Yes, one of my dreams in life right now is to live – for at least three months – in an Asian country. This is actually an ongoing dream of mine, one that I’ve had since around 2010… and somehow I still put it on hold over and over again.
Nowadays, being a digital nomad is almost entirely related to you going to Chiang Mai in Thailand, visiting Bali in Indonesia and going on a trek through all the countries in South East Asia.
Yet, I haven’t been there – but not without being completely avoided by the hype and the desire to visit that part of the world, a part where the culture is different than what I’m used with here in Eastern Europe, where the people are different, the food is different and the attractions are different too.
Initially, when I first started dreaming about living in an Asian country for a while, The Philippines were at the top of the list. But things have changed a bit over the years and the list is still changing until I finally get this done and go there.
Right now, Indonesia is topping my list of SEA countries I want to be in for a few months. Thailand comes as a natural second for somebody who has even the slightest connection with the world of digital nomading, closely followed by countries that I consider extremely interesting: Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos.
And lately, the tiny Taiwan is also starting to knock at my door and asks me to consider it as my potential destination. And every time I just think about these countries I sigh and start hoping that one day it will be possible to make my dream come true.
Because, right now, it’s not possible – there are many factors that influence my decision as it probably happens in the case of many other people who want to start their adventure – or their new life – and simply can’t.
I found many excuses over the years not to go there and each year something new seems to pop up as soon as one of the previous problems is no longer a concern.
So let’s see what is keeping me away from fulfilling my dream – and if you’re in a similar situation: wanting to take the leap into digital nomading, but worrying too much about it – you might see some common grounds.
1. First and most importantly, I have a family. I am married to a beautiful woman and we both have the most amazing son any parent could want.
But this joy comes with a ton of concerns. And the biggest of them all are related to our son.
We are really worried about the fact that he doesn’t speak any English (or the languages of the countries we’d visit). This would reduce a lot the potential friendships he’d make over there and we all know that few things – if any – are worse than being miserable, alone and bored.
I know that people say that kids have their own language and they go over the regular barriers to make friends and have fun – which is true to an extent.
We did travel extensively in Europe, where our son was not speaking the local language or English and he never managed to really connect with anybody. Maybe the fact that he’s a bit shy contributes to this as well, but the reality is that this thing alone worries us a lot.
And that’s not all! We’re currently residents in Romania and homeschooling is illegal in this country. And since he’s going to school… taking him away from receiving the education he needs makes the whole trip for a few months impossible.
We did consider – and are constantly considering – alternatives, but having in mind that he’s six right now, all our potential solutions need to be delayed for a few years more, at least.
2. The second big problem that I have is the question that keeps bugging me: what if I don’t actually like it there?
What if, despite all the hype, all the articles that I’ve read, all the videos that I’ve watched… I will simply be unable to adapt to that way of living?
Visiting a country in South East Asia would definitely mean getting me out of my comfort zone – and the same can be said about my family. And if we commit to three months… well… that’s a long time to feel miserable.
Yes, I know that we don’t have to go for three months at first and instead check the waters and see if the dream is indeed what I imagine it to be… but the truth is that I am horrified about flying.
And since it would be a 16-hour flight to get there, I am under no circumstances going to go through all that hell just to spend a few days there. It should be all in, in my opinion.
3. The REAL cost of living is my third concern.
Yes, we’ve all seen the articles and videos and heard that friend who has a friend who knows somebody living the good life in Thailand for $500 a month.
But you know what? I really don’t buy it – especially knowing the way that I would like to live.
While I am not a person that lives in luxury or spends a lot, I still want to feel comfortable at home and I have some requirements that have to be met. Plus, I am traveling with my wife and son, which makes the price even higher.
I don’t want to live in a hotel room that has just a desk and a bed and a direct view towards a booming construction site. No, I need at least two beds – even an expandable couch works, I need a working kitchen with a real size fridge, I need air conditioning because SE Asia is hot and I need to be located in a good area with enough things to do within walking distance.
Just this requirement alone gets the monthly bill close to $500, and then there’s eating, exploring the city/country, unexpected expenses, entertainment and so on.
Which means that I not just taking the articles claiming that Thailand treats you like royalty if you have a few hundred dollars a month, I know it wouldn’t work in my situation.
Sure, maybe you can make it work when you’re young and wild and you can share a room, eat a bit more unhealthy and not have health issues to worry about, but that is not my case.
So I actually worry that, despite the fact that everybody considers it the cheapest area on Earth right now, South East Asia might be too expensive for me. Remember, I am already coming from Romania, which is one of the cheapest countries in Europe, so paying $1.5 for a meal doesn’t impress me much…
4. Health-related issues come in at fourth to round up my list of important concerns and excuses that I find not to make my dream become a reality.
I am no longer that young and health problems are a part of my life now. And what I am worried most about are… bug bites.
A strange fear for everybody in this world – but in my case, I develop some horrible allergies whenever a bug bites me. Mosquitoes, fleas… things that are just annoying for most people, to me are a real health concern.
Sure, there are a lot of pills that I can pop in to minimize the effect these bites have, but at the same time I have liver-related problems, which doesn’t go well with ingesting a ton of pills…
Plus, I have other health-related worries that people probably have until they visit the area for the first time… and I am trying not to focus about them.
Apart from all these, there’s a plethora of other smaller problems that come and go. The truth is that if you want somebody to find potential problems, that’s me. I’m great at that.
I know that’s not the best approach in life and I am aware that it prevents me from achieving a lot of things… but changing who you are and especially changing what you think is difficult… even if sometimes you realize that you become your own enemy and you’re the only barrier between yourself and your dreams becoming reality.
Is this really my dream?
It seems strange to title an article “I dream to live in X country for X months” and then go on a full ramble about the reasons why that’s not going to happen. I know that.
But the truth is that this helps me get going. It keeps me motivated to find a solution to the problems I constantly find and eliminate them one by one.
Trust me, back in 2012 when I first wrote this article (I have completely rewritten it in 2019), the list looked completely different. Back then, I was just married, I had no son, no bug allergies… and the problems were different.
So yeah, I am still working on the problems, fixing them and helping me better understand life and accept some things that I might not be very comfortable with.
Until then, I will keep traveling around Europe as fortunately it has a lot to offer – and it’s much closer – and still go out of my comfort zone every now and then in order to test the waters.
Because this is something that I will have to do. I’ve dreamed for too long about living for at least a while in Asia to even consider the option of it not becoming a reality… eventually.