If you could choose where to spend your time during the current pandemic. Would you #stayathome, or would you find a villa in paradise and sit this whole thing out?
I faced that choice, not too long ago. And because I travel and live with digital nomads we got to make a conscious choice on our lockdown location.
And here’s the story…
I Was Travelling in Asia
Let me start with a little backstory.
In November my plan was to conquer the Asian business world. I was at the end of closing a fundraising round for my company and wanted one or two more strategic investors to hop on board. Since the majority of my users, clients, and relations come from Asia, it was time to jump on a plane and visit some conferences, like the Fintech Festival in Singapore.
My suits were ironed, business cards freshly printed, pitch fine-tuned to near perfection, and energy levels up, with a “let’s do this” attitude.
Big plans right?
As you probably know, plans rarely go as you imagine.
During my travels through countries like Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, and Indonesia, the COVID-19 pandemic started. And while I was in Bali with a group of digital nomads I was forced to make a choice on where it to spend my lockdown.
Do I return to The Netherlands, stay in Bali, or find another place to sit this period out? Like a deserted, white beach, coconut tree, type of island…
Back in January, we found an epic villa in Thailand – Koh Samui, which looked like the perfect place to work online from, that also fit my digital nomad requirements as I covered in a previous blog.
But was Thailand, and specifically Koh Samui, a safe place to lockdown?
As it turned out, absolutely!
The country was preparing to lockdown, with a night curfew, mandatory masks, and public places closed. There were 0 cases of corona reported in Koh Samui, and the country was taken proper measures to prevent spreading the virus.
On top of that, the island has 5 hospitals with 70k inhabitants, while The Netherlands has about 600 hospitals for 18M residents. In a worst-case scenario that would mean 14k people per hospital in Koh Samui, vs 30k per hospital in The Netherlands.
Even though you could argue the quality of healthcare and the COVID numbers of Thailand could be incorrect. I believed the island would be safer as the population density is very low and it was impossible for new tourists to come in.
Little did I know that I would find empty paradise beaches for the months after.
The Rush to Get There
Now that my destination was set on Koh Samui, it was time to get there…
On a Friday, we read that Thailand would require health certificates to enter the country and insurance that covers COVID-19. Without the possession of the two, the urgency level increased to get into Thailand before Sunday.
The world started to panic, and countries going on lockdown all around us. We noticed many flights out of Bali being canceled completely. Which increased our stress levels, according to the Apple watch.
That week, we already applied for a longer visa for Thailand at the Thai embassy in Bali, and our passport pickup was due that afternoon.
Now as you can imagine, that Friday was a hectic day.
One of my friends found a ticket to get us to Bangkok that left at 4 PM. Meaning we had to pack our bags, head to the Thai embassy, pick up our passports, and go straight to the airport.
I felt like a group of fugitives that find out there secret hideout is discovered.
And it reminded me of the classic movie Heat (1995): ” Neil McCauley: Don’t let yourself get attached to anything, you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner”
However, that flight got canceled and after booking a few ghost flights we managed to get on board on an empty plane on Saturday that took us to Bangkok through Singapore.
Was it worth the stress? Hell yeah!
With the sunshine, delicious food, cheap cost of living, and friendly people, Koh Samui has the right mix I’m looking for.
For more than 100 days I explored the island on my scooter, driving through the mountains looking for hidden waterfalls, or dipping my toes in the clear blue waters with no one in sight.
I felt perfectly safe and managed to get some work done when I wasn’t caught up in chill mode.
During the lockdown, I picked up poker again and grinded over 30k hands. My business kept running and we’re preparing for a new fundraising round. I’ve also managed to invest capital and time into several projects & startups that I’ll share more about in a later blog.
Things have been happening and I feel the momentum building. I’m ready to head back to The Netherlands soon and let’s hope a second wave isn’t around the corner. And if it is, I’ll find a new island to lock myself down because this one wasn’t too shabby.