How I find myself in a Ko Lanta, Thailand working in a tropical co-working space surround with so many positive and active people?
Interesting question for a regular student who is coming from a small town of 10,000 people.
A lot of times I’m looking for the answer to that question, but as time pass I started to focus more on the future than looking back.
What is a digital nomad career?
It’s a type of career where you can work remotely from any place you can imagine, while not being bound to the location. The work can be done from the office, tropical co-working space or beach. It depends on your preferences, but the only crucial things are a fast and stable internet connection and device for getting the work done.
Imagine not waking up each morning and be pissed at the world because you need to commute to the place you don’t like to spend a second, surrounded with people who drain your creative energy. That’s the reality of majority and it’s just crazy.
If you’re like me and you can’t agree and comprehend that reality, then it’s the story for you.
I will share with you my first digital nomad experience, so all the explorers can do the same thing as me!
I’m not someone special. I’m just like you, but I decided that I don’t want to spend any more day at the office working on the project I don’t like and being surrounded by people I can’t connect with.
If I could take a plane ticket to Thailand and work remotely from there, who’s stopping you from doing the same?
How I Start with the Idea of Traveling Around the World
It’s fascinating story and I must dig into the past a bit.
I was always so pumped about the idea of traveling but never go anywhere outside the borders of Croatia until February 2016.
It was snowing like a crazy and I decided to go on a two-week trip with my cousin in Munich.
I was a bit skeptic about it as it was a big break of my comfort zone. Hey man, I just find myself in a whole different country away from my family and usual routine. The first thing I noticed there was a different culture of people and architecture.
I fall in love with learning about German culture and exploring a beautiful city of Munich. Also, I’ve met so many positive and like-minded people along the way and some of them become my excellent friends of mine.
Munich was an eye-opening experience for me and when I came home from the trip, I was so excited to go on another trip. I was thinking a lot about that trip and I decided that I don’t want to spend a whole life living in a few cities as my parents did.
After that, I took a one-day trip to Ljubljana to explore the beauty of that city. It wasn’t so hard to go there as I already extended my comfort zone and I had so much fun in that city. Only in one day!
At that time, I was looking for the way to get to the USA because I was always fascinated with that country. I remember the times when I could just sit in front of my PC and wandering through the cities of New York City on Google Maps. I said to myself that I must go there once.
I stumbled upon an interesting program called Work&Travel which is enabling Croatian people to get J1 visa and stay in the USA for 4 months. I realized it’s a perfect chance for me, so I took the chance.
I signed up for the program, sent over 300 emails to potential employers across the USA in hope to get the positive answer. Nothing happened, but I didn’t give up because I knew that I would be there. One day, I’ve got the answer from a restaurant owner in Cape May, New Jersey offering me an interview for the position.
Oh man, how excited I was!
Long story short, everything went well on the interview and I’ve landed my first job overseas.
The documentation process could begin. There were so many things on my mind in that period because there were so many things that you need to arrange if you want to go to the USA with J1 visa.
Finally, I set a date for the visa interview, got the visa and bought the plane ticket. All in one day!
The rest of the process was simple as I only needed to be sure that I have everything packed in my bag.
The one and only thing that was bothering me a bit were the fact that I’m going on the first trip overseas completely alone without knowing anyone. That was a scary fact that time for me, but I said fuck it as I was sure I would meet so many good people who’d I relate to.
I don’t want to go into too many details on this experience as I could easily write a book on it. I just want to say I never regret deciding to go to the USA because it was a life-changing experience for me. I was living in the foreign country supporting my life with the work I was doing for almost 4 months, explored so many amazing places, met so many good people who’re my good friends now. Such a great experience and a huge leap from my comfort zone.
When I arrive in Croatia from that trip, I said to myself: “Look man, you want to travel the world and explore what’s outside!”. I needed to figure out how to find the work that I will be passionate about which will fund my travels.
How I First Heard About the Idea of Being a Digital Nomad
Straight after I came back, I moved to the student dorm to finish my master degree. I met a guy named Ian who just started with a freelance work so he introduced me to that kind of work. Now we’re sharing a digital nomad experience in Ko Lanta working on our projects remotely from this paradise island.
