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Auroville in south-eastern India is certainly a very different place in the world. Born over 50 years ago as a reaction to the tension of the Cold War days, Auroville is a social experiment exploring alternative, spiritual values-led human societies.
Auroville wants to be a universal town where men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities.
The purpose of Auroville is to realise human unity.
After enjoying my first visit last August, I returned to celebrate Auroville’s 50th anniversary on February 28, 2018. After stepping offline for a 10-day silent Vipassana meditation retreat in Tiruvannamalai, I spent another week decompressing back in Auroville.
The more time I spend in Auroville, the more it grows on me. The more of a local routine I fall into, I gain a greater appreciation for the healthy air, environment and spiritual values.
Every day in Auroville, I discover something new, I learn something, inspiration hits.
But is Auroville truly suitable for digital nomads?
The Five Principles of Auroville
As an autonomous society in India, Auroville is guided by a set of five core principles:
Auroville belongs to nobody in particular. Auroville belongs to humanity as a whole. But to live in Auroville one must be a willing servitor of the Divine Consciousness.
Auroville will be the place of an unending education, of constant progress and a youth that never ages.
Auroville wants to be the bridge between the past and the future. Taking advantage of all discoveries from without and from within, Auroville will boldly spring towards future realisations.
Auroville will be a site of material and spiritual researches for a living embodiment of an actual human unity.
What and Where is Auroville?
Auroville is an experimental township in the south east of India, next to Pondicherry, and a few hours south of the Tamil Nadu state capital, Chennai.
Currently host to approximately 3000 residents, Auroville was born over 50 years ago. It operates under a different economic system, leadership through consensus, and in some ways its bureaucracy is clearly rooted in the 60s and 70s.
Auroville is often resistant to substantial new change or taking on influences from the outside, and its slow pace of integrating new residents – or Aurovillians – has impeded its growth. The original target of tens of thousands of residents is but a fraction – and the population is aging rapidly.
One of Auroville’s most impressive features is how the land originated as red, clay-like desert, and has since, over the decades, transformed into lush rainforest, reinvigorating a great new number of natural species of flora and fauna… and insects.
There are dozens of guesthouses, workshops and small enterprises that operate within Auroville. Many guesthouses have different, inspiring names like Gratitude, Discovery, Creativity, and Aspiration.
On my first visit I stayed at a guesthouse called Transformation, an architectural masterpiece from the 70s, in the quiet northern forest area. More recently I pitched my tent at African Pavilion and helped volunteer during Auroville’s 50th anniversary celebrations.
There is something for anybody with an open mind, to experience an alternative viewpoint in how societies and communities can thrive.
Why Auroville is Suitable for Digital Nomads
At first I was skeptical that Auroville was suitable for this sort of freelance work lifestyle.
The wifi wasn’t great in some places, and a complete lack of any mobile coverage in others. It became a little expensive constantly working from cafes and restaurants. It can be distracting with all the stimulating places and people to explore!
After my second visit, I adapted, improving my routine and productivity. I balanced an immersive social life with accomplishing my necessary work.
On the surface, Auroville ticks all the boxes for the location independent freelancer:
Excellent, warm weather
Highly affordable – close to many local Indian restaurants and accommodation. Auroville itself is only a little bit more expensive than the average Indian prices.
Quality and freshness of food and ingredients
Quiet and peaceful. There is an ocean and beaches nearby, though not the cleanest.
In particular, there is just enough highly passable connectivity in Auroville, while encouraging you step away from your devices to enjoy what the locale has to offer.
Tired of being a computer programmer or writer? There is an abundance of (mostly) free workshops and volunteer opportunities where you can explore new skills and interests.
The one conflict against digital nomadism in Auroville is in its non-commercial, sort of vibe. There’s a little bit of an irony of establishing oneself there purely for the purpose of computer-based work.
The soul and spirit there reiterates that there is so much more to life.
Wifi Cafes and Hotspots in Auroville
Wifi accessibility is gradually improving in Auroville. 3G/4G does not reliably work in the centre, and many guesthouses intentionally restrict it.
That said, there are several places you can acquire sufficient wifi for your digital nomad and freelancer work.
Marc’s Cafe – Auroville Main Rd, Kuilapalayam – My favourite and most visited cafe to work in Auroville, located on the main road outside of the green zone. Marc’s cafe features free wifi, excellent own-roasted coffee, deliciously healthy snacks, a comfortable air conditioned area called “The Living Room”, and some interesting people visiting the space. *Recommended*
Well Cafe – A health-oriented cafe in the quieter north part of Auroville, designed for vegans and vegetarians. Food is fresh, Israeli inspired. The wifi works decently enough to work from over lunch, and it has a comfortable, breezy energy.
Mother’s Grace – Auroville Rd, Kuilapalayam – Nice, chilled vibe in a shade-friendly setting out of the sun. Slow cooked, tasty Indian food and drinks at reasonable prices. Wifi has worked well.
3 Ways Restaurant – Close to Auroville Main Rd, Edayanchavadi – For those seeking a quiet, chill work space in the evenings, 3 Ways features an attic level. Their Indian food selection is terrific, and highly affordable. Wifi is strong. Later at night you’ll observe many dozens of cows chilling outside in the parking lot.
Bread and Chocolate – MDR, 1115, Auroville Main Road, Kuilapalayam – Delicious, high end coffees, pastries and sandwiches. The affogado vegan ice cream and coffee plunger combination is excellent value for dollar. Warning: Already the most expensive cafe in the area, my final visit included an inexplicable tax and service charge rip off.
Dreamers Cafe – Auroville Visitor’s Centre. This is more of a note on why not to consider working from here. First, as the initial entry point for virtually all visitors to Auroville, it is far too touristy. Wifi has never really worked for me, over multiple visits. That said, it’s a great, central place to meet up with new friends, and the vegan chocolate ice cream must be tasted!
Notable Restaurants around Auroville
The food in Auroville is often spectacular. Mostly local ingredients are sourced fresh, and there is a high level of quality across a great number of nearby establishments.
Beyond the wifi options listed above, there is no shortage of quality, affordable restaurants in and around Auroville. I can’t recall eating so consistently healthy, with an abundance of fresh, organic ingredients. Typically Indian prices – a few dollars per plate.
Solar Kitchen – Organic, vegan food, served lunch and dinner, in a busy, social atmosphere. Only a few dollars. For this you will need an AuroCard, through registration at Town Hall.
Naturellement – A little pricier, but absolutely wonderful. Fresh baked breads for sandwiches, homemade pastas. Excellent assortment of tasty juices.
Plan B – A very popular spot just outside of the main gate. Particularly busy on Sunday evenings – make sure you arrive early enough, or they’ll run out of classics like paneer. Tasty and cheap!
Le Sigdi – Perhaps the finest restaurant in Auroville? Le Sigdi offers a quaint garden setting and a pleasant variation of dishes. Surprisingly, without the additional price tag.
Saturday Night pizza at Youth Centre – A R200 contribution gains you unlimited, all-you-can eat wood-fired pizza. Prepare to eat a lot! You’ll also meet a lot of interesting people, irrespective of age.
Tanto Pizza – There is a pizza craze in India. Tanto is one of several Auroville-area establishments that bake their pizzas in an Auroville-made wood-fired pizza oven. It’s a little pricey and you’ll hear some murmurs about their place in Auroville, but if you’re looking for a decent pizza restaurant, check it.
For those looking for more traditional cuisine, there is a street stall outside the main gate in the mornings that serves dosas and masala chai, for R20-30 per dosa.
With the French colonial influence in Auroville, there is also a number of decent French restaurants
Things to Do, Places to See in Auroville
Auroville is akin to a nature-inspired playground. There are countless places inside and outside to explore. Regular workshops and riveting one-off events.
It’s challenging to find out everything that happens. Locals recommend you visit artservice.auroville.org, though this website is not the most usable or accurate.
What Auroville is NOT, is a party zone. Drugs, alcohol and even smoking are prohibited. For the party vibe, stay outside of the centre, and visit nearby city Pondicherry. Auroville is geared towards people seeking more out of life than the party scene.
That said, we did attend a small rave in a faraway fields on the outskirts of Auroville, that served “bhang” (marijuana) lassis.
Matrimandir – The most famous landmark of Auroville, this space-age, golden golf ball hosts one of the most spectacular interiors in human design history. A full meditation chamber, with smaller meditation pods, it is a truly special place to visit. You need to register at the Visitor’s Centre, 1-3 days before. There is a short 15 minute video before a shuttle bus ahead of the guided, solemn visit.
Sadhana Forest – An international revelation in its approach to sustainable ecosystems. Helped transform Auroville from a desert to a rainforest, and is setting up similar self-sufficient food and plant systems in other parts around the world. Every two Fridays there is a tour, free dinner and movie presentation at this beautiful place.
Cinema Paradiso – Auroville’s underground cinema hosts multiple films most nights, free of charge. French, Russian, English, Indian and more.
Svaram – Ingenious creators of creative, custom musical instruments. Some are huge, many are seemingly simplistic, using natural materials like stone and wood. Includes a small outdoor park for you to play with some of their creations, and an inside shop for you to play with more.
