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    Eastern Europe

    I find Eastern Europe fascinating. It’s an uncommon melting pot of rich cultures, and not just Slavic sub-cultures as one might think. Each country is vastly different, even if they share common traits.

    As a digital nomad from France, it’s particularly advantageous.

    Except for Russia, I do not need any visa to go there. The lack of administrative hassle is liberating. I can just book a ticket and stay in a given city for three months without having to ask anything.

    Eastern European countries are still under-developed. It’s financially interesting, you can easily live under $1000 a month.

    More importantly, unlike South-East Asia, it’s not filled with tourists. It’s not devoid of tourists, but you have to interact with locals all the time. Of course, depending on where you live, most of them don’t speak English so you have to immerse yourself in the culture. It’s incredible the number of things you can do by saying “Yes”, “No”, or “Thank you”.

    One thing I adore is the opportunity for me to live incognito in a quiet environment. The way I look, people will assume I’m a local and won’t mind me. Try doing that in Asia. I get looks just by walking in the street.

    I don’t see myself settling there, however. Conservatism is deeply ingrained. People are constantly hustling and young people dream of moving to wealthier countries. There is an entrepreneurial spirit, but it’s going away. Alcoholism is a huge issue too. The local economy is not particularly strong. Even though the unemployment rate is quite low compared to the rest of Europe, the local buying power is weak.

    Living in Eastern Europe is humbling. It makes me aware that nothing should be taken for granted.

    From Location Independence to Financial Independence

    Location independence is a huge unfair advantage in the quest for financial independence.

    Financial independence is about increasing your saving rate. You can do so by decreasing your expenses or by earning more, or a bit of both.

    Most people assume that traveling is expensive. It’s true, if you’re tied down by geographical or time constraints: as long as you don’t overly care where you live, there is always a way to find a cheap ticket and an inexpensive yet decent accommodation.

    Here is how I do it. I open Skyscanner, I enter my departure location, and I ask the website to search anywhere for cheap tickets over a whole specific month.

    Then, I write each cheap destination on the list in Airbnb and I add a few criterias: an entire place under $500 for a whole month, with a kitchen, Wi-Fi, and a washer.

    The results are quite amazing. It’s quite common to find whole places rented under $400 for tickets under $100. Then you just need a health insurance and a budget for food. It’s not hard to leave under $800 without sacrificing your living conditions.

    Living on less means you can invest more money in things you care about: funds, time, or experiences. I choose location independence because it gives me more time to work on my own business, and I am not rich by any means.

    If you spend $1,000 a month while earning $3,000, that’s a saving rate of 66%. Not bad. At an annual interest rate of 4%, that’s $300k in funds over 10 years, including $50k in compound interests. $750k over 20 years. $1,400k over 30 years.

    Now, the average annual interest rate of a Vanguard-like index fund is closer to 10%. Personally, I would consider myself financially independent with $500k invested. I’m 25, so I’d only need 12 years to reach this position in these conditions. 9 years on a 75% saving rate. 7 years on a 80% saving rate. 6 years if you were to earn $6k per month. See how impactful decreasing your housing costs would be?

    Winter Sky

    It’s not even November and I’m already debating whether I should wear a warm trench coat inside the apartment or not. The flu doesn’t help. But I managed to survive a whole winter in Stockholm, this should be a piece of cake.

    The cold is unforgiving, you have to prepare yourself or it will run over you. Exercise, warm drinks, and cold showers are your best friends: they will boost your metabolism, to the point where the low temperatures become mere information.

    It’s uncomfortable, but it makes you feel alive. I spent last autumn and winter in South-East Asia, and I missed the feelings you experience during this time of the year. The hot morning shower right out of bed. The winter sky at dusk. The warmth of the fireplace. The candle lights. The melted cheese and the rich hivernal soups. The sweet coffee breaks. The soft large clothes that feel like you’re never leaving your bed. And of course, the end-of-year festivities.

    The cold signals the start of the cocooning season, but strangely it also brings people closer together. The colder it gets, the more introvert I feel though. When I’m not working, I’d rather play video games or watch movies and series than going out. The opposite happens during spring and summer.

    How I’ve missed the cold!

    Moving to Odessa

    I’m in the middle of moving to Odessa. Changing cities can be deadly for my streaks. I didn’t prepare anything the day before. I woke up at 7 AM to do some cleaning in the Airbnb studio. I left the keys of the apartment at 10 AM, but before that I was with a lady I met at a party two weeks ago and thus didn’t make time to write. Saying goodbye is the hardest part of traveling. I took the bus to Bucharest’s Henri Coanda airport. It was too crowded to get some writing done. I was too nostalgic of my time in Bucharest to focus. The feeling persisted till the departure of my first flight to Istanbul. I slept as soon as the plane took off, for an hour. Then I landed in Istanbul and had to take a shuttle to another airport. The sunlight in Turkey is peculiar, pale and warm, and propagating to the blue cloudless sky in an explosion of colors. I’m currently sitting in Istanbul’s new airport. The architecture is magnificent, maybe a bit overambitious. I’m limited to one hour of free Wi-Fi, but my battery will probably die out before that. Time to sit down and type something. Anything will do. I don’t have time to think of something deep to say, so I’ll just journal what happened throughout the day. I’m longing for a meal. My connection to Odessa takes off at 23:40. I’ll arrive late at night. Hopefully, I won’t have any problem to receive the keys of my new home. Off to new adventures.

    Childlike Traveler

    Entertaining my little cousins is one of my favorite things in the world. Children are fascinating: witty, smart, playful, and thirsty for knowledge. They are not afraid to interact with the world, you can learn a lot from kids.

    In his book Mastery, Robert Greene proposes that masters are individuals who managed to revert back to this blank open state of mind while retaining their expertise and their ability to focus.

    I am convinced traveling is the surest way to come back to this childlike state.

    A good traveler’s mindset is similar to that of a child: no preconception of good or bad, just an open mind and a bottomless fascination for the world and its people.

    Landing in a new foreign country is a rebirth. You’re a new born faced with an environment you know barely anything about, and your survival depends on your capacity to be flexible and quickly adapt. You mumble words you learned on the go to buy food, or you just use your body language to be understood - just like a kid.

    Of course, you can still identify common patterns across countries making the transition easier. Even though the culture remains different, we all share the same natural needs for food, sleep, and love - which is why you don’t spend 10 years acquiring the basics, as a child would. It doesn’t mean there is nothing to learn: your way of doing things to satisfy those needs is no superior than the local ones. You have to scratch the surface of the postal card to unearth the true beauty of the destination you’re in.

    Bucharest Retreat - Micro-habits program

    Writing down a daily program never worked for me. I always fall off the wagon after a week or two, because I can be lazy. That being said, I want to try again. I’m better prepared this time: my reason is important, I have people I am accountable to, and I need this discipline to grow.

    6:00 - Wake up and start coding something with some music on

    6:30 - Bodyweight training + stretching + diaphragmatic breathing + shower

    7:30 - Breakfast + podcast/video (if tired, just practice mindfulness without multitasking)

    8:00 - Free writing

    9:00 - Ship at least one commit to the code base

    12:00 - Lunch + podcast/video (if tired, just practice mindfulness without multitasking)

    12:30 - Get groceries while listening to a podcast + break/nap

    13:30 - Eye training + typing training + hand-eye coordination training + Duolinguo lesson

    14:30 - Growth work (marketing and/or by-products creation)

    18:00 - Guided Meditation

    18:20 - Start preparing the chankonabe

    19:00 - Dinner + podcast/video (if tired, just practice mindfulness without multitasking)

    20:30 - Reading on an e-reader

    22:00 - Sleep

    This schedule is obviously non-exhaustive. It’s going to change depending on my inspiration, but it describes a workday.

    I’ll probably need a routine break one or two days per week, which I’ll use to go out and socialize.

    Mornings are for focused practice (body, writing, programming): no cell phone, no social media, no messaging, no emails. Afternoons are dedicated to marketing activities and by-products development. Evenings are spent eating (see mass gain program) regular food or food for thought.

    Eight hours of sleep, cut on reading time and have a nap in the afternoon if needed.

    I hesitated a long time between joining a gym and just doing body weight/resistance band exercises, and just decided to allocate more time to other activities by going for the latter (no time spent commuting, changing clothes, and waiting in line for an equipment).

    From 12:00 to 14:30 I’ll try to spend as much time as I can outside to get some sun and fresh air. There is a nice park near my apartment, might as well use it.

    In theory it’s a 9h30 workday minimum, but I’ll iterate over this schedule depending on the optimizations I can identify.

    September Bucharest Retreat - Road2Ramen 2.0

    I’m leaving France to Romania in two days. After three months nomading with my family, I need to seclude myself to work on my main goal for the following 12 months: reach ramen profitability from my tech products, before I run out of savings.

    If I can’t predict what will work and what won’t, I have to experiment faster. In order to increase my iteration speed, I have to design a strict routine supporting my goal by dramatically sharpening my focus. In other words, I have to work like an athlete monk - to align my daily tasks with my needs, objectives, and environment by living a (temporary) monastic life.

    It might sound a bit extreme, but it’s obvious the more time I spend crafting and marketing, the more my business grows. The question is, how can I spend more time toward my quest without endangering my health? Monks and athletes share the same methodology: 100% of their time is dedicated to the pursuit of transcendence, spiritually or physically. It’s all about creating a virtuous cycle that works for you.

    I want to reach ramen profitability by growing my already existing income sources and by making by-products, not by creating new ones from scratch. In other words, I want to focus on my tech product 200WaD, my content, and my personal brand as a maker.

    200WaD is close to reaching the state I want for the version 2.0, which means it’s time to add a new income source in the form of sponsors (sponsored posts, sponsored categories, sponsored writing prompts, sponsored pages, etc.) and work on increasing the traffic. The website is attracting 1k unique visitors per day but it’s stagnating, time to develop an outreach/retention program.

    My content is still an untapped opportunity. I tried to release a book, but it didn’t go past the pre-orders/soft-launch stage. I have to work on the re-design and finally publish it on Amazon and Gumroad. My daily content is never leaving 200WaD, which is not productive. I have to curate and transform it to launch a dedicated blog hosted on my personal website. Daily written content can easily be turned into a daily podcast and a weekly newsletter as well. The possibilities are many, but I have to execute.

    Last but not least, I have to work on my personal brand to explore donation-based business models (Patreon, Buy Me A Coffee) and experiment with productized services. I live a peculiar life, I have a peculiar expertise: there must be a way to create wealth.

