Today I learned something new.

I have traveled a lot before. I’ve spent months travelling. I have lived in Hong Kong for 3 months, before spending 3 months in Manila. I would say I am quite a seasoned traveler and know my way around. Yet, I still learned something critical after arriving in Hong Kong yesterday.

In order to explain better, let me explain a bit about myself:
I see myself as a “high performer”. I don’t try to be Elon Musk and work myself tirelessly 20 hours a day to save the planet (even though I probably should… later in life), but I do try to get the most out of life.

That means I really try to optimize multiple areas of my life: Health, relationships and network, adventure and travel, economy and influence on the planet (idealistic hippie, sorry). It seems the more I “feel confident” in each of these areas, the happier I am.

Back in Copenhagen I was actually really happy. I did really well in nearly all areas, but not very well on “adventure and travel”. Becoming a digital nomad, really changes this…

After a couple of weeks in Chiang Mai I realized I was performing really well in “adventure and travel”, but horribly in nearly all other areas. I started gaining a bit of weight, had trouble getting new customers and I really lacked cool and ambitious people around me. The last two weeks I really tried to improve a lot… but it felt quite hopeless.

Now, feeling hopeless is not my thing. I am known to be a ridiculous optimist, but somehow I really had a “down period” in Chiang Mai.

Now, I had expected to fight this off by improving my different areas. I once read in a book (Brian Tracy, awesome self-help guy if you remove 90% of the American self-help bullshit) that every 3rd month, everyone usually has a couple of bad days in a row. Placebo or not, I actually believe that. Normally I fight it off by working hard to improve all these areas, and I am happy afterwards.

Instead, something very interesting happened; I landed in Hong Kong airport, and my attitude to everything changed right away.

  • Suddenly I started generating ideas on how to get customers – and my first new customer actually came the very same day
  • I started a couple of very critical actions for my business, which I had ignored for weeks
  • I felt convinced I could lose the kilos I just gained, by some quick changes (slow-carb for a couple of weeks combined with running is the ultimate hack to losing weight)
  • I felt happier

Not much “really changed”, but my attitude changed.

And here is my point:

Cities influence the way you think, act and feel

I would personally describe Chiang Mai as the following:

  • Very relaxed
  • Full of parties
  • Full of digital nomads who are not into building serious businesses, but building great concepts so they can live the Four Hour Work Week dream
  • Full of Thai people who speak Thai
  • A laissez faire attitude to health
  • A hustler attitude (everything from bar girls to Tuk Tuks)
  • Very uninspiring; a place in which people grow old without ambitions but with relaxation

Now, I am not a Chiang Mai fan, and someone else would probably use totally different words. That’s fine; I love differences. This is not important to my point.

I would personally describe Hong Kong as the following:

  • Extremely fast-paced
  • Beautiful and inspiring city
  • Extremely ambitious people
  • Lovely transportation
  • Strict focus on health
  • Very easy to meet ambitious people, and a great startup community

This is biased, and that’s the pointWe all see places differently. Of course some attributes are more clear than others:
Everyone will agree Hong Kong is more fast-paced than Chiang Mai

But looking at my own personality for what suits me best, when I want to seek health + start-up community + ambitious people:

  • A fast-paced city with a huge international crowd
  • A relaxed city in North Thailand with a nomad/tourism crowd

It’s clear. Everyone can answer that question.

But what’s my point and what did I learn?

How I perceive a city influences my mood – A LOT. Shockingly much. I have seen this happen a lot to me before, but I was always unaware of what was really happening.

It’s said that “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”, and if that is true, I also think it’s fair to assume that your surroundings have a huge influence on you. I also believe that is why an area such as Silicon Valley has grown so popular; you have great influence on each other.

As a new “digital nomad”, I started out being quite inspired to go to fun and small places. While I still want to go to fun places, I will be much more selective. To me, my “life areas” are the most important, and staying in relaxing places does not suit my wanted lifestyle, unfortunately.

Ironically, I am going to the Philippines on Monday. Now, the Philippines are not known for being ambitious, fast-paced and healthy. That is obviously a problem with my newly-learned experiences.

That is why I am going to try something interesting:

  • Start-up an interview series with the most interesting start-ups in town.
  • Pay extra for the best co-working space in town.
  • Stay in Makati (business center of Manila), despite it being at least 25-30% more expensive than rest of town.
  • Find a healthy cafe – eat slow-carb there every day. Make breakfast myself.
  • Go to meetups and start-up events.

This is going to be an extremely exciting test, and I hope I can report back in a month to say that I am really happy in all areas and everything is going well.

Long-term, I have just gotten even more inspired to try a stay in Silicon Valley. I hope to do it soon.