Auroville Radio – Broadcasting 24/7, Auroville Radio unites the community with stories and sounds from around Auroville.
Pony Farm – Kids can enjoy pony rides and learning more about the lives of happy horses.
African Pavilion – This campground hosts weekly drum circle on Thursdays as well as providing traditional African food.
Aikido – The peaceful, non-confrontational martial art of Aikido transforms and subdues any attacking energy through a series of small, natural movements. Numerous classes each week, for all skill levels.
Botanical Gardens – Auroville is home to a spectacular collection of flora and fauna at their massive Botanical Gardens. Free to visit, put aside hours to explore.
Yoga at Verite, numerous other places – Yoga is a popular pastime in Auroville, as it is in much of the world. There are many yoga practices in Auroville, highlighted by the impressive facilities and feminine vibes at Verite.
Concerts at Cripa and other places – Keep an eye on noticeboards and online for happenings around Auroville. There are regularly excellent, unique live performances of music, art, dance, poetry, and more. Keep your ears open and be receptive to invitations!
In Auroville, you often have to dig deeper. Any interaction with Aurovillians is a true bonus!
Places to Stay in and around Auroville
To stay in Auroville, you send enquiries through the Auroville guesthouse website. Filling out your details at each prospective residence results in a reply with details from the house manager.
There is a wide variety of different guesthouses at which to stay in Auroville, each with different themes, styles and intentions. Some require more lengthy stays, often at least a few days or a week. Prices depend on the quality of the room and the guesthouse itself, but are generally far less than you would pay at a city hotel.
Transformation – I stayed here on my first visit. Transformation Guesthouse is quiet, secluded, with a gorgeous swimming pool. The architecture is beautiful, and rooms are spacious. Family friendly.
African Pavilion – If camping is more your vibe, you can stay at African Pavilion for a few dollars a day. It is expected that you volunteer at least a few mornings a week, helping with landscaping, gardening, learning new means of sustainable irrigation, cleaning – whatever you feel like! Each Thursday there is an African drum circle and traditional African food.
Green’s Eco Guesthouse – a well-regarded hostel just outside the main gate.
Rusty Rabbit – on Auroville main road, a newcomer that many guests enjoy. Features a lovely rooftop that is sometimes a restaurant, or useful as a chill/workspace during the day.
Transportation to, from and around Auroville
Auroville is easily reached by bus from major cities Chennai and Bangalore. Pondicherry is the nearest city of note.
Chennai to/from Auroville – Shared Transport Service / UTS. Best to share, which may cost you up to R1000, or you’ll foot the general R2000 bill yourself.
Take public buses. Take a train from Chennai Airport, then a bus to Pondicherry. This takes longer, but is an authentic Indian experience, and extremely cheap – I believe less than R100 for the entire combination.
To/from Pondicherry, a moto taxi or rickshaw will cost you R300-400, depending on the driver and time of day or night. Always negotiate the price first, and know you can almost always shave R50-100 off the offered price.
Having arrived in Auroville, rent a moped (R70 per day) or scooter (R150-250 per day). A bicycle is fine, but will limit your options for further places. I’ve known a few people who choose to walk everywhere. A scooter is greatly recommended!
Auroville Digital Nomads on the Rise
With my visits and stays in India increasing, my heart grows in Auroville. The balance of connectivity and being able to step away from it all. The close connection with spirituality, with a harmonious blend of Western and Indian values and creations.
I noticed many other digital nomads working from laptops in the relaxed confines of Auroville, and it appears to be gaining traction as a hotspot.
For those seeking to develop their spiritual growth and become a more conscious human, while working away on the regular necessities to support your life, Auroville is worth a visit. Put aside a couple of weeks to explore, and see what you think. Try to dig a little deeper beneath the surface.
At the very least you’ll have experienced one of the most special, conscious-oriented places on the planet, and learned a few new things.
And perhaps it will inspire your own life and mission to greater heights, when you see what more beyond today’s world we are capable of as a human society.
Count me among one digital nomad in Auroville considering the plunge for a more extended stay, and perhaps even a move there one day.
On this very special day of April 13 2018, I am proud to share: Sun Moon Sea. 25 years in the making.
Sun Moon Sea tours a series of peace concerts and pop up shows around the world.
The concept fuses together a transient orchestra with melodic, atmospheric electronica, 3D projected film, and live performance art. Ambient and electric, sometimes tribal.
Each performance ponders a subject or theme relative to and collaborating with the local community, uniting participants from altering perspectives, perhaps on opposing sides of divisions. An objective look at present day realities, and artistic solutions for constructive resolutions.
How did this take 25 years for this to finally take shape?
April 13 – The Birth of Sun Moon Sea
Annually, April 13 is a special date for me, usually celebrated with significance.
I’ve had much magic happen, from 1993 onward. In 1996 I mingled with Toronto street kids. In 2000, it was my first date with a woman who became my soulmate for nearly six years. In Melbourne, the GASHE G:5 and G:7-day festivals both touched April 13.
It all began 25 years ago today – on April 13, 1993. I was blown away by the rare and spectacular Metallica concert in Singapore. I knew from that night that my destiny was creating music, visual art and exhilarating live, unifying experiences.
Over the following years, I recorded and produced a few low key albums, across metal, industrial, and experimental electronica in the 90s.
However, I realised my overall approach to a life of music and art would have to be different than the typical prescription.
Building a Foundation for a Lasting Legacy
First, I had to set up the foundation of everything needed for a musical act to thrive and endure. I began gaining experience volunteering at major music festivals in Canada, including MCA Concerts and Lollapalooza. Helped others with their venues and events, eventually throwing my own gigs, festivals and raves.
I set up a media network, that included one of the earliest and most popular Internet radio networks, UMFM. We ran a magazine, online forums, publicity wing, and so forth. Through these, I pieced together an international contacts network of radio, magazines, writers, PR agencies, agencies, venues, promoters and other artists.
While predominantly a laptop DJ in Toronto in the early 2000s, over the following decade I experimented with a range of DJ equipment, methods and styles. I didn’t really feel comfortable with any of them – not quite the live feel of playing my own creations. Hence. I didn’t practice enough or thrive in any DJ medium. I played some inspired gigs, but I also had several disasters. I learned from it all.
Whenever I have a chance to be totally alone with a guitar or an instrument, it all comes back to me. The power and the inspiration are there. There’s a few missing pieces to complete.
There has never been an end to learning, trying, failing, and trying again, whether in music, or building the wider network.
Art without Influence by Money or Mainstream
The most challenging component has been setting up a sustainable financial engine.
As in, earning a living. The theoretical mechanism is the business side takes care of my bills, living expenses, travel, fun. Allowing art to be created freely.
No need or desperation to be tarnished, influenced or motivated whatsoever by money, commercialism or popular pressure. My business takes care of what I need on the money end; art is expressive. It doesn’t really matter what anybody else thinks, allowing me to truly create.
The music will be open source and available free for everybody. Funds raised at live concerts will directly benefit the causes as appropriate. We don’t include tracking codes, analytics, cookies or third party files on any of our websites or pages. Privacy and consent for everything comes first.
I haven’t quite mastered the financial side of life yet, but it’s close enough for me to dedicate more serious time to my art. Increasingly over the past year I have spent more time researching, experimenting, microdose learning, practicing, brainstorming, and putting together the finishing touches on this project.
The time has now come to bring everything together.
Sun Moon Sea, and the Impact of Art on Society
For decades I’ve been studying the largely abject state of the world, digging deep between the lines, and endlessly putting my mind to how we can alleviate the ills of society. Ways we can chip away at peace in the world, from all levels and directions. Art and satire lend a more accessible and less dangerous path to communicating this.
It’s been a huge burden and frustration at times, the weight of the world. It’s brought on great depression and sadness. Can anything even be done?
During my recent 10-day silent Vipassana meditation in India, the whole concept, all of this journey, and all of the components, came to me in perfect clarity.
I saw the act’s name, the vision, full concertos fusing orchestras and electronica, the first physical setting, and how I could take the idea to do good things in the world.
In numerous of my meditation sessions and falling asleep at night, an hour’s concert played in my head, while I dreamed everything – the visuals, the crowd’s energy, its impact.
The Dogs Live On
I wrote a novel in 1996 about a city-society of dogs, where all animals live in relative peace. The dogs live a privileged life, becoming distracted by the realities of the wider world – that humans have been causing death and destruction around them. This unites the animals, and by book’s end, they deal with humanity.
The film sequel is The Dogs Live On. I wanted to bring this story to a wider audience, and have the moral truly impact social change in the world.
It was due for release here in 2018, the Year of the Dog in the Chinese calendar. It has taken considerably longer than expected – but the things I am releasing in this Year of the Dog all capture the original essence and spirit.
The vision is to tour the film around the world, with a mini-orchestra playing the soundtrack live along with the film.
But who would write and perform the music? This has stumped me for a long time.
Enter… The Sun, The Moon, The Sea.
Perhaps, lasting well beyond the orchestral soundtrack and performance of The Dogs Live On, the Sun Moon Sea concept can explore more conflicts and challenges in our society.
Peace Concerts and Objectivity of Modern Realities
There is a bolder, more ambitious vision for the project. After a year or two of further experimentation and research, by 2020 Sun Moon Sea will begin touring around the world.
