How different countries affect you emotionally and mentally – and a self-improvement followup

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.

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One thought on “How different countries affect you emotionally and mentally – and a self-improvement followup”

  1. Your blogs enlightens me a lot since I am the person who doesn’t have much patience and losing hope quite easily! Your really amazing, keep it up I’m sure you’ll become more successful compared to your success now.

    Ill look forward to next chapter of this blog..

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