Time has flown by. I can hardly believe that our time in Chiang Mai, Thailand has come to an end. Yet our adventure of location independent living continues. Next stop? Vietnam!
As this first leg of our journey wraps up, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on the last 8 months of life, work and travel.
Living in Chiang Mai
We were renting a quite modern, furnished apartment with a Western kitchen in a beautiful complex that included a pool, gym and 24-hour security (which isn't to say that we've ever felt unsafe in Thailand). We purposely chose a very popular and convenient area of the city (Nimmanhaemin), even though rents are higher here. It was still less than half of what we paid in Canada.
Our home of the last 8 months
Everything that we need on a daily basis is within walking distance: Convenience stores, a small grocery store, 2 malls, plenty of restaurants and street food carts, a fresh market and countless cafés with free wifi to work from. Everything else is just a short (and very affordable) songthaew or tuktuk ride away. With a restless toddler, we just didn't want to rely on having to ride a motorbike for every errant.
Although having a kitchen is an absolute necessity for me as a food blogger, we are actually eating out more than ever before. Who can blame us when it's delicious Thai food and super affordable? We usually have breakfast at home, pick up some "take away" (that's what they call take-out here) for lunch and go out as a family for dinner.
Of course, whenever there is food from my recipe testing we'll eat that first. But aside from frying eggs for breakfast, I haven't had to do much cooking that wasn't blog related. Since I already cook for a living, this was a fantastic break to have.
Work - Being Digital Nomad Family
This leads right to our work. Our long-term slow travel lifestyle is only possible because we work along the way. You know my work as a food blogger here on Leelalicious. Konrad works in online marketing and on several side projects. (I guess you can call us "digital nomads" but I like "location independent" more).
During our first 6 months here, I also did freelance work that was right in line with food photography, writing and social media marketing. It was great to have this guaranteed income month after month, but it also was a lot of (sometimes stressful) work.
Since the new year, I am happy to be focusing all of my efforts on Leelalicious again. I finally found the time to finish up an ebook that I had started while we were still in Canada. It still needs some final touches, but I am hoping to release it next month.
Our days usually consist of taking turns to work or look after Olivia. Working in the apartment with a busy toddler running around doesn't seem to work for us. Instead, we work from one of the many coffee shops (or co-working spaces) in the area. Aside from amazing (locally grown) coffee, they offer a quiet and comfortable work space and free fast wifi.
For me, taking my food blogging work on the road has come with its challenges. Although our apartment has a big, equipped Western kitchen, it wasn't food blogger equipped. There was no oven, hardly any small appliances, but luckily a nice set of white dishes that have appeared in many of my pictures.
So in the beginning we had to invest in an oven, a blender and more kitchen equipment + utensils. Just last week, we were able to sell most things again (thanks to very active Chiang Mai Expat Groups on Facebook) or pass them along to friends we've made here.
Such a happy day, when I finally got an oven!
Another adjustment was the availability of ingredients. The mini grocer and market only carry local ingredients. There are a number of stores with import goods to serve the thriving expat community in Chiang Mai, but those imported items come with a high price tag and still not everything from home is available.
Especially in the beginning, I sometimes got stressed out about sourcing ingredients I was used to. I also felt some anxiety about the amount of money I spent on groceries for work. Now my blog income wasn't just a nice bonus, but we were actually living on it. Luckily, with time we got better at managing our cash flow and I became more adept at cooking with local ingredients. After taking some cooking classes, I started posting many of my favorite Thai food recipes.
I know, that settling in Vietnam will mean another adjustment. My hope is that I have learnt from this first time, so that the next transition will be quicker and go smoother.
Our Thai visa required us to leave and re-enter the country every 2-3 months. We used this as an opportunity to travel to and visit new and favorite places. In October we went to Siem Reap in Cambodia and saw the breathtaking Angkor Wat temple ruins. It was an unforgettable family experience.
In December we flew to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. It was only a short visit - cut even shorter by flight delays. We balanced the trip with a visit to the Bird Park and strolling some top-class malls (the A/C was a welcome relieve from the humid heat).
As our journey continues, I am certain we will return to KL. From other traveling families we have met and/or connected with online, we learnt about a TON of activities and attractions for kids in this city. Olivia will just have to be a little older for them. So far she is still happy just tagging along with us, as long as we let her run free often enough and make sure we honour her nap time.
In January my sister came for a visit. We joined her for a week of beach time in Krabi in the South of Thailand. It was amazing to visit - as a family - the place Konrad and I used to call home when we first lived in Thailand in 2011.
Olivia absolutely loved the beach. Seeing her light up as she was playing in the sand and running into the waves made me so happy. Although I know deep in my heart that we have created the dream lifestyle for us, there are times that doubt creeps up and I wonder if we are doing right by Olivia.
Moments like that one by the beach, reassure me in our decision. Being able to watch my baby girl grow into a curious and confident toddler who gets to spend her days with both her parents all the while traveling the world (instead of being brought up by strangers in daycare), was the right move for our family.
So yes, this travel thing is not just a trip for us, it has become our lifestyle. Life anywhere comes with ups and downs. For the time being, we love to be able to grow our online businesses, while raising our daughter and honing in on our love of travel.
If your are curious to see more of our day-to-day location independent life, why don't you follow me on Snapchat? (USERNAME: leelalicious)
I started to post regular snaps of our daily life in Asia, behind-the-scenes cooking clips, and the funny & cute things Olivia does.
I quite enjoyed writing this update and plan to do regular life updates from now on.
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Sounds like it's been an busy 8 months - can't belive it's been so long already! And I can totally sympathize with apartment not being "food blogger" equipped! It's great that you settled down for a while so felt that you could invest in the kitchen necessities you needed and were able to sell or give them away at the end! I just hope apartments that we rent come with blenders! And YES can also totally understand the frustration of only being able to find local ingredients and not what you always want to be cooking with - feeling that a lot here in Bolivia! I was super excited to find a can of coconut milk the other day - even if it was over $2.50 a can!
Vicky, as far as I know you are the only other person who understands the challenges of running a food blog while traveling/living location-independently. Maybe we are crazy, but it's the good kind 😀 Haha and I totally get paying premium for import goods. Luckily, coconut milk is available abundantly here in Asia, cheese on the other hand is totally a luxury item here 😀
WOW!! Do you plan on living this life forever? Will you homeschool Olivia or do you plan on moving somewhere permanently for when she starts school? You guys pretty much live a dream life!! I love that you pursued your dream despite having a baby, which is when many people settle. We tend to live 2-3 years at every location but like you I am starting to doubt if it's a good idea to move again. Kids are getting older. I hope we can do at least one more move before they request to stay at a place because of their friends.
We still have some time to figure out how we want to school Olivia, but it will most likely be an alternative to public school. So I don't think school will get us to settle down. But just like you it might be for spending time with friends and family. We keep talking about having a cabin/small house somewhere in Canada sometime down the line to spend at least part of the year in one place. Most likely in the summer though, because Canadian winter is brutal and that time of year Olivia would be able to spend most time with friends and cousins (when they are out of school). For now we just try to enjoy the time we get to spend together to the fullest 😀
So nice to read about the more day to day realities of your lives. I'm happy that for the most part you guys are feeling rewarded with both the joys and challenges of your travelling lifestyle :).
Thank you for reading and commenting, Heidi 🙂 Life with a toddler is crazy fun (and hard) anywhere. We feel that this way we get to fully enjoy it. She's gonna grow out of toddlerhood before we know it.
Rebecca @ Strength and Sunshine
Wow, wow! Seriously such a crazy and awesome experience nonetheless!
It's been a crazy awesome ride indeed!