    That’s it for my Why and my How for the following months. Tomorrow I’ll write about my micro-habits.

    Two Travel Pain Points

    What prevents remote workers from nomading? People are naturally attracted to travel, it’s in our genes to move, to be attracted to what’s different. However, we face two obstacles preventing us from taking action on those inner desires: fears and high expectations.

    Fear is what prevents you from going on a journey. Expectations prevent you from enjoying the journey, from learning to adapt.

    Fear is usually overcome by having travel buddies or some sort of mentor figure. My parents told me the basics of living on the road, for example.

    Expectations are harder to deal with. It’s about your mindset, and overcoming the disappointment from unmet expectations is an introspective work.

    When the founder of the Pléiade Joachim du Bellay traveled to Italy, the epicenter of Renaissance Humanism, he hoped to find transcendence. The mix of his a priori, ambition and preconceived ideas about Italy resulted in severe disappointment, which later led to the creation of his collection of poems The Regrets.

    Travel comes with disillusions. Nomading is not fundamentally better than sedentism, it’s an entirely different way of life with its own issues. Have an open mind. Be willing to adapt to make the most of the experience, no matter what.

    34 Hours

    I’m about to spend 34 hours in airports and airplanes. 2 hours from Ho Chi Minh City to Singapore, a 4-hour escale, 13 hours from Singapore to Berlin, a 13-hour stop, and 2 hours from Berlin to Paris.

    Airports are exhausting if you’re not well-prepared. I wrote a small to-do list, a bunch of offline work: write the first article of Making a Maker for Makerlog, read a book on MySQL to improve the performance of 200WaD’s queries, and finish up an article for another project. This is the work I have to get done within this time frame, but I also have to write my 200WaD posts.

    The good thing with flights is the lack of distractions. Sure, you can watch movies and listen to music. There are babies crying and people incessantly walking down the corridors to visit the toilets. But when you are stuck in a plane for two work days, it’s an incredible opportunity to just sit down and focus on the task at hand.

    I’m too broke to fly in business class, but the little table you have in front of your chair is enough to fit in your laptop.

    In airports, there isn’t much to do besides sitting in expensive coffee shops and restaurants. The chairs are nice, but the plug sockets are scarce. Hopefully, I’ll be able to use the 13-hour escale in Berlin to visit a bit with my family.

    One hour before leaving Saigon.

    Infinite Conversation

    Traveling is an opportunity to experience several lives. All it takes is a good conversation.

    The hard part is going toward others. Meeting new people is always uncomfortable, almost scary. Aristotle says humans are social beings, but it’s a half-truth. We are not completely open to new acquaintances. We meet individuals within our social spheres, and we rarely escape it. Have you ever went to a bar by yourself to strike up a discussion? It’s not innate.

    Once you overcome this lingering fear, you still need to make the dialogue interesting.

    Talking is always about the other. Everybody has a story to tell, and your job is to discover it. That’s my approach to ignite my interest: every encounter is an opportunity to learn something new that can potentially impact your life to a great extent.

    People are never boring, you just need to figure out where your interlocutor’s fascination dwells.

    Start by figuring out what the person is doing: the daily routine, the career, the hobbies, their family relationships… nothing is mundane.

    You can then draw a mental picture of what your contact is good at. Everyone has an expertise in some area. It’s not always about career or emotional intelligence or ideas, it can be about striking events and people. Keep Socrates’ maïeutic in mind. Don’t just listen, don’t use the person’s experiences to talk about yourself - focus your attention on understanding.

    When you manage to identify what he/she is passionate about, you’re in for an infinite conversation: it’s an accelerated course on human nature, soak it all up!

    What's your favorite country?

    I got this question in my OyeStartups interview.

    I answered Switzerland, or Sweden, mainly because the living conditions are optimal for me, but let me elaborate.

    South-East Asian countries are cheap, you don’t need to cook, and they are full of friendly people - locals and travelers alike - but the living conditions won’t cut it. It’s incredibly polluted, the humid heat makes me lazy. I don’t see myself living there the majority of the year.

    On the other hand, my daily life in Switzerland was healthier. Surrounded by mountains and lakes. The fresh air and the clean water. This nature is a luxury. Same in Sweden, full of lakes and forests. Switzerland and Scandinavian countries are expensive because everyone can make a decent living: the apparent costs are reflected in the high-quality of the environment. And nothing like a hot cup of coffee in an empty shop while it’s snowing.

    Still, the question remains: do I have a favorite country, in general? I gave an answer for the sake of it, but I don’t believe in the concept of an El Dorado country. When it comes down to factors I have direct control over - my productivity or my happiness - the environment is not the issue, my habits are.

    With the right routine, you can transform your whole perspective of a country, effectively rendering the concept of favorite country meaningless.

    Next Destination

    Time is often represented by an hourglass - by sand more precisely - to remind you how easily it slips through your fingers. My stay in Vietnam will be over in three weeks.

    New friendships were born, and new memories were made. It was an enriching experience on the trail of my origins.

    There is no one Vietnam but four. One in the North where life is a peaceful garden, center Vietnam where girls are spicier than a bowl of Bún bò, southern Vietnam where the food reflects the economy: rich and tasty, and the one I’ll keep in my dreams.

    The hardest part about being a digital nomad is not the work or the adaptation period to a new environment. It’s saying goodbye. Travel is a breakup, a state of intoxication, and all romantics know the best way to sober up is to drink again. You hit the road, again.

    The saddest feeling you can experience as a full-time traveler is the inability to come back. Hopefully, it won’t happen with Vietnam. For now, Istanbul, Turkey holds the first position of my mental list for when it will be time to choose my next destination. I’m prospecting apartments.

    A Few Bucks

    I live on about $800 a month. $26 a day. It’s very little compared to the average revenue of a western household, but it’s also six times an average salary in Vietnam. I live frugally, yet comfortably.

    I don’t have any debt, which directly propels me in the wealthiest people on this planet. Power is not spending $3000 dollars a month, it’s being able to save it. It implies a tiny bit of self-control with a drop of grit: it’s hard to resist the general tendency for people to accumulate more - houses, cars, partners, bottles of alcohol, job titles full of crap… the opportunities to live less on more are everywhere.

    There are so many countries where you can live on less than $1000 per month when you sit down to look at a map of the world.

    With globalization, spending more time and money on material possession significantly decreases your leverage to earn more. It’s not a race to the bottom - ”who will spend the least?”. It’s a race to the top where the most successful make the best use of what they have.

    Western countries have an incredible leverage called passport power. I can’t help but cringe whenever I hear westerners complaining about foreigners taking their jobs. Emigrating takes a courage they are incapable of. Very few people are willing to leave the comfort of their roots. In most cases, it’s a desperate act. It’s way harder to move from East to West than it is from West to East.

    If like me you are a privileged young adult with a head full ambitious dreams, don’t settle down just yet. Travel, live on less, experience more. The world owns you nothing, you are the one in debt to the world around you.

    Finding the Perfect Environment (II)

    In mid-September, I want to seclude myself in a city for three months to spend 14 hours a day working on my tech business. I already wrote about the things I’m not looking for in my environment to be productive, but how about what I’m actually looking for?

    I want to keep my burn rate low: no more than $350 for a private room with Wi-Fi when I want to be alone, and cheap street food to avoid spending time on cooking when I don’t feel like it.

    The climate should be cold, or at least temperate enough to be able to work outdoor and bike on a daily basis. I am planning to take my bike with me on my adventures. I live very locally, so transportation cards are usually overkill wherever I go, and I quickly miss biking when I arrive in a new city.

    Culturally, I enjoy places where it’s easy to meet new people, where everyone is open and happy to share. From my experience, the hotter the average temperature, the more outgoing people are.

    I’d enjoy great coffee shops and libraries to work from, within biking distance. It’s important to make the distinction between where you live (where you rest and relax) and where you work, but I’m failing very hard at it. This aspect of my life requires change. Your brain associate your environment with a set of emotions: it’s possible to train your brain to immediately enter a state of flow just by moving from one building to another.

    My criteria are specific yet easy to fulfill, which gives me room for my instinct to kick in. So far I’m strongly attracted to Istanbul, but I might also choose Kiev. I’ll go for the simplest option.

    Finding the Perfect Environment

    Traveling around gives me the opportunity to experiment with the kind of environment I feel the most productive in.

    I’d say my most successful period was during my stay in Annemasse, working a full-time job in Geneva while hustling before and after my 9 to 5 on my previous startup. It was the closest I found to a perfect balance between personal growth and work productivity.

    It’s not about how nice your apartment is. I lived in a 25m² appartment located in a small city at the border between France and Switzerland. A desk, a kitchen, a shower, toilets, and a bed. That’s all the furnitures it contained. Much better than the high-end resort my family and I booked two weeks ago. I love keeping things simple: living like an underdog is the best way to remember what matters most.

    It’s not about the facilities. I used to work out three times a week using just a pull-up bar and a yoga mat while biking 20km to work every weekday for four months. I was in top shape, and it resulted in an increased productivity at work. In Bangkok, I had access to a gym and a swimming pool, but I barely used it. I always felt like I had something else to do.

    It’s not about living in a dynamic environment with plenty of opportunities to go out and have fun. Any place will do better than Annemasse, but it gave me the opportunity to stay focused while avoiding distractions.

    It’s not about the tropical weather. Who doesn’t want to live in a place where it’s hot and sunny every day? I do. In fact, the colder my environment is, the better I perform. Annemasse is located near the Alpes mountains, it gets really cold out there. Same in Stockholm, where it’s dark for 20 hours a day during winter. Still, I will take dry cold over humid heat anytime.

    What's so hard about long term traveling?

    Traveling is like swimming. Anyone can do it, but you still have to learn not to drown.

    Long term traveling is not as easy as booking a plane ticket, it’s a habit to train.

    People love traveling because it’s a radical way to create change. The brain loves distractions. Too much change creates fatigue, however.

    As a digital nomad, you still need to work. And work doesn’t like distractions.

    Sustainable travel is thus a balance between new experiences and routine, between change and stability. If a lifestyle is a sum of habits, the surest way to fail is to try to develop all habits at once. That’s when we end up developing travel fatigue.

    Finding this balance is the hard thing about becoming a nomad.

    Unlike historical nomads who already developed their own sustainable culture over hundreds of years, digital nomadism is relatively new: our psyche is uncharted territory. We have to figure out things for ourselves, what works and what doesn’t.

