In November 2016, I needed a change. I have been working hard to migrate the HQ to Azure and the German winter was dragging me down.
On short notice, I decided to work from some place nice and warm for a while. So I asked my boss and booked the flights.
Only 5 days later, I found myself on a beautiful beach in Thailand with my laptop and a backpack. I had two weeks in the area around Phuket and a goal: experience the lifestyle of a digital nomad.
Before I left, I did a bit of research about the things to consider, the places to go to and the recommendations of other nomads. I found great coworking spaces that promised a strong community and the ability to work close to the beach. I wanted to check that out myself.
I spent the first days in Patong, a rather ugly beach town known for its party area and many tourists. The Garage Society coworking space, a part of the Lub’d hostel, only opened a week before I arrived. The place was very modern with a great working environment and a pool, but still empty since it was so new.
Before I got there, I was worried about the WiFi and Internet connection, since a lot of my work requires a stable connection to our office. While the connection in hotels and hostels was often unreliable, especially in the afternoon and evenings, the coworking spaces all featured a perfectly reliable high-speed connection that made work very efficient.
Next, I stayed in Kata Beach and Phuket Town where I worked from Hatch coworking space, a small but modern office in downtown Phuket. The great thing about Hatch is that drinks and snacks are included in the price.
All the time I worked remotely, I felt involved with my team at HQLabs. We use Slack to communicate and Facetime worked perfectly even on a 3G mobile connection. (They offer 4G too but I used all my included high-speed data volume on the first day due to a bad WiFi in my hotel.) The different time zone was actually an advantage for me. When I woke up in Thailand, it was typically 2am in Germany, so I had lots of time to perform server maintenance without our customers being affected. At that time, we were migrating our customer systems to Azure and this way I could do it without any significant downtime.
My next destination was Ko Phi Phi, a top destination that many backpackers and tourists travel to. Finding accommodation wasn’t easy. During my research I learnt that the beaches turn into a party at night and many hostels go by names like “Hangover Hostel” or “Beerpong Palace”, not the ideal place when you plan to work there. I ended up staying in Beacha Club, a beachfront hotel with private and clean rooms. I spent more for less value than all other nights, but I thought that I would stay for one night only.
It turned out that Ko Phi Phi is actually so beautiful that I just had to stay longer. My hotel had a beachfront restaurant where I worked from 8am to 12pm during breakfast with a beautiful and empty beach (the party folks were still sleeping in their hostels) right in front of me. I spent extended lunch breaks on the beautiful beaches of the island and returned to the beach restaurant to work where I stayed until the beach parties started at 10pm.
There was one more coworking space that I read a lot about before my trip: KoHub on Ko Lanta. After a few amazing days on Ko Phi Phi I took the ferry to Lanta and was greeted by a totally different coworking experience. Compared to the other coworking spaces, KoHub was huge and full of life. People of all areas of the world worked on the “Deck”, an outdoor area under a bamboo roof and enjoyed joint lunch from the KoHub kitchen. Community events took place every day. And the beach is really only 2 minutes away. At KoHub, I really felt like a place where I could work for more than just a few days. Any many people I met there stayed for months and have been coming back for years in a row. No wonder, the social events and friendly atmosphere made me feel at home.
Traveling alone taught me to be more proactive and to be confident with my own decisions. At the same time, when you are traveling on your own, you are typically very open to meet other people to share experiences with. Travel contacts are often thought to be superficial, but I noticed that this isn’t necessarily the case. I was happy to have met like-minded travelers and digital nomads that shared their stories, talked about their favorite workplaces and inspired me in many ways.
Such a travel experience is unlike anything most people do in their vacations and it is totally my own. I noticed that I do not need an office or even a desk to do my work efficiently. I am sure that this learning will help me to be more independent and open in the future, but also see my work life in a different light. I hope I can live the digital nomad life again soon!