Some concepts are huge, well in the future, when the time and climate are right. Most will require meticulous research, planning and execution. Others may pop up as appropriate.
One ultimate vision saw 3D projections on the Palestinian-Israeli wall, objectively looking at and acknowledging something that is there in reality. No politics or blame. It’s a fact of every day life, the wall.
Perhaps using imagery to share stories of compassion from both sides, communicate their solutions. Maybe depict what the world could look like, one brick at a time coming down. Like the Berlin wall in 1989. As, it will happen one day.
I visualised a homeless benefit concert in Toronto, the metropolis region where I lived on the streets for over a year. Bringing together homeless people and people of influence in the audience, on stage for those with musical abilities. The crowd wouldn’t have to know who was who, until the end. A clown and cabaret introduction. Performances by my talented Canadian friends with their own established acts. Funds raised directly in the hands of local missions and homeless projects.
Working with local communities, and constructively helping them look at their own situations, perhaps with creative, artist solutions. Bringing together sides of any tension and turmoil to show the strength of unity and the power of making baby step efforts to heal.
Perhaps we can better articulate realistic solutions to influential yet destructive corporations. How a marriage with the environment and diverse beliefs, can be of greater benefit to everybody.
Show the light to politicians in typically corrupt places, that even a little more compassion and better use of their resources can bring so much relief, optimism and harmony to their constituents. That class separation can work differently.
A reminder that we are human, together on this planet. The possibilities are infinite.
Influences of the Sun Moon Sea
There are a few pieces that provide a glimpse at the style being cultivated over the decades.
Metallica‘s own earlier compositions had a heavy classical influence, prevalent in the intellectual complexity of their rhythms and solos. I consider …And Justice For All, Master of Puppets and Ride The Lightning three of the most gifted musical albums of all time.
On the classical front, Mozart’s Mass in C Minor remains one of the most inspirational and brilliant compositions in human history. Powerful, inspiring, with a broad emotional range.
Mozart - Great Mass in C minor / Nathalie Stutzmann - YouTube
Bonobo was a huge influence over the past fifteen years. His melodic downtempo and emotive atmospheric creations are often funky and cheerful. Accelerated to the highest level with his humble but supremely talented live band. Almost a mini orchestra at times. He balances his career as a DJ and electronica artist with the magic of live, full ensemble performance, bouncing them off one another.
Bonobo full live band- Black Sands - YouTube
In one of my biggest recent influences, a prime example of where classical orchestra meets electronica, comes from Germany. Hamburg-raised/ Berlin-based electronica and experimental artist David August performed original compositions with the world-renowned Deutches Symphonie-Orchester. Producing one of the most stunning and inspiring pieces of music I have heard.
David August & Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Boiler Room Berlin Live Performance - YouTube
Finally, David August’s unexpected recent release takes the next step – progressing experimental, atmospheric ambience. His one hour soundscape of ambient music is complemented by a visual accompaniment. This is parallel to what I’ve been working on over the years.
chant#1: DAVID AUGUST - DCXXXIX A.C. - YouTube
As modern music becomes ever more ordinary, formulated and mechanized, I believe that ambient, orchestral, classical, jazz and tribal sounds in alternate or non-existent time signatures will rise again. And more than effective if only acoustic.
Robots will have their own bands, art and styles one day soon – while art showcases the prevailing human spirit
The Next Steps
The first live show is currently under planning, destined for Borderland 2018 in Denmark. A low key but memorably inspiring introduction to the concept. An atmospheric night in a cavernous facility, tapping into the dreams and imagination of every visiting participant, while our orchestra and ambient sounds play. We are looking at building a “dream machine” for the visual component.
Music releases are on their way. Our music composed over the past 25 years is surprisingly and pleasantly timeless. Much of it requires a few added instruments, others a higher level of production expertise. I continue to study the inner workings of a 59-piece orchestra. The live show will integrate the musical concepts into eventual, tangible recordings. There is no rush for anything.
The Dogs Live On will come
Over the coming weeks, months and years, I will find visual and projection artists, recruit musicians for one off local shows, and build a core of a longer lasting troupe members. Any creative skill or capability that can help is appreciated.
Fully consentual, everybody is a volunteer and participant, motivated by a greater purpose. Help as much and for as long as you want. Nothing and nobody is permanent. Even me.
I believe a beautiful time is coming, in our own lives, and, after some dark days ahead, society as a whole. Perhaps this conscious evolution’s soundtrack to life will be performed and captured by The Sun, The Moon, The Sea.
In a first for Digital Nomad, we present a recipe, of blueberry peanut butter waffles.
I departed my home in Melbourne nearly ten months ago, and haven’t looked back.
After two months in India, and eight months in Asia, I’m a tad exhausted. Every morning I wake up wondering where I am.
Things are slowing down a little. I arrived in Germany end of March, and spent my first week in Cologne. Returning to Berlin, this time to settle down, even for a little while.
Perhaps a month to start, but that’s a long time for me lately.
Berlin is one of a few cities I’m thinking about making my European base, and the place from which to organise myself starting again from scratch, making things happen, and saving up for #vanlife.
It’s an incredible luxury to have my own room again, and a nice kitchen. Instead of party invitations, preferring evenings of peace, solitude and creativity. Snacks accompanying me along the way.
Inspired by my first weekend in Berlin, I share this concoction created a few days ago. It is simply wonderful.
Blueberry Peanut Butter Waffles Recipe
For this recipe to truly blossom, you’ll need:
Waffles – Store bought, or make yourself. As healthy as you wish to make them.
Wild Blueberry – Not the jam, but the jars with little blueberries at the bottom, filled with juice
Peanut Butter – as healthy / creamy / crunchy as you desire.
Real blueberries – This is the topper, but if you can’t find any, you can top them with the Wild Blueberries from the top (original recipe)
In my video below, I totally forgot to add the Wild Blueberries to the top of the peanut butter, until this sentence, right now.
So… do yourself a favour, and double down on the blueberry topping.
Watch the recipe unfold, in the video below.
Coming soon on Digital Nomad
We have a few things to accomplish in Berlin. One is to learn from fusions of classical and electronic music. Another is to see Berlin’s and Germany’s progress on the bringing peace to its society and the planet. I’m not here to mess around.
Goa, on the West coast of India, is one of the most special places on the planet. A visit all worldly, youthful travelers should make at least once in their lifetimes.
It feels like a rite of passage. Younger travelers, festival goers and artists stop through one of the many, diverse beach communities of Goa to expand their spirituality and consciousness. Older visitors enjoy the smooth, clean sand, warm ocean and beautiful views. Couples deepen bonds.
Many people come and decide to stay forever. At least, for as long as they can, and during season. Old hippies. Yoga in abundance.
As a former Portuguese colony, the buildings feature a distinctly bright and coastal flair. There is a huge Russian influence, evident in the populace and signage, while barely any Americans.
People come for the nightlife, parties and festivals, in excellent climate, satisfying food, all highly affordable.
With all these attributes, it’s no surprise that there are many digital nomads that come to Goa, and land in Arambol specifically.
But is it an ideal place to accomplish work?
Why Arambol Beach?
As discussed in my upcoming book, Plan Sea, dreaming and research are essential steps of affluent travel preparation. Do your homework for the best possible experience based on your wants and needs.
Goa is not simply an area – it’s a full, albeit small, state in Western India. There are many beaches and communities from which to pick. It takes a very long time to travel between places.
South Goa is vastly different than North Goa. South Goa is far quieter and less about parties. Anjuna and Vagator beaches in the south part of North Goa are for more hardcore festival goers, while Arambol Beach towards the northern part of North Goa, is more bohemian and artistic. I chose the latter.
I met countless other writers in Arambol. The level of intellectual thought and consciousness here is refreshing. The journeys from and to, with Goa a well-designed stop in the middle, have brought all of us together in this little, mutual portal of time.
If you enjoy exploring, you can walk north along the coast, and reach a more secluded Paliem Beach. It’s next to a stunning lake and trees area called Sweet Lake. There is an epic banyan tree where you’ll meet pseudo-traditional babas, blessing you and asking for money and alcohol. Sometimes they have snakes!
There is a small mountain to climb, and if you’re game, you could probably pitch your tent somewhere.
Travellers and Digital Nomads in Arambol
Arambol is the first place I have encountered so many similar travelers with unique, often complex, travel histories and multiple nationalities.
Adventurers on so many different variations of voyages, short, long and longer.
Though, perhaps, a minority compared to the overall tourist numbers, I noticed many other digital nomads in Arambol. Usually, mid to late afternoon, with scenic views of the beaches and ocean, hurriedly typing away on laptops.
The realities are that daily power cuts, Internet irregularities and regular distractions add challenges to a productive digital nomadic lifestyle. Wifi is inconsistent. 3G/4G mobile reception is not the best, often resulting in no signal. You’ll need to be patient and have some sort of back up plan. Having a book I could write offline helped keep my productivity high when inspired.
While most guesthouses and restaurants offer some level of wifi, connection speeds are not the best. Fortunately, there are a few spots I found that allowed me to work productively enough.
