Connect with us

Future of Work

Digital Nomad Lifestyle 101: Guide to Leisurely Work and Travel in Southeast Asia

Monique Caliwagan

Published

on

With today’s technology, there are numerous possibilities when it comes to startup businesses, work, and building a career. Most people travel to meet clients or to get away from the office, only to go back to their offices once it’s done.

Digital nomads are now everywhere. This lifestyle is one of the fastest growing, popular in the age of remote work and shared workspaces.

So, what is a digital nomad? What is this lifestyle and how can you adapt it yourself? How has it affected economies? Why do digital nomads choose Southeast Asia?

Digital Nomad and Lifestyle

Digital Nomad Lifestyle 101

Flexibility beyond the work week. People who constantly travel but not tourists. These are just a few of the numerous sentences that are used to describe digital nomads and this exciting lifestyle.

Digital nomads work remotely. This lifestyle gives you the opportunity to travel to different locations of your choosing. Traveling and working is a dream come true for many and becoming a digital nomad became a step forward for that dream to become a reality.

Digital nomads often work in coffee shops, public libraries, coworking spaces, or anywhere Wi-Fi is available. Their work relies on internet connectivity. This lifestyle could be an exciting possibility for you if you’ve caught the travel bug and want to have the freedom to travel and work.

Highlights about Digital Nomad and Lifestyle

Being a digital nomad and following this lifestyle is living the dream for travel lovers. It is the best of both worlds (working and freedom). Here are the main highlights of the digital nomad lifestyle.

Location Independence and Freedom
Being a digital nomad gives you the opportunity to work and travel full-time. You have the flexibility to work anywhere (as long as there is Wi-Fi). You can work in a cute cafe in Indonesia or at the beachside in the Philippines. You can even go for a quick dip while waiting for a client’s email.

Inspiration
Going out of your comfort zone by traveling can always give you that inspiration you need. By visiting new places, meeting new people and trying out different cuisines and activities, it refreshes you to work better than ever.

Building Self-Discipline
Becoming a digital nomad builds self-discipline. As you travel, you will be working on your own, and you hold yourself accountable in following schedules and honoring client deadlines.

The Food
One of the anticipated highlights of being a digital nomad is the food. As you travel to different countries, you experience the exotic food offered in each country. It won’t be boring your taste buds, as you get to try a new dish every day if you wanted!

The Digital Economy

Digital economy refers to an economy based on digital technologies, also often called the internet economy, new economy or web economy. It helped build careers and businesses alike, like Facebook, Amazon, and the establishment of Google as THE standard setter through search ranking.

The digital economy has a massive impact on any country’s economy, and digital nomads contribute to the digital economy everywhere they go. They’re part of the digital economy and they build it themselves. They subscribe to premium tiers of digital platforms and tools to use premium features, and they outsource to other freelancers.

Popular digital services for outsourcing are Upwork, Fiverr, TaskRabbit and more.
Popular digital services digital nomads and freelancers use are Trello, Hootsuite, Freshdesk and TeamViewer.

The digital economy helped shape Southeast Asia in having a global opportunity for both employers and digital nomads. Outsourcing became so easy, that you can find the right person for your offered work anywhere, and specific work became available to digital nomads.

Why Digital Nomads Choose Southeast Asia

The popularity of digital nomads has affected the tourism of each country in Southeast Asia. Below are summarized statistics of estimated and ranked list by Nomad List.

Fastest Growing Countries by Visitors in Southeast Asia

Comparison of Visitor Growth of the Fastest Growing Countries in Southeast Asia

Country 2018 2019
Indonesia 42% -11%
Myanmar 73% 26%
Laos -39% -64%
Vietnam -20% 1%
Philippines -1% -17%
Malaysia -17% -9%
Cambodia -27% -18%
Thailand -6% -8%

Note: minus sign (-) for deduction from overall percentage.

