After being fed up of the English non-summers and cold winters Darryl and his wife Lindy decided to make their dreams into reality, travelling the world experiencing Milan, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Sydney and now Thailand.
1. Where are you from originally?
Born in Australia to English parents, and moved to London many years ago (the first live/work abroad experience). We were London based until June 2013 but with periods living and working in Milan, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Sydney.
2. Where do you live now?
Chiang Mai, Thailand, since August 2013.
3. What first attracted you to your new home? Did you try anywhere else on the way? Did you move for work or for lifestyle?
After one too many cold English winters and non-summers, we decided enough was enough. The move was part of a lifestyle change in search of what we have termed our “endless summer”. Although we had made a number of international moves previously, they usually centred on a work relocation or a new job, and then reverting back to London.
This time it’s different. I resigned from my job in London and our plan is not to ever endure another winter. I will do a mix of in-house interim management contracts (but only where it is not winter), and in between will live in places like Chiang Mai to do remote freelance work. There has been a real shift in approach and focus. Instead of being settled in London or being a corporate expat, it is now a slimmed-down lifestyle which will allow mobility and location independence.
After leaving London we had summer 2013 in Greece and then headed to Chiang Mai. We decided on Chiang Mai as our first base as we had read so much about how great it is for expats and digital nomads – being cheap, an easy place to live, a solid infrastructure, the warm climate and the sheer beauty of the place.
4. What kind of property do you live in now? Will you stay here? What’s your ideal place to live in within your new country?
We are in a condo in the Nimmanhaemin area and loving it. For us it is very much about the location, immersing into the local lifestyle, and then making the accommodation work.
Our tastes run to both modern, chic apartments, and characterful houses or cottages fitting to their environment – a Lanna house here, a country cottage in England or a rustic villa in Greece or Italy. Any location we live has to be great for strolling out for coffee or a drink, with a good choice of dining options. When we were looking for property in Chiang Mai, we were shown a wonderful Lanna house with buckets of character, with its own outside area including a pond. However it was a ten minute walk to a shop and further for any dining. Even the most “remote” country cottage in England needs to have at least one pub within a five minute stroll for us.
Having read about Nimman being a hip area, I thought it might be a bit too much style over substance, but it is a perfect blend of very, very local flavour and Western influences. It has a real neighbourhood feel to it, not too many tourists and is predominantly Thai people going about their daily lives – perfect for immersion living. I expect we will be here until I have to head somewhere to do an in-house contract.
5. Are you speaking a new language? If so, how did you learn?
Not formally, but am spending time each day to learn some Thai. I think it is important to learn enough of the basics to be polite and show willing in daily transactions. I don’t want to commit to a major programme at this early stage as we will have to head elsewhere to work. While we enjoy Thailand, we may also check out other locations between the contracts.
6. What do you do for a living? Where do you physically work from? Do you work with clients/customers back in your home country or your new one?
I do business management services, providing extra capacity and expertise to managers and business owners who are going through a period of change or just have more work on than they can handle. I do this via remote outsourced services and performing in-house interim management contracts.
Prior to making the leap to quit my job, I worked for international investment banks in a variety of roles but usually as a Business Manager/COO, project manager, financial controller, and risk manager. It is my years of experience of creating and managing functions, driving change, controlling risk, redesigning processes and just generally dealing with the ad hoc as COO that I will leverage in my new freelance life.
Keeping the search for endless summer as the constant factor, I will go back in-house to carry out these types of roles but only on a contract basis, and ideally in a variety of locations. Between contracts I will provide these services remotely. It can be a very short one-off piece of work or more recurring. As my corporate life was internally facing, the challenge now is either to find new clients or to change the mind-set of contacts to think about outsourcing pieces of work, rather than hiring additional headcount or paying for expensive consultants. I am not limiting myself to any type of client, and they can be from any industry, from any location.
7. Do you work online? If so, what is the internet connectivity like? What software do you commonly use on day to day basis? What would be your top tip for online working from your new country?
The remote outsourced services work is very much online for communications, information and research (Skype, email, search engines). This is then mixed with offline work primarily on Excel, Word and PowerPoint.
When we packed up our London home, everything had to become digital as we wanted to have access to anything important and minimise the amount of stuff we were to carry, so a hand-held scanner is a must. I was backing up files to the cloud but had a load of problems with the provider, so have ditched that and need to find a better company. I also have a VPN provider.
Chiang Mai has wifi everywhere so getting online is not a problem. Connections are mostly secure and free, except for the cost of an espresso. The home broadband has been a little unreliable and sometimes drops briefly. I’ve had to call the company twice with problems and both times the service was outstanding and resolved swiftly (not my usual experience in the UK!). It just highlights that you need to give yourself plenty of time to carry out critical tasks and have a back-up plan for getting online again.
8. Are you paid in your new home currency or in pounds/dollars/euros? Do you exchange money often? If so, what service do you use?
I’m flexible on how I am paid and am set up to receive multi-currency. When we were first here in Thailand, I was using an ATM on a pre-loaded UK £ debit card (FairFX as they have lower FX and ATM fees) but have since opened a Thai bank account and fund it by HiFX from my UK account, or move funds from my UK account to the Thailand bank’s London branch and they transfer and exchange it. It depends on the size as the rate with HiFX is not as good, but is a lower fee.
