Life in Thailand as a Newbie Solo Black Nomad

Yesterday marked 3 months of life on the run. Just in case you're new here -- I'm currently hiding out in Southeast Asia. Shhhhh. 

Almost an exact year ago, I dispelled my wishes to the universe, via blog post, that I was going to move abroad in 2015. My exact words:

It’s been a dream of mine to one day live outside of the US, and to be honest, I’m not getting any younger! I know that living abroad will add more depth to my overall life experiences, expand my perspective, and allow me to travel more.

And here I am in the midst of it all in the wonderful city of Chiang Mai, Thailand. Freely attempting to design the life that's been embedded within me for as long as I can remember. Wow.  I'm conquering challenges left and right, and the truth is: I LOVE IT.

SO WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THAILAND AGAIN!?

I left my stationary, 9-5 office job to become a digital nomad -- a digital nomad is someone whose work is primarily based online, allowing them to travel around the world at their disposal and work from wherever they so choose. I much more prefer the term travelpreneur, though, which to me means the same thing (an entrepreneur who has made a business that allows them the freedom of travel). My primary goal in moving abroad was to create a self-built career that lets both my creativity and wanderlust flourish. 

Since the world wide web and technology are growing at astronomical rates, it was quite easy for me to discover just how popular the idea of being a digital nomad is. I listened to podcasts, read blog posts, and did a bunch of research that showed me how possible it is to achieve this desired lifestyle. Chiang Mai is a huge hub for people who are prime examples.

Thousands of nomads choose Chiang Mai to live in for months to years at a time. Why? It's inexpensive, laid back, has great food, lots of things to do, and most importantly to the digital community -- it has great wifi, coffee shops, and coworking spaces. 

When I heard how much people rave about Chiang Mai, the desire to make it my new (temporary) home and embark on building my dream only increased by the day. I got the idea to move and didn't waver, despite how crazy it sounded to my parents and friends.

It's extremely safe -- I've never once felt scared or threatened at all. And it's easy to navigate, as English is widely spoken here. Ordering food can be hard because many locals don't speak much English and only have Thai menus, but with a teeny bit of Thai knowledge and Google translate -- I'm surviving just fine. 

Chiang Mai Grand Canyon

EXACTLY HOW CHEAP IS IT?

Thailand is unbelievably inexpensive -- the US dollar stretches really far. Some people live in Chiang Mai on only $500/month -- including rent, food, and everything else. My expenses aren't that low, but I'm spending sooo much less than I was in the States.

For example, my beautiful one bedroom apartment on the most expensive street in Chiang Mai is $557/month. When I tell people home how much I pay, their jaws drop in disbelief because they are typically paying double that or more (like I was in LA) in the States. When I tell people here how much my rent is, their jaws usually drop that it's so freaking expensive. 

Yes, $557/month for rent in Chiang Mai is HIGH. I was going to live somewhere cheaper, but that's a long story. Basically, my mom made me choose the fanciest place so I could be comfortable and she could have peace of mind. Lol. Now that I've been here for a few months, I realize I could have definitely gone for a less expensive apartment and saved hundreds. But admittedly, I adore my place and it does give me peace of mind. It's pretty perfect for the 6 months in total I'll be there.

As far as food? You can usually catch me eating at little Thai street cafes for $1-$2 per meal. When I want Western food though, it's easy to find -- it's everywhere! I can get an American breakfast, chicken caesar salad, burger, or steak for about $4-$8. That's about 150-300 Thai baht. I always feel like I'm doing too much when I spend 200baht on a meal though. It's only like $6, but I'm always reminding myself I could be saving coins and eating Thai for only 30baht. 

For transportation, I've got my own set of rented wheels. My scooter, or motorbike as I usually say because it sounds cooler, is only $75/month. I get gas about once every two weeks+ (unless I drive more than usual) and filling up my tank costs a mere $4. Yes. FOUR BUCKS to fill'er up. Driving in Chiang Mai isn't as crazy as it is in Bangkok, thankfully. I've only fallen twice, but I'm good, so we won't talk about that.

Thai massage shops, parlors, and spas are everywhere in Chiang Mai. Your basic Thai massage (foot, back, neck & shoulders, or whole body) costs only $6. Yes. SIX BUCKS to get those feet caressed and de-stressed. It doesn't make sense not to take advantage, so I try to get a lil massage in weekly. I've been slacking the past couple weeks though -- to the masseuse I go!

My ultra comfy bedroom

Proudly rocking my $6 gel manicure + $2 smoothie

WHAT DO YOU DO EVERY DAY?

My day to day mostly consists of me & my laptop. I wake up and choose wherever I want to go to work -- usually one of my two favorite coffee shops, Kahweh or Hug a Cup. My Snapchat (@GetKrissed) followers often get a glimpse of my daily offices/traps/bandos. I have my favorites, but I like switching the scene up sometimes.

I've been working on building websites for clients, my own new website from which I'll be a freelance website creator (I like the term creator better than developer) and SEO/digital marketer, blogging, and learning. I spend a lot of time honing in on my skills -- readings, watching YouTube videos, taking Udemy (looove Udemy) courses -- getting better at this web craft. The more I know, the more I can charge, right!? Right. 

Chiang Mai is quite the melting pot. There are SO many people here from all around the world -- I seem to mostly meet teachers or digital nomads. The digital peeps I meet are incredibly helpful. They coordinate weekly meet ups, workshops, and information sessions... so it's really easy to reach out to one another if anyone wants to learn and ask questions. 

While I do spend the majority of my hours attached to the Mac, what I enjoy most is having the freedom to just not and do something else that day.

My favorite coffee shop - Kahweh Coffee 

I have never felt more liberated in my life. 

