Digital Nomad Asia
Asia is a popular destination for digital nomads, but what is it about Asia that attracts so many looking to escape the rat race?
With mega fast Wi-Fi becoming more and more available, starting out as digital nomad has become an increasingly popular way to travel for extended periods and earn the money to keep doing so.
For those looking to take then next step, the cash flow will more than likely be tight.
Most people looking to make a career out of working remotely won’t have a 10K marketing budget to throw into their product or service just yet.
At the start, there may only be one or two regular clients and a few contacts. Possibly a half finished – or not even started a website.
That’s ok too.
There’s still time to grow.
The beginning is the time to be fresh and hungry to build your business. It’s also the time to see the world. This early stage of becoming self-employed for the first time can be the most memorable for many.
For others used to the safety of a salary, the lack of regular payments coming through the door can be a nightmare.
I’ve been there, launching various websites, freelancing, working abroad, and starting a blog all while travelling.
It’s not easy, and no one said it would be.
“remote work has opened the door to a new era of freedom and luxury. A brave new world beyond the industrial-age belief in The Office.”
― Jason Fried,
Whatever your plans and passion are, a light-weight laptop, a secure Wi-Fi connection, late nights and early mornings will consume your new life. It’s not going to become the 4 Hour Workweek just yet!
Sure money may be tight, but the trade off is the location advantage. There aren’t many careers that allow you to work remotely from the best beach in the world, or see the sunrise from world heritage sites such as Angkor Wat. I have done both.
I’ve spent most of last two years in Asia and here’s my opinion on why Asia is the perfect place to start out as a Digital Nomad.
Budget airlines have taken the travel industry by storm and none more so than in Asia.
Brands such as Air Asia, Tigerair, Scoot, and Jetstar all go head to head by offering low-cost flights around the region. Designed give those travelling on the cheap a bargain, they offer just a seat and well, not much more.
Like most, I love a little luxury now and again, yet when I handed over just $10 USD for a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Kuching, I knew there and then it was possible to travel around Asia unrestricted for a long time.
I’m not just talking about bunking up with twenty other sweaty backpackers who are maxing out the free Wi-Fi for $3 a night either.
For less than a pub lunch back home I secured an unexpectedly decent private room to set up my mobile office in Da Nang, Vietnam. This digital nomad pad included a powerful hot shower (something not to taken for granted in SE Asia), fresh towels, cleaners, international cable TV, fast Wi-Fi, and a belly busting all you can eat buffet breakfast.
Being situated just one street back from Non Nouc Beach was a bonus.
I’m sure you will agree that Asian food can be some of the best around
If you remove the middle man and travel straight to the source and it can be ridiculously cheap too. That Pad Thai you’re paying top coin for in the local restaurant back home, only costs 45THB ($1.26) from a side street in Bangkok, Thailand.
How about taste you ask?
Well, it tastes much better. It does – really!
I’ve been unofficially testing Pad Thai from around the world since 2011 and not one, yes even those that cost twenty times more, tasted as good as some of the street Pad Thai’s I’ve eaten in Bangkok.
Street food is cheap, tasty and filling.
Undeniably it does get a bad name due to the hygiene standards being somewhat lower than what most of us would consider acceptable in the Western world. But until now though my iron stomach is yet to disagree.
It took me a while to build up the confidence, but now my preferred way to get around is by scooter.
Just a few dollars will fill the tank and provide a weeks’ worth of transport. To put this in perspective, my old Turbocharged V6 Honda car in Australia used a few dollars’ worth of fuel just to get to the shops!
Asia is the perfect place to start out as a Digital Nomad because anyone can have the freedom ride to cafes, night markets, sites of interest and even to the gym, all for less than the cost of a beer a week.
Admittedly for someone who has only owned a push bike, riding a scooter in Asia can be a daunting task at first.
Accidents are commonplace, and hardly anyone has insurance. If I were to describe most of the riding I have come across it would be to that similar of a snake moving across the grass. Nearly no one rides in a straight line.
However, over time, like me, your confidence will grow and soon be standing toe to toe with the big boys.
Now it’s time to make sure that budget flight was worth it.
Well, it was.
In Asia, it’s possible to experience world famous attractions on the snuggest of budgets. The National War Museum in South Korea is one of the most well-presented and informative museums I’ve had the chance to visit.
But the fee to enter this enormous museum, like most others I visited in Seoul, is zero.
Even world famous sites such as Angkor Wat, Mỹ Sơn, and the National Palace are relatively inexpensive when compared to those I have seen in Europe.
A spiritual meditation retreat may sound appealing to those who are looking to disconnect from it all, but for those who struggle to be offline for more than a few hours – free Wi-Fi is virtually everywhere.
Cafes, coffee shops, shopping malls, museums, train stations, and airports are just some of the places free internet can be accessed.
It’s crazy fast too.
South Korea is the only spot in the world I’ve had the chance to experience 5G internet on a regular basis.
For those digital nomads who want the added backup of connectivity on their smartphone, local telcos can be located at most airports selling SIM cards. Meaning it’s no hassle to pick up a local number (and local calling rates) as you hop from country to country.
I’m the first to admit function has priority over fashion when it comes to my travel style.
On occasions I have been known to push my t-shirt lifespan boundaries to their far limits and beyond.
Having to wear the same few pairs of travel gear for weeks on end means they will wear and tear faster than usual. One thing I like about Asia, it’s so easy to locate most of the brands from back home and bargains can be snapped up for a fraction of the price.
Shopping centres in Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore is on par, if not some of the best I’ve come across. It’s just about time to take my advice and realised there’s no need to look like a homeless traveller anymore.
One of the downsides of travelling can be picking up some unwanted baggage, and I’m not just talking about what’s in the backpack either.
That greasy chicken bucket from down the road can make a convent fix during a busy day of working remotely, yet no one said your workout has to go out of the window too.
The good news is it’s possible to lift rusting dumbbells in a local ‘jungle’ gym for as little as a dollar.
Some gyms easily are found by a quick search on mytravelgym.com, for other you might need to get on the street and start asking some locals.
While in Asia why not treat your body to some Medical Tourism?
From visiting dentists in Thailand to an hour long $5 sports massages in Cambodia. The prices hardly make an impact on the strictest of digital nomad’s budgets
Even visiting the ‘god doctor’ in Taiwan to fix my bad back (probably cause by too much sitting behind a laptop) and injured elbow only cost me the ‘foreigner price’ of 250NTD ($7.70 USD).
Shockingly locals only have to pay the equivalent of $3.08, with local university students paying much a lower $1.54 for the service.
Paying budget prices doesn’t always translate to receiving a lesser experience in return.
Yes, there will be crazy rain downpours, pollution, stray dogs, beggars and the odd dodgy character.
However, while working remotely in Asia, the locals I met are some of the friendliest and most welcoming people I’ve had the chance to encounter while travelling.
Strangers have randomly invited me inside their homes. Sitting down to eat with their family, all they asked for in return was for me to spread the word about how beautiful their town is and how welcoming their country is.
Budget or not, friendly people, great food, cheap living costs and a disregard anything to do with health and safety – this is why Asia is the perfect place to start out as a Digital Nomad.