Fastest Growing Cities by Visitors in Southeast Asia

Comparison of Visitor Growth of the Fastest Growing Cities in Southeast Asia

City 2018 2019
Canggu, Indonesia 36% 41%
Jakarta, Indonesia 6% 41%
Phnom Penh, Cambodia -38% 57%
Ubud, Indonesia 43% -31%
George Town, Malaysia -28% 9%
Hanoi, Vietnam -1% 8%
Da Nang, Vietnam -17% 111%
Bangkok, Thailand -4% 3%
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam 1% -21%
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia -8% 3%
Ko Samui, Thailand -14% 12%
Chiang Mai, Thailand 1% -19%
Siem Reap, Cambodia -23% -38%
Phuket, Thailand -3% -8%
Hoi An, Vietnam -21% -4%

Note: minus sign (-) for deduction from overall percentage.

Here are the simple reasons why digital nomads choose Southeast Asia for their ideal work destination:

It’s Cheap
In Southeast Asia, expenses are considerably cheaper compared to other countries. For example is a comment from Nomad List, stating that she chose Southeast Asia as it is cheaper in transportation than Latin America.

Full-time travelers also made a video about the cost of living in Southeast Asia, further providing details of how expenses are cheaper.

It’s Culturally Interesting
Culture in Southeast Asia is quite different from the west. If I can say so myself, it’s on a different level. Aside from the different types of cuisine, the general attitude of locals makes staying in a Southeast Asian country enjoyable. Southeast Asian locals are generally friendly and would go out of their way to be helpful.

They are very welcoming, making every visit memorable and will make you think of coming back– or even better, staying longer.

Steps to becoming a Digital Nomad

Interested in becoming a digital nomad?

  1. Expenses — Reduce and Eliminate
    • Make sure that monthly needs and debt obligations are met and finished. Reduce and, if possible, eliminate debt.
    • Gym memberships, subscriptions, and any other financial obligations will weigh you down as you travel.

  2. Develop You Skills
    • To work remotely/on the road, you need some serious skills. You can simply become a freelancer or apply to online schools.
    • Ideal skills will be best that is done from a laptop.
    • Be flexible to work in your own time. Leave jobs that constrain you to certain time blocks.

  3. Plan and Decide on a Destination
    Planning and deciding the destination has much consideration. These are the most important things you need to plan and decide carefully:
    • An Internet connection and Wi-Fi – the internet is your go-to in doing work, along with Wi-Fi. Make sure the country and accommodation you will be staying at will have strong or stable internet and Wi-Fi to cater your needs for your remote work.
    • Accommodation – Your accommodation will be based on how much you will be willing to pay each month. Since digital nomadism became popular, many countries offer nice accommodation at a reasonable and cheap price. Also, make sure it is well-secured!
    • Cost of Living – the most important to check when you are traveling. Be reminded that the cost of living depends in each country. Live by your own means equals no money problem at all!
    • Digital Tools – As I mentioned above, digital work needs digital tools. Do you need to upgrade from free to premium for more features to accommodate your digital nomad lifestyle?
    • Communication with clients can be a challenge as well, being a digital nomad. Zoom is a great digital tool to have communication and video conferences with clients. If you already have free digital tools ready, it’s great to upgrade them to take advantage of all the features of each tool.
    • Financial Setup – to travel, we need to work for salary! Make sure your finances are set up to receive your money anywhere before starting your travel. Payoneer is a great option where you can receive and deposit directly using a physical card. Transferwise is a great option to receive payment from clients straight to your bank account and ready for use through your debit card!
    • Outsourcing -You need to focus on your expertise or you won’t have time to explore at all. What should you delegate? What roles do you need? Admin assistant to get your files and email in order? Social media advertiser so you can get clients without searching for jobs?

The best database to check information of any country inside and outside Southeast Asia is Nomad List.

Safety Tips in Traveling as a Digital Nomad

  1. Get Health Insurance
    • Find a good health insurance that has coverage in your destination countries. You are your own money maker. It’s important to make sure you are always healthy. Also, traveling while you’re sick is simply hard to do and not recommended at all.
    • A good example of health insurance for digital nomads are World Nomads and the International Health Plan by Integra Global.