    From my own experience, flexibility and slowness are the two core habits to integrate to become a successful long-term traveler - by successful I mean the ability to live your best life, whatever it means to you.

    Flexibility is how you integrate your new environment to your daily life and to your objectives. Changing places will always make it hard for you to get things done the way you used to. You can complain and fail, or you can adapt. There is always a way to find harmony.

    A common excuse I read when people decide to quit digital nomadism after a mere six months on the road is how they can’t go deep in their work. It’s a lack of flexibility, find a quiet spot in town and put in the work. Stop hopping around every two to three days.

    Slowness is another important part of traveling well. You are not a tourist cramming visits in your day, you play the long game. Digital nomadism is not all fun and parties, it’s just a different approach to work where the same first principles apply.

    The longer you stay in a new place, the more you grow as an individual. Relationships take time, destinations are new and attractive partners. One night stands are draining you more than they create you. No local will be willing to create meaningful connections with you if you are visiting for a few days, it’s just not worth the emotional investment.

    Slowness is how you acquire stability, it’s the well-deserved rest healing your congested travel muscles.

    Learn to swim before diving in.

    Mazeophobia

    I’ve been cruising in the Ha Long Bay for two days with ten other westerners. As it’s frequent in most tourist attractions many activities are organized to keep us busy. Guides tell us where to go and what to do. I kinda hate it. We bought a package to visit the bay and it happens the activities were included. I started wondering why people would actually like those. My brother and I had rather spend time silently observing the mountains, the sea, and the fishing boats.

    My conclusion is people either don’t want to think for themselves, or are too afraid to go on an adventure.

    I think it’s quite obvious you can always distinguish two kinds of travelers: tourists following the herd of other tourists, and more independent people seeking to interact with locals first and foremost. The fear of getting lost, mazeophobia, is probably the single thing defining who is or isn’t a “tourist”.

    I believe travel is not about finding new monuments, new cultures, or new people. It’s about losing yourself: losing your identity, losing your mental barriers, losing your sense of what’s normal and what isn’t. Travel destroys more than it creates.

    We have to learn to be comfortable with not having a pre-defined plan. We have to be comfortable strolling through the streets aimlessly, without any map or smartphone to guide us.

    Only then can we relate to people again. Only then can we be ready to face any situation the world throws at us. Being lost is temporary, all roads lead back home.

    almost broke my streak

    I’m currently writing on a boat in the famous Ha Long Bay. There is no Wi-Fi. I was told there would be. Barely any mobile network either. I’m frantically writing with the hope I will be able to hit publish. Resistance is strong today. We woke up early to catch a bus. It took us four hours from Hanoï to reach the beautiful rounded sea moutains. Then the boat started cruising the sea. We ate lunch inside, then head to the auxiliary boat for a quick tour, which ultimately lead us to a platform full of kayaks. I took one. We landed on a solitary beach with the 14 of us to have a swim. It’s now almost time for dinner and I’m starving. But I had to write my 200 words first. There is no way I will let anything get in the way of my streak, of my work. No beauty in the world can ever change my mind. You have to put in the work when it really matters to you. This is no exception. I think it truly is the first time I’m faced with a lack of connectivity. There is no real off-grid possible when you are building a habit. Hopefully, tomorrow is another day, an easier one.

    Last days in Hanoï

    Tomorrow I’m leaving for the Ha Long Bay to spend two days visiting this iconic Vietnamese landscape. Our month in Hanoï is coming to an end. I know I will come back, it’s such a unique city. Booming, and yet, authentic.

    My month in Ho Chi Minh City was quite different: the city center is full of tourists, traditions are being lost. Hanoï remains popular and authentic. The appartment I live in is about a kilometer from the Hoan Kiem lake. Street food stalls are still filling up the buildings. Mornings and evenings are so lively, full of scents, interesting sights, noisy at times. Hanoï is the kind of place where everything appears extra-ordinary.

    The biggest changes appear in the capital’s periphery. Fields and fruit trees are being wiped out to leave room for foreign investors.

    Transportation is still an ongoing issue in Vietnam, contributing to the ever increasing air pollution. It’s not unusual to wear a mask around here.

    Oddly enough, even though Vietnam is still a country in development, no one is left starving in the streets. Mendicity is prohibited. It doesn’t mean poverty or malnutrition is a thing of the past, but the progress are encouraging.

    Over the following month I’ll be living in Hue, then Saigon again in August. Until next time, Hanoï.

    Places where I lived

    Note to self - all the places I’ve been living in for at least a month:

    • Hanoï, Vietnam (1 month) - nomad entrepreneur
    • Penang, Malaysia (3 months) - nomad entrepreneur
    • Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (1 month) - nomad entrepreneur
    • Bangkok, Thaïland (2 months) - nomad entrepreneur
    • Warsaw, Poland (1 month) - nomad entrepreneur
    • Budapest, Hungary (1 month) - nomad entrepreneur
    • Paris, France (1 month) - CTO
    • Geneva, Switzerland (6 months) - internship
    • Stockholm, Sweden (1 year) - studies
    • Bucharest, Romania (1 month) - visiting ex-girlfriend
    • Skopje, Macedonia (1 month) - visiting ex-girlfriend
    • Shanghaï, China (1 month) - internship
    • Lyon, France (4 years) - studies
    • Bordeaux, France (1 year) - studies
    • Morocco (1+ month: Essaouira/Southern Morocco)
    • Portugal (1+ year, hard to estimate: Viana Do Castello, Braga, Guimaraes, Chaves, Batalha…) - summer holidays
    • Spain (6+ months, hard to estimate: Barcelona/Valencia/Costa Brava, Galicia, Pais Basco…) - summer holidays
    • Tonneins, France (18+ years) - place of birth

    Fourteen countries. Six years as a student. One year as an official “digital nomad”. Three years working/studying remotely. I moved a lot throughout the years, but I just realized I lived in that many places. Travel has definitely played a huge part in the construction of my identity.

    Other places I passed by: France (Rennes, Toulouse, Grenoble, Marseille, Nice, Arles, Agen, Strasbourg…), Poland (Wroclaw), Danemark (Aalborg, Copenhagen), Sweden (Malmö), Italy (Milano, Torino, Roma, Napoli, Portogruaro), Germany (just hit the road), Austria (just hit the road), Slovenia (Ljubljana), Croatia (Zagreb, Hvar, Split, Dubrovnik), Montenegro (Kotor), Macedonia (Ohrid), Albania (Tirana), Kosovo (Pristina), Serbia (Belgrade), Romania (Vama Veche)

    Places I’d like to go to over the next year: Estonia (Tallin), Ukraine (Kiev or Odesa), Turkey (Istanbul)

    Mai Chau, North Vietnam

    I’m currently writing in a jungle surrounded by green mountains with rounded tops. Two uncles of mine decided to buy a plot of land in Mai Chau, Vietnam to build a homestay. The scenery is absolutely gorgeous. It’s peaceful and quiet. There are fruit trees we can eat from - it’s the jackfruit season. Sour cucumbers, sugar canes, pineapples, bamboos, and herbs are cultivated here as well.

    My family sleeps in a traditional Thai (Vietnamese ethnic group) home down the hill the domain has been dug in. All the facilities are in the main house located at the top of the land. You can navigate between the two by using a long elevated path next to palm trees.

    We reached the mansion by bus with the Vietnamese family managing the place. They are incredibly nice, take care of everything, and in exchange, we just take pictures of the area to advertise it online. I also take care of the children from time to time, for entertainment purpose.

    Needless to say, I’m not particularly productive when it comes to programming. Children are loud. The weather is suffocating. The Wi-Fi is terrible. I use my time to think, eat, rest, ride the bike, and write offline.

    I’m coming back to Hanoï tomorrow, excited to make some progress on the new features. I received an email today, a guy was asking if he could acquire 200WaD. No way, too much stuff to do to give up now.

    Fuel for Imagination

    Whenever I travel, I feel inspired.

    Discovering a new environment stimulates the brain. All the information you need to take in can appear overwhelming, but in the end it’s just brain food. Stay too long in one place and you start developing necrosis. Change is entertaining, but a change of air has mental health benefits.

    There is something about observing people in public places. We are culturally different, but everyone looks so similar. People going to work. People eating. People sleeping. People in love. We all share the same aspirations: to have a good time, to seek a better life.

    Travel fuels my imagination. Locals appear strange and mysterious. However, the moment you start sitting among them, living with them, you develop a relationship - you can relate. This duality is inspiring. It forces me to reinvent my identity, which is what imagination is all about: a change of perception - how you perceive yourself, others, facts, and ideas.

    This is the reason why travel is an apprenticeship. A wandering mind is always learning.

    What’s a human without imagination? Dead wood. Not faced with new situations, humankind gradually loses its humanity. It can be travel, it can be a book, it can be someone new… just go out there.

    Hanoï Daily Routine

    Three days in Hanoï and I already settled in a work routine.

    My parents and I wake up at 7. We go in the street to eat a bowl of phở, about $1 each. I come back to the apartment to work while they spend the morning visiting. Around 1 PM we eat lunch together in another street food stall. My father speaks Vietnamese so it’s much easier to try out a lot of different meals. The heat gets unbearable after lunch so we head back to the apartment to have a siesta. I finish my nap and get back to work till the evening. We have dinner at another place - we will soon get to know the whole neighborhood this way. Then we just chill till bed time, around 1 AM.

    Our sleep schedule is split in two to make the most of the day. The plan is to gradually wake up earlier (5AM) when the jet-lag wears out.

    Digital nomading with your family is doable as long as you develop the right discipline. It doesn’t leave much time for me to visit the city, but I schedule activities during the week-end. It’s a nice trade-off.

    Regarding the location we are in, it’s incredibly nice. The apartment is quite big when you compare it to a regular Vietnamese apartment. The neighborhood is located in central Hanoï, yet it still feels authentic. There are tourists passing by, but not many compared to Saigon’s center. Street businesses are still prevalent, and the local life seems intact.

    Airport Night

    One of the worst things that can happen to any traveler, and especially to a digital nomad, is to spend the night in an airport.

    I did it five or six times, it’s never a pleasant memory.

    Time goes extremely slowly when you are trying to sleep while making sure nobody takes your luggages. Your brain constantly switches on and off, which accentuates the feeling of tiredness.

    Your comfort at night greatly depends on the airport you are in.

    I hate Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport for example: no open store at night, no free lounge to sleep in, worn-out chairs… the conditions are pretty terrible.