Bees Knees – A restaurant in a chilled setting on the main strip, Bees Knees features various breakfast specials for around R190. I ate and worked from here three times, enjoying the serenity (and the wifi that usually worked!)
This is It – On the north part of the beach, This Is It is well situated view ocean views and a social hub due to foot traffic. They offer tantalising dosas from R40, and a sensational ice coffee with chocolate called a Tropical Iceberg. Wifi is satisfactory. I spent many a day losing myself for hours at This is It, sometimes productive, often social.
No Name – A guesthouse and restaurant, the rooftop of No Name is designed as a co-working space. Perhaps one of the best views and locales of any digital nomad-friendly workspace in the world! Ocean and nature panorama in a shady setting, with fast wifi and access to tasty food and drink. I spent most of my more “serious” work time at No Name. R1000 per week, R300 per day, or R50 per hour for fast Internet.
Black Pearl – Popular cafe with decent coffee. They seemed to suffer more from power cuts than any other place, resulting in diminished wifi. I was unable to work from here between lack of power/wifi, and the small space that was usually full of people sipping coffee.
La Cayden – The rooftop is super chill with the best beats I heard in Goa. Nice restaurant. Wifi was decent. I mention it for those seeking prospective work options, but whenever I was up here I was generally with a social group.
Places to Stay in Arambol
There is no shortage of places to stay in Arambol, suited to your budget and style. If Arambol itself is too busy for you, try more south at beautiful and quieter Mandram and Morjim beaches.
While I couldn’t quite bring myself to stay at a place called Cocks Town, a sub-$8 beach hut with a double bed, it’s proximity to the beach and Arambol action is attractive.
Roadhouse Hostels (Arambol) – An excellent starting choice for Arambol. The social area as you enter the property is perched at the top of a small hill, everybody that comes and goes is greeted by those around. I met many wonderful, engaging people at Roadhouse, from the very first night. Artists, writers, philosophers, musicians, from all over India and the world. We formed a crew for my two weeks in Goa from my early Roadhouse days. Dorms from a few hundred rupees, though I splurged for a private room at R500 a night.
Love Temple was recommended by one of my Roadhouse crew. It is a more feminine space, in the middle of the beach, geared towards yoga and meditation. The fresh and organic food, while a little pricey, is top notch. The locale is second to none – gorgeous beach views and a very chilled vibe. Lots of lounge area places to sit. The wifi was usually fine early in the morning, but drastically deteriorates as more people visit the popular place. Dorm beds (not bunks) from R400 per night, private bungalows available.
La Cayden – After a week of illness due to unwashed strawberries from a street vendor, and weeks sleeping in a tent ahead, I wanted to treat myself to a proper bed. La Cayden is beside No Name, from where I heard their awesome downtempo and bassy beats. I found a special on booking.com making a few nights there worthwhile. Super, spacious room, big bed, small balcony, and legitimate hot water shower. R600 per night on special.
I was keen to set up my tent, but between a brief illness and impromptu social plans, it didn’t happen on this trip. Also, guesthouses are so affordable at a few dollars per night, most people don’t think about camping.
Cash and Currency
One of the many challenges of Goa life is the lack of convenient access to money.
Most places do not take bank cards, relying instead on cash. This means you have to venture out of Arambol town, to one of the two ATMs in the main village. It’s a twenty minute walk at a good pace.
The first ATM usually has a long line waiting to withdraw money. Your bank card might not necessarily work. The machine often runs out of money.
A tip is that there is a second ATM a few more minutes up the road most people are too lazy to walk to – or don’t know about. If this first ATM has a line, out of cash, or has problems with your bank card, continue walking the same direction away from Arambol, and there is a small ATM on the right.
One of my temporary acquaintances shared similar problems withdrawing money, though the second ATM worked for me. I think a temporary bank block was placed on her card, preventing her from trying again.
I shared with her one of my travel tips – using your foreign currency at a money exchange shop. This tip helped her greatly, and she was able to exchange thousands of Russian rubles for Indian rupees (virtually the same exchange rate).
Other tips in my book include traveling with a second or third backup bank card, designed for travel. Not just in case your main card doesn’t work, but if it’s stolen, as mine was in Cambodia. Keep a little cash on it, and stored separately from your main wallet or bank card.
There is no cryptocurrency possibility yet in Arambol or Goa, no Bitcoin ATM, or any place that currently accepts it.
Transportation around Arambol and Goa
Taxi cartels run Goa, making life difficult and expensive for you to get around, challenging enough to begin with.
There is no Uber, Grab or Ola, though ride sharing appears to be on the way. Getting between main parts of Goa is extremely expensive, so pick your home base location wisely.
Use a ride sharing board or group if you can. Putting a post out on Facebook found me one person to share a taxi to the airport. Personal networking and luck found me another – dropping the usual price to the airport of R1800 down to a more palatable R600 for each of us.
If you prefer the mobility of scooters and motorcycles, these are the transportation methods of choice in Goa. Scooters run from around R300 per day (really around 12 hours for an early morning drop off), so it’s best to rent multiple days, where prices can drop to R150-200 range, and you get to return it at the end of the final day.
Be very careful driving, and even walking, around Arambol and Goa. There are many drunk, stoned and distracted people driving around. This results in many accidents and injuries. Police will stop you on the main roads between the different parts of the state (e.g. between Arambol and Vagator), and fine you if your passenger isn’t wearing a helmet.
You can take public buses to/from the airport or train station, head to the capital, Panaji. From there you’ll be able to piece together 1-2 buses to reach your chosen destination. R30-50 per bus.
This could be a whole separate article or even blog. Goa is renowned for its nightlife. It is the epicentre of the original psychedelic trance scene that starting shaking the world decades ago.
There is no shortage of live events in Arambol. There are numerous live music venues, smaller live performances at numerous guesthouses and cafes, and the occasional beach party. The Source, Lost in Nature and Ash are just three examples. We found a techno party on the beach outside Cafe Food Planet.
As mentioned earlier, if you’re all about the big psy-trance parties, head to Vagator and Anjuna. For Arambol, there is a little more emphasis on live music, poetry and spoken word, chilled out beats and a nightly drum circle outside Love Temple.
Whatever your entertainment tastes, Goa has it somewhere. Arambol features more than enough variety and choice to immerse yourself there for a few weeks without leaving.
Note that “season” is from the later part of the year, through to early March. After that, the parties and crowds dry up. This may be to your liking if you want more peace and quiet!
Thoughts on Arambol Goa for Digital Nomads
My two weeks in Arambol became one of the most peaceful, uplifting and enjoyable times of my life. This commenced an unexpected spiritual journey, through connections I made, and seemed to be destined to make.
The work perspective depends on your personal level of discipline. There are distractions everywhere. The weather and vibe is incredibly sleepy and serene, and if you smoke green, it’s regularly accessible.
For digital nomads in Arambol, if you can take care of your work earlier in the day, accept that you may not always be optimally productive, and balance enjoying life and accomplishing work, you’ll thrive.
Arambol ticks all the digital nomad boxes: weather, food, chilled vibe, close to beaches, cool crowd, things to do. Wifi connectivity and local transportation could improve.
Goa life is an adventure and reiterates what life is all about: Living. Balance that work/chill lifestyle, and enjoy every moment while growing as a human.
This is a guide for digital nomads in Johor Bahru.
Johor is the well-situated border town bridging Malaysia and Singapore.
While Singapore can be atrociously expensive, particularly in terms of accommodation and nightlife, Johor is low-cost with excellent weather. Johor is close enough to Singapore with excellent, fast transportation, that you could base in Johor, and travel frequently to Singapore.
I grew up in Singapore – 15 years of my life, departing for Toronto when I was 16. This ensures a special affinity with the city, though I’m not sure I could live there again. Too expensive and money focused.
There’s a chance Johor might be an ideal base of our Asia-Pacific operations, as Mother.Domains expands internationally. Time to explore.
Wifi Cafes to Work in Johor Bahru
Malaysia, on the rise as an IT and cosmopolitan society force in the world, is coming up to speed on Western and nomadic amenities. Johor is particularly progressing.
This means there is an increasing number of wifi-enabled cafes from which to work, with improving standards of coffee!
Here’s a few that I visited in my four days in Johor, mostly the downtown area.
Faculty of Caffeine – Absolutely delicious breakfast and coffee, and they let me work for many hours. Perhaps overpriced compared to street markets, but the strong wifi and chill vibe were worth it. I visited here twice. 106, Jalan Trus, Bandar – https://www.facebook.com/facultyofcaffeine/
Chaiwalla and Co Container Cafe – I visited here after Faculty of Caffeine to focus on writing. There was no wifi available, but a nice spot near the water nonetheless. The drinks are tasty. Sometimes it’s nice to be productive without the distraction of Internet connectivity. 36, Jalan Tan Hiok Nee, Bandar Johor Bahru – http://chaiwallaandco.blogspot.in/
Replacement Lodge & Kitchen – Best coffee in Johor Bahru! The barista is clearly experienced. Apparently this is one of several venues owned by the same group, and they place an emphasis on international quality coffee. The wifi was decent, the food was pleasant. A little “overpriced” but still a fraction of Western prices. Another good spot to work from for a few hours. 33, Jalan Dhoby, Bandar Johor Bahru, – https://www.facebook.com/thereplacementlodgeandkitchen/
There is also a Starbucks and Cafe Beane close to downtown that offer limit wifi on each purchase.
