I was going to hold off until my first year before writing another “I’ve been a nomad for X days” posts. Then I realised today was my Pi day and threw my reservations out the window.
Today is my digital nomad Pi day, which is not something I just made up, it’s totally a real celebration.
I took this screenshot and spoke about it a bit with my friends but didn’t get any further than that on the actual day. Even when I had planned to post this I was still just thinking that would be all I had to write about.
But it’s not going to be.
I went back to that day to look at my photos. This was only 5 days ago and it already feels like a lifetime ago.
I am always ready to tell people that “I’m not actually on holiday all the time, I just live there”. Taking a look back at this random day though it’s hard to deny I’m not cramming a lot of fun into life.
The day started off optimistically, with an attempt to convince you I had a healthy breakfast and a photo that was to be my “digital memory” later on:
The photo of the packets was the snacks that I had started devouring when I arrived at my hotel. I was excited to find a basket of snacks and a fridge full of beer. There was no price list anywhere so I concluded it was the same as the coffee and water; free welcome gifts. I had already chomped through three of them before I spoke to Giang (pronounced Yann), my Vietnamese friend. She told me this was a standard trick by the hotels and they would have the price list down in the reception. Don’t forget, she cautioned, I was staying in the tourist district of Saigon.
I had seen some of the snacks in the local shop so I planned to replace them before the hotel got involved. I ended up forgetting all about it though and when I arrived back that evening the snack bar was already refilled – it was too late to cover up my food crimes.
In the end, they charged me 30k a snack which I thought was good/acceptable/small enough to not care (1GBP each). And I really didn’t care, until I got to the next hotel and they had the price list in the room with a lot more reasonable 12k per snack (about 40p).
Deep breath. Breathe out and let it go Matthew. Moving on.
After that, the day was beginning. So far we had been heading to local spots on foot. Today, Giang had ideas to take me a short taxi ride away over the Saigon river, to the posher District 2. We went to The Snap Cafe, a place she had worked from regularly before when she was remotely working for a company. Desks, WiFi, smoothies were good. I also randomly ordered myself a pint of Craft Ale and got my buzz on from that for a while.
You can see from the photos that it has some nice styles to it with plenty of greenery bursting forth from every angle. All of the desks had their own style to them and it was both spread out and kind of set up as private mini-areas at the same time.
There was also a pool table that you could unwind on, and there is a kids area over on the other side. Upon arriving you are given the choice between the kids play area or the quiet area. The kids play area had some really cool looking custom built kid-sized buildings. Stuff like a shop and house, with stairs to get on the roof. I was jealous, but I was also about 25 years too old to go play.
The risotto was either awful if they intended to do it that way, or just embarrassing if they forgot to put the cream into it. Seriously, look at it in the gallery above, it was a brown oily mess, not a white creamy dish like the rest of the world knows it.
We also had a friend-of-a-friend meet up with us for lunch while we were there. We had an interesting conversation about rent, locations, startups and travel – she had previously spent two years in Chiang Mai working for a company that has a base over there.
The night before we had met some of Giangs climbing buddies. During the conversations we had agreed to meet them today at the climbing gym, so after a productive day we got in a Grab and headed over to their location. The taxi got more than a little bit lost as this gym was tucked away in an essentially hidden location but we got there in the end and spent a few hours climbing:
Conclusion: I really like climbing! After some introductory tips from a local expert, I was ready to tackle my first climb.
They have colour-coded tags at the bottom which tell you how hard each one will be. I started off with the simplest and rocked up the wall so fast I felt like a superhero. The coloured rubber bits are called holds. You have to dangle from the top hold for 3 seconds to officially complete that route, then you can come down using any hold you want. Moving left to the next wall, I was again to the top before anyone could stop me.
I’m amazing! World-class! A natural, I said to myself.
Then I got to the one in the pictures above.
The combination of some long stretches and being tipped backwards quickly and very permanently brought me back down to earth. Over the next hour, I slowly exhausted myself taking runs at this course. I wanted to do it so bad and made it a little bit higher a few times but at the end of the day, my weakling little computer arms and rapidly deteriorating grip strength were not going to see me through this challenge.
Even though I spent the next 3 days with sore arms, I’ve been through that initial period of starting a gym many times and know that would quickly fade. I would go back another time for a climbing session somewhere for sure. New hobby!
After that, the night was still just getting started. I jokingly said I could do with a beer now and Giang was like “yep” straight away. Normally I am used to being told no when want to get some random drinks so I felt a bit spoiled that she is up for this sort of thing as well as being a great daytime motivation partner!
We said bye to our climbing friends and took a taxi back to District 1. This time we went under the river through the tunnel and got dropped off at drinking spot she is particularly fond of, Pasteur Street Brewing Co.
They do a taste testing option on the menu. You get 6 drinks of your choice, and as soon as we saw it, it was ordered without hesitation. They were all quite nice except for the dragons salty nutsack or something like that – the pink one in the middle above. Not recommended.
The rest? Recommended. The spring rolls – recommended. The company? She is also recommended, but limited edition. Spending 10 minutes trying to eat the bar nuts with chopsticks? Well YMMV but I enjoyed it.
We were definitely tipsy by the time we barrelled out of this bar but also starting to feel the rumble of tummies, so the journey wasn’t over. This time we weren’t going to miss out on the food court near her hostel. It shut at a, quite frankly, unreasonable 10pm each night so we had already missed it before.
This time we were there in time to order something, and that something was the abso-fricken-lutely huge Vietnamese Pancake pictured above. It was filled with bean sprouts, vegetables, shrimp and other interesting things. Next to it, there was a huge plate of green leaves which were for two things – the large tasteless ones to use as wraps, and the others to use as seasoning. Then sweet chilli sauce on the side.
I’m typing this and realising how grateful I am to my guide, I wouldn’t have figured out so many things on this trip without having her by my side (if you read this thank youuuuu!)
Despite her going into a serious food coma after our food, the night still wasn’t over. I walked her back to her hostel to drop her off. On the way, she went really spaced out for the first part of the journey, but then she rallied at the last minute and took me up to the roof bar on the top of the hostel.
In fact, she got back into it so much that she tried to order more drinks after last orders and started brainstorming somewhere else we could go before I sent her to bed!
So here I am 314 days deep into this journey. Life is still very new and exciting most days. I am really happy that I have found this opportunity to direct my energies into.
I guess people can end up having different digital nomad experiences. There are many different types of business. Peoples skill sets are developed at different levels. Their businesses are more or less stable. They are more or less disciplined.
I have been lucky that my 314 days have been pretty smooth sailing business wise and I have been free to concentrate on the experience itself.
If you can figure out a way to, and it interests you, I would recommend trying out this lifestyle to anyone that can come up with a way to make money remotely.