If someone told me one year before that I’d be in Thailand, writing travel related stuff (the thing that I’m very passionate about), I would probably say “Don’t bullshit me!”.
So how my journey of digital nomading started and how I find myself in Thailand?
I already knew something about it, but I never had the skills not patience to land the project on the platforms like Upwork, so I forgot about it.
It’s very different when you have someone who’s doing something you want to do because you get the inside information on how to do it.
He introduced me to the platform called Outsourcely which is perfect if you’re looking for long-term clients that enable you to work remotely for them. I created the profile there and landed the first writing job within few days.
The project wasn’t anything special as I was writing and editing the articles on magazine site. After a few weeks, the client had the idea of shifting this project to become a bigger one and he needed someone who would run the business. I was in the right place at the right time.
The client learned me a lot about digital marketing and how the internet business works, so in a few months, I became a person who was managing 25 writers, editors and SEO workers who were working on a few project at the time.
That was so good experience for me because I realized how many opportunities are in that field and if you want something so bad, you will get it at the end. It was such a crucial life lessons that helped me many times.
Finally, around New Year, I stumbled upon a digital nomad blog called nomadicmatt and soon I found myself reading everything related to remote work available on the web. I was talking with Ian and other friends that we could take a trip somewhere in Europe for a week after our semester is over.
We decided to go to Prague with one stop in Bratislava. This trip was different because that was a first time I was bringing the laptop with me and I knew that I had the obligations for the business I was running, so it was inevitable to get the work done remotely.
That was my first digital nomad experience actually and I must say it was so hard to combine partying all night and days with the productive work. I wasn’t so productive, but I did some crucial work.
That trip taught me a lot of vital lessons. Digital nomad career is fun, but you need to have a balance as you won’t be able to do any serious work if you plan to visit a city for a few days.
The next trip I took my work with was in Budva, Montenegro. It was the same like the last trip as I only stayed there for a few days partying hard. Although, it was easier to work there as I was more organized and serious about the work. I found a beautiful café that has a terrace and not so fast internet. It was fine to work there for a few hours per day.
After that trip, I realized that’s a career path I want to chase. When I come back from the trip, I was talking with Ian and told him that I plan to go to Thailand during the summer to work from there as I read many articles from digital nomads going there.
Planning the Trip
I started to read and watch everything I could find about digital nomad career and I was interested in the place of the northern part of Thailand called Chiang Mai, as there are many digital nomads situated.
I knew if I go there that I will grow in professional and personal aspect and I thought it’s a crucial point for me if I want to chase a digital nomad career.
I stumbled upon a site called NomadList which is listing all the places that are attractive to nomads around the world. There is so many feedback from people who already visited some countries and I was spending so much time figuring out where I want to go.
Chiang Mai was perfect in all aspects, but I didn’t like the fact that there are no beaches there – the thing I was looking for.
Ian started to research with me and we find a fantastic place called Ko Lanta. The picture on NomadList was so impressive that I fell in love instantly and said: “I’m going there!”.
The plan was to go around August in the low season. Low season is often called rainy season as the rain isn’t unusual during that time. It wasn’t such a big problem as I have a friend who went to Thailand on low season and said that there is not much rain during the day. The best thing about the low season is that there are no many tourists, especially in Ko Lanta that isn’t fully developed as a touristic island (yet).
We find the co-working place called KoHub and we immediately get in touch with them. They have excellent packages which are perfect for nomads who’re on a strict budget. We read many reviews about peoples’ experience with KoHub and we decided that’s the place we want to spend our one-month trip.
We planned everything roughly and we needed to plan and prepare all the things in details.
Arranging Documentation, Flight Ticket and Bookings
Once Ian and I were sure that we’re going to Ko Lanta, we needed to arrange our visas, flying tickets and booking of KoHub.
The process of getting Thai visa in Croatia is very straightforward and fast. You just need to go to Thai Consulate webpage and see the requirements. After you collect all the required documents, you just go in a Consulate in Zagreb and everything is done in 5 minutes.