Living Room Cafe – Use one of their iPads to order. Delicious walnut brownie latte (the banana latte was unavailable). My breakfast of an omelette, french toast and creamy dressing on fresh salad cost around $4. G-03, Plaza Mentari (Sun City), Jalan Kuning, Taman Pelangi.
Places to Stay in Johor Bahru
There are not yet many hostels in JB, but more guesthouses emerge all the time. There are certainly enough hotels at various price points.
After deciding between two options, I chose the one closer to downtown – Memory Guesthouse. This is a traditional old Malaysian house that has been converted into a guesthouse. It’s very unique. There is an outdoor common area with small kitchen and communal fridge. The hallway is lined with beds, separated by curtains. My room was around the back, also a single bed with privacy curtains.
Memory Guesthouse is very humble and the staff are super helpful and kind. It’s not the most social hostel. The older and long stay guests were not so friendly, often not saying hello.
Two 24-hour food centres are within a few minutes walk, and downtown is 20-25 minutes. There is otherwise not much around. Like KL, JB requires transportation to travel around.
For a few dollars a night you can’t go wrong, and, for a short stay in a traditional residence, Memory Guesthouse is a safe option. 2H, Jalan Inche Besar Zubaidah, Kampung Mahmoddiah – https://www.facebook.com/mryjb/
Malaysian Food is among the best
One of the key attractions to Malaysia is its quality and range of cuisine.
There is so much tasty, cheap food – everywhere. Local hawker stands, restaurants, cafes. All sorts of variety, with Chinese, Indian, Thai, Singaporean and Western influences.
Malaysian food is truly among the best in the world. The locals certainly love it!
Currency and Culture
The local currency is Malaysian Ringgit (MYR), around MYR 2.5 to USD 1. While many places accept cards, cash is still king.
There is not yet a lot of uptake in Bitcoin or alt-coins in Johor, although Kuala Lumpur is truly starting to progress with cryptocurrency.
There is not a lot of nightlife here, and the country is generally conservative. It is a mixed race society, with a large, peaceful Muslim population. English is spoken in most urban places. The Malays are friendly and helpful.
Closing Thoughts on Johor Bahru for Digital Nomads
Johor opened my eyes and thinking to what I want from life, and my work-travel life.
While it ticks all the digital nomad prerequisites – great climate, very affordable / delicious food and accommodation, generally well connect, good transportation, close to major world cities – it lacks some crucial elements for me.
If I’m going to base myself somewhere, I have to love the place. There needs to be a vibe for me – thriving arts and music scenes, decent nightlife, exciting fellow nomads and switched on locals. Even if I were sharing the experience here with a loving partner, I don’t think there’s enough in Johor beyond regular visits to Singapore to make it work for me.
Johor is a lovely, friendly, peaceful place. It might be ideal for your own needs as a digital nomad and where you’re at in your life right now.
For me, I don’t think Asia-Pacific is the right base for me at this time, and Johor is down my list of regional preferences. I’d sooner consider somewhere uber chill like Kampot Cambodia, a more dynamic place like Hong Kong, or return to Australia / New Zealand.
That said, it’s definitely worth a visit on your travels between Singapore and KL / Thailand / Cambodia, and is a growing, improving city.
The book originally began as a guidebook of dreaming trips, travel tips and running successful projects on the road. The story details magic and mysteries as Sea lives out his unbelievable adventures, with lessons along the way.
Sea’s current trip was supposed to be a shorter, 2-3 month version, and nearly couldn’t afford to leave at all. Since given up everything in his Australian life to travel indefinitely, loving, and losing, along the way.
The Plan Sea Travel Book
The book is broken into numerous sections, that include the following:
Dreaming and planning a trip of your own. Trip preparation, such as using multi-city bookings to find the best international flight prices, and cheap accommodation.
The Work-Travel Lifestyle. Setting up a venture where you can earn sufficient income while traveling on the road.
Money on the Road. Includes emergency funding (such as if your wallet is stolen or your bank card stops working), finding volunteer gigs and short-term part time work, and a chapter on the importance and benefits of cryptocurrency.
Amazing travel stories from around the world. Sea’s current trip has taken him through 17 countries, including 2 stops through India, an unexpected magical 3 months in South Korea exploring with a beautiful soul, and stops through Europe and South East Asia.
Vipassana Meditation. Digging deeper into the ten day silent meditation that removes life long misery and puts life in objective perspective.
Preparing for your own Sea Change. Hungry for your own adventures? Ready to make a giant change in your life? It’s not easy to drop everything you know and love, but know that you can accomplish anything you want in your lifetime.
Plus many more fun, exciting and useful chapters, in around 300 pages of the Plan Sea book.
The Plan Sea book is due in September 2018
The book is currently charting stories and travel lessons through the story’s second stint in India, ahead of a return to Europe. Sea plans to convert a cargo van into a mobile studio and home for the summer, and possibly well beyond. Perhaps even the long drive to Africa!
Pre-orders will help make the van dream happen, and will be announced from March. Cryptocurrency is welcomed with bonuses for contributors.
This is a guide for digital nomads in the “green capital” of Kampot Cambodia.
I recently enjoyed three weeks in Kampot, mostly to unwind in glorious weather, enjoy affordable food and accommodation, and relax in a green-friendly riverside town.
It’s also where I recovered from a recent long distance breakup on the road. It’s been sad, with some times and places feeling like a prison – but what a superlative backdrop to heal and find inspiration in life.
Kampot was an excellent experience, and a place I quickly knew I would be back the next time I return to South East Asia.
With national parks, islands, and proximity to so many wonderful places around, it’s almost the perfect digital nomads paradise.
Working from Kampot Cambodia
Kampot is a sleepy, slow paced, chilled out place. There’s not much motivation to work too hard, with nature and fun places to explore during consistently excellent weather. There is a lot of weed being smoked, and cheap alcohol at a plethora of bars. Lots of music and parties.
There is an abundance of wifi-enabled places, cafes with good food and coffee, and affordable guesthouses.
It ticks a lot of boxes on the desired lifestyles of many digital nomads, and there are a lot of them based in or stopping through Kampot.
Wifi Cafes in Kampot Cambodia
Most properties and venues in Kampot appear to have satisfactory, freely available wifi.
As I was in Cambodia for a month, I acquired a SIM card for a few dollars, with data that lasted all month. SIM cards are excellent back ups for access to the Internet – South Korea is the only country I definitely didn’t need one, even for my 3 months there, but it’s rare.
Ellie’s Cafe – This was my favourite cafe, and most regularly visited. Bonus points for letting me take a few days to pay my bill, when nobody would accept my old USD$100 note (more on that below). Delicious coffee, food and vibe. Wifi is good. 42/44 Street 726, Kâmpôt – https://www.facebook.com/ellieskampot/
Cafe Espresso Roastery – This coffee roaster is highly regarded by others, and their coffee is the best. They supply cafes all over Kampot with their coffee beans. I had a few unlucky experiences – the first time I tried to visit, it was closed. The next time, I didn’t like the breakfast I ordered (I never complain about food, but I couldn’t cut through any of it). The third time, I came too late for food as their kitchen closed early, but a juice was nice. Wifi and ambience are decent. 7 R 717, Kâmpôt – http://kampotcoffee.wixsite.com/espresso
Epic Arts Cafe – Lovely place in the heart of town that hires disabled workers. Decent food and drinks. Wifi works well enough. Sovann Sakor, Kompong Kandal – http://epicarts.org.uk/
Café Malay – The Garden Café – This is a lovely spot, where you can work from outside in nice weather. Delicious food and drinks. Wifi was satisfactory.
Rikitikitavi – Wifi wasn’t working the day I visited, but delicious drinks and sensational location near the waterfront. Riverside Road, Kampot – https://www.rikitikitavi-kampot.com/
Most of the time, I worked from my guesthouses, using their wifi and ordering food and drinks accordingly.
Places to Stay in Kampot Cambodia
There are heaps of attractive, comfortable guesthouses, hostels and hotels in Kampot.
High Tide – Perhaps the sweetest spot of all, the breeze off the river in the shade at High Tide is perhaps the most perfect climate I have felt anywhere on the planet. Hammocks are $1-2 a night, dorm rooms from a few dollars, and even a private double for $5-6. The food and drinks are excellent, and it is green friendly to the max. Super chill.
Man’Groove – I spent 10 days at Man’Groove, around 15km away from Kampot down the road to Kep. This is where my break up went down remotely, and it felt like a prison at times, mostly thanks to the iron bars in my windows. Really chill spot. My own double bedroom for $5 a night. Drinks were good, food was ok. Wifi was the best. Movies most nights. The music was absolutely terrible, in a loop of bad cover songs, but guests are encouraged to plug in their own tunes.
Meraki – This is an awesome locale! Beautiful, serene, terrific food and drink. Further from town. Multiple tranquil areas to work from. Wifi is good. Intellectual guests. I was in the shared room for $6 a night, and I was upgraded on my last night when there was a leak in the original room. A romantic place for couples.