  2. Get Travel Insurance
    • Travel insurance is also great to have when you travel as a digital nomad. It can help you with:
      • Minor expenses, such as if you are getting sick and need to see a doctor.
      • Hospital treatments in cases of emergencies, such as allergies or surgeries.
      • Transportation to a hospital after an accident.
      • Transportation back to your home country if necessary.
    • A good example of travel insurance is Travelex

  3. Invest in a VPN
    • A Virtual Private Network or VPN helps you protect your information while traveling and being connected to the internet. Advantages of having a VPN are:
      • Your information is safe and hidden to other people who are using the same network as you
      • Malicious operators can’t tap your information
      • Online advertisers have a harder time tracking and profiling you.
      • You can access sites that are normally blocked due to government censorship.
      • No one can literally track where you are!
    • A great example of a reliable VPN is ExpressVPN and NordVPN.

  4. Keep your Valuables Safe
    • As a digital nomad, you will be carrying your own equipment and gear. Aside from being vigilant, you can avail for insurance for your equipment and gear.
    • Examples are Protect Your Bubble and Insure My Equipment.

Best Places in Southeast Asia for Digital Nomads

Thailand

Internet: 15-40 Mbps
Cost of Living: $500-1200 monthly

Thailand is a country lying at the crossroads of modernity and tradition. Nevertheless, it is one of the best places for nomads in Southeast Asia. You get to experience the towering Lung Prabang summits, temples, historical communities, and piping hot massaman curry. In Thailand, experience the ultimate ‘on your terms’ lifestyle.

Being a beach country, the temperatures in the cold and dry seasons is the recommended time to travel in Thailand. You can indulge in trekking the mountains and relaxing and swimming at the beach with the best weather in these seasons!

Thailand is the most well-established community with amenities that make this country incredibly popular and connected.

Vietnam

Internet Speed: 5mbps in most locations; 10 Mbps for Ho Chi Minh City
Cost of Living: $800 monthly

Vietnam is a country where you will have the urge to stay for a long time. It’s rough around the edges but beautiful to its core. You get to enjoy karst mountains, bays, hidden Buddhist temples, and the infamous wrapped spring rolls.

It’s not as easy as Thailand, but Vietnam is making a name for itself in the digital nomad community with it’s improving internet connectivity

Spring and Autumn season is a superb time to travel to Vietnam. These seasons have the lowest rainfall across the country. It is also ideal seasons for outside activities such as trekking the mountains, swimming and relaxing at the beach and cycling.

Malaysia

Internet: 2-8 Mbps
Cost of Living: $300-500 monthly

Looking for a place with a mosque, a Hindu temple, a Buddhist temple and a colony of orangutans? Malaysia got all of those! The country is also famed for its butterflies and soursop, indomitable spirit and unique cultural mishmash. Being a digital nomad in Malaysia will make you feel all warm and gooey, like their fresh murtabak.

The best season to experience calm and slightly wind blowing weather is the spring season in Malaysia. It’s the perfect time to go on a beach expedition and attend the week-long Sabah festival.

The resources in Malaysia might not be as modern as Singapore but the community here has its own unique, irresistible rhythm.

Cambodia

Internet Speed: 3-4 Mbps
Cost of Living: $1000 monthly

Cambodia is a country bursting with life, culture, and history. With paddleboarding in Praek Tuek Chhu river amidst the Elephant Mountains and traditional fishing villages, crawling the Cu Chi tunnels and sunbathing on the sparkling beaches of Koh Rong and Koh Thmei, Cambodia is truly any nomads’ dream destination.

Experience a pleasant weather in Cambodia in the dry season. This is an excellent time in exploring jungles, trekking paths and enjoy well-known Water festival that runs for three consecutive days!

Cambodia is an up-and-coming established country still needing more work. Still good though.

Indonesia

Internet: 15+ Mbps
Cost of Living: $1000+ monthly

Indonesia is an aspiring digital nomad’s dream. There is plenty to be discovered in this wonderful country. Experience the massive modernity of Jakarta, creaking wooden pagodas, the hum of the mangroves, grasslands, and fiery cuisine. Indonesia is the best country for startup digital nomads.

The best time to travel to Indonesia is in April up until October. Since Indonesia is a tropical country, it remains hot and humid all year. This time also help you avoid tourist influx in the monsoon season.

