We can bitch and complain about modern life, the poor diet and lifestyle, dwarfed by forces beyond our control. And we can defend it all, too, while inside numbed, burnt out, frustrated. It takes concerted effort to shrug it off, or just roll with it, and begin crafting a life more in line with ideas we once called our dreams.
While recently visiting Chiang Mai, Thailand, I was lucky enough to meet three people doing just that, and clearly having a fantastic time. Fortunately, I have a podcast and therefore an excuse to talk to them and
steal learn and share their secrets. With two YouTube channels and a podcast between them, admittedly they weren’t the most guarded.
I was in the city to attend Fruit Winter, a free festival of daily meet-ups and activities with dozens of inspired and inspiring folks from around the world, held there for the past two Januaries. Chiang Mai, one of Tripadvisor’s top 25 world destinations, is a great venue with its laid back atmosphere and warm welcome for tourists. Unlike larger cities where corporates reign, Chiang Mai is human sized and human geared. It’s also proving an attractive base for an ever growing band of Digital Nomads, of which more later.
Fruit Winter is the brainchild of Handyman Bananas – a.k.a. Conor McMillen – a lifestyle coach and therapist from the US with a popular YouTube channel where he inspires others to follow his own path from bad habits to shining health. In the podcast, he talks of beating drugs and alcohol with the primary help of a fruit-based vegan diet, and how he has further aided his personal development via a fascinating integrative psychotherapeutic therapy known as Internal Family Systems, of which he is now a practitioner.
“It’s mind blowing, you know,” he says of his transformation. “It’s living my dream. I never thought I’d find my passion. Now I feel I’m living passionately. I did at some point have a hope and desire and a dream to live this life but I wasn’t sure exactly what that meant. I do remember laying in bed and drinking beer, wanting to change so badly, and watching some YouTube videos of some healthy people in Thailand – this is like, three years ago – and thinking to myself, ‘Fuck, I just want to do that. How do you do that?’ And there were parts of me that totally didn’t think I could. But there was a part of me that had hope, there was a part of me that had a dream and a desire, and now all my parts are here with me in Thailand living that dream.”
Brittany Taylor, Conor’s partner, is also a lifestyle coach with a popular YouTube channel, called Simple Living and Travel. Three years ago she downsized her life, leaving her job and home to become a digital nomad as a “location independent” IT consultant, in order to follow her dream of a lifestyle of optimal nutrition, physical movement and lots of travel.
As well as pursuing a similar fruit-based diet, Brittany has found great liberation via her passion for the practice and paradigm known as Authentic Relating. “It’s connecting with yourself and with others from a real place,” she says, “where you’re not giving programmed responses. Over the last year, I’ve had the opportunity to play with an actual authentic relating group in Austin, Texas.”
“I feel like I’ve already started embodying it and maybe offering it in a way in my interactions. People will come to me [for lifestyle coaching] because maybe they want to get rid of stuff in their house, physical stuff. But it turns out that they end up doing a lot of emotional clearing and then that piece of authentic relating comes in – ‘How can I connect with myself and really find what I’ve been using this clutter to avoid dealing with? And when I clear it away, what’s there? And can I sit in that space with myself? And can I love myself?’”
I met Johnny F.D., an expat Californian, at the Nomad Summit he organised in the city in early February. Johnny is an online entrepreneur and passionate about the location independent lifestyle. With the aid of a few others, and in less than two weeks, he put together an inspirational day featuring ten successful “nomads” who delivered twenty minute TED-style talks on their business models and lifestyles to a packed audience of aspirants.
On the podcast, Johnny tells of how he left a “dream” corporate job in Los Angeles in 2008 to pursue a new dream of living in Thailand which took him first through stints as a scuba diving instructor and professional Thai-boxer before discovering yet greater liberation as an entrepreneur. He now hosts the Travel Like a Boss podcast where he interviews other entrepreneurs and seeks to demystify the route to success.
It was dissatisfaction back at his corporate job in the US that propelled him along the path to his true dreams. “About a year and a half into it, I showed up all day, but mentally I had checked out. I was so bored. I got into all these weird hobbies just to pass the time. I was so dissociated from my life. I got lucky that I had landed my dream job. I had hit the dream and realised this was not for me.”
It was on a three week break in Thailand that he discovered a passion for scuba diving and, ultimately, the country itself. But this dream likewise turned stale, as did his dream of Thai-boxing glory. What remained was a passion for Thailand itself, and after writing a book about his experiences he eventually hit upon a system of online entrepreneurship that has enabled him to remain living there in fine style.
“I actively started networking and meeting entrepreneurs and digital nomads because I wanted to learn how to sell more books, I wanted their tips on digital marketing.”
It was in this period that he met a successful entrepreneur in Chiang Mai who teaches the “drop shipping” business model that inspired him to start a series of his own online stores.
“I’m so fortunate that I have location independent freedom. I can literally pack my laptop and a backpack or two and just move to any country I want. I could leave tomorrow. I don’t want to because I love Chiang Mai.
“I don’t spend that much time on my drop shipping stores which gives me a lot of time to do other things I enjoy doing – to do the podcast, to put on the summit, to write these books. It’s insane the amount of free time [compared to] a normal job, especially in the US. You have so much time to pursue your other passions and learn.”
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