There is a saying in Chinese, “離開，是為了回來 (Pinyin: li kai, shi wei liao hui lai)”, which means leaving is for coming back.
Being in a long-distance relationship is hard. Being in a long-distance multi-cultural relationship is even harder. My fiance and I thought we had it all figured out when we started living together in Turkey in the middle of 2014. We had a nice newly renovated apartment, were enjoying the sights and foods and were slowly starting to make friends. Istanbul is one of the richest countries in terms of culture and one of the best in terms of cost of living as well. It has tons of beaches in the south and people in general are very friendly. But the political environment in Turkey the last few years as been very shaky and with all the terrorist attacks and nearby warzone, we started feeling unsafe. There are other problems I won’t mention but we slowly but surely started to no longer feel like this was a great place to settle down and start a family. The recent Coup on July 15th was the final drop in the bucket. We no longer foresaw a good future there and so we decided to leave.
But, frankly speaking, we had no plan. We are eligible to stay in Europe and thoroughly discussed moving to places such as Belgium, Holland and Spain. But even with the economic and political turmoil going on Europe, the cost of living is still quite high and the tax rates are not favorable. Britain was also one of the main options we considered, but in the middle of our search Brexit happened, leaving us further confused. So Europe didn’t seem like the smartest place for us to be, at least for the time being.
But then we discovered this site called Nomad List, which completely changed our mind. The website lists the best cities to live and work remotely for Digital Nomad, providing detailed information about the cities including cost of living, speed of internet and weather conditions. It even shows how many “Digital Nomads” are there at any particular time.
We realized two things. First of all there seems to be many people like us who are working remotely not tied to any specific location and open to live in foreign countries. Second of all is that we’ve just been thinking inside the box, and with this new lifestyle and new technologies it was time to be more creative.
We started thinking maybe it isn’t a crazy idea to just travel around for a year, explore the world bit, and at the same time give us some more time to look for a place which we can call home. And so that is how we started our Digital Nomad journey and decided our very first stop in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
But why Chiang Mai you might be asking? First of all, we wanted to start with a place where the living cost is relatively low so that we can focus on our work instead of on the financial stress of essentially being a permanent tourist. Second of all, except working, we also need entertainment. Most of the southeast Asia countries are comparable in terms of cost of living but Thailand is a well-known touristic paradise with its beaches, friendly locals, food, and massages so it was an easy choice.
According to Nomad List, Bangkok is the Top 1 destination for Digital Nomads and Chiang Mai just at the 4th. However, according to Numbeo, the cost of living in Chiang Mai is actually lower than Bangkok. Even though life in Bangkok is more tempting and colorful, we preferred Chiang Mai which is a more economical and less chaotic city to start our journey. There is also a great digital nomad community in Chiang Mai, which makes living in the city very comfortable and easy.
In this one year, we will travel slowly among Asian countries, live there and work remotely, and also try to involve in the local culture. Who knows, maybe during our Slow Voyage we’ll like it so much in one of the countries there that we’ll choose to settle down there. Or not. Afterall, “leaving is for coming back”, and how can you say Hello to a new place if you never say Goodbye to an old one.