    In Muscat, on the contrary, every passenger has access to a super comfortable sleeping chair with unlimited Wi-Fi.

    In Bangkok, stores do not close and you can have a pad thaï at 3 AM if you can’t sleep.

    Sometimes the airport’s doors CLOSE at night. I got locked outside once in Treviso because I didn’t know that and tried to look for food and water in the neighborhood (there was no store inside and it was a scorching summer). I ended up homeless, tried to sleep on a bench, and apparently, a neighbor called the police thinking I was a hobo or something. I got woken up by two policemen. I was really confused, explained my situation, and then they left. I still had to spend the night outside to catch a flight early in the morning.

    It’s actually quite interesting to notice how airports mirror the countries they are built by. Hospitality is not universal.

    I’m writing this because I’m currently at Charles de Gaulle airport, at night time. It’s going to be a long night.

    Road to Vietnam

    That’s it. Tomorrow, I’m back on the road again. I’ve been using and abusing my parents’ hospitality for three months, it’s time to take off again.

    I’m off to Vietnam with my parents and my brother. We go through Bordeaux then Paris by train. We catch a flight from Charles de Gaulle’s airport and stop for a few hours in Kunming before arriving in Vietnam. Two days all in all.

    My mom boards a plane for the first time, in her mid-60s. You gotta start somewhere.

    It’s also the first time I’m nomading with my family - working remotely while traveling.

    All we know is we are going to stay for three months in the country, including Hanoï in June. We want to move across the country but nothing is planned, that’s just how we travel - guided by the wind.

    We are renting an Airbnb in central Hanoï for $480, $120 per person for a month in a nice studio. The transportation from my hometown to Vietnam is about $447 for one way. A ticket often is the biggest barrier to full-time travel, but the living costs quickly make up for it when you stay long enough.

    In Septembre, I will stay a few weeks in France to get some administrative tasks done. Then I will spend the autumn in a warm country.

    Excited to wander again.

    On Holidays

    I went on a short trip to Rennes for the past three days. First real weekend in six months, I took a break to visit close friends.

    Rennes is a city in French Brittany with a nice student/working class vibe. We rented an Airbnb in the Horizons tower, inspired by the Bauhaus movement and near the Place des Lices where most places to go out at night are located.

    It was a lot of fun, time spent creating new memories or reminiscing old ones. Now we are graduated, opportunities for visiting college friends are getting increasingly rare. We all are quite international. It wasn’t a chance to miss.

    I was still writing my 200 words a day, but I was off the grid most of the time. Not doing anything productive felt refreshing and propitious to reflection.

    I am now at my brother’s place in Bordeaux, we had to watch Game of Thrones’ finale together.

    I’m back to work tomorrow with new ideas to experiment with.

    I’m moving to Vietnam in two weeks, for a duration of 3 months. This little trip was a great appetizer. I missed the excitement, the dive in the unknown trying to navigate through new lands and spaces.

    Time to pack.

    Erasmus

    The Erasmus program is a standard student exchange program in European universities. The year I spent as an Erasmus student was the most impactful one of college. I suggest two points that allowed me to obtain this result: exchange and introspection.

    It’s important to go toward students and professors. I was lucky to study remotely and to attend one-on-one Skype meetings with my professors where I was able to discuss my professional interests.

    I was involved in associative activities that lead me to travel to Danemark, Poland, and Romania, where I met brilliant people who profoundly impacted my vision of the world.

    I could have traveled to Australia and met some koalas, it still would feel less exotic than a Swedish sauna party.

    On the other hand, I came from a French program where the workload is known to be heavy. I had a lot of free time during my time in Sweden, which I used to reflect on my life, to experiment, or to seize opportunities for personal growth. For example, I worked in different branches of my industry during personal or college projects, took language classes, or just spent the time on myself with sports and readings. Having free time is similar to having freedom.

    I didn’t have any particular worries during my stay. As an Erasmus, it’s easy to meet new people and I was financially covered by my scholarships. My sending institution was particularly helpful and arranging. My adopted university was great at integrating foreign students to make them feel welcomed.

    I advise all students to take part in an exchange, the new perspective it brings is refreshing.

    Finding places you can call home

    I enjoyed imagining my ideal town when I was a child, and I came to the simple conclusion an ideal place is some sort of Eldorado where you can find everything.

    I still wonder where are the best locations to live from. My environment influences my state of mind, and my mood influences where I like to be. But living somewhere is sacrificing an advantage for another.

    Big or small cities, fast or slow internet, night life or not… I do not care so much. Traveling is adapting yourself.

    Little pollution, a good climate, a soothing atmosphere… those are conditions I look for however.

    I do not see myself traveling all the time. I do not see myself staying in one location forever either. I want to switch between different places I can call home, and occasionally discover new ones, for as long as I can.

    A nomad’s location is rythmed by seasons. Perhaps a digital nomad doesn’t have to live differently.

    Seasons are charged with symbolic meaning. Spring is rebirth. Summer is a time for adventures and new discoveries. Autumn for wisdom and gratitude. Winter is not death but hibernation, propitious to introspection.

    I can see myself spending my summers in Scandinavia and my autumns in South-East Asia. Iberia during winter, and to close the cycle in France.

    Looking for one unique Eldorado is a waste of time. It’s easier to make your own one by traveling to different locations.

    Back on the Road

    The wind brings unknown words. I hear the call of distant lands. The road is burning under the sun of excitement, and so am I.

    It’s been 41 days since I came back to France. I had time to release a small book and recover from my travels. I feel rested and ready to take on new challenges. Days feel slow in the French countryside. Slowness nurtures patience, and patience is a prerequisite for growth. Personal growth is a balance between a need for stability and a need for new ephemeral experiences.

    I’m going back to South-East Asia in June to spend three months in Vietnam with my close family. It’s official: I bought the tickets yesterday. It’s the first time we do this trip together. My father’s parents emigrated from Vietnam six decades ago. He went there once. My brother is learning the basics of Vietnamese. He and my mother never traveled to Asia. It is going to be both moving and exciting.

    I have almost two months ahead of me. Should I stay? Should I go? The young man wants to go East. But the young man also has work to do. The road will have to wait a bit.

    To become an alter-nomad

    To become an alter-nomad is to become a thinker and a maker, rather than a bystander. The mission is to participate in the realization of a better world:

    The intellectual nomad attempts to escape the codes (of the highway), the conditioning (at a socio-psychological level) and simplistic, locking definitions. But he doesn’t pretend to escape every conditioning. On the contrary, he seeks the best conditions, the best conditioning possible (breathing space, focus space, etc.). He works on himself, never losing sight of both his animal and natural basis.

    - Le local et le global dans l’oeuvre de Kenneth White, Pierre Jamet

    To change the world, one must incarnate this change. This introspective work is not simple: it demands to leave the comfort of a daily routine. One can think that this lifestyle is not for everyone, a nomad must be brave because he tends to be marginalized. Wandering builds character. Nomads are creators. Travel constitutes an apprenticeship, a vector of change, but, as the cave allegory of Socrates shows us, learning is suffering. Are we ready to endure it? What are the consequences of such a change? We have to keep things in perspective as Rolf Potts shows: define our fears to act against them. We then notice that they are minimal in comparison to the benefits knowledge brings. Historical nomadism is based on principles of common sense, applicable to life in society. There is no need to be rich or young to become an alter-nomad, it is about choices, priorities.

    How to discover new cultures while being productive

    Laser-like focus and dedication are key for startup success, there is just no way around both hard and smart work. When you love your work as much as I do, you don’t really consider relaxing. As a direct consequence, I do not make enough time to really make the most of my life as a digital nomad. It is a shame, and I wish to improve on this point. Some solutions to get a better grasp of the local cultures I’m visiting while still feeling productive:

    • Learn the language: I downloaded Duolinguo to serve as a basis for learning and plan on practicing consistently in real life situations.
    • Go to meetups, exchange and share: Meetup and similar social apps are an incredible opportunity to exchange with locals, even though English-friendly events seem kinda scarce in some countries.
    • Learn photography: photography is a good excuse to go out and an incredible communication tool. I just happen to have a nice camera gathering dust.
    • Work from libraries: buying a coworking space subscription is out of the question. Open spaces are obviously not deep work enablers, and coworking is still expensive from a local’s point of view.
    • Write about you learned during your visits
      1. Google some local cooking recipes, 2) go to the local market, 3) scream “My name is Chef”, 4) get the pan/oven/pot ready, 5) profit
    • ?

    Road to Ramen: Conclusion

    Today is my last day in Asia, before next time. I’m moving back to Europe for a while. I have to attend my graduation ceremony, and I need to see my family and friends.

    I set out to become a full-time indie maker 6 months ago. My goal was to build my own tech products and make a living out of it, just enough to cover my living expenses - also known as ramen profitability - while traveling. I called this adventure Road to Ramen: 6 months to reach ramen profitability as a maker in South-East Asia. Today is my last day in the Road to Ramen journey, and it is time to sum it up.

    Finance

    I need $700 per month on average to live in South-East Asia. A bit more to live in Eastern Europe. And a little more to live in my home country, France. I have made $652 in gross revenues so far. All of those revenues were earned over the last 2 months only. $35 were made from 7 pre-orders for my upcoming book. The rest was made thanks to my 200 Words a Day patrons.

    My online businesses take me $25 per month to sustain, and I earn a monthly recurring revenue of $114, making a profit of $89 per month. 200 Words a Day is bound to evolve quickly so I’m stashing the money to sustain its growth. I still need $611 per month, or 244 200WaD patrons, to reach ramen profitability in Asia. I didn’t reach my ramen profitability goal, but the progress is highly encouraging. All I need now is to keep going and to keep aiming higher.

    Travel

    I visited 3 new countries (2 months in Thaïland, 1 month in Vietnam, 3 months in Malaysia) and met my extended family for the first time. It was an enriching experience. I definitely love slow travel. In fact, 1 month per city is definitely not enough in my opinion. Next time I travel I will stay at least 2 months in a given city. The social dynamics are entirely different with slow travel. I don’t mind traveling solo either, but it gets lonely. It’s something I think a lot about, how to manage life as a nomad to make it more sustainable. My answers are still far from perfect but I got to know a lot more about what works for me.

    Products

    I made 4 products during my time in Asia: one was a flop, one got some initial traction but I didn’t find any motivation to keep it alive, and one got half built but never launched. 200 Words a Day was my first success as an indie maker and it is still doing well with 2400 registered members and 5300+ posts written. Let’s see how I can propel it to new heights over the next weeks!