It was so strange to me as it took me more to find the place than to get the visa in my passport. Once I had a visa I know, it’s a time to test our luck with getting the cheapest flight ticket possible. We were constantly looking at CheapOair and Skyscanner in hope to find something cheap.
The only problem was that we planned to buy a ticket for a flight that should be in ten days so the prices varied a lot. We found a great deal from Budapest to Doha then Phuket with Qatar Airways.
The funny thing was that I almost bought that ticket for 600 euros, but before I clicked on a pay button Ian told me: “Did you check the tickets from Belgrade?!?”
I checked the ticket from Belgrade and saw the offer for a round trip ticket from Belgrade to Phuket for only 450 euros. We instantly bought two round trip tickets and after that we knew we’d be in Thailand in few days. Oh, such a great feeling it was!
We had a visa and flying ticket in our pockets. The only thing left was booking the KoHub which was easy thanks to the warm and helpful staff working there. We agreed on details in one afternoon and everything was booked and ready for us to arrive!
I haven’t realized at that moment that I’m going to Thailand and that it was a start of chasing a career of my dreams.
Explaining to Friends and Family
Alright, that part was easy as I already been away for a few months during my stay in the USA, so my parents were supporting for the first time I believe.
All of my friends said I’m crazy, but I can understand their perspective as no one is doing a digital nomading. They were a bit concerned about it because when I said that I’m going to Thailand, their first association was a jungle and dangerous places. The good thing is that all of them supported me on that venture.
I don’t care anymore about the support as I know where I want to be in my life, so the support doesn’t mean a lot to me. Hey, I’m chasing that digital nomad career no matter what anyone tells as I know I’ll succeed in it.
Heading Off for the Trip
So, it was one day before the trip when I was trying not to forget anything in my bag. I was constantly checking if I packed everything because I didn’t want to find out that I forgot a crucial thing during the plane ride.
Ian arrived from Zagreb to my home town and we had a barbecue with my family and good talk about our trip and expectations.
We took a night train from Ivanic Grad to Belgrade and trip was lasting for almost 5 hours. The funny story was that during the trip our train broke and we weren’t able to move further. We stopped in a place where there was a concentration camp during the war where we waited for another train.
Another train arrived, we picked out stuff and soon we arrived in Belgrade. The only thing is that we didn’t take a look on how to get to the airport. We asked few people and everyone told us a different way to get there.
We figured out how to get to the airport fast enough and before we knew, we find ourselves in front of Nikola Tesla Airport in Belgrade. We did a check-in, ate something and had a great time at the airport.
It was my 8th flight while Ian’s first one, so I let him sit near the window because it’s an extraordinary experience to sit beside the window especially if it’s the first flight of yours.
The first flight was from Belgrade to Doha and I must say that Qatar Airways has so fantastic service. The best one I experienced! The flight went smoothly without any major turbulences and we landed in a hot Doha! It was 45 degrees Celsius when we arrived, so you can imagine how hot was there.
The great thing is that we spent only one hour between the flights, so we had enough time to eat, take a coffee and board to another plane to Phuket.
The plane to Phuket was a smaller one and it wasn’t so comfortable as the first one, but it was manageable. The only thing is that it was a never-ending flight. It was a never-ending trip and we wanted to drink some beers to make us sleep or drunk. We ordered two beers each and wanted to order more, but it seems everyone just ignores us because I believe the last thing they wanted is to have two drunk Croatians on the plane.
Before we landed to Phuket, there was an amazing view of all the islands near Phuket. Thailand has a big archipelago of islands in the southern part and it was so breathtaking to look at these islands from the sky.
Soon we realized the plane is going to land and we actually made it to Phuket!
After we had got out from the airport, we noticed one thing – Thailand is a very very HOT place!
That was the first realization, but the second one came immediately – not many local people can speak English. It was so hard to understand each other as we tried to arrange the drive to our hotel which was located in Phuket City (around 35km from the airport).
Everyone was offering us taxis and shuttles, but at a tremendous rate, so we decided we will find out how to go to Phuket City cheaper as there must be a way.
