I travel the world and work remotely to follow my interests, including technology, start-ups, theoretical physics, mathematics and computer science research and making electronic music. I write about my experiences and interests on this blog. Follow me on Twitter, Instagram or read my blog posts.

2 years ago

A new beginning

Hello World!

I've revamped my life, I've revamped my website and now I'm starting this blog to write about what I'm doing.

Growing (too) comfortable in London

A bit more than two years ago, one week after graduating from my undergraduate studies, I moved to London to take part in a start-up accelerator and found my own start-up.

While it was difficult at first, in particular financially like it always is with start-ups, things ended up going well after a while. I started a profitable student marketing agency and even enough time and financial stability to work on other projects and try and found start-ups.

I was living with great flat mates (one of whom became my co-founder twice), made friends for life and sang in one of London's greatest choirs.

My choir, LCVK, performing my arrangement of Monument by Röyksopp & Robyn. These guys and girls were one of the greatest balances in my life and one of the main reasons I stayed so long.

Obviously, not everything went smoothly all the time (it was more like the infamous rollercoaster) and I made some typical founder mistakes, but those served as good life lessons. But all in all, things were going well.

However, I came to realise over time that I was growing more and more comfortable very quickly. I had some money, so I was buying "stuff". I was always keeping myself very busy, while not making as much progress with the things I really wanted to focus on as I wanted to.

I knew I was in a good position, but I did not feel like I was getting closer to what I was looking for (and I also wasn't quite sure what that was either).

In between, I even started a Master's in theoretical physics because I thought that perhaps that is a better idea (needless to say, 3 days in it turned out that it most definitely wasn't, but that's a story for another post).

I knew I had to change my life.

During the summer of 2015, I got the first inspiration of how to approach that change. I went to my first ever festival with my choir, Secret Garden Party, and a few weeks later did my first short backpacking road trip from Bangkok through Cambodia to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. Based on those experiences and the inspiration I got from levels.io with his remote working + 12 startups in 12 months project, I decided I wanted to try travelling and working remotely, so that winter, I went once around the world, trying to spend no more money than I would normally spend at home, to see if I could do the same.

While it turned out to be difficult to pull off when you're in a place for only 3 or 4 days, I realised that it became easy to work 4 to 8 hours every day and still do other things if you stayed for a week or even longer. And the longer I was travelling, the more I got used to this way of working. So, I decided that unless something changed significantly, I would give up living anywhere permanently, travel, work remotely and stay however long I like (and of course, depending on how long my visa lasts...).

Back in London, I still had to get through my Master's (and I couldn't just abandon it since I had a scholarship for the tuition fees and just quitting certainly would not have been appreciated). So, struggling through exams, doing a research project and submitting my Master's thesis over the summer (and even less time to work on the things I really wanted to work on), by 30 Sep 2016, I was finally free of all of this and ready to leave.

My MSc thesis right after I submitted
My thesis, right after I submitted. I cannot even express how happy I was when it was over.

Retrospectively, it's obvious to me that starting and finishing this Master's and staying in London did not help me advance the way I would like to, but at the time, like so many things, it did not seem obvious at all.

However, I'm only 22, I have a university education and no serious responsibilities like a family to take care of, so I'm happy that I am actually free to do this.

Leaving is harder than you think

Before leaving, I gave away and threw out a lot of the "stuff" I accumulated - and still kept almost a locker full of things.

My locker with my "few" remaining things.
My locker with my "few" remaining things. Now, three weeks in, I realise that I could have sold or given away most of this stuff as well.

But at least they were out of the way. Following the ideas of living a minimalist lifestyle and the goal of not being owned by the things I own, I decided to only go with about 50 things (clothes for about a week, laptop, phone, camera + cables + a few random things), which still turned out to be a lot of stuff I don't need.

It also turned out to be significantly harder to leave behind my flat mates, my friends, my choir and all the other things that made up my life in London. It is a lot easier to travel and work remotely for a few weeks and having a home and environment to return to than to give all of that up and leave. There were moments when I was unsure whether to push through and actually do it, but ultimately, I think I mainly persevered because I didn't want to quit on this.

So, the day after handing in my Master's thesis, 1 Oct 2016, I had a farewell party with a few friends, one last night out in London and, the next day, I left for Heathrow airport and left London and Europe behind.

Getting to the airport, it turned out that Sri Lankan airlines did not like my plan of not having an onward connection at all, even if I wanted to travel through Thailand and cross an over-land border. So, 30 mins before the check-in closed, I still had to find the cheapest flight out of Thailand I could find, which turned out to be a flight to Ho Chi Minh City, so that I could go. Annoying, but, at last, I could leave.

11 hours later, I got to Sri Lanka where I visited Colombo and did some sightseeing to kill some time on my 12 hours layover, and I still ended up spending 4 hours waiting at an overpriced airport with absolutely nothing to do in the evening (except for spending money, of course).

Sightseeing in Colombo
I don't really want to do sightseeing, but if you have nothing else to do for 12 hours and you haven't been to the place, you may as well go... It turned out to be a really nice day. I saw the White House, national museum, had lunch in a normal local restaurant with my taxi driver, Gangaramaya Temple, Independence Square and the beautiful sunset at the beach (rough order of the pictures).

Finally, at 6am on Oct 4, I arrived at the airport in Bangkok and I was incredibly happy that the journey was over and this new part of my life could actually begin. Taking the sky train for less than $1, I got right into the morning rush hour and by the time we got to Bangkok, the train was completely packed, but that felt more like a warm welcome to my new life.

Arriving in Bangkok
The view from the sky train when leaving the airport and the busy streets of Bangkok in the morning. Sadly, it was too busy and I was too tired to take more pictures when I arrived... I didn't realise at the time, but it's also a bit odd that there's a gigantic billboard for the infamous exploding Samsung Galaxy Note 7 right next to the airport.

Next, I got to know my new area in Bangkok, figure out what to do and try and find a balance to work, which turned into a new routine quite quickly. I also ended up capturing some spectacular lightning and visited the best cat café I've ever been to, but that's the topic of my next posts. (I'll try and write more posts to catch up with reality soon.)