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 point. We 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.