The Amazing Digital Nomad Community of Chiang Mai, Thailand
Before you continue reading, I’d like to clear up my intentions and background: I’m not a Chiang Mai or digital nomad expert. Even though I will use it often throughout the article, I’m actually not fond of the term “Digital Nomad”. As far as I know, I’m just a guy (with his wife) that earns an income from the Internet—and happen to be traveling at the same time.
My wife and I spent the last six months living in Chiang Mai, Thailand (Dec 14 – Jun 15). We decided on Chiang Mai with the goal of making our lifestyle location independent (another fantastic buzzword).
We didn’t just quit our jobs and leave without a plan. I’ve spent the last two years trying to master my craft: SEO. We were able to generate income prior to departure, but the move was a chance to “go all in” for this lifestyle.
As of today, we’re still pursuing the niche site model (in scale). Basically, we create websites that review a wide array of products (both physical and digital). We then send our traffic to various online stores (like Amazon)—and earn commission for being the middleman that helped produce the sale.
With the model, one website isn’t enough for a sustainable business. What makes the business model possible are the systems we are creating to automate it. Managing all parts of over 10 websites brings on some challenges. We’re improving everyday and learning a ton along the way.
This post is for people that are interested in the possibility of moving to Chiang Mai to work remotely. We came from a pretty typical 9-5 setting. Chiang Mai welcomed us with open arms, and quite honestly, we didn’t believe the community was so massive until we lived it firsthand.
If you’ve heard the phrase, “Chiang Mai is ranked #1 for digital nomads”, but have no concept of what that actually means, this post is for you. We thought we knew what it would be like here, but the entire community and experience must be experienced in person.
Chiang Mai’s Digital Nomad Community
Walking Around (Nimman area)
While the digital nomad community lives in all areas of Chiang Mai, I’d estimate that the majority live in the Nimman area (short for Nimmandhaeminda). It’s also the neighborhood we called home during our time there.
The area is jam packed with all kinds of coffee shops. We’ve tried many of them in the area (my wife reviews them in this post) because we made them our “office.”
Many digital entrepreneurs choose the Nimman area because of the popular co-working space: called Punspace. We drove by it a couple times to check it out, but decided to stay with the cafe scene.
Note: After Chiang Mai, we settled in Bali for two months. We both got a one-month membership to a co-working space called Wave (we were co-working virigins). Personally, I have seen a tremendous increase in my productivity since joining and will be seeking out a co-working space in Chiang Mai for our next stay.
Back to the Nimman area…
If you’re casually walking around you will certainly run into a handful of digital nomads (there goes that word again) carrying their laptop bags. If you’re worried about a culture shock, you won’t find it in Nimman.
Meeting Other People
I was anti-Facebook when we first arrived. I had no idea how massive and active the Chiang Mai communities were on Facebook.
In an attempt to meet more like minded folks, I decided to start a casual “Beer and Entrepreneur” group on Meetup.com. Honestly, I had no expectations, except that I would be enjoying a few brews once a month.
To my surprise, the group pulled in about 15 people for our first event. We all shared our current lifestyle in Chiang Mai and eventually talked about our businesses. It was interesting to meet people doing some many different things. It was also nice to share ideas with other SEO-type people.
Tip: Use Facebook if you want to make an impact with the Chiang Mai digitial nomad community. Meetup.com is okay, but Facebook is more active, without a doubt.
15 people isn’t earth shattering, but it was amazing considering I put zero effort into the recruitment process; it just happened organically. Our second meeting was the largest at around 30 people. I’ve held three more since—all have averaged about 10-15 people.
Fun Fact: You will run into your friends and acquaintances whenever you walk the streets of Nimman, or Chiang Mai in general. We would run into people on a daily basis; it’s a nice touch when you’re in a foreign country.
Facebook Groups Are A Must
As mentioned earlier, you’d be doing yourself a dis serve if you move to Chiang Mai and don’t check out the many Facebook groups. There is a Facebook group called, “Chiang Mai Digital Nomads” that has over 5000+ members (closed group).
Digital nomad or not, there is a group for everything. There are two active groups that sell and swap goods; and there is a softball group that meets and plays every weekend!
Despite the short time we lived there, we were able to connect with a handful of entrepreneurs (yes, we’re shy). We can’t wait to return and meet many more new faces.
Cheers to the wonderful things going on in the city of Chiang Mai, Thailand. If you can’t picture it, or the whole thing seems too far-fetched, just know that it’s real. There is a thriving community of digital entrepreneurs changing the way people work.