After going 5 days without wifi in my island bungalow, I begrudgingly headed to the coworking space on Koh Lanta. In 5 years traveling the world as a “digital nomad” I’d never tried a coworking space until Bali a few months prior. My experience wasn’t great, so arrived loathing the idea of paying for a place to work, but needing to work so I could pay for things like pad thai and cheap beer.
Much like the moment I first saw the beach on Koh Lanta, as soon as I checked into KoHub I felt an immediate sense of belonging. It was a Sunday, so I was there pretty much alone, but I caught up on my overdue projects and decided it wouldn’t be the end of the world if I came back.
On Monday morning the few members still on the island arrived for work and I had more conversations in English in one day than I’d had in the previous few months! There weren’t a lot of us left on Koh Lanta, but those who stuck around were awesome. The KoHub staff have created an incredible community in this little piece of paradise, and right away I was making friends with people from all around the world.
Having friends meant I was more inclined to get out and play vs. just work work work work work. I joined a guided dirtbike tour with a few guys, and even though I crashed going up the first hill, drove into a tree, and was riding a motorbike with completely shredded wheel bearings (we had to stop and get them replaced), I had a blast!
I also met a KoHub co-worker during one of my long runs around the island. He was going one way, I was going the other, we waved, and then met the following morning at KoHub to talk about distance running, bicycling, and beer drinking, all of which we worked hard to perfect over the next year.
A few days after joining KoHub for an office, they released a package deal for coworking, accommodation, and 2 meals a day for less than $500 a month, which was way too good to turn down. My Thai host family had been so amazing during the pandemic and I felt bad leaving my bungalow, but I shuttled my things in a few scooter rides up the beach and moved into my new apartment with a balcony view of the mountains.
I was still on tourist visa amnesty, as were many of my new friends, and while Thailand was doing an incredible job with the pandemic response, their communication for those of us in visa limbo was a bit lackluster.
As the government warned of an end to amnesty in the fall, we started looking into long term visa options to stay. Several of us decided that our best option was to go with a yearlong education visa in Muay Thai, the traditional Thai art of kickboxing. After we signed about 1,645 pieces of paper, paid the fee, and visited the immigration office in Krabi, we had official education visa stamps and could stay in Thailand.
Life was getting pretty busy. In addition to work, running, cycling, and going to the gym, joining KoHub restarted my social life that had stalled out during the lockdown. We had communal meals, coffee hours, games nights, beachside happy hours, and way too many impromptu karaoke nights that ended way past my bedtime.
One night I was even picked out of the crowd at a fire show to have a cigarette lit with flaming balls of kerosine being spun around my face. I feel like once is enough for that…
One day while working on the patio a staff member spotted a snake in the garden just steps in front of our desks, and someone ran to call the “snake man”. When he arrived he overturned the flower planter and found a cobra. We watched for a few tense moments as he corralled and eventually grabbed the snake by the tail, held it up, stuffed it in a bag, and walked out like nothing happened.
After 2 months living in the KohHub apartments the deal was coming to an end, so I started looking for new accommodations. Following advice from friends, I moved into Escape Cabins, a small quiet resort with a pool in a beautiful garden set back off the main road. My friends were staying there too, but were traveling back and forth to Bangkok, so for most of my stay I had the entire resort to myself.
Living in my own luxury cabin meant I also had space for all the toys I was accumulating. My mountain bike was protected from the rain on the porch, and with tall ceilings I was able to fit my new 11 foot stand up paddle board inside, which is where it stayed because in the rainy season the ocean is pretty angry, so I only took it out and paddled around once.
By October my 3 week visit to Thailand had turned into 8 months on Koh Lanta. The initial lockdown for COVID-19 had lasted a few weeks before some restrictions were lifted and I was able to join KoHub and start building a community. The longest I’d stayed in one place since hitting the road in 2015 had been about 3 months in Indiana renovating my truck camper, and although I loved my routine on Lanta, I was also feeling a bit of island fever.
As travel restrictions lifted in Thailand, I ordered an inexpensive mountain bike and touring gear from Decathlon (similar to REI) and started consulting maps for bike touring destinations. The end of October was the Loi Krathong festival in Thailand, when people gather around lakes and rivers to pay respects to the goddess of water by releasing small lotus-shaped boats, elaborately decorated with candles and flowers. My friends said that it would be a great time to be in Chiang Mai, so I set my sights north.
On October 12th I packed my panniers, moved out of my apartment, checked the tire pressure, and pushed off in the pouring rain, questioning my sanity for wanting to leave the island paradise to pedal along highways, through rain storms, and up mountains. But, as soon as I was shivering, fully drenched on the ferry to the mainland, I felt like myself again, living in the moment and chasing adventures with an AntiComfortable lifestyle.