If I want to spend an afternoon at the Chiang Mai Grand Canyon, I can. If I want to hop on my scooter, erm, motorbike, and go exploring, stumbling across a cute cafe, I can. If I want to ride up Doi Suthep Mountain and breathe in the fresh clean air from above, I can. This feeling of being unrestrained, independent, untethered to a 5'x5' cubicle has been priceless. This is what I'm doing it all for = freedom. 

I'm working on the financial part, because of course I can only be but so free when broke. That's why I have no problem spending so much time online right now, and not as much time exploring. I know I need to lay the foundation, absorb every relevant skill, and put in the tremendous amount of work that it takes to make this life sustainable.

 

DO YOU GO OUT? HOW DO YOU MEET PEOPLE? DO BLACK PEOPLE EXIST THERE? 

The easiest way to meet people is simply by being out and about and opening your mouth. Ha, no but really, people in Chiang Mai are extremely friendly. When I'm working at coffee shops, my neighbor may chat me up and we might go catch lunch together.

Facebook Groups are an insanely valuable resource in the nomad world. I'm in a Chiang Mai Digital Nomad group, where I find out about workshops and groups hikes and people who simply want to meet up and discuss this nomad life. 

I've even tried Tinder. Eh. I was against Tinder, but I gave it a try. My friend recommended it as a good way to meet fellow Thailand expats -- and I have met a few really cool people (a Cameroonian, an American, an Australian), but the whole entertaining random e-conversations and trying to dodge sketchballs is really just not my thing. 

I met a lot of people volunteering at an orphanage -- and this has also been fulfilling to give back a little to a country that has rewarded me with so much. 

The night life scene in Chiang Mai is super chill and lowkey. I'm washed, so it's perfect for me. But occasionally I do venture out. Zoe's In Yellow is the main bar that most tourists go to -- I went once and it was just okay. My party of choice is at a place called Corner Bistro on Friday nights for Hip Hop & Fries. It's THE place to go to hear excellent hip hop and meet the entire black Chiang Mai population. 

Last Friday, I ran into a record 7-10 beautiful fellow Black Chiang Mai folks. It was my favorite night in Chiang Mai so far -- we reveled in our blackness and in being rare and had such animated and heartfelt conversation that a German girl who came across us couldn't believe we had all just met a couple hours prior. 

Before then, I only knew one black couple here. And yes, it does feel very weird not being around my people. I'm eager to embrace life in countries where African Americans just don't exist in large numbers, however, they are very much missed. I'm grateful for communities like Travel Noire though who make it easy to connect with other black travelers. Through Travel Noire, I met a new friend while she was traveling here in Thailand -- we ended up having a lot in common. Also, I'll be having Thanksgiving dinner next week with a group of fellow Travel Noire members. I'm already thankful for that and can't wait. 

A night out at Zoe's In Yellow

Volunteering at the orphanage

ANYTHING YOU DON'T LIKE ABOUT LIFE AS A SOLO BLACK NOMAD?

While I've waned poetic about living a liberated life in a beautiful country -- it hasn't been all smooth sailing. I never want to give off the impression that I'm living such an easy, stress free life of nothing but exploration.

Please understand that the dream is free - the hustle is sold separately. Accomplishing goals that go against the grain is an arduous process. 

The process for me has been nerve racking, frustrating, lonely, and more challenging than most probably think when they see me having a great time here. 

It was difficult to take on Chiang Mai by myself, to navigate and discipline myself to maintain a constantly productive schedule, to find focus and determine what I need to do. I'm figuring it all out. I have a LOT to worry about. I don't have time for anything or anyone deterring me from my goals -- thankfully, I don't have to deal with that here. The atmosphere is positive and fruitful, conducive to me blossoming. Still, it's far from easy. Sometimes I just want to hug my mom, laugh with my dad, hang out with my grandma, go to a concert with my friends, and go to my cousins' football games. 

Despite the challenges, though, I am loving this life and loving this journey. I trust the process. I feel like I am where I'm supposed to be in life, and I'm definitely happy with this move. I just want to encourage anyone else who dreams of traveling the world, and who has or wants to develop the discipline to do so, to GO FOR IT.  

Being out here feels surreal at times. I don't know exactly why, but it's hard for me to digest that it's my life. I guess because I don't see many people who look like me, who are from where I'm from, choosing a similar path. It seems a very common thing to do when you meet people here who travel the world like crazy -- but to think that everyone back home could barely conceive why I'd want to come here all alone ("and do what exactly!?") adds to this unreal sensation I tend to get whenever I'm out reflecting on life. 

I have a few more months to continue building here and to traveling around Asia. After that, I'm not sure what will happen. I may go back to the States, I may head to another country -- I'm thinking Indonesia next. Anyone fancy a visit to Bali!? 



Kristen Noelle

I consider myself a softly eccentric urbanista. I’m quiet by nature, and I’ve generally always had a mellow laid-back vibe. However, when it comes to my preferences for fun, my style, and my overall thought process, I get a bit more eccentric. I like stepping out of the box of normalcy -- but without forcing anything. I’m a thrill junkie and I live for things that get my adrenaline pumping, such as riding on top of party buses in New York City and hanging off of skyscrapers in Vegas. I spring for bold hues, colorful prints and patterns, and a relaxed look that gives effortless-chic. I like exploring new places and capturing exciting sites. I’m a creative, with a million different ideas running through my mind each day. Whether I’m designing waistbeads, imagining up new clothing concepts, envisioning my next business venture, or planning my next adventure abroad, I’m always thinking of how I can create something great. Being raised in the suburbs but not far from the city and constantly traveling, I developed a love for the best of worlds. The calm and the crazy. The easy-going and the always-buzzing. The soft and the eccentric.