For camping enthusiasts, you can always set up your tent and camp at nearby Bokor National Park.
Camping at Bokor National Park
I’m stunned there is no other mention of this online, for camping or tents overnight in Bokor National Park. This will become the #1 article on the subject!
I’m happy to share that I successfully camped overnight at Bokor, with my scooter, tent, Burning Man sleeping bag, and a small backpack.
This was soulfully significant to me in that the last time I’d camped in that tent and visited national parks, was with my ex during our time exploring South Korea. Our essence, scent and sweat were in that tent, all our adventures were readily remembered. That’s why I really wanted to camp alone, and try to mentally move past these emotions.
The weather was not helpful, pouring down with torrential rain for hours. This immediately soaked me, and made it uncomfortably cold at the top of the mountain. All my clothes and spare clothes were wet. I took refuge in an abandoned building near the top.
It wasn’t pleasant, I was depressed enough as it was, and I thought about giving up.
If at first you don’t succeed… try to pitch that tent!
On my way down and out of the mountain, likely heading to High Tide to crash on a hammock, a voice in my head urged me to try.
Spotting an unmarked exit, beside an entrance marked with parking sign, I rode the trail for a minute, and it took me to a secluded, flat clearing – ideal for camping.
I thought, “why not?” and proceeded to erect my tent successfully, before the rain started again.
Pleased at my new surroundings, I was excited when the rain stopped and I took a look outside. The mountain, stars, water – beautiful! I celebrated with some pre-rolled green.
A little later, when nature called, under the ceiling of the stars, it felt like raindrops – but they were mosquitoes!
Sure enough, there were 5-6 mosquitoes waiting for me inside the tent, that had to be dealt with. I don’t like killing or hurting anything, but there’s no way I’d sleep with mosquitoes inside.
I conducted some physical and mental exercises before falling asleep, and sleeping well. Loads of pleasant, powerful dreams.
As sunrise hit, I woke up proud, confident, uplifted. What a sweet spot and view!
Being at the base of Bokor – about 6km from the entrance – meant I had hours I could explore Bokor National Park before needing to return.
For those interested in camping in Bokor National Park, this is camping-friendly for sure. You can camp lower down on the mountain like I did, or explore the top parts of Bokor during daylight. There are so many spots you could successfully and comfortably camp, and there isn’t much security presence beyond their main checkpoints.
There is food, drinks, gas and even a casino at the top of Bokor, though it’s recommended you pack your own snacks for your camping experience.
Cost of Living in Kampot
Kampot is extremely affordable. You can find a wide range of accommodation for $5-10 a day. Meals run a few dollars each. Scooters are $4-6 a day to rent, with gas $1 per litre. Green is readily available, of quality, and cheap! You’ll find good sized bags for $10.
I routinely live off around USD$150 a week, and Kampot was easy enough to stay well under this threshold.
Access to Phnom Penh is a $10-20 and 3-4 hour bus ride away, and Vietnam and Thailand are close as well.
Very few places accept cards of any type. Cash is king. Both currencies – the US Dollar and Cambodia Riel – are routinely used in most transactions.
Be wary of bank fees, almost on par with Thailand – $5-6 per withdrawal.
You’ll want to withdraw amounts like $70 or $90, or you’ll receive an entire $100 note, which can be challenging to use.
Dollars are used as whole amounts, and you’ll receive Riel back as smaller change. The standard rate is USD$1 to KHR4000. So, a $7.50 bill that you pay for with a $10 bill, would net you $2 and KHR2000. It is customary to collect a stack of Riel.
A couple of places purport to accept Bitcoin, including Subworks, though it wasn’t open when I ran into a major money issue (see below) and only had Bitcoin available.
Warning About US Dollar Notes
While US Dollars are widely accepted, be careful when you are issued change in USD.
That is because if there is a defect like a tiny tear, or the note is too old (before 2006 I believe), NOBODY will accept it.
This is compounded when you have an old USD100 from 1977 with a rip and a stamp, as I did. If this is your only cash then you’re going to find it is worthless. No money exchange or bank will take it.
However, if you find an American heading back to the US, or are planning a visit yourself, the currency is still fine. Any US bank will exchange it – but, as it’s not Cambodia’s currency,their own banks have no reason to take defective old notes. Some airport exchanges might offer a lesser rate for it.
I repeat, when you take bank notes out of an ATM, try a denomination that will ensure smaller bills – for instance, $90. Anything $100+ and you will be receiving crisp new $100 notes, that are still challenging to break change.
Food in Kampot
Despite South East Asia being home to some of the best food on the planet – Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand – Cambodian food is unspectacular.
Most of what I ate was Western and other Asian food.
The local dish I enjoyed the most is Chicken Amok – a coconut curry with rice.
You can find “happy pizza” as well, where you will also find healthy bags of quality green from $10.
Prices are excellent for food, but there is nothing to get too excited about at the local food stalls.
Digital Nomads Kampot – Ideal for the chilled out freelancer
Kampot Cambodia is perfect for the digital nomad seeking superb weather, affordable food and accommodation, and a super relaxed atmosphere.
If you earn recurring revenue from your digital business, you won’t need to stress too much about making enough sales to survive.
Furthermore, if you’re in to 420 / green culture, there are few better places in the world than Kampot.
If you need something a little more interactive and driven, Kampot is worth a visit, but there are probably other places better suited to your needs.
Long distance relationships, separated by time zones and other life impetus, are incredibly challenging.
Not to say they are impossible, because they’re not. There are many examples of where they work, and thrive. They are some of the most romantic times.
But, you need a lot of optimistic energy, elevated levels of trust, and regular, genuine communication to give them a chance to work.
You have to put in the effort. It’s too easy to give up too soon. Patience.
The Fundamentals of Long Distance Relationships
You see this word everywhere: “communication”.
It’s not just essential in relationships, it’s probably the most important thing in the history of society. Humans need to communicate with each other more, and better.
Both of you have to be prepared to communicate regularly, and be sensitive to the other person’s preferences and personality.
Scheduling, and sticking to, a weekly video chat could be helpful. Stay regular.
Daily “hellos” and “good nights”, in scattered messages. Keep up a rapport.
This is where trust and openness is really going to make a difference.
There should be respect and kindness in all communications, and the known sensitivity that this is difficult for both of you.
When is your next date?
A next meeting point or general timeline is useful. You’ll both know how long the wait will be.
1 month? Easy. 3 months? Becomes more challenging, but time still passes quickly enough by knowing.
Even if it’s vague to start, but you’re both actively working and planning at it, will assure both sides that it’s realistically going to happen.
Be open and honest about all feelings.
It’s common to have doubts. Just don’t list a bunch of doubts and give up there, without even talking to the other person. Often, their voice alone, can help soothe the insecurities. Everything can be worked through.
Most importantly.. keep busy. Focus on your life, improving your own health, building your projects, and becoming an improved, wiser soul, by next you meet. Days will pass quicker.
Long Distance Relationships Can Feel Like a Break Up
You’re together day in, day out. Exploring the most exciting and beautiful places of the world, overcoming any challenges together. Communication is regular, deeper in so many ways. Romance ascends a new level.
You’re bonding closer and closer, and feelings drift towards continuing well into the future. You’re essentially the best friends in the world.
Suddenly, all of that disappears.
One or both of you have to be somewhere else, and you separate.
Time difference, distance, not knowing when you’ll next meet, distraction and reasonable temptation everywhere, and getting busy with your separate next phases of life, are all legitimate challenges.
Communication really dips off, and time zones make it more difficult to get in a routine.
That void you feel is similar to a break up – when the other person is out of your life.
Tip – if it’s feeling like a break up, please schedule a voice call with your partner! Remember to Communicate.
In fact, my recent experience felt like a break up, because, in the end, it was.
Nobody else will ever understand exactly what we went through, but we did so many things. An unbelievable amount of things. I am still processing infinite memories, and cannot believe how many differently vibrant ones there are. Every single day was fun and exciting – nearly 90 days. Every one.
From the absolutely whirlwind first weekend meeting outside Gangnam station and exploring a few areas, visits to two major National Parks across the country, some very exciting and spiritual nights exploring, ending Monday night where I didn’t have a guesthouse and we challenged ourselves to sleep on the streets.
After a few days school/work break, we enjoyed the two craziest, deepest and most connecting weeks of my life – on Jeju Island South Korea. Filled with magic, camping on glorious beaches, meeting incredible souls, crashing big parties, and discovering Korean food and culture along the way.
After the most prolific night near a Buddhist temple embedded in a volcanic mountain, we held each other on the rocks of our secluded oceanside camp spot. In a big gust of ocean wind, I told her I loved her. We talked about quitting work and school, and living a simple life together on Jeju.
The whole Jeju visit was so magical, poetic and reaffirming, it bonded us together forever in this lifetime.
The breathtaking return from Jeju, including overtaking a ferry’s karaoke room, being put in a hotel and bought dinner by that family, many cheap chicken/pizza/karaoke/soju missions, camping on several more beaches in Tongyeong and Busan. This was the first 2-3 weeks of our time together!
After Jeju, we still had 10 weeks together, mostly in Seoul. She would study from her university during the week, while I checked out different parts of the city and worked from there.