    I managed to grow my following on Twitter from 10 to 480 individuals without any marketing trick (no follow/unfollow game). It was done purely organically by just getting involved in maker communities, launching products, writing, and sharing. My Facebook account didn’t take off as well, and I poorly managed my Instagram account.

    In parallel, I wrote 114 short posts (41k words), contributed to 4 articles on Maker Mag and I am about to release my first book Alter-Nomad.

    What’s next

    The last 6 months were great in terms of both business and personal growth, but there is always room for improvement!

    Once I’m done with my first book I will work on a new one focused on entrepreneurship. Making a living from my own creations is still a huge goal of mine during 2019 so I want to experiment with new possible income streams, all related to my work at 200 Words a Day: authoring, patronage, 200WaD spin-offs (our own book marketplace) etc. Maybe create a freelancing business on the side to earn some side money from time to time. Maybe I should call it Road to Ramen v2 and make it an open project? The possibilities are many.

    Location wise, I’m going to stay in France during March. Then I will probably live in Odessa, Ukraine for at least two months. After that, I would like to travel to Vietnam with my parents and my brother for 2 or 3 months.

    I wrote a new year bucket list I’d like to fulfill, so I also need to fit those items in my agenda.

    In the meantime, I want to thank all my users and my co-makers for helping me during those 6 months. I am no one without you pals. My gratitude toward you is infinite. I hope I managed to add value to your lives. Let’s see how we can grow further together.

    Much love,
    baz

    The Cold

    I’ve been solo-traveling in Asia for close to 6 months now. I’m starting to feel homesick. I miss my friends and my family, but today I want to talk about why I miss the cold.

    It’s always hot here. You might think it’s a blessing. I wish we could send all the people dying from hypothermia to Asia during winter. But it’s also humid. Everyone relies on Air Conditioning to cool down, but the effects are not the same as living in a cold weather. We tend to hate the cold. It has its virtues however.

    There is something cathartic about running or biking in the cold early in the morning. Or an exhilarating cold shower after a good workout. Or the frost biting your frustrations away.

    A burning fireplace surrounded by loved ones during a cold winter night will always feel warmer than the hottest summer day. The scarf of your lover smells of flowers. Cold is the surest proof you are living.

    I long for a heated cup of coffee on a foggy morning. The hot weather makes me lazy. 8 days before I travel back to France, and I cannot wait to wear my poncho and put on my good ol’ boots of Spanish leather.

    Achilles, Odysseus, and Travel

    Epic journeys occupy a central place in Ancient Greek literature. The Iliad and the Odyssey are among the oldest texts of Western literature. Travel is cultural and its meaning varies over time and space.

    During Ancient Greece, foreigners who do not travel to trade goods are called nomads, or barbarians if they do not speak Greek. Nomads are not a moving population. Instead, they are individuals perceived as both monsters and gods, or as Aristotle says: “a man who has no need to live in a community, because it is self-sufficient, has no part in the city”. Those travelers are pictured as solitary and erudite heroes, similar to Odysseus.

    Odysseus, the main protagonist of the Odyssey, is a great example of the Nostos theme, a theme used in Greek literature depicting an epic hero returning home by sea.

    The journey isn’t just a homecoming. It is also about how it changed the hero’s identity. The term Nostos would later bring out the expression Nostalgia, meaning the condition of longing for the past: Odysseus travels only to come back a better man, transitioning from a war machine to a family man after longing for his son and wife for years. Traveling as an apprenticeship, a rebirth to integrate more successfully into daily life.

    Achilles is another aspect of the Greek notion of travel. Achilles never gets to come back home. When he left Phthia, the hero knew he was destined to die on the battlefield: ”my nostos has perished, but my kleos will be unwilting”. Achilles renounced the comforts of his home and the instant gratification a life of material pleasures would have offered him. Instead, he travelled to Troyes to meet his fate: death, but glory (kleos).

    The philosopher Diotima explains in Plato’s Symposium that people are driven by a search to reach some form of immortality. Sex, art, and most of our creative endeaviors are an attempt at defying the bindings of time. Achilles’s desire for glory is so strong that it ends up costing his life. Achilles represents this idea of living a short existence filled with hardships to achieve glory, in contrast with a long and average happy life. Kleos means “what others hear about you”, your reputation. A Greek hero earns kleos through accomplishing great deeds, traveling being the mean.

    What is the lesson here? The most important aspect of Achilles’s character is not his search for glory. It is his ability to stay true to himself. I see Achilles knowing his fate as a metaphor for self-knowledge. He clearly understands what it is he needs to do to accomplish his authentic self. More than love or glory, Achilles seeks truth.

    Unlike Achilles, Odysseus never sought glory. He didn’t want to leave Ithaca and has to suffer his fate instead of reaching out to it. But again, despite him unwilling to travel, he is compelled to it and ends up transformed.

    Consequently, the main characteristic of a fruitful travelling experience is that it is not sought out. It is but the byproduct of a higher motive.

    The Need for an Alter-Nomadism

    Globalization has its benefits. It decreased the cost of travels. It’s never been cheaper to move across the globe.

    As a result, seasonal tourists are legion, and trends like digital nomadism, enabled by remote work, are spreading.

    Travel is not only industry. It has become a lifestyle, in between historical nomadism and traditional sedentism. All you need is an apartment from Airbnb and a plane ticket from Skyscanner.

    It’s in our nature to wonder and to wander. But it comes at a cost.

    Globalization has its challenges.

    The economic inequalities between countries are still increasing. We didn’t eradicate war. Environmentalism is still marginal.

    I truly believe we can use travel and entrepreneurship as tools to propose viable solutions to the challenges of globalization. Simplicity and anti-consumerism (now rebranded Minimalism) are both values passed down to us by the historical nomads. Entrepreneurship teaches proactivity: it is possible to make a positive impact at scale by solving important problems.

    How can digital nomadism become a sustainable lifestyle, an alter-nomadism?

    It’s up to us to experiment with our lives, to seek our own answers, and ultimately to share our opinions with the world.

    Global issues demand a glocal involvement from everyone. Not everyone has the same means and aspirations, but if we each keep in mind the Res Publica the compounding effect it creates makes everything seems possible.

    David-Néel, the Ideal Neo-Nomad

    Alexandra David-Néel is the perfect representation of a nomadic ideal.

    As a Belgium-French writer and explorer, David-Néel displayed through the example of her life a real ethic of travel. Her erudition and thirst for otherness allowed her to transcend conditions: she became the first western woman to enter the Tibetan city of Lhasa, forbidden to foreigners at the time, as she described it herself in her book My Journey to Lhasa.

    However, even a great explorer like Alexandra David-Néel alternated between long periods of travels and long periods of sedentism. This is what made her a true nomad from a historical definition. Historical nomads never travel. They move around, following a cycle. Her cycle was not seasonal. It was a cycle of creation. Writing at home. Gathering materials during her travels.

    It’s in her house, nicknamed Fortress of Meditation, that she wrote the books that made her famous.

    David-Néel didn’t travel out of boredom. It was an impulse she displayed at a young age. Later, traveling became an obligation. She traveled to make a living as a singer. She traveled to continue her intellectual work and further her own education. More importantly, she traveled to meet her fate. And this is what separates nomads from tourists: purpose.

    She would later inspire Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and Alan Watts, among others.

    Where I Come From

    I am born at home.

    I guess it’s safer to give birth in a hospital.

    It’s not like my mom did it by herself. My dad and a midwife were there.

    Now that I’m writing this, I have no idea why they did it this way. Maybe I should ask them.

    It’s not like there were no hospitals nearby in 1994.

    The southwest of France is no wild west either.

    July 14th is France’s national day. I was born overnight, under the sound of the fireworks, just past midnight.

    I grew up in Tonneins. A town of 10k inhabitants bordered by the Garonne river. Jean Macé elementary school. Then Germillac middle school. During high-school, I moved to an even smaller town 10km from Tonneins called Aiguillon.

    All in all, I spent 18 years of my life in Lot-et-Garonne. Lot-et-Garonne is among the poorest departments of France in terms of GDP.

    My parents were born there. They spent most of their life there. But they enjoyed traveling.

    I guess this paradox made me hate the condition for a human to be chained to his birthplace.

    It’s not that I don’t like my birthplace. No. My heart still shivers at the memory of the green pastures and forests of Gascony. The sun has a different color. The smell of fresh dirt makes you feel alive. I believe Brassens says it better:

    It’s true that they are pleasant, all these little villages, all
    these market towns, these hamlets, these localities, these cities,
    with their fortified castles, their churches, their beaches,
    they have only one weakness and that is being inhabited,
    and it’s being inhabited by people who look on
    all others with contempt from the top of their ramparts,
    the race of chauvinists, the rosette wearers,
    the complacent idiots who were born in some place.

    - The ballad of the people who were born in some place, Georges Brassens

    Where I come from is a part of me, but it doesn’t have to define me anymore.

    I feel at home wherever the wind blows.

    On my way back to France

    Today I’m leaving Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok. I will stay there for a month before coming back to France.

    It was a stressful morning.

    I had to contact Airbnb to cancel my booking. The host wasn’t answering me. I was afraid I would end up homeless tonight.

    Airbnb handled it awesomely well. They tried to contact the host. A few hours later they provided me with a full refund.

    I was relieved I didn’t lose any hard-earned money.

    Then it hit me: I HAVE TO CHECK OUT AT 12 AM.

    Ho crap. It’s already 12 AM. I didn’t clean the place. I didn’t book a place for tonight yet. My plane is in 7 hours.

    “Ok Basile, you got this. One issue at a time” I said to myself.

    I start packing. Luckily, I don’t have much in my bag. Good thing to travel like a minimalist. I’m done in a few minutes.

    I start cleaning the dishes.

    The doorbell rings. It’s the host. I quickly apologize and tell him I will be done in an hour.

    Half an hour later, I’m done. I just need to take out the trash and call the host. Nice guy. He built a startup. It failed. Now he is renting out Airbnb and making a living out of semi-passive income.

    Check-out, done. I need housing now. I go to a coffee shop and start browsing.

    If you don’t have a hostel/apartment address at your arrival at the Don Mueang airport, chances are the Thaï immigration won’t accept you in the country. Finding housing is urgent.

    I stumble upon a nice Airbnb hostel that meets my criteria, and it provides a self-check-in solution. I won’t have to worry about contacting the host at my arrival.

