’t travel up or down to pick you up or drop you off at Ban Sua. We often had to walk up and down this steep road when going on a tour. However, as mentioned above Ban Sua does offer scooter rentals, and there is plenty of parking for both scooters and cars.

Ask us anything about Koh Samui on Twitter (@FreemadicLife) or on our Facebook Page.

7 Reasons Why We Spent A Month on Koh Samui

7 Reasons Why We Spent A Month on Koh Samui

With Thailand being our first stop of our Southeast Asia adventure, we spent our first month working and playing on the beautiful island of Samui. Here are our main reasons for choosing this popular destination to be our home for a month.

1. Sunshine, Beaches & Palm Trees

Like most visitors to Thailand we too were looking forward to these three commonly sought after holiday ingredients. As part of our exploration of the island we soaked up hours of sunshine, swam at a selection of stunning beaches and went off-roading in the tropical jungle.

2. Great Serviced Rental Apartment

Our rental apartment at Ban Sua Samui offered us everything we needed for a comfortable and productive stay including being perfectly located, having great WiFi, offering daily cleaning, and breathtaking views overlooking the ocean.

3. Scuba Diving

It has always been my dream to learn how to scuba dive on a tropical island, and  Koh Samui was the perfect destination to do so. With some of the best best dive spots in the Gulf of Thailand just kilometres away including Koh Toa and Sail Rock, we both took the opportunity to completed our scuba diving certification. This experience was one of the highlights of our stay on the island.
Watch our video → Scuba Diving Koh Tao & Sail Rock, Thailand.

4. The Island Lifestyle

From family run roadside restaurants, one man cocktail bicycle bars, fresh fruit shakes served around every corner, and shrimp boats that illuminated the bays at night with their green lights, we loved the relaxed, slow paced  island lifestyle.

5. Thai Massages & Street Food

After trying a foot massage at one of the local spas, we quickly become regular customers. We often headed out in the late afternoon to our favourite spa to get our full body massage followed by some smoothies, spring rolls, veg noodles and a delicious Nutella pancake.

6. Personal Safety & Friendly Locals

There have been various reports of tourists being killed in Thailand with two murders taking place during our visit. We know that these sort of isolated incidents can happen anywhere is the world, and while staying on Koh Samui we felt very safe and the locals were friendly, peaceful and hospitable.

7. Low Season & Less Touristy

By visiting Koh Samui during the month of September we enjoyed the benefits of the quieter shoulder season. Roads, beaches and tourist attractions were less crowded and therefore more enjoyable.

Ask us anything about Koh Samui on Twitter (@FreemadicLife) or on our Facebook Page.

Chalet Robyn’s Nest – A Little Piece of Paradise

Chalet Robyn’s Nest – A Little Piece of Paradise

If you ask a South African where to go stay for a month or so, Botrivier would probably be the last place that they’d think of. This beautiful little town just an hour and a half outside of Cape Town is a place where cows outnumber people, there is one grocery store, and plenty dirt roads. And looking from the outside in, we were pretty sure that technology had forgotten about Botrivier too. So when we were invited to stay at the self-catering Chalet Robyn’s Nest for a week, we were pleasantly surprised to see that it had WiFi – and where there is WiFi we will go!

Greeted by three adorable sausage dogs as we rang the bicycle bell doorbell, the owners, Kike and Johann who live on the property, welcomed us. Located in the middle of Kike’s beautifully flourishing and tranquil garden, Chalet Robyn’s Nest is quaint and rustic, but has all the comforts of home. Designed and built by Johann, the cottage lends itself to lazy days lounging in the garden, catching up on hours of reading, or, for those who live a digital nomadic lifestyle, focusing on work.

Consisting of a kitchen with a microwave, one-plate stove and fridge, a decently sized bedroom with two three-quarter beds, and a beautiful bathroom, the studio style cottage has all the basics we needed during our week long stay. The lush garden is an extension of the cottage where we found and made full use of the BBQ facilities, and outdoor furniture.

Being digital nomads Internet speed and accessibility is always at the top of our list when it comes to looking for the perfect accommodation. When it came to this determining factor Robyn’s Nest didn’t disappoint – considering we were in South Africa, in the middle of nowhere – with speeds up to 2Mbps. For our work requirements this was ideal speed and we were pretty impressed at the reach and accessibility of the WiFi. There was also plenty of space to set up a work station, with the three seater dining table inside quickly being converted to our desk, and the outdoor table and chairs becoming our secondary desk for Skype calls (as it was closer to the router).