Croatians as Croatians always find a way, so we asked a few locals and they gave us bits of information each and we connected the dots and found the bus station. The bus to Phuket City was only 100THB, while taxis and shuttles were around 600THB. That was a huge difference as you can live a few days on 500THB if you know how to budget your expenses well.
We sat on the bus and started to move around the island. The first impression of mine was that the traffic is crazy here and it would be nearly impossible for someone without a driving license to drive there. The second impression was that this island is looking same as Vietnam war movies from the 90s.
The road was filled with motorbikes everywhere, shops, restaurants, people and nature was just amazing – palms everywhere. That was the key moment I knew this is going to be a very good time and I made a right decision going there.
The bus left us at the bus station in Phuket City and one guy offered us a tuk-tuk drive to our hotel for 50THB. We accepted as we were so tired and didn’t have any more energy to think about anything. The tuk-tuk drive was so funny as I was just counting the seconds when this car will be broken.
The driver was a funny local guy who drove is in front of our hotel. We checked-in, got the room for 500THB per night for two persons. The room was amazing as we had a balcony with great views, air condition, but the very funny bathroom. We soon realized the western world have different showers then Thailand and it was so funny to take a shower there.
At our arrival, we didn’t realize that Phuket City isn’t a tourist place, but a place filled with locals. We didn’t research that, so from the start, we had a different experience than many people. We were surrounded by locals, talking with them and trying to understand each other.
It was also the first time I went to massage and damn; it was so good. I can’t remember I felt so relaxed in my life after that massage.
The next day we planned to visit a Patong on the west side of the island and other attractions like Big Buddha and Old Town. The plan was to rent two motorbikes and just go there.
It’s easier said than done. After we rented bikes and went on the road, Ian fell from the bike and damaged the bike that hard that the bike couldn’t be ridden anymore. We paid almost the half of our budget combined to get everything sorted out, but at least both of us are still alive.
We make a cruise on my bike and we soon realized that we were lost with our tire broken, not a single penny in the pocket and dehydrated as hell. We found ourselves going through some kind of Phuket ghetto and some people helped us with the water.
We came back to these people to bring them water and some food back and we had such an interesting talk with them. Such a great experience when you’re surrounded by locals as you can put yourself in their perspective and learn about their culture.
After that, we had some beers with the local guys who had a restaurant in front of our hotel. We were talking for 2 hours and I can remember only one thing both sides understood – how to find drugs and women in Phuket.
Heading to Ko Lanta
The next day we took a shuttle that came in front of our hotel and dropped us to Rassada Pier. There is only one ferry on low season per day that is going to Ko Lanta, but it’s stopping at Phi Phi. The trip to Phi Phi lasted for around two hours and we had one hour free until the next ride to Ko Lanta.
We decided that we will use that time wisely to explore a bit of Phi Phi. The island has a very interesting marketplace with so many people offering you something – from drive to weed.
After a quick exploration, we were boarded on the boat to Ko Lanta and met a local guy who offered us a taxi to our hotel. The only problem was that we didn’t know the name of the hotel and no one on the boat never heard for KoHub. Somehow, we find out the address of KoHub co-working space and we agreed to go with him. This guy became our friend and we hang out with him in Lanta here and then.
The boat ride from Phi Phi lasted for around 2 hours and it was an amazing ride as you can see all the islands on the way.
Sooner as we knew, we found ourselves in Saladan Pier. We made it, we finally arrived!
Getting to Ko Lanta Was the First Step in Digital Nomad Career
Once I got to Ko Lanta, I realized that I just made a huge step forward in my life. I made to Thailand with my freelance projects. I started my career as a digital nomad in Ko Lanta.
There are so many things that happened in Ko Lanta that will have a lasting impact on my life. I’ve met many like-minded people and I’ve got so many ideas about the future and the projects I want to work on.
Starting a digital nomad path has so many benefits on a professional and personal level. You’re surrounded by positive people who’re focused on the work by day and are partying like crazy by night. You get different perspectives on life and you started to appreciate some things more than before.
This trip increased my will to chase the digital nomad career further.
I don’t have regrets about deciding to go to Ko Lanta.
There is only one thing that will be different next time I go to Thailand – I will buy a one-way ticket.
If I could make it, what’s preventing you from doing the same?