Digital Nomad Conference comes to Bangkok: reactions in social media

Spanning 3 days in Bangkok, the Digital Nomad Conference was billed as the place to be for digital nomads and online entrepreneurs. Judging by social media reactions and interactions with some of the people who attended, it didn’t disappoint.

The conference sprung to life on Monday evening with a pool party, with the main event – a day of talks – following the next day. The venue on the day was a charming cinema (movie theater to those across the pond) called Lido, with an even more charming cinema (Scala) providing the scene for lunch.

The range of speakers was, on the whole, reasonably balanced. Some of the names on stage offered practical advice, while others were more anecdotal, motivational, and verging on the spiritual. All drew positive feedback on Twitter from different sections of the audience, though there were critical remarks thrown in too. There was also interactivity, in the form of finding a partner, “matchmaking” with a chance to win a compelling Coworkation prize, and the odd dance or two.

At the end of the day, I was left with the overriding impression that digital nomadism was a liberating lifestyle choice (the principle of freedom is at its heart), but one that came laden with challenges. It might look plain-sailing (speaker Dave Cornthwaite commented on social media masking the “suffering” behind the scenes), but in reality a nomadic lifestyle is messy and fraught with complications, requiring unconventional approaches – acute discipline and planning, for example, pragmatism and opportunism.

We can’t all (realistically) traverse the Sahara upside-down on a hoverboard, but we can nonetheless commit to finding that formula in life which enables greater personal “freedom”, from using better tools (Natalie Sisson, Jasper Ribbers) to trying more effective strategies (Chris Dufey, Fabian Dittrich) and cultivating a different mindset (Dave Cornthwaite, Jana Schuberth, Fabian Dittrich).

But freedom also comes with responsibility. One of the more telling remarks came from Steve Munroe of Hubud in Bali, who compared – unfavourably – digital nomads to tourists. He advocated the need for “co-giving”, explaining that digital nomads wanted to connect meaningfully with the local community, rather than operate in isolation. Looking around the room and seeing mostly non-Asians, I got the sense that the digital nomad “tribe” was still largely a confined bubble – one that will no doubt evolve.

And that is perhaps the second “takeaway” I took from the event – that while there is a digital in “digital nomads”, nomadism is in essence about people – and humanity.

Speakers aside, there were brief words from Nomad Pass and British anthropologist Dave Cook, who sought participants for his digital nomad study.

Main event

Fabian Dittrich mirrored earlier speaker Dave Cornthwaite through recounting his adventures around the world, before picking up a guitar and crooning:

Fabian’s thoughts on luck appeared to resonate with the audience. Serendipity is a “skill” that one can cultivate, the speaker reasoned. Is it that simple?:

Consultant Jana Schuberth delved into the emotive and pyschological, encouraging self-reflection and reaching out to our fellow humans:

Not everyone appeared in favour of the more introspective elements, however…

Dutchman Jasper Ribbers offered advice on creating engaging video courses:

Hubud’s Steve Munroe touched a chord through outlining a co-giving programme in Bali:

Chris Dufey urged the audience to think and act bigger, and shared tips on how to get more impressive numbers:

British adventurer Dave Cornthwaite entertained and inspired the audience through sharing his madcap escapades:

Natalie Sisson, apparently very attached to suitcases, impressed the audience with her practical tips:

Setting the right tone:

Pre-event (the pool party)

Digital Nomad Conference proceedings kicked off with beer by the pool at AmBar, a rooftop lounge bar in Bangkok:

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