I also have a UK Capital One credit card which is great as it converts close to spot, with no FX fees. In Europe I use a Caxton pre-loaded euro card which I load from my £ account at a better rate than using the UK card in an ATM, and there are no ATM fees.
I don’t change money too often unless I have a second account in the currency where I can park the funds so not too much is in the debit card account should it be stolen. But I will take a view on what the fx rates might do and may buy accordingly.
9. Do you have children? If so, how did they adapt to the move? How are their schools? Are they bi-lingual? Are their good future career opportunities within your new country?
No children, we have enough luggage just for the two of us!
10. Did you bring any pets with you? Or leave any behind? How did this work out?
Alas no, not this time. We have in the past moved with Hugo who graduated from street cat to international jetsetter. We adopted him in Sydney, blind and with a gammy leg but handsome and with the sweetest temperament.
He went with us to Hong Kong then to London. We were glad to have the services of a professional pet relocation service as the logistics and paperwork of an international pet move can be very stressful.
Hugo’s London relocation was made worse by his rabies vaccine failing to take and him having to stay behind for a while after we left. In that scenario, the relocation service was particularly worth the money as they took care of everything from door to door.
Cute, smart and courageous as he was, Hugo became a much-loved legend within the expat community wherever we lived prior to his death in 2009.
11. Is your life better than it was before? If so, how?
It’s definitely warmer! While this move is more of a major lifestyle change (going from permanent work to freelance and really slimming down on possessions), we have been expats in other locations so we knew what we were getting ourselves into. We love living in and discovering new places.
I always think that moving to a totally foreign place can be easier than from one Western country to another – in Chiang Mai, Tokyo, HK etc you really stand out as a non-local. All expats feel as though they are in it together and you end up with a very wide mix of friends, and a variety of expat clubs to join. It is easier to strike up random conversations with strangers than in, say London, where life goes on and everyone is in a hurry (and I was very much guilty of this). The point of difference also works with getting to know the culture as the locals are often keen to practice their English and talk about places in the West they have visited. Just the other evening, two monks got into our songthaew and started chatting away.
12. What are the best things about living in your new country? Has the move been good for the whole family?
So far we are thoroughly enjoying Chiang Mai. It is a very easy place to live and the city is so characterful with interesting architecture and plenty of green space. There is lots to explore in Chiang Mai and the surrounding areas and some beautiful scenery.
The food is amazing – absolutely love the variety of the Thai flavours, and the food from the little streets stalls is so fresh, and adds new meaning to the term “fast food”. The variety of global cuisines surprised us, and the standard is generally high.
The local food really is as cheap as we read about (about £1 for a gourmet hot lunch, instead of £4 in London for a pretty ordinary take-away sandwich). Grocery shopping can be more expensive if you try to “lift and drop” your Western lifestyle, but if you are prepared to eat seasonally, buy local brands and shop in street markets, it works out cheaper.
Around Nimman there are so many different venues, from huge live music beer bars to small local joints packed with students greatly enjoying the English Premier League plus hip cocktail bars. There is even a tiny jazz/blues bar with a proprietorial pet rabbit on the bar.
All of this is our idea of a fun way to live, so we are both exceedingly happy here.
13. What are the most challenging things about moving to and living in your new country?
For me the work-style change, going from full time employment to interim contracts and freelance work is the biggest challenge. But it is just a case of deciding the priorities and developing a strategy and action plan to make it all come off.
With regard to moving to Thailand, it is much easier than when we moved to Tokyo and nothing really stands out as being a particular challenge other than the limited choice of good wine at a decent price.
There are of course all the generic expat issues that you need to consider – visas, health insurance v travel insurance, getting at least some basic language, finding a new mobile phone company, getting the broadband connected, money and minimising fees, finding a new hair stylist that doesn’t just pretend to speak English….
14. Are you here for good? If so, why? If no , why not?
I think that we will end up spending a lot of time in Thailand, and can see it as a retirement option down the track. For now though, I will need to periodically head to other places to do an interim management contract so expect to be in and out a bit.
15. Any partings word to people thinking of moving to your country?
Go for it! In our short time, Chiang Mai has exceeded our expectations and we love living here, which is a huge statement for us as it is miles from a beach. But – do your own research and be clear on what you want to achieve. If you don’t like hot weather, foreign food and a more lax (sensible?) approach to health & safety, then it may not be for you. And finally, I’m a big believer in finding your dream. Don’t be tricked into following someone else’s dream or the latest trend.
Darryl Hemsley recently swapped a corporate life in London for one of location independence, seeking endless summer while providing business management services remotely and on interim management contracts. The focus is on immersion living in a new place for the duration of a contract and between contracts. Life as an expat started 20 years ago when he moved from Australia to London for 12 months, and decided to stay. Further expat experiences have been time spent living and working in Milan, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Sydney (which after being away from Australia for so long, felt like a foreign country). He loves getting to know a new home as a local, rather than ticking off the sights. Darryl’s favourite homes are within a community (city, town, village) and he likes to explore the countryside, always on the look-out for a great meal that only the locals know about. To learn more about what Darryl does visit his website: www.parallel25.com.