    Turns out the host is amazing and highly responsive! Phew. Two problems solved. I have one hour and a half left before I start moving to Kuala Lumpur’s airport. I can chill out a bit, eat my last bite of delicious Malay food. I have time to write my 200 words and send/tweet/post the Daily Words.

    It was a stressful morning. I don’t like planning too long in advance, but I should have this time. Now, off to board my plane. Hopefully, I will make it to Thailand without trouble.

    New Place

    I won’t be able to release everything I promised by Monday as I wasn’t as productive as usual last week. After working on 200 Words a Day every day continuously for two months, I was wondering if I was starting to burn out or not. I felt sluggish. Not sad, but empty.

    I tend to be overly passionate about my work, but passionate people burn out easily. It turns out I was overly-reacting: it was the change of environment. My worries disappeared after a week.

    One thing to take into account when you work remotely is your adaptation period to a new place.

    In my case, I need a good week before getting back to full productivity. Before that, I feel tired and lazy. I don’t know the psychology behind it, but I suppose that since mobility breaks routines, it depletes will power as well.

    Humans are not meant to be fast travelers. Mobility generates precarity. Precarity is the enemy of stability. However, you need stability to perform deep work. This is why digital nomads rarely move from one city to another in just a couple of days.

    You can create stability by relying on healthy personal micro-habits.

    I turned inwards to figure out what was wrong, and I came up with some nice observations about myself. Tiredness is cured with sleep, sweets, and loved ones.

    Tomorrow I will write about my personal habits to get into a flow state.

    The End of Historical Nomadism

    Nomadism took a new turn at the end of the first millennium. Losing its hereditary aspect, historical nomadism gradually disappears. Travel is motivated by curiosity, dogmas, and trade. Pilgrims and crusaders illustrate this new nomadism. Nomadism becomes an intellectual movement, with representatives such as Averroès, Thomas d’Aquin or Marco Polo. Writings and intellectual developments are empowered by the invention of the writing press in 1454. It’s the start of a mercantile nomadism.

    Mercantile nomadism appears with the first wave of globalization, characterized by the discovery of America. Settlers, pirates, and explorers (erudite nomad travelers) access new wealth. This manna is sought by the European States in a dire need to keep their power over the Old Continent. The flow is eased for those who work, for those who think, and more generally, for those who create wealth. Work mobility becomes an economic necessity. The liberalization of travel involves an institutional reform.

    The free flow already becomes a source of inequalities and misery, slave trade being a striking example. Merchantile nomadism originates from sedentism. The market results in a convergence of sedentism and nomadism towards a hybrid of fading borders. A hybrid favoring a free flow of goods rather than a free flow of men, or limited to a small part of the global population.

    This first globalization gives birth to a second one, an industrial nomadism: movements are industrialized. Cow-boys, hobos or the Charlot of Chaplin are part of this new generation of nomads. In Europe, the Industrial Revolution pushes the States to prepare future wars through colonization, leading to globalised migratory flows toward the colonized countries. On the other hand, those in most need emigrate to Northern America. Those generations of workers travel regularly to build across the country. Travel is industrialized: a journey of 6 months by coach is reduced to one week by steam train. These newly urbanized nomads, that Jack London depicts so well in his novel The Road, constitute a cheap labor force. Their situation is precarious, living in communities called jungles, moving from one town to another depending on the jobs available, from which they barely survive.

    Historical nomadism is far from those semi-nomads. Few nomad people survived till today, a few millions of individuals at most.

    Back to Exercising

    Finally arrived in Kuala Lumpur yesterday and got myself a new place to live. It was time to shuffle my routine a bit.

    The main goal over the next two weeks is to release many features and bug fixes for 200WaD while keeping on growing the community.

    Needless to say, it’s going to be an intense period. I need the right habits to support my work, and exercising is one of them. It’s the first time I’m working out over the last 2 months.

    I love sports. France is a football nation. We grow up playing football. I am not good at it and I don’t like watching it on TV or in a stadium, but I’ve always found it fun to play. Playing football during my childhood must be one of the main reasons I like exercising now. The dopamine rush is addictive.

    My years in middle school kind of helped as well. I’ve always had a slim figure and slanting eyes. I used to have long hair. I was the typical nerd who topped his classes. I started studying work out programs quite early out of frustration. I wanted validation and a girlfriend, not verbal abuse and bullying.

    I started with home workout programs (Lafay Method). I kept practicing on and off until college. Mostly off. In college, I joined a gym and did some weightlifting. My year spent in Sweden was the most productive one. I used to wake up at 5AM three times a week and get a good workout (Stronglift 5x5 program) when everyone was still asleep. I hate crowded gyms.

    The thing is, I never managed to persist for more than a month. Every two to four weeks I spend another three doing nothing. It’s a habit I just can’t figure out, yet.

    When you are traveling all the time it doesn’t get easier.

    You have to find a gym which is accessible, not overly expensive and offering one-month memberships. And not crowded as you can’t afford to lose too much time.

    Asian megacity condos typically have a gym and a swimming pool accessible to all its inhabitants, which is nice.

    You can always find a way to work out from your apartment if you rent one, but it’s always hard to replace pull-up bars with an equivalent exercise. Lifting buckets of water, doing broomstick pull-ups between two chairs, lifting pieces of furniture… it’s nice but it’s not super efficient.

    In KL I planned to use the condo’s gym (for pull-ups) and the swimming pool. I’ve already started doing bodyweight exercises: some pistol squats and different sorts of push-ups to get back in shape.

    I made peace with the fact I will never grow big. I don’t like stuffing myself to put on some weight. It’s just not my personality. Growing up I learned to accept my body the way it is, and to use the advantages a slim figure offers me over other body shapes.

    My only motive now is to stay healthy, in both body and mind. The process, rather than the pursuit of a body goal.

    Let’s see how I can apply the 200WaD philosophy to exercising over the next two weeks.

    Personal notes on nomad entrepreneurship

    I am a software craftsman. Creating software products is not only a job or an impulse, but it is also a need. If I spend more than a few days just consuming or doing nothing, I feel drained. Creativity is a fire you must release, or the energy ends up bursting out of you.

    In June last year, I decided to open a one-man business that would allow me to launch all the tech products I am dreaming of, in order to confront them with reality.

    Over the last six years as an engineering student, I learned that the success of a project is about three things: community, accountability, and execution.

    I need people. Humans are social animals. I know I cannot do this alone. Self-made men/women are a myth. Selling is all about people. If you don’t add value, you cannot sell.

    Before selling a product, you need to sell yourself. People need to know your business. More importantly, they want to know your values, your vision. More than selling products, there is a social responsibility to any artisan. Communities are built around common values expressed throughout the creation of content: blog posts, pictures, tweets etc. I love sharing what I experience, and I love writing, so it was only natural to grow a way to document the whole process of building a business. That’s how I started writing, which later would lead me to start the 200 words a day challenge and build a product out of it. Writing is for businesses a sort of making-of, a way to understand Why and How they do things so that they can help and/or inspire their readers, and possibly build an informal community.

    A community originates from trust, from a social pact. Accountability makes sure the pact is respected. Businesses have to be accountable to stay aligned with their objectives. For example, 200WaD is an open project: transparent and publicly accessible. Being transparent is not only being respectful of your users/community, but it is also a way to include them in the journey.

    A well-planned project and a great community cannot help a bad maker: execution is key.

    Over the past six years, I have experimented on possible manners to maximize my personal productivity for the sole purpose of becoming a great software craftsman. I developed a personal routine to support both smart and hard work. I tried my limits in a remote work environment, in Stockholm, Geneva, Warsaw, Budapest, and Paris for a total of two years. In Asia for almost five months. I learned a lot about myself and how to use travel as an enabler. Reducing the amount of money I spend per month makes ramen profitability more achievable. Solo-traveling to a location where I barely know anyone allows me to dedicate myself fully to my mission with a laser-like focus.

    I greatly admire makers such as levelsio. Makers are opening a path to a more ethical and sustainable way of building businesses.

    I spent five months solo traveling to build indie tech products, with one goal in mind: to reach mastery, meaning, to build a great product.

    Moving

    The nomad life. A lifestyle based on movement.

    The nomad never travels. He moves around the same territory following the sun and the seasons.

    Sedentary societies are a sum of movements as well. Flows of goods, flows of people. We tend to ease the former rather than the latter. Moving populations scare governments, but trade generates profit.

    Our lives are a pile of movements. We commute. We move in. We move out. We travel. Cities are booming with rushing individuals. We can’t stand still.

    Movement is not only physical. There are intellectual and spiritual movements. Humans are molded by them. Capitalism, communism, Christians, Buddhists, ecologists, lobbyists… We belong to one movement or another.

    Reality itself is just one big movement. Atoms are nothing but particles in constant motion. The universe is constantly expanding. Everything moves. Stillness is an illusion.

    I wonder. Is movement a cycle? Or is a movement a linear motion? I was reading Junji Ito’s Uzumaki last month. Maybe movement is a spiral that consumes you. It would be funnier to move as we dance.

    One thing is sure though. Humans move.

    Moving is what makes us human.

    Only the dead remain at rest.

    No, not even the dead can stand still.

    Thanks @lexc for proposing this idea of a weekly topic. Good one!

    Last Day in Penang :(

    I’ve been living in Penang for 70 days now.

    I just started feeling like a local. I had my regular coffee shop. I had my regular bar. I made friends and had lovers. I just started feeling at home at Griffin’s capsule hotel Page 63.

    I will miss the muezzin singing and the waiter screaming.

    The colorful walls. The colorful sun. The ghost houses. The sidewalk arches.

    I’m going to miss walking throughout Little India. The shadows of the Prangin mall and the Komtar Tower. The peacefulness of the Guanyin temple.

    The many cultures, the many faces. The Street of Harmony. Georgetown is the city of harmony at times.

    A City of Arts, where creators from all around the world gather and interact. Penang is the city where 200 Words a Day is born, late November 2018.

    Thank you @wernminlim for the meetups. Props to my old friend Justin for showing me around.

    I always have this weird feeling when I’m leaving a place. Like I’m leaving a part of me I will never find again. My heart balances between nostalgia and excitement of the unknown.

    Today is my last day. For now.

    Off to Kuala Lumpur to enjoy Malaysia until my visa expires.

    Always Alone, Never Lonely

    Yesterday I went to a Tinder date for research purpose.

    It struck me how easy it is to socialize nowadays.

    You can travel alone far from your own country and still connect with people whenever you feel like it. The culture might be different, but all humans have the same basic needs for friendship, love, and happiness. All it takes is for us to overcome the invisible social barriers built in our minds.

