Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Lifestyle design and location-independent entrepreneurialism

Finally, someone has said it: lifestyle design is a load of rubbish.

The video below comes from Chris over at My Egg Noodles and the phrase used is actually BS. While his language is pretty strong, I completely agree with Chris on calling this out.

There are so many 'digital nomads', 'lifestyle designers', 'global citizens', 'location independent entrepreneurs' and countless other phrases for people who work online and live overseas (typically Asia, especially Thailand) perhaps in more than one location, or travelling.

I do respect and like some bloggers that fall in this category, like Chris for example, however the overwhelming majority are self-righteous, self-important and not all that special at all.

The internet allows anyone to be anything they like, or at least to be perceived to be whatsoever they desire...being an entrepreneur is as easy and publishing the word in a Twitter profile or at the top of a blog. Those who trumpet their victory over a post-collegiate office-cubical lifestyle at home are seriously deluded if they think they have done anything special as it really isn't that difficult.

Pack up your stuff and buy a ticket, as Chris says, and then go from there...most expats in Thailand arrive with nothing and build themselves up from scratch as teachers, programmers, writers and so is just these lifestyle gurus who talk it up like it is comparable to moving to the moon.

Take myself, there's nothing particularly special about me I'm just an example. I arrived with nothing and have, in a fairly ordinary way, build a life and found a routine here in Thailand with enough money to support a small (but growing) family.

Earlier this year I was in a position that, were I without responsibilities, I could have 'gone location independent' whilst working freelance here in Thailand. And yet I had managed to get into the position, including government accreditation and (legal) working visa, with little difficulty proving that it simply about perseverance and a little bit of luck, of course.

The online work life is not the dark art or rocket science that lifestyle experts would have you believe it to be. Once you find your bearings after arriving in a new country, opportunities will be there it is simply a case of taking them.

Then there is the issue of transparency, what do they actually do to make money?

Only a handful give any kind of clarity on what they do, and crucially what they make... because a little money goes a long(er) way in Thailand (a low bar of entry to entrepreneur status) so realistically a sufficient online empire doesn't need to match the Spanish Armada, and can be anything from $800/900 upwards per month.

As for the location independent element - travel is clearly a hugely attractive prospect. However a permanent job, with a decent pay packet and a home to base oneself in a country like Thailand, can mean travelling every weekend, getting a taste of local culture all whilst collecting credible work experience to ensure your career progresses overseas.

I'm  not saying there is anything wrong with working online and enjoying the benefits of living abroad, far from it as I wish it was something I did earlier in my life...however to claim it is a complicated science, which requires those interested to buy an e-book, subscribe to a blog or anything else, is just not true in my mind.

The one thing you need is the desire to be abroad...and that truly comes from within. Reading about it makes it appealing but that is almost certainly not enough to get someone off their seat and onto an aeroplane. As I well know because it took a major event to finally put my wanderlust into action and get me out to Thailand.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Little Miss arrives

Something we've been waiting on for a while finally came through as the newest arrival to the family arrived into the world last week.

After a few nights camping out full-time in the hospital, I was pleased to get the all clear and bring Mum and Little Miss (the first girl on my dad's side of the family for 3 generations!) back to the in-laws' place in Saraburi over the weekend.

Big bro is delighted and very proud to have a have a sister around the place, even though right now her routine consists of little more than eating and sleeping: lady of leisure.


Thursday, 11 November 2010

Preparation before learning to read Thai

Somewhat belatedly following my recent post on learning Thai, I wanted to kick off by looking at how I first started out and got myself into the mindset for learning Thai. As I mentioned in the post, I didn't follow a strict, academic plan and instead embraced Thai and the language as much as I could in everything I did.

As I also mentioned in my initial post, my learning was not tactical nor organised, and as such it may not work for everyone but it does demonstrate that there is an alternative to studious work, dedicated classes and other techniques that may not fit schedules.

So here is a basic list and things I did before I even picked up a book or began looking at Gor Gai - ก [Gor] is the first letter of the Thai alphabet which together with ไก [chicken] the equivalent of 'A for Apple'.

Believe the unbelievable. A great number of foreigners have mastered Thai to a high, fluent level. While it is unlikely that my approach alone reach that level, the fantastic achievement of many help make my small goal of understanding basic Thai seem possible. After all, if you don't believe in what you are doing, achieving it becomes all the more difficult.

Get motivated. I often try and start new things and don't carry them through but I was determined that my learning of Thai would not be a flash in the pan. Lucky for me that I have a number of factors motivating me to keep going, even if at times it felt like wading through treacle.

Firstly, my son is half Thai and will grow up speaking/reading/writing the language ('understanding Thailand' was a major reason we relocated here from London) alongside English. While my wife and I communicate with him in our respective, native tongues, the idea that I can at least keep up with books they read, his (future) homework assignments, letters, etc is a big reason to learn.

Additionally: I've met many a foreigner claiming Thai can't be learnt, which is motivation alone for me to disprove the (incorrect) theory. While as a curious person I can't help be compelled to learn the language around me, not to mention that there is a certain duty as a guest in his country.

Lastly, though my wife and I would, at some point, like to return to UK, we don't see our lives in either country, rather both. With Thailand such a big part of my future, and having family and other responsibilities, learning to read/write Thai will be a major bonus that might make me more attractive to employers and open me to more job opportunities.

Be immersed. Undoubtedly the most difficult step, particularly for those who do not reside in Thailand permanently, immersion is a hugely influential factor which has played a vital role in helping me, help myself to learn Thai.

Just picking up the newspaper, reading adverts on the BTS, looking at my dual English-Thai keyboard everyday and other small things helped me get a feel for what Thai charaters looked like, before I even began learning them.

Remove expectations. In my post more than a year ago I stated my believe that the road to learning Thai would be long. This was as specific as my predictions got, in part because I really didn't know what I was doing, but in part because I'm not great at sticking to things.

By allowing myself no set targets, I did not feel pressured to learn which helped me enjoy taking in new concepts. That isn't to say I was always happy with my progress or workload, which varied hugely from time to time.

Ignore phonetic western spellings. I am a visual learner, that is to say I do best when I write things down rather than just repeatly speaking them. Initially I began writing words down using phonetic western spelling, soon after I began learning to read Thai I realised just how misleading the spelling were. It really is true to say that reading Thai will help learn and pronounce words as Thai is such a phonetic language...though of course there are some exceptions.

This is just a brief look at steps and attitudes I adopted before I began serious studying. Coming next (hopefully without such a lengthy delay) will be a look at some of the learning techniqued I used to get a basic understanding and how I took my learning further.

I look forward to other opinions and techniques people have used to help prepare themselves for learning Thai. For now, I'm holding off discussing actual learning as I honestly believe getting into the mindset is the most important step.