When we were not working Kieke encouraged us to make full use of her garden and pick any ripe fruit and vegetables that we could find and use it for meals. We also spent hours playing with the dogs and even got to take them on a walk around the quiet neighbourhood. We had complete privacy throughout our stay and throughly enjoyed being cut off from the big city (even though Hermanus is only 35km away). After our week long stay we found it difficult to leave such a productive place, but knew we would be back in the near future.

Ask us anything about Robyn’s Nest Cottage on Twitter (@FreemadicLife) or on our Facebook Page.

For more information, enquiries or bookings, email Johann and Kike Mendelsöhn at galantskloof@gmail.com

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The 5 Things You Need to Become a Successful Digital Nomad

The 5 Things You Need to Become a Successful Digital Nomad

Becoming a digital nomad is not as easy as quitting your job, booking a plane ticket to the other side of the world, and trying to find some freelance work. It is about making sacrifices, working hard and having the determination to follow your dream and design your own desired lifestyle. In this post I’ll share with you the five things you need to become a successful digital nomad that in turn will give you ultimate freedom to travel the world indefinitely.

The 5 Things You Need to Become a Successful Digital Nomad

1. An Open Mindset

After reading The 4-Hour Workweek I started questioning the norm and decided to design my work around my lifestyle instead of my lifestyle around my work. I decided to avoid the corporate world by starting my own business and owning my own time. As a digital nomad you’ll need to be able to challenge the status quo and go against the norm. You’ll have to get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable, have the courage to embrace change and challenges, and see opportunities instead of problems.

2. Location Independent Income

After finishing my studies in Cape Town, I spent a year traveling and working in Australia. During this year I secured my first client and revamped their website remotely. Since then I’ve been building up a client base that has allowed me to work from anywhere in the world. Today I sell online marketing services through my business Posmay Media and have co-founded Freemadic. Charging for services that I deliver remotely has allowed me to earn location independent income. Without sufficient income or savings, you won’t be able to travel for very long. Being able to earn income from anywhere is the lifeblood of a digital nomad lifestyle.

3. Compact Mobile Office

In order to do your work and stay in touch with friends, family and clients, you will need a reliable and compact mobile office setup, which should include hardware, software and online services. Depending on your work, this may be as little as your laptop and mobile phone, however it could also include cameras, batteries and external hard drives. Check out our complete mobile office setup to see what we use and recommend.

4. Reliable Internet

In order to stay connected with your work commitments you will require a reliable Internet connection. The speed requirements and the duration of connectivity will depend on your work, but all digital nomads regularly need an Internet connection.

While travelling I always make sure that the accommodation I choose includes fast, reliable and uncapped Internet. I also make sure to get a local sim card for my iPhone so I have mobile Internet access. Various countries like Thailand and Vietnam offer unlimited mobile data for a fixed price. For emergencies this let’s me tether my Macbook to my iPhone when there is no Internet available.

5. Discipline

To avoid distractions and get the necessary work done, you will need discipline. Having the discipline to maintain a structured and balanced work/life routine is essential. On a trip to Southeast Asia this was something I really struggled with for quite some time. Overlooking the ocean and the two pools on Koh Samui from our apartment’s balcony made it very difficult to focus on work. I did eventually realise that taking too much time off was unsustainable which helped me get back to work and implement more structure and discipline.

Have I forgotten something important or do you have something to add or ask?
Let me know in the comments below.

12 Inspiring Digital Nomads That I Met While Travelling

12 Inspiring Digital Nomads That I Met While Travelling

One of the best parts about travelling is meeting other awesome travellers along the way. While travelling I’ve met people that have not only become friends, but have also inspired me by taking bold actions. They have stepped away from the norm and are now exploring and living their own dreams. Here is a list of some of these inspiring digital nomads that I’ve met while travelling.

