It was September 2015, and I was on my way to an iOS developers conference in UK. I met this interesting girl from Germany, and we were chatting for the most of the way from Birmingham to Aberystwyth. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole conversation. I was broke at the time, and it was clear that I finally have to take a job somewhere. There was this interesting opportunity shaping up, a job that would require me to go to US for up to 3 months, just by myself. I've never been away for longer than 2 weeks, and I wasn't sure if I'd be able to leave for so long. I was also worried about the loneliness. I told her about it, and she told me:
You will meet people. It's going to be fine.
There was something about the way she said it that felt really comforting, encouraging and believable. It struck with me. And it wasn't just plain words either, she herself lived in all sorts of places and knew how it goes.
It might be precisely those two sentences that tipped the scale for me. I eventually decided to go for it, and never looked back. Without any exaggeration, this was a turning point in my life, and she had much bigger impact on it than she realizes.
Since then, I spent 2 months in LA, 1 month on Gran Canaria and now 4 months in Chiang Mai. I think of these 'living abroad' experiences as steps - each time it's a slightly more daring destination and plan. Each step requires a leap of faith, going for it in spite of the fear of unknown. The beautiful thing about it: after it's over, it feels easy and obvious. It's time for that next step.
She was right.
It isn't all roses, but overall, it's been amazing. I did meet people. A ton of them. Each one different but interesting in his/her own way. Each of those encounters enriched my views. Increased this "bubble" that is my life's horizons.
Okay, but what about Chiang Mai?
Right! Chiang Mai was the most daring of those steps. I've never been to Southeast Asia before, and at first it was a huge shock and I hated it. But everything eventually smoothed out and after that, it was great.
Since it's getting late and I'm really tired, I'll try to just point out a few of the key findings/lessons from the stay here.
Even though I mostly worked, and I didn't go to nearly as many meetups that I could've, I met quite a lot of people. I consider this the most valuable thing about this trip. In general, it was great for extending my horizons. In more concrete terms: I received great tips for copywriting (thanks Kevin and Jalmari!) - I've been studying it on and off for the last two months, and it seems like it could make huge difference with my whole indie app endeavor. I also received great advice for growth and the business of building your own product, from wonderful founders of UpLabs, Matt and Guillemette. Last but not least. I also thoroughly enjoyed cracking weird jokes and valuable life advice from you, Laurenz. Grabbing lunch and sharing our journeys with Nills. And discussing mac stuff with Gabriel. The list could go on and on. Thank you all guys, I'm really grateful for ya'll!
I talked quite a bit about it in this post. To sum it up, these are the advantages of living here:
- The most popular spot for Digital Nomads in the world. The community hear is vibrant.
- Great and cheap food. You can eat out all the time, which saves time and (surprisingly) also money.
- Great weather. It's warm and always sunny.
- Everything is cheap, while the quality of life is fairly high.
- Dirty cheap scooters. Renting a scooter enables you to get anywhere in the city really fast. I had it for the last month of my stay, and should've got it way sooner. It's so convenient!
There are also a few downsides:
- pollution. All those aging tuctucs, red trucks and scooters make their dent in the quality of air.
- burning season. The air gets really bad between mid-February to mid-April. That's actually why I am leaving now.
I'm getting really tired so I'll try to slowly wrap this up. The stay here would've been great, if it wasn't for a continuation of the all too familiar and extremely frustrating trend - getting sick. I was sick for almost three weeks early in the year, and then I got sick again about week and a half ago. It's frustrating, I need to finally find a way to fix this once and for all. Apart from that, it was A+.
What I learned
Alone vs. lonely
Perhaps most importantly, there is a big difference between being alone and lonely. This rung especially true in the first weeks when I arrived here - I didn't know almost anybody. And I was "alone". But then as I met new people, it was great. Having a handful of friends and like minded people around which I hang out with from time to time is way better for me than the alternative. What I learned is that you can actually feel more lonely when you're in a bad company than when you are by yourself, and really cherry-picking who do you want to spend time with.
I continued to struggle with finding a good routine. I usually tend to work too much, get too exhausted and then get burned out a bit, which usually results in getting sick. By being sick, I am not productive for extended period of time, and I feel like I need to catch up. And the cycle continues.
The lesson? I really need to work towards better regime. Wake up earlier. Work a bit less. Find more way to relax. Exercise more. It will be a long process but it will be so worth it.
Humbleness, confidence, and patience
I actually learned this from Matt. I was amazed how he was able to talk about his failures. His struggles. But at the same time, be healthy confident when talking about his accomplishments. There is a fine line between humbleness and confidence. And patience is the secret sauce. You need all three - You need to be confident that you can achieve your goals. You need to be patient and keep chipping away at it day in and day out. And by being humble, you'll be able to carry on without seeing visible progress for a long periods of time. It's interesting to think about how these three are interconnected and depend on each other.
I recently realized that I was starting to lose my patience. Ever so slightly. And I was loosing my humbleness - I felt like given how much I invest into it, I should've been further by now. As for confidence - I actually have some. I strongly believe that I have the capacity to achieve my goals. But it won't happen unless I'll be able to (A) find solid regime, (B) invest more time and focus in marketing, and (C) move forward faster. There are a lot of variables, lot of moving parts. I'll be curious to see how it will all evolve going forward.
This will be the last point, I think. While I'm really grateful for the people I met here, I recently realized that I might not be appreciating enough the state I'm in now. There's is always something that I can be unsatisfied about. For example: I'm not moving forward fast enough. I don't do enough work.. It feels at times as if I'm pushing myself too hard and not give myself enough credit. It's too easy to just focus on the negative. I realized that I need to make conscious effort every once in a while to slow down, look around and actually appreciate things, my situation and my work performance for what they are. Because they are really not that bad. (Well, except for the performance, obviously :P)
Ugh, 1300 words. And my intention was to keep this short (I swear!). If you made it all the way here, please tell me in the comments, it gives me frenzies. Oh, it's exactly midnight, I'll better go to bed now. Cheers!