Indonesia is a suitable country for long-time nomads and start-up nomads

Security

The Vision of Humanity is an online portal of published peace reports initiated by the Institute for Economics and Peace. It is a data-led guide to bring peace awareness and interpret complex peace indexes.

The Global Peace Index is one of the indexes that shows the ranking of how safe it is in a specific country around the globe. Below is the simple summary of how safe each of the best country in Southeast Asia for digital nomads and their ranking.

City 2018 Combine Factors
Militarisation Society and Security Domestic and International Conflict
Malaysia 5 1.5/5 2.1/5 1.1/5
Indonesia 10 1.5/5 2.2/5 1.7/5
Vietnam 12 2.2/5 2.2/5 1.4/5
Cambodia 13 2.2/5 2.6/5 1.5/5
Thailand 16 1.6/5 2.8/5 2.1/5

Well-known Co-working Spaces in Southeast Asia

Co-working spaces are Wi-Fi powered, office-like places where people can come and do their work on their laptops. This is one of the famous places where digital nomads do their work, aside from where they’re staying or at beachsides.

BeacHub – Thailand

BeacHub is the ultimate coworking space with an exotic vibe. The co-working space sits right on the beachfront of Koh Phangan Island in Thailand, giving you that relaxing, fresh ocean breeze. You also get to experience gourmet organic food offered by its very own Karma Kafe.

BeacHub offers zero-gravity brainstorming hammocks, sound-proof air-conditioned rooms, bamboo Skype hut, and private white sand beach, taking your experience to the next level.

KoHub – Thailand

KoHub is a co-working space situated on the tropical island of Koh Lanta in southern Thailand. Aside from being a co-working space, Kohub also offers accommodation for digital nomads. You get to enjoy the beautiful white sand beaches, snorkeling, diving, and even Maui Thai and yoga before and after your ‘work’!

Kohub offers 24/7 access and features a large wooden deck with fans and hotdesks, making sure you get to enjoy the warm tropical breeze and surrounding fauna.

The Hive – Thailand

The Hive is another great co-working space located in Bangkok, Thailand. This co-working space can be compared to a beehive, with a total of 6 floors. It has full facilities including dedicated desks, hot desks, lounge seats, fast internet, mailboxes, meeting rooms, library and print room.

In The Hive, you also get to relax at the roof garden bar and boutique foot massage spa.

Hubud – Indonesia

Hubud is the pioneer co-working space in Bali, Indonesia. Located in the heart of the beautiful Ubud, experience working from paradise. It is made from bamboo, surrounded by nature and has a great view of rice paddy fields.

Hubud offers the best Wi-Fi in Bali, printers, scanners, copiers and a Skype booth. Another reason why Hubud is special is the amazing community and a healthy lifestyle. it is globally renowned for yoga, holistic healing, and organic food.

Dreamplex – Vietnam

Dreamplex is a beautifully designed co-working space in the heart of District 1 in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. it is a recommended space for startup entrepreneurs, creatives, consultants and investors who work privately or collaboratively.

Dreamplex is not just an office but a community. It offers a modern and upscale style of office for both local and foreign startup companies and digital nomads.

The Working Capitol – Singapore

The Working Capitol is a co-working space in the historic Chinatown area of Singapore. It also has been selected as the best co-working space in Singapore. No surprises there, as the co-working space offers much more than just a desk for rent. TWC became the home and provides support to 300 people across 150 companies in most tech and digital sphere.

TWC offers a beautiful interior with multi-purpose event space, meeting room for rent and a work desk with a business address.

Be Free as a Bird

This adventurous lifestyle can be a rewarding yet challenging way to live. The best part of this lifestyle is that as long as you work and you crave to go home to your family, you can easily do so, just like traveling to different destinations while you work.

Now that you have the basic know-how of being a digital nomad and lifestyle and you find it appealing, go for it. Always remember to be vigilant and alert to fully enjoy your travel with no hassle.

Is this lifestyle for you? Do you have what it takes to be a digital nomad?

Recent Posts

Trending