In early December I made the journey from Bali to Thailand. My intention? To spend Christmas and New Year in KoHub, a pioneering digital nomad community on the tropical island of Koh Lanta.
Why I moved to Thailand
My plan for working and travelling in 2019-20 is to live in a few countries where there’s a strong digital nomad community. In particular, I’ve decided to spend a few months at a time in Indonesia (specifically Bali), and Thailand. The nomad lifestyle originally started in these two countries, and the scene is still very active in both of them.
Why am I doing that? Well, I want to network amongst other location independent people, to find guests to interview on the podcast. Networking also helps me to find more marketing consultancy work (my main source of income, currently). I also want to surround myself with other like-minded people who understand the nomad lifestyle and the mindset needed to sustain it. I want to learn and be inspired, basically.
Of course, I’m not only interested in hanging out with nomads. As a keen traveller, I want to get to know the countries and their cultures too. And I will spend some time in Laos and Canada, between longer stints in Thailand and Indonesia.
But my focus for this year, at least, is to mingle with other location independent people. And I’d rather spend 2 – 3 months in each country, getting to know these communities and countries well, than race around lots of individual ones. After all, I’ve got years ahead of me to live in different places.
Living in a digital nomad community for Christmas
As my Indonesian 60 day visa came to an end, it was time for me to make the journey to Thailand. My first month in the Kingdom falls over Christmas and New Year.
2019 will be the first year that I’m away from family and friends during the holiday period. Lots of nomads go home now. But I like to think of myself as quite an experimental person. It’s good to shake things up every now and again. I wanted to see what it felt like to spend Christmas away from home, even if it was for just one year.
Although I’m quite happy in my own company, I’m actually an extrovert and love to socialise. My rationale was that if I stayed in a digital nomad community, everyone would be in the same situation. We all live the nomad lifestyle, we will all be away from family and friends and we will share the experience and celebrate together.
Why I choose Kohub
Despite Thailand being full of tropical islands, surprisingly there aren’t that many coliving communities that are right next to the beach. And I wanted to be on the beach for the holiday period. I mean who wouldn’t, right?
I looked at the costings for Kohub and was impressed at what was included in the price. It seemed as cheap as purchasing the coworking element, and then getting accommodation and food elsewhere on the island. But it was much more convenient as the food and the coworking element was in one place, and the accommodation was just a 5 minute scooter ride away (or ten minute walk).
Here’s a break down for the month. Bear in mind I’d chosen to stay during high season:
– Accommodation: a double room with private bathroom, aircon, fridge, kettle, 5g wifi etc.
– Access to the extensive coworking space, 24/7. The wifi speed here is 240 mbps and it has never gone down once.
– Two meals per day, delivered straight to your desk between 8am and 5.30pm.
– Free coffee and water.
– Free access to the social events, which happen 5 nights a week and on other spontaneous occasions.
Total cost: 32,800 baht (around $1086, or £832). This equates to a daily spend of £26.86 per day. Together with scooter rental for around £2.86 per day, and money for going out and drinks, the total daily spend is around £32 a day.
What’s it like to live in a digital nomad community?
Kohub is definitely a different vibe to the other cowork spaces I’ve been to. The coworks in Bali (Outpost and Hubud) have beautiful, quite sophisticated interiors and a productive working atmosphere. They have fantastic social events too. These often revolve around networking; every week in Bali, there are many business workshops and collaboration events. And the people that gravitate to the island are very entrepreneurial in their approach and mindset. Think agency owners, coaches, health and fitness entrepreneurs –hustlers and influencers, basically. Some of these overlap with the more esoteric, hippy crowd that also hang there.
In Kohub I’ve found a greater amount of remote workers and freelancers, and a higher proportion of people working in tech development. Think software developers, coders, website developers etc.
The social events that take place here are not related to networking. They are ordinary, fun social events, to encourage the digital nomad community to bond. And there’s a sweetness to that I really like.
It’s also a VERY productive place to work.
The garden is beautiful, and pleasant to work in and when it gets too hot, there’s two large air conditioned room to sit in. There are always more than enough rooms for meetings. And the kind staff bring you food and coffee to your desk. There’s just no excuse for not getting work done.
There are relaxation spaces with day beds for naps, which I’ve used a few times. There’s a pool table and games and books galore. I can step away from my desk and socialise when I want. It’s a very close knit community and in reality it feels a little bit like I’m in the 6th form of school again. No wonder people keep coming back here, especially as alumni get a further discount. It’s a bit like being around your family.
It’s important to say at this point, that even though I’m 44, I don’t for a minute feel like I’m too old to be here. There are lots of people in their 40s here, as there have been in every coworking place I’ve worked in. I just fit in, like everyone else. All are welcomed.
The nomad lifestyle at Kohub
It’s been easy to get into a routine here, which I find helps my mood and productivity. I wake up at 7am and have a cup of tea in bed (I am British, after all ;). Then I exercise – usually a run on the 5km beach, and body weight exercises in my room, or yoga.
After showering I head to Kohub for 9am ish and work all day. Around 4.30pm I take a break and if I have time, head to the beach across the road.
That’s when I will chill for an hour, until the sun goes down. I meditate every day for ten minutes, as I find it helps me to manage my focus, and my thoughts and emotions. I call friends and family at home. Quite often, I simply watch the sunset.
Then I will return to the Kohub and either keep working in the evening or hang out with the gang.
Other things to do on Koh Lanta
Even though Koh Lanta is quite a sleepy island, there’s actually quite a lot to do here. There’s a thriving local community, with the ex-pats (Swedish and British) and Thai communities mingling well. There are lots of social events going on. An amazing bar on the beach called Pangea plays quality house and techno, and I’ve been dancing until the early hours of the morning a few times. There’s also very good diving nearby.
It doesn’t quite have the other worldly magic of Bali – which bowled me over in many ways. The lush green rice fields of Bali are extraordinary. And it attracts some fairly ‘way out’ people to match. In Koh Lanta, the people are more down to earth and ordinary. But it’s fun and relaxing and productive, and that counts for a lot in my book.
How I spent Christmas in the digital nomad community
This is what I did over Christmas. I’m currently updating this article on Boxing Day. I planned not to work on the 24th and 25th December, and the weekend afterwards as well. Plus the 31st and New Year’s Day.
AM – horse ride on the beach (xmas present from my family)
PM – chilling
Evening – tech house night at Pangea beach bar
Games on the beach with the Kohubbers
Buffet dinner and Secret Santa with the Kohubbers
Recover with a massage
Weekend after Christmas:
5 x scuba dives booked on the surrounding islands
New Year’s Eve:
Hitting Pangea Beach Bar again
In between, I will be working as normal. As you can see, there’s plenty to keep me busy here. If you have any questions, leave me a comment below – I’d be glad to answer them!
Wishing you a very cool yule,
P.S. Would you like to get a free copy of my new eBook, Become location independent over 40? Get yours here.