I’m so excited to introduce a new interview series on Savoir Faire Abroad. As some of you may have guessed, I am planning to return to Asia in the spring and finally become an expat! As such, I thought it would be interesting to do an Asia specific interview series with travellers, expats, and digital nomads.

I want you (my super awesome readers) to get an inside look into what it’s like to travel, live, and work in Asia. Many of you have dreams of travelling more, or of becoming a digital nomad; but you’re not sure how to do it. It’s my hope that this interview series will give you some valuable tips, inspiration, and a kick in the right direction.

I’m thrilled to kick off this series with an interview with James T. Clark of Nomadic Notes. James is a travel blogger and digital nomad from Melbourne, and has been travelling since 2003. James is an awesome guy, very friendly, and extremely knowledgable about all things travel, writing/blogging, and coffee!

When did you first fall in love with travel?

I first went overseas in 1995 to Hawaii and I was hooked immediately. I went on annual holidays after that, but I soon realised that 4 weeks holiday a year (in Australia at least) was never going to be enough time for me to travel the way I wanted. I did the next best thing, and got a working holiday visa for the UK in 1999, and then in Ireland in 2002.

Where have you travelled in Asia?

Japan, China, India, and every country in Southeast Asia, except for East Timor.

What is the most challenging thing about travelling in Asia?

My challenges are more work related, so that would be finding a suitable work environment with good internet.

In 2012 you visited 30 cafés in Chiang Mai. What’s the story behind your obsession with coffee?

A combination of factors there. I don’t drink or smoke so you could say that coffee is my vice of choice. As I work in cafes a few hours a day I have come to appreciate cafes that serve good coffee, so finding good cafes is something of a hobby for me.

You’ve been a digital nomad since 2003, do you have any advice for those who dream of becoming a digital nomad?

The two things I did was to learn a portable skill before I left and to get my finances in order. For me my portable skill was web design, but it could be any number of skill sets. For finances my first priority was getting out of debt. After that I saved up a nest egg that would sustain me until my business was self-sufficient.

As a blogger, do you find that you travel differently?

Absolutely. I met a young backpacker recently and I was fascinated to listen to his travel itinerary for Southeast Asia. It was a whirlwind trip that covered many destinations in a short amount of time. I did a similar trip before my online business but I could not do that now. As I am now working as I travel, I prefer to base myself somewhere and then go on smaller trips.

Do you have any budget tips for travellers planning a trip to Asia?

I would not prebook any hotels or tours before you go. There are many good quality guesthouses that aren’t always bookable online and they are usually cheaper as well.

As a travel blogger/writer, what is inside your gear bag?

– Macbook Air 11″

– Olympus PEN E-P3

Samsung Galaxy SII

– Kobo ebook reader

– iPod Touch 32GB

– A bag of assorted power adapters from around the world.

Name one activity that you think every traveller should do when travelling in Asia?

I always like to try the local food where ever I go, especially in Asia.

What is your preferred transportation in Asia, scooter, tuk-tuk, plane, train, bike, or boat?

Ooh too many choices. I like them all 🙂

Thanks, James!  I hope you found some helpful tips in this interview (I know I did). Be sure to connect with James in the comments, through Twitter, or his Facebook page.

About The Author

I'm a travel writer and photographer who specializes in bespoke travel experiences. I write about boutique, savvy and cultural travel. My writing has been featured in Outpost Magazine, Travel + Escape, and UP! Magazine.

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13 Responses

    • Pamela

      One of my all time favourite guesthouses in Chiang Mai is not bookable online. I always make sure I arrive in town in the morning, and make a b-line for the guesthouse; praying they have a room open. 🙂

  1. James @ Fly, Icarus, Fly

    If you don’t have a portable skill before you leave, you can always pick up a CELTA (recognized English teaching certificate) in Asia. It’s