Weekends we’d come together – sometimes 4-5 day hang out sessions – and explore a new part of the country. We explored pretty much the whole country – including a couple of jaunts closer to the North Korean border. We woke up in all sorts of places – beaches, exhibition centres, a traditional Korean home, dozens of guesthouses, even a fancy, free 3-star hotel!
Lots of long bus rides, some train rides, a plane. Everything was fun.
If we ever met up during the week, it would be an exciting night – a brisk, long walk, finding the best food specials, and undoubted endless intellectual and spiritual conversations.
As the three months rolled by, we had a few challenges and some sad moments, but were closer than ever by the end.
I’ve never had such a connection with anybody. She was my best friend and lover. Everything was absolutely perfect. I would have grown old with her and was prepared to give everything for her.
Soul mates forming.
And then, it vanishes.
Long Distance Breakups are Extraordinarily Lonely
In my case, after our teary goodbye at Hongik station in Seoul, I headed to South East Asia for a couple of months, and she returned home to family in Hungary. The agreement was we would stay true to each other, keep in touch, and prepare to meet within the next 2-3 months in Berlin or Copenhagen.
That was a very busy time for her, as was her return to her place in Copenhagen, and while she was distracted with family and friends, I was on my own to process everything.
I was really starting to get in a positive groove and a powerful creative state. So overjoyed at what I had brought in to my life, ready to make the most of my wait. I checked in to a quiet retreat near Chiang Mai.
Unfortunately, all my positive mojo was shattered the next night when the property owner shamelessly intoxicated me and tried to have his way with me. It spoiled my vibe so much, yet another stain on a tough year. And I was back to the beginning again, alone and bitter, no one to share.
I didn’t take it well at times, and the dwindling communication exacerbated that. For weeks I was left to wonder what was going on, and had a growing feeling, particularly through my own needy actions and one ill-advised email, that the end might be coming.
The Fears and Doubts Were Realised
Sure enough, it did. After she hinted over an angst-riddled, sleepless weekend, on Monday the call came, and it was done.
She’d had such a hectic past 6 months, with people around her in her life all the time, she needed time to herself, and space for reflection.
No need for me to visit. Felt like I’d never see her again.
At the end of the day, I am many years older than her, she has 2-3 years of school remaining, and she reasons I “need stability now”. It was hard. It makes sense. We said our goodbyes.
A very painful week, for us both, followed. Slow days.
On the Thursday, I sent my final message to her, before blocking her on Messenger. This helps a lot, not waiting around for the other person to message, or know they’re online but are ignoring you for some reason.
They’re getting on with their life! They have friends and longtime activities around. When you’re the one traveling on the road, unexpectedly on your own path again, it’s going to feel so alone.
First of all, your plans have radically changed. You’re not heading to see them any more. Now what?
What are you going to do? Where are you going to go?
This is an understated useful exercise in that it forces you to remember your own path, and think about places and things to visit and do. Plus, you have to move on with *your* life. Now you can go almost anywhere.
The short term connections you meet on the road are not quite the same. Though they can be inspirational people that become friends. You often get a passing opinion of somebody who only knows the situation from your brief, biased current interpretation of it.
Pick up the phone and call a friend. Messaging will not cut it any more. Hear the voice of somebody who has known and loved you for years, and that anchor will give you strength and hope.
My dear old friend Evren called me the morning after the break up, and was incredibly uplifting and inspiring. He gave me hope. Reminded to put my focus and passion into myself, into my art. The rest will come.
Through this, you will see why phoning your next significant other once in a while is so important for a healthy long term relationship. A phone call, not usually my favourite thing, but in these instances they can really be useful. Hear it, feel it.
Focus on Improving Health
After recent experiences and sound advice from others, I challenge you to focus on health during a break up.
It’s common to start binge drinking, chain smoking and indulging in all sorts of vice to distract you.
Inevitably, each of these only leads to further depression when they wear off, particularly when you have to wake up to whatever behavior or actions come about as a result.
After my first few break ups, I drank a lot, I developed cigarette habits, and I was lost in a void for a long time – usually up to a year after each break up. Even though I might enter a more positive phase for a while, it would eat away at and affect me for a while to come.
Drinking, smoking and frequenting nightlife delayed me being honest with myself and taking the steps I needed to genuinely heal.
After my previous long term relationship break up – a lovely 3 year union with a nightclub manager in Melbourne – I chose the opposite tact.
Instead, I detoxed, which happened to be over the month of July.
It was still difficult, but there were so many positives that I wouldn’t do it any other way again.
First off, when your body is craving necessities like food, nutrients and whatever stimulants you enjoy, your body and mind are distracted by those pertinent, reptilian human requirements like starvation. It takes the emphasis off heartbreak a little. You know you’re healing in a lot of ways.
The other observation, was that I could visit bars and clubs – I had a DJ residency on Chapel Street in Melbourne during this time – and my clear headspace enabled excellent conversations. Not drunken or depressed ones.
I met switched on, smart women, and one even became a short term relationship for a while. I had to end it due to a combination of travels and not wanting to commit again for a while. In reality, she was my rebound, while I was still grieving for my recent loss. We’re still friends.
During this break up, I started with a water detox. Nothing but water – including fruit juice squeezed over water and ice – for over 24 hours – though 72 hours would be a lot more effective. Look up water detoxes – they can be very effective for regenerating cells, relieving over-taxed organs, and refreshing oneself.
Healthy works in a lot of ways – including your own mental challenge to head in that direction.
Remove Reminders and Distractions
The most painful artifacts will be their belongings, their gifts or letters to you, and their memories.
You can’t do much about the latter, but by putting them out of mind, you’ll cut down on so many triggers.
If there’s a folder or picture on your desktop with them, hide it. Remove their names, colours, photos, from day to day areas and spaces.
If you have to, temporarily block them from your Facebook feed and Messenger. You don’t need to see they’re heading to any events without you, or new photos with other people in them. Stop stalking their activities. Don’t look back at old messages.
Of course, there is a time while the breakup is fresh, that these reflective actions are part of the healing process.
When in yourself you are ready to make the next step to move on, remove reminders and distractions of them. Put them away, and be good to avoid them.
Out of sight, out of mind.
Remember that this isn’t forever. This is pain to deal with right now.
Give them and yourself space. You’ll be able to contact them again one day.
Distance Actually Helps
It might feel worse at first, with nothing you can do about the distance between you. Literally and figuratively. You can’t easily drop by their home or work to discuss things or try to change their mind.
As time starts to move on, the distance is a blessing. It helps keep them out of sight, out of mind. There’s nothing you can do about it.
You can focus on your current environment and travels, as difficult as that can be. I know from experience – I traveled around various tropical paradises in South East Asia, but was mostly consumed by heartbreak and sadness.
As each day unfolds, the journey becomes a little easier. Just expect some hiccups along the way.
Rebounds are common – pretty much the next person you hook up with or start seeing, is your rebound. Sometimes it’s an ex.
They are, unfortunately, a temporary bridge in this phase of your life, that can delay healing if you rush into it.
Some people think the best way to relieve themselves is to “get back on the horse”- by sleeping with somebody else as soon as possible.
Maybe this can be effective in the wake of a bad relationship, needing to turn the page – but ill-advised for a dream one.
This can cause even further distressing and complicated emotions. When it’s over, the absence of no longer having your love beside you in an intimate setting, can rattle your psyche for a while.
The other person is with you for one specific, moderately selfish need. After it wears off, it feels horrible. There can be a lot of guilt associated, too.
Don’t give any hints or clues to your former partner that you’re seeing people or have slept with anybody. Be really gentle. Keep that anonymous through the space and be mindful of feelings and fears during a separation.
I no longer go out of my way to meet or sleep with anybody. I focus on improving myself and my own energy, and live my life until the next wonderful encounter arises. Let women make the move – doubles as consent.
Note to anybody reading this who is thinking of taking advantage of a recently single friend while they are suffering – don’t be a predator. Leave them respectfully in their space to figure out things themselves. It’s going to cause pain and bad karma for everybody.
For me, my recent love was a very dear and special experience to me. My next intimate encounter will have to be special as well.
At this point, I still am only attracted to one single person in the whole world. That’s going to take some time to come down from.
Crying is Important
You can hold it in as much as you like. When you can’t hide it anymore, find somewhere quiet, alone and peaceful, and cry your heart out. Go for your life.
It’s going to hurt. Crying is a natural response that helps release the emotions of sadness. It’s therapeutic. It relaxes.
It really feels like whatever you had, MEANT something. You should find happiness, pride and gratitude in that alone.
I’ve tried to ponder this perspective – even if you are still together, those amazing times are in the past. You can never get them back. Break up or not, they are gone anyway.
And, in case you’re no longer able to plan future adventures, you can lie down, close your eyes, breathe, and repeat full experiences through your mind. Relive each and any of them in full – any time you like.
One of the few – but most powerful – positives out of the sad wake of ended relationships is emotional and creative inspiration. The songs you’re writing – mean more, have more feeling. You can lose yourself in writing and opening up. The dreams of life suddenly open up and mean anything new can and might happen.
The other, is that, you are clearing space in your life that will be filled again when the time is right.
