Before heading off to South East Asia, I spent the Winter Holidays in Vancouver with friends and family. Pretty much as soon as I arrived, I fell ill. Perhaps it was the road weariness catching up with me as well. Before I left, I had the pleasure of dropping my family off at the airport for their trip to the UK. It was fun to be on the other side of the interaction for a change.
At this point, I should probably mention why I was heading to South East Asia. First and foremost, I absolutely loved my time in Malaysia, the previous Fall. Secondly, it should come as no surprise that, after a year of travel, my funds were thinning out. Cost of living for Westerners is very low there, so I thought it would be a cool place to set up for a while and explore another culture. Finally, I had repeatedly heard about the Digital Nomad ‘community’ in Chiang Mai, Thailand, so I left to check it out.
I left late January 2018 for Bangkok.
I spent a few days there before heading up to Chiang Mai. I stayed at an AirBnB for a week, before finding an apartment at the Dcondo Sign complex. The apartment was about $300 CAD a month on a six month contract. I asked the owner if I could extended it a few months but he said no, he was moving in. This may or may not have been the truth, as talking with locals, it’s common to kick people out and jack up the price for high season tourists.
As I had done little planning before heading to Chiang Mai, I wasn’t aware I was arriving during “the burning season”. This is time when harvests are finished and the farmers dry and burn the left over vegetation. The locals told me that Chiang Mai is a valley so the smoke sits there until a wind blows it away. They also said the Thai government fines farmers that burn, so the smoke was from the farmers in Myanmar.
What this meant for me, was limiting my time outside. I bought N95 masks, but with a beard they didn’t work very well. This wasn’t a huge deal as my days were spent trying to get the digital nomad life off the ground.
For weeks and months, my days were spent sifting through jobs online punctuated by runs to the Thai border for visa renewals. I would spend my day writing proposals for the jobs I am a match for. I would then have to wait for North America to wake up and review my offers, so I would spend time working a personal project. Rounding out the day would be Lunch (Koa Soi!), grocery shopping, exercise in the buildings gym and maybe a little exploring Chiang Mai depending on the weather/smoke. I would then wake up, find zero responses to my proposals and start all over again, modifying my approach to proposals. It became a bit of a grind.
On the subject of weather, I should mention “the burning season” turned into “the rainy season”. This made for some spectacular lighting storms rolling over the city. Early one morning I was laying in bed wondering why I was awake. At that moment my apartment lit up like it was midday. Then one of the loudest sounds I’ve ever heard, assaulted my senses as the lighting striking the adjoining building reported.
After months of rain and mostly unsuccessfully hunting for work online, I felt I had had enough. With my apartment’s contract ending, I decided to head back to Vancouver to enjoy the Summertime sunshine with friends and family and start hunting for a job.