Author: Matthew Harris

Story Time

Day -47: How I became a digital nomad

“I just did”. While I was setting up this blog that was all that I wrote in the draft placeholder. Now I come to flesh it out I think it actually answers the question succinctly. Becoming a digital nomad was a major life transition but it went so smoothly that I was already in Cologne on day 180-something before I realised I had actually really done it.

If you had met me even as close as 2 months before I set off and asked me about becoming a digital nomad I would have said: “What’s a digital nomad?”. I stumbled across the concept of it totally blindly. I was at a stage in my life where a change was badly needed but at this point, I had never lived outside of the city I was born in. I had never travelled alone, in fact, I used to put off going to the shops to buy socks unless I had a friend to walk in with.

But I wanted to go on holiday and my friends were not making the right noises about a group holiday so the idea started to form that I would go and stay in a hostel somewhere for a week and do it for myself. It was not a welcome idea. I was wracked with concern that the whole idea would be too scary, that I would be bored, that solo travel somehow was not for me.

A few of my friends had been travelling like this before and they insisted there was nothing to worry about, they had been fine, in fact, better than fine. Still, I told myself, this was some kind of special case for them and it still wasn’t for me.

Through the wonder of the all-seeing-eye that is Google, I have just traced back the exact point where a search for hostels turned into the beginning of a new life and “digital nomad” entered my lexicon. It was on 17th July 2017 at 7:34pm. Over the next few weeks, I would slowly internalise the idea and find myself consuming epic amounts of YouTube videos on everything digital nomad and mostly Chiang Mai.

A friend of mine had been to Bangkok and she had put a video up of her travel day. I watched as she packed her suitcase. I could do that. Got on a train to London. I could do that. Got on a plane. I could do that. Landed in another country and got in a taxi. I could do that. Then she checked into a hotel. I could do all of that.

Apart from the fear I couldn’t see what was holding me back.

For the first time in my life, I was internalising actually visiting Asia. With the high flight prices, it was never on the cards for any normal holiday. I was aware that side of the world existed but I didn’t ever connect the thought and think that I would actually go to it. Now the dots were falling in to place and I was picturing myself there; it was exciting.

37 days later on a sunny July lunchtime, I booked my flight to Bangkok. If you’ve booked online you will know that flight companies like to create a sense of urgency by threatening to time-out your booking and make you start again. I filled out the form and then sat there several times until the order reset me back to the homepage. All I was thinking and worrying about was the vast unknowns of going to the other side of the world on my own. Could I do it?

Seconds before the third time out I tapped my finger down on the mouse and the flight was booked. It was happening.

The idea had been formed. I was calling it “100 days of digital nomad – an experiment in lifestyle design”. I was going to set up this blog. I was going to start a YouTube channel. I was going to get an apartment in Chiang Mai. I was going to hire a scooter. So many plans made in the excitement of the run-up. The actual trip turned out vastly different – as things normally do – but this wasn’t a bad thing at all.

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