    We will die alone. We are always alone, but it doesn’t mean we have to feel lonely.

    I’m a big introvert, but I can switch on my inner extrovert from time to time. I end up drained the next day and it takes some alone time to refill the energy. Still, it expands my comfort zone.

    One thing I believed in for a long time is that when you travel you can’t make meaningful connections.

    I think this is partially wrong because you can learn to create meaning from the simplest conversations. When you are authentic and genuinely curious about someone, you end up asking the right questions that will lead to more meaningful relationships.

    Loneliness is an actionable mindset.

    Another interesting thing is that the more people you travel with, the less meaningful the relationships you develop. This tribe effect is toxic. It prevents social flexibility because the tribe comes first, not the others.

    Don’t be afraid to travel alone. Traveling alone is never lonely.

    Band of Gypsies

    I have always been a traveler. I owe this to my parents. When I was a baby they would take me around Iberia whenever they could go on vacation. They didn’t have a lot of money, but traveling was the best gift they could offer my brother and I.

    My father spent his youth riding his motorbike in Greece and Italy listening to Bob Dylan. My mother was hanging out with gypsy kids when she was still a child and is still a die-hard hippie at heart. Sometimes I imagine myself as a modern Corto Maltese, born from a french gypsy witch and a vietnamese biker.

    For as long as I can remember I spent my summer holidays in a van on the roads of Spain and Portugal. This is how I learnt slow traveling. We met people and made friends. We could stay in a given location for as long as we pleased, and move to another town the next day. When you travel in a van you can truly experience how locals live since you are not bound to any schedule or guide. You can go to the town market in the morning, cook stuff like you would at home, and eat like a local. Sometimes it’s too complicated to find a place to park so you have to hit the road again. Regularly you have to go on a water supply point hunt.

    We lived like tzigans, and it was great.

    Today I’m a nomad entrepreneur. My parents have been nomading around Portugal for the last 3 months in a camping car. My brother joined them for Christmas from Faro’s airport.

    We are still living like gypsies in a sense. A band of gypsies.

    Some ideas to cut my budget while traveling abroad

    1) Work from libraries instead of coworking spaces

    Libraries are free, have books, and are frequented by locals. Coworking spaces don’t, plus you can actually talk to people during your coffee break in the chat room.

    2) Work from Airbnb for full focus

    A good Airbnb has a kitchen, a workstation, a laundry, and a fast Wi-fi. It is better to pay for a slightly more expensive rent than to spend money on coffee shops, coworking space memberships or commutes.

    3) Get a gym membership instead of partying and doing stupid stuff

    Gym memberships are increasingly cheap. It’s a great investment to stay healthy and productive. If you are not into iron, doing bodyweight exercises at home works well too. All you need is a cleaning bucket filled with water (for curls), and a broomstick on top of two chairs (for pull-ups). Push-ups and pistol squats do the rest.

    4) Get a transportation card to visit the city while benefiting from free discounts

    Long-term transportation cards usually come with many financial benefits.

    5) Eat from home

    In SE Asia the food is so cheap it is actually more expensive to cook stuff yourself.

    6) Practicing intermittent fasting

    7) Go to meetup/startup/networking events instead of partying and doing stupid stuff

    They offer free food and drinks.

    8) Bike

    You can cut a lot of monthly costs by just biking: public transportation, medicine, gym membership etc.

    9) Cut off your phone/data subscription

    Use the power of Wi-fi instead. Do you really need to publish those cute Instagram pictures in real-time?

    10) Bank fees

    Get cash in bulk from affiliated ATMs.

    Spending Christmas Alone: my Experiment

    This year I decided to spend the end of December in South-East Asia.

    The first thing I notice is that Christmas is celebrated here out of sheer western influence. There is no particular reason why people do it, except maybe for advertisement and social pressure. Santa sells more than it gives. The Christmas Spirit feels fake. Yet another attempt at pleasing tourists. This is why I don’t miss Christmas these days. It just doesn’t feel right. One week ago a sad looking middle-aged Bengali waiter served me food while wearing a ridiculous Christmas hat. He immigrated from Bangladesh to Malaysia to support his family and won’t see them for Christmas. I felt bad for him.

    I am far away from family and friends as well.

    It is not that I don’t love them. It is about training the mind. Everyone fears loneliness. I included. Yet I believe loneliness to be a part of life you need to face head-on.

    I have friends who can’t get things done by themselves. This dependence on external motivation is toxic. It doesn’t mean you should be a loner. It means you have to learn to be self-reliant to enjoy community life to its fullest.

    I am lucky to have loving parents and an incredible brother. I am grateful for my family and my friends. But one day we will all die. I can’t take anyone for granted.

    This experience of loneliness is part of my “death conditioning” process, as it is described in the dystopia Brave New World. Except that in my case it is not an attempt at escapism, but rather a jump into a cold reality that strengthens the mind and heightens the senses. When the worst will happen, I will be a little more prepared (you can never be prepared).

    I choose to be alone this year. I won’t do it willingly again. It is a catharsis to re-learn that those holiday celebrations are all about cherishing your loved ones. Today I am stronger, and I wish you all a Merry Christmas.

    On my bike, feeling free

    I spent a week with three friends along the coasts in the South-West of France. It was summer this year. We rode our bikes from Royan to Bayonne. Around 400km.

    Mornings and late afternoons on the road. Middays at the beach. We would rent an Airbnb for the night.

    It was just us, the bikes, and the road. Small bags to carry the bare minimum: clothes, rations. The burning sun. The forest of the Landes of Gascony. The strong Atlantic waves.

    But also the sweat. The burning legs. The aching buttocks. The pain is agonizing. But the pain goes away after a few days. Your body adapts.

    I took a notebook with me to brainstorm new product ideas. I didn’t feel like writing about the experience at the time. Sometimes it’s better to wait for the heat of the moment to fade away. You gain new insights.

    I don’t think you can ever find a greater freedom than the one you find on the road. Kerouac says it so well: Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road. You just have to find food and a shelter for the night. Nothing else matters. No phone. No laptop. Just the day to seize. A liberating feeling.

    I will do it again. Slower. For a longer period of time. Maybe somewhere else. Maybe with someone else. Sleeping in a tent, with the stars for me to watch.

    Thoreau was right. Simplify, simplify.

    Muezzin calling

    When you dedicate your life to your craft, you naturally develop a routine. A routine is tightly coupled to its environment. Yet, some parts of it do not change. Those core habits are called micro-habits. They have the particularity of being location-independent.

    I’m living in Penang this month.

    I wake up around 11:00 without an alarm clock. My capsule bed is warm. The air conditioner ran all night long, and if you are not careful, you can catch a cold. Still groggy, I quickly put on a t-shirt, a shorts and go downstairs with my bag. I drink some cold water. It is time to publish what the members of 200 Words a Day wrote the day before.

    I get a shower and prep myself. Umbrella in hand, I hurry to get some street food at my favorite coffee shop, Kedai Kopi Seng Thor on Carnarvon street. Dried Wan Tan Mee (dumplings noodles) or Koay Teow Th’ng (fish soup). The waiter already knows my drink of choice— ice lemon tea (Teh O’ Ais). Lunch is served soon after, and I am done by 13:00.

    As I am walking toward the coworking space I can hear the call of the Muezzin. It is Zuhr prayer time, and it marks the start of my workday. As I reach Little India the call to prayer is covered by Bollywood hindi songs blasted as loud as possible. I enter @CAT Penang and get in the zone.

    I type my 200 words. It takes me one hour at most if I did not figure out the topic beforehand. My 200 words always end up more like 300 or 400 words.

    I read what the members wrote, and if I have a relevant comment, I post it. It’s 15:00.

    I take two or three tasks from the public Trello and process them. My mandatory tasks for the day are officially done by 16:00. After that, I perform a body scan to see how I feel and figure out what I want to do for the rest of the day.

    Sometimes I want to learn new things so I read books, watch movies, listen to podcasts or work on something new. Sometimes I feel like working more on 200. I wish I could have access to a gym but none are close from my hotel. Exercising while I am traveling is one thing I need to optimize. If I feel mentally exhausted, I just go out, have some cider cans, and meet random people in bars. Loneliness is a huge problem when you are a digital nomad. Fortunately I am quite the introvert and barely need to talk to anyone.

    One thing I enjoy doing is to take my notebook, go to the Junk Bar near Love Lane, order a beer and brainstorm on some new article or product ideas. At some point I go back to my hotel. By 2 or 3AM I fall asleep.

    This is my life these days.

    Mobility and precarity

    We can observe three kinds of nomadism throughout history: physical (historical nomadism), intellectual/spiritual (globalism or mercantile nomadism), and digital (not only digital nomads but also digital transformation as a whole). This three-dimensional nomadism is called neo-nomadism.

    Neo-nomadism is everywhere in our sedentary societies. You can witness it in political nomads (migrants, refugees, homeless people…), workers (expats) or travelers. You can especially observe it in every trade flow around the globe shaping both economic and social phenomenon.

    Unlike historical nomads, a neo-nomad does not belong to a given tribe. Sometimes those relationships are short-lived, limited to social networks. Deeply individualistic, he puts his freedom above others. It’s a society where goods of consumption become transient (planned obsolescence), where a thirst for new material possessions prevails. Neo-nomadism serves the richest: people like me who travel to improve their quality of life, or for financial reasons (pay fewer taxes, tax evasion …). On the other hand, political nomads end up without landmarks and are excluded (ie the European migrant “crisis”).

    Getting used to a new location takes time. Human beings strive for stability, but we consume in a way that favors everything ephemeral. Cities became temporary habitats where urbanization and urban misery (shanty towns) induce the rapid construction of new living spaces. In France, 1 household out of 3 has been occupying its apartment for less than 4 years. The average commute time never ceases to increase: 1 hour and a half per day in Paris. Workers became consumables. All of those behaviors combined induce unemployment and competition as an institution. Companies are compelled to adapt to the quest for profit and the strong competition resulting from globalization. Contracts, rather than laws. For example, delocalization provides a mean for more profit while ignoring basic human rights.

    We favor competitivity and busyness, at what cost? Public institutions are closing. Mercantile nomadism serves the states and their citizens, but the market still prevails.

    Globalism offers flexibility and freedom, but also cultural homogenization and precarity. How can we reconcile both? I want to think about an alter-nomadism.

