Digital nomads have been flocking to Chiang Mai for years, with the Thai city boasting an expat community of around 40,000. That’s just the documented ones though, with many more nomads coming and going on a tourist visa. There is one sub-group of digital nomads that are particularly suited for this part of the world: minimalists. If you combine a love of technology with a desire for simple living based upon activities that contribute to wellbeing, then the modern yet spiritual city of Chiang Mai is the place for you. If you have been wandering the world, considering where your lifestyle would best be accommodated, then consider a trip to northern Thailand’s biggest city.
Low Cost of Living, High Quality of Life
Many minimalist nomads are searching for a place where living costs are kept low. Maybe you are trying to take on fewer projects that may be more creative and meaningful but less well paid. You’d rather pursue your passion than do work you hate for a higher income. However, to survive with this kind of mentality, you will need to keep your spending to a minimum. Adopting a minimalist lifestyle is one way to do this, but you can further cut spending on food, bills, and rent by relocating to Chiang Mai.
A monthly travel pass is a touch over $30, while a half liter of beer will be around $3 from the bar. High speed internet can be purchased for around $20 a month, while a decent one bed city center apartment can be found for less than $400 a month. Of course, you would save even more by sharing or residing slightly outside the center. Be sure to check how to find a cheap and beautiful place in Chiang Mai before heading there. There are cheaper places in the world, but compared to European and North American prices, Chiang Mai is significantly more affordable.
For this price though, you are not sacrificing any quality of life. Chiang Mai is a generally safe city, with plenty of services and infrastructure. It feels like any other modern city, which is clean and offers an easy daily life. Even low cost apartments are pleasant and safe places to live. Being a beautiful mountainous region, the pace of life is relaxed and the air quality is kept much cleaner than busy cities in the south like Bangkok.
A Commitment to the ‘Less is More’ Philosophy
More than 90% of Thai people consider themselves to be followers of Buddhism and nowhere is this more obvious than in Chiang Mai. The culture of locals is informed by concepts such as karma, compassion, and avoidance of self-indulgence. Buddhists desire only the things they need to live comfortably and little else beyond this. Therefore, you may see people wearing the same clothes over and over or owning the same backpack for a lifetime. If this is the way you live your life, then you will fit right in.
Of course, not everyone is a practicing Buddhist monk. People still like to party and own the latest gadgets, so there’s no need to adopt a completely ascetic way of living. However, frequent trips to the temples or remote mountain tops can be a way of exercising gratitude for what you own and overcoming the consumerist urge. This commitment to finding wellbeing from spiritual experiences rather than material objects will help you to pack light and travel freely as a minimalist.
An Environment for Creativity
There is an abundance of startups in Chiang Mai, largely due to a community and government committed the creative industries. Many towns around the world now have an area within them known as the “Creative City”, but Chiang Mai’s is one of the most well developed. This is a region that fosters the creative potential of residents and gives them a space in which to pursue their art in a way that is integrated with the wider community.
Chiang Mai’s Creative City has been listed as part of the UNESCO Crafts and Folk Art Creative Cities Network since 2017. It is a place that not only tolerates creative types but welcomes and nurtures them. This gives you access to the resources you need to build a successful freelance career in whatever industry you most enjoy. Chiang Mai is also surrounded by beautiful natural scenery, which can help to inspire creative projects and give you the calming environment to work on your projects, free from the stress and confinement of a large urban city.
A Coworking Community
Being a digital nomad, you probably need a decent workspace, but being a minimalist, you may not have a home office of your own. Some people travel with a laptop stand, power bank, and portable WiFi so that they can work from anywhere, but this might not be your preferred option as a light packer. Fortunately, you won’t have to search long for a decent place to work when living in Chiang Mai.
There are around 35,000 WiFi hotspots listed online, meaning that finding a good connection won’t be a problem for any remote worker. However, if you really want to get work done, then it is worth checking out one of the renowned coworking spaces. These offer an environment optimized for creativity and productivity, from soundproofed meeting rooms to ergonomic chairs and unlimited free coffee. Some of the best public office spaces include Hub 53, Addicted to Work, and Punspace. With such a vibrant digital nomad community, you can expect all the necessary services to be there to allow you to run a successful online business.
Chiang Mai is a fascinating city that all digital nomads should spend some time exploring. Even for a short time, it can cut living costs and provide an environment ideal for those wanting to increase productivity and complete creative projects. For minimalist nomads, however, it can be particularly suitable. Chiang Mai offers a relaxed way of life, with a community committed to sustainable, simple living. You will find it easy to fit in and flourish in this beautiful and spiritual area of Thailand.