That time might not be until you heal, so cry out every last tear, pour your emotions into your art and other creations, immerse yourself in nature away from society, and keep working at it.
Time will start to speed up ever so slightly again. Waking up each day becomes a micro fragment easier, day after day. Really try to observe that. Each day, the sting comes, sometimes at different times, but that sting loses its strength a little bit.
Tears will come for a while, often unexpectedly.
Look Forward to a Beautiful Future and Keep Dreaming
You just enjoyed one of the most incredible experiences of your life. No matter what, together or not, these memories are in the past.
Sure, maybe you will be able to rekindle something, after the sting departs for both of you – if it’s truly special, and meant to be, it will be, irrespective of challenges or other people’s opinions. It will take time, maybe years. You need to move past it for now.
You had this beautiful experience – you’re opening space for the next special experience to find you.
What were your dreams before you met this person? What are your new dreams now?
Surely there is something you really want to do, somewhere you want to go, or something new, inspired, to try.
Make plans to do something you’ve always wanted, and something to look ahead to.
Make sure you take time out in nature to think about you. No phones, technology, etc.
Another Sea Change
Just as my relationship itself was an unexpected love story in the book I’m writing, the split was an equal surprise. I wanted the book to end before I met her at the airport, but now I’m not sure what life is bringing me.
I soon have some work to do in India. That will be a crazy two months, while I dream of the romance and art of Europe.
The main motivation I have right now to make everything better is to save everything I can for a van to live and work from in Europe this summer.
The van life has been a dream for a while, and it now makes a lot of practical sense, considering the expense of rents in Europe.
What sort of people do I want to be meeting? Adventurous, conscious, intellectual, kind-hearted, positive and fun! Ultimately, somebody to travel and share the world with.
I think a van is going to help match me up with these qualities. A musician would be a real bonus. I think we could accomplish some really cool, fun things.
We could even drive to southern Africa before winter hits Europe..! As always, I ponder lots of possibilities.
I’m blessed that I live a very unusual, unique, free life. I am open to so many ideas and opportunities.
I’m told a lot that I am different. Somebody will want to be with me, and believe in me.
This gives me a lot of hope.
If you’re happy and excited in your own life, that’s the most..
After three riveting months living the digital nomad life in Seoul, South Korea, I arrived back in warm and boisterous Bangkok to chart my next move.
With regular international flights, Bangkok is an ideal landing destination before exploring Thailand and South East Asia.
I’m in Bangkok for 48 hours, before I head to Chiang Mai for some peace and quiet. In the my time here I’ve attended to some tasks and explored the area around my hostel in Sukhumvit.
Here are some of the places I worked from, and some lessons learned. It’s a quick visit.
Bangkok is a Developing City
Thailand remains a work in progress. You have to keep your wits about you, and be prepared to question requests for money or help.
Great strides have been made in public transportation and infrastructure, but Bangkok suffers from congestion and pollution from choking traffic and industry. There are a lot of coughing people I worry about.
After experiencing Seoul’s world best metro and bus system, Bangkok deserves some credit for its improving MRT subway network. Ride prices depend on distance, but you’ll pay in the region of 10-30 baht for most trips.
The biggest difference leaving Seoul, evident immediately, is that there is no free wifi.
Even cafe hotspots are locked with passwords requiring a purchase. I could not connect to Google Maps on any free station wifi – there is none. This caused an issue with a typo in my Maps search taking me to a whole other location and I had to buy a drink somewhere to connect.
Hence, in Thailand, to be productive and reliably safe, you need a SIM card. You can pick one up, with data, for around 300 baht, from any 7/11.
There are no shortage of Western conveniences here, food, drinks, cafes and what not, and Bangkok makes for an intriguing short stay location.
First Moments – The Uber Driver Ripped Me Off
A useful reminder to be careful came in my first Uber in three months (no Uber in Seoul).
Free wifi at the airport allowed me to book an Uber for the late night, low traffic drive to my hostel. The driver asked me repeatedly to pay 100 baht for us to take the expressway – “saving 30 minutes” and cost. I refused, more because I had no spare cash, and sought to avoid crazy ATM fees.
A while later, he spotted an ATM and I relented. To take out 2000 baht, it came with a 220 baht / $10 fee.
His “100” baht for the toll clearly showed “25” paid on the machine. The 325 baht ride cost me 645 overall. Uber wound up refunding me 100 in credit. It was unfortunately dishonest.
The next day, a driver taking me to the NexDots co-working space tried asking 200 baht for a short drive. He was sincere and told me that times are tough in Thailand right now for money. I paid him 100 in the end.
The lesson: Agree to the price before you proceed, and services like Uber are set up for a reason. Any unreasonable cash demands should be questioned.
Thai Banks are Highway Robbery
The reason I didn’t want to use an ATM outside of the city was the exorbitant ATM fees – over $10 to take out cash. I had enough baht for a bus ride to my hostel, and the Uber driver’s request for cash tolls was unexpected.
Taking 220 baht to withdraw money is criminal, and suggests Thai banks are fleecing their populations and visitors. Almost a prime candidate for blockchain banking to replace these institutions.
On a second withdrawal, Citibank charged 200 baht. There are not currently enough cashless pay systems around Bangkok to avoid withdrawing money.
Tip: Take out as much cash as you feel safe carrying, ideally in two places (main wallet, secured passport wallet).
Working spots and cafes in Bangkok
Coffee culture has hit Bangkok, like so many other places. The improvement of wifi and quality of connectivity allows for excellent experiences at cafes and co-working spaces in the Thai capital.
Here are the places I visited.
After expensive coffee prices and few breakfast options in Seoul, it is refreshing to find quality coffee and a fresh croissant stuffed with roasted vegetables for 195 baht (USD 6 / AUD 8 / KRW 6500).
The ARTiS flagship store is in Berkeley California, and they bring the chill West Coast vibe to Bangkok. There is a counter ideal for a row of laptops, with power points – the only area with power.
This is a hip, intimate air conditioned cafe with a large outdoor terrace. Wifi is fast.
ARTis – 390/20 Sukhumvit Road (Soi 18), Bangkok
Hollys is my favourite coffee chain in South Korea, and it was a nice surprise to find their Bangkok counterpart. Their cafes are consistently nice, modern, clean buildings, and they offer tasty coffee and dessert treats.
The wifi was slow at first on the second floor, but sped up the more time I spent here. Not the best. There are numerous wall power outlets. Comfortable to work from for hours – and it is open 24/7.
After picking up my train ticket from the Travex office, I made my way to NexDots, a new co-working space.
Open 24 hours, NexDots features super-fast wifi, and an excellent cafe with decent coffee and other drinks. There is a food menu for snacks.
The space is located on the second floor of the IM Park shopping centre. There are numerous restaurants, coffee shops, a Tesco supermarket, and other shops.
Rates are 50 baht an hour for non-members, and 250 for 6 hours, with private and group rooms available. There is a more studious vibe about co-working spaces you can’t normally replicate in a cafe.
NexDots – 2nd fl. Im Park, Soi Chula 9, Pathumwan, Bangkok
Accommodation in Bangkok
“Digital nomads” seeking to work and “party hostels” are not the most ideal match.
I had personal reasons to stay at the same place from which I departed for Seoul three months earlier. When I woke in the same place, it did, indeed, feel like Korea was a dream!
Now called, “Slumber Party by Bodega”, this is a party hostel near the legendary Soi Cowboy area. It has a super relaxed and social vibe, with a bar, restaurant and loads of drinking games.
Bodega has some of the most comfortable bunk beds, rooms and showers I’ve enjoyed anywhere in the world. Thick, soft mattresses, big pillows and blankets. 24 hour check in and bar are useful features.
The wifi is solid, and there are several places to work from. I spent a couple of hours researching, while a dozen youngsters played some sort of Truth or Dare, resulting in swapping clothes and some nudity.
If you like drunk people and nudity, check out the sex tourism hotspot of Soi Cowboy, a 10 minute walk away. Many people come to Thailand just for this accepted part of local society, and this is one of the main areas.
This is well known – Thai food is fantastic! Food prices are extremely affordable, with anything from street food, supermarket purchases, to fancier restaurants.
Pad Thai is the famous dish, but there is a wide variety of local and international cuisines. Street food is cheap, tasty and safe.
Be careful drinking tap water in Bangkok – bottled water is recommended.
Alcohol is very cheap, dangerously so.
We’ll cover food in much more detail in our wider Thailand feature.
Reflections after 48 Hours in Bangko
Bangkok is like many big capital cities, typical of Asia. It’s sprawling, overcrowded, noisy, polluted, and, occasionally, aggressive – be it street workers or drivers. 48 hours in Bangkok is enough for me.
The older I become, I prefer to chill near nature, with conveniences and interesting arts still accessible.
Thai people are, as a whole, lovely, polite and respectful. It makes for excellent quality of service and a general sense of safety.
For digital nomads, Bangkok is a useful place to accomplish your work in a buzzy atmosphere. It’s ideal if you need to network with big city business types and a metropolitan crowd.
You can live here for cheap, enjoy delicious food, and find good cafes from which to work for hours.
If you’re looking for something a little more peaceful in nature, consider traveling to Chiang Mai. I head there tonight.