    Modern travel

    Travel fascinates people. Globalism made it mandatory. Students study abroad. Travel is appreciated on the job market. People are expected to be flexible and commute for long hours. Travel is a social enabler. A mandatory step to be perceived as successful. This demand became an industry with mass tourism being one of the results.

    Tourism is a term from the 18th century describing young bourgeois traveling around France to perfect their education. From a historical point of view, tourism is a lavish practice performed by the elite.

    Modern tourism followed the Great Explorations era, but unlike explorers, tourists travel out of curiosity and idleness. And only the most privileged can sustain the cost of traveling.

    We tend to romanticize travel. Truth is, modern travelers are closer from the tourist cliché, the explorer’s empty shell. A tourist is a pressed visitor who prefers monuments over human beings. “People travel as they eat,” says Frank Michel. Travel has become a good, a “strategy to accumulate pictures”, and as in any good strategy, it needs a plan. Tourism often is “à la carte” and starts from a Things To Do list that every tourist follows religiously to become a “gurgitator of knowledge and dumbed-down landscapes”, a “postal card eater”. Travel as an “extra-ordinary” experience to perform things that would not have been possible on a regular day. For Deleuze, this kind of travel is a “cheap break”, far from the transcendence tourists like to imagine.

    Tourism is an industry that takes many shapes: entertainment travel, cultural travel, business trips… each targeting a specific niche of consumers. Humanitarian trips are profitable businesses relying on popular dreams and right-thinking desires (esteem needs in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs).

    When we travel, we look for something, consciously or not. It is an initiatory quest where everyone is looking for his own Eldorado or “American Dream”. A quest for pleasure. Travel is regularly associated with pleasure in the advertisement industry to attract customers. Malls are airports where consumption is a travel: a product pleases the senses. Same with sports, where movement is the center of attention. Same with entertainment. Same with drugs (“fly high”). As a general rule, goods became immobile travels. Travels to oblivion. Escapism. The exact opposite of the beauties one can find in traveling. In a near future, we might want to travel out of our bodies to become cyborgs.

    What is modern travel then, if not the simulacrum of an ideal with a commercial purpose rather than a real positive impact? A popular desire amounting to a few weeks every year. An accessory, rather than a lifestyle. The nomad has thus a responsibility in keeping his travels ethical to make it a sustainable and positive manna. How to act towards the common good? I need to find answers to this question.

    Slow travel

    Tourists exhaust me. I avoid them. What is a tourist? A fast traveler.

    Just like fast food, fast travelers are all about over-consumption.

    Slow travelers understand that less is more. The world moves fast. Travelers don’t have to.

    I find it astonishing to see people go on vacation, only to make a job out of it. They wake up at 5AM, take their little map and go to each location marked on it. We have to hurry darling. We have to do this and that and this. Then they come back home and feel burnt out. They wonder why and wait for the next holidays to repeat the process. This is shallow travel, why would society inflict that to itself? I have a slight idea. It’s about getting caught up in things to forget reality. A cheap break from daily life.

    Slow travel is not a new trend invented by some hipster millennial. It is how humanity moved in the first place. Fast travel is a consequence of globalism.

    Henry David Thoreau said that he had traveled a great deal in Concord. He was capable of traveling around his own birth place because he trained his mind to see things with a fresh perspective. Slow travel is a low impact form of tourism where social interactions and in-depth activities prevail.

    Travel, not only as a physical movement, but also as an intellectual one.

    Why I travel

    I think that people travel for two reasons: to escape from daily life, or to use travel as an enabler.

    My life spent vagabonding is not extraordinary. Extra-ordinary. I am doing exactly the same things I would do at home in France: programming, writing, reading. Except for my environment, nothing changes. This is how I want to travel. Not to runaway from my responsibilities, but to truly embrace them. Not to take pictures of dead monuments, but to raise my own awareness. To loose my identity, by embracing the ones I encounter. To work, be and offer my best.

    When I graduated from college, I took all the money I saved and set on to make my own products while traveling. My parents never had a lot of money. I saved all I could from scholarships and an end-of-study internship. I choose to live a simple life, not because I am a masochist, but because I have been raised this way. All I need fits in a small bag. I do not feel well when I carry too much stuff. I don’t plan on buying a house. I don’t plan on buying a car. Except for one flight every one to three months maybe, I’m pretty sure my energy consumption is far less than a regular sedentary: traveling as a minimalist, you live off existing infrastructures, the clutter of others.

    In terms of material possessions, the only thing I miss is my bike.

    Living on less, you get more time to dedicate to what matters: your friends, your family, your life work.

    Money-wise, relocating to cheaper countries gave me the opportunity to improve my living conditions while spending less. A smaller burn rate equals more time to make stuff.

    Meeting new people and cultures every day, you constantly reinvent yourself. You confront problems you would never have faced in your home country. You live many lives in a short amount of time. I am definitely not the same person I was three months ago before arriving in Asia.

    To me, a life of conscious traveling is a more sustainable life in many ways.

    Living in Bangkok

    My first destination this year in South-East Asia was Bangkok, Thailand. I spent one month there.

    All I know about Asia comes from a one-month internship I performed in Shanghaï during my first year of college, and from my childhood as a descendant of vietnamese migrants — I am 25% vietnamese (third generation) and 75% french. All in all, I still know few things about the different, and diverse, cultures here. I won’t have enough of a lifetime to discover everything.

    At least, I can say I stayed in Bangkok for a short time. I did not live it to the fullest, as I was spending most of my time building tech products from my bedroom.

    Bangkok is an amazing city for nomad makers: the infrastructure is well-developed (internet, transportation), there are many things to do during your free time (culture, clubs, bars, food tasting, booming social events of all sorts etc.), and it is still amazingly cheap.

    I spent 834$ for a month in an amazing apartment (swimming pool, city view, Chinatown district, gym, an entire studio for myself) and eating out delicious food at the shop opened 24/7 located at the bottom of my skyscraper. Here is a quick breakdown of the costs:

    - Housing: 420$

    - Food: 220$

    - Transportation: 36$

    - Health insurance: 42$

    - Msc (social events, ATM fees, haircut, office supplies): ~116$

    + a one-way ticket in September: 306$

    You can always live on less, but when you are building a business, it’s good to have a minimum of comfort in you daily life. Or else you go crazy/burnt out pretty quickly by working this much amount of time.

    Bangkok was the first destination because of its accessibility from Europe and the cheap flights it offers all across Asia.

    As a maker, the environment was incredibly productive. I launched Pyrohabit (a budgeting app, abandoned) and Road to Ramen (a webpage where I used to document my quest to reach ramen profitability as an indie maker while traveling SE-Asia). I managed to get *one* blog article done (I was pretty happy with myself at the time). I also started hanging out in Makers communities: I joined Telegram channels, improved my presence in Product Hunt Makers and on Twitter by posting daily.

    On the other hand, my circadian cycle got all torn up, I did not take time to visit Bangkok, and I spent my days alone in the apartment most of the time. Even as a big introvert, it quickly becomes tiring. Fortunately, Bangkok is booming with life so it’s not hard to find people to hang out with.

    Overall, it took me one week to set up a new productivity routine.

    In my opinion, one month is too short to discover a city as big as Bangkok. Two months feel more like the right amount of time, especially when, like myself, you do not have any deep tie to the country.

    The only thing that really annoyed me about Bangkok is how tourism affected it. Sex has become an industry that you can witness everywhere here: lady-boys, old men hanging out with young helpless girls, adult shows, night clubs filled with go-go girls and call girls. Needless to say, I felt way better out of the city center and far away from the tourist attractions living the life of a regular thaï working man.

    I still advise to visit Bangkok, as it is a one-of-a-kind city to make things and reflect on human nature. I will just avoid the places crowded with voyeurs and weirdos.

    Fried oysters, without the oysters

    Fried oysters are a thing in Malaysia. It is basically an oyster omelet with some rice flour. The resulting whole is deep fried.

    Now, cooked oysters seem quite mainstream in Asia from what I saw - I ate for example boiled oysters with butter in Vietnam - but fried oyster, this is a first.

    In France we use to eat oysters raw with their sea water. It is harder to get your oysters raw in Asia for obvious environmental reasons. The taste difference is quite pronounced, and this is too much of a cultural shock for me - I hate cooked oysters, they make me sick. I am already not a big fan of raw oysters, but one oyster per year with some good white wine goes a long way in your well-being. Maybe one day I will be used to it and eating some more.

    However, take out the oysters from the fried oysters, and you get the best omelet you can possibly imagine.

    I was trying to get my regular koay teow th’ng the other day - a fish noodle soup - at my regular place. I arrived at the wrong moment: they were out of broth. The only stall left was serving fried oysters. Then, I had this crazy idea to ask for fried oysters, without the oysters as I do not like those. The eggs are mixed with rice flour, salt and herbs. The mixture is deep fried in a pan similar to the one you use for paellas. Yes, those huge frying pans. 11 ringgits later (2.6$), you are served a fat good-looking omelet.

    The omelet is a bit crunchy, yet sticky, and it melts in your mouth. This must be how heaven tastes like: both the texture and the taste are incredible.

    The only downside is that it is incredibly oily. You quickly get full or disgusted, I don’t know which one first.

    That was a hella good omelet though.

    On commuting in Penang

    Digital nomad or not, chances are you are commuting to work most days of the week.

    Commuting is a part of life, and the way you commute tells a lot about you.

    Last month I was working from my Airbnb in Georgetown, so my commute consisted in a trip between my bed and the living room. I would just occasionally go out to a coffee shop to get some writing done.

    This month I moved to a pod hotel and decided to buy a fixed desk at a nearby coworking space for 80$ per month - the Wifi being much more powerful - as I need to get a lot of work done. My routine changed, and so did my commute.

    My hotel is located near the Guanyin temple, in a Hokkien neighborhood (chinese subculture originating from Fujian). I am usually having Koay Teow Th’ng for breakfast in a local coffeeshop.

    I pass by the Kapitan Keling Mosque on my way to the coworking space - I commute on foot -, built by Indian Muslim traders in the 19th century.

    Nearby, tourists from around the globe are taking pictures of the famous local street art.

    I then reach Little India where scents of spices, dried flowers and herbs never fail to soothe me. This biryani chicken looks good, should I have a second breakfast?

    Just a little further, and the workplace building is now visible. The coworking space facing the docks, I take great pleasure in losing myself in my thoughts watching the Strait of Malacca. Time to work.

    Penang island is not called the Pearl of the Orient for nothing. Its diversity never fails to inspire me.

    Georgetown taught me that commuting can be great.