1. Maria Scarpello

I met Maria at WordCamp Cape Town in 2013, where she gave an inspiring presentation titled ‘Working and Traveling Fulltime with WordPress‘. She works remotely for WooThemes and travels with her partner Brian. Together they roam the United States in their RV visiting and writing about the best beer destinations. You can follow their adventures @TheRoamingPint and at theroamingpint.com

2. Kevin Grimes

Kevin is a graphic designer and interactive art director, whom I met at a WordPress meet up in Cape Town in 2013. During that time I was working at home in isolation and it was great connecting with a likeminded WordPress developer and designer. At the time Kevin was living his digital nomadic dream in Cape Town with his wife and son. He has since moved back to the US. You can follow Kevin @designerkev and at kevingrimesdesign.com

3. Jodi Ettenberg

Lara and I met Jodi at the 2014 DCBKK conference in Bangkok. Jodi quit her job as a lawyer in 2008 and has been living and eating her way around the world ever since. As a travelling travel writer Jodi especially inspired Lara as she has expanded her brand by writing books and doing food tours. We were lucky enough to experience one of Jodi’s vegetarian street food tours in Chiang Mai after the conference.  Follow her adventures @legalnomads and at legalnomads.com

4. Benny Lewis

Benny is a well-known digital nomad that travels the world mastering language learning. He was one of the keynote speakers at DCBKK2014, which is where I met him. His keynote discussed his experience of launching his own book and promoting it on his book tour. A few weeks later, I also attended one of his private workshops in Chiang Mai, where he spoke about language learning hacks and myths. Benny is featured in the Goodbye Commute, Hello World video and can be followed @irishpolyglot and at fluentin3months.com

5. Paul Kortman

Shortly after joining the DC (Dynamite Circle), I was surprised to find some DC members in my hometown of Cape Town. One of the members was Paul Kortman who I contacted and met at a beachfront cafe in Camps Bay. He was the first DC member that I met in person and he convinced me to attend my first ever DCBKK conference in Bangkok.  Together we co-hosted the first DC Junto in Cape Town.
Together with his wife and their four kids, they’ve been traveling the world and proving that a digital nomad family is not an oxymoron. Follow Paul @namtrok, his  family’s adventures at homealongtheway.com and check out their recently launched nomad community at nomadtogether.com.

6. Derek Murphy

Derek was one of the first people Lara and I met at the pre-DCBKK networking event in Bangkok. Derek and his wife quickly became our friends and we spent loads of time with them after the conference in Chiang Mai including a visit to Elephant Nature Park. Derek is a writer and book cover designer living in Taiwan currently pursuing his dream of buying a castle in Europe to host writing retreats. You can follow Derek @creativindie and at creativindie.com

7. Cody McKibben

No stranger in the digital nomad scene, Cody spends his time travelling the world and helping others do the same. I met him during the lunch break at the 2014 DCBKK conference. Cody’s inspirational videos titled Live Your Life Like a Damn HERO outlines some core beliefs that remind us that . You can follow his adventures @codymckibbat and thrillingheroics.com

8. Silver Keskküla

Silver was another friendly and interesting character that Lara and I got to meet at the 2014 DCBKK conference. Originally from Estonia, Silver was part of the team that built Skype. He has also worked for Nokia and Microsoft and is now the co-founder of Teleport, a website that helps digital nomads and startups decide where to base themselves. Follow him @keskkyla.

9. Derek Sivers

Well-known for successfully creating, running and selling the online mail order music store CD Baby, Derek is one of those role models that I personally was looking forward to meeting. He was also one of the keynote speakers at DCBKK, Derek shared his pearls of wisdom. Now he spends his time travelling, reading books and helping others whenever possible.  If you have not seen them, make sure to watch his TED talks How to Start a Movement and Weird, or just different? You can follow Derek @sivers and at sivers.org.

10. Kevin Greenblat

Lara and I met Kevin while enjoying a beer on a small plastic chair in the Old Quarter of Hanoi in Vietnam. Kevin is a self employed graphic designer and a travel photographer that shoots on film. Having a passion for photography myself, I was interested to learn more about Kevin’s travels and his photography. To see his work visit kevingreenblat.com

11. Mads Singer

Mads is another digital nomad that Lara and I met at the 2014 DCBKK conference in Bangkok. We shared some interesting conversations about travelling, working online and living in Southeast Asia. Mads quickly became a friend and we look forward to visiting him in Davao City, Philippines, where he is based. He is passionate about personal effectiveness and offers training and consulting in the area of people management. Follow him @madssingers or at madssingers.com

12. Barbara Fernandez

Also known as the Raw Rock Chick, Barbara shares her passion for raw food and sells digital products in this niche. She was an attendee at the DCBKK 2014 conference in Bangkok where we met. She was friendly, positive and eager to learn as much as possible from the event. Follow her @therawrockchick and learn more about raw food at rawrockchick.com

These are just a few examples of many successful digital nomads earning a living online and enjoying a location independent lifestyle. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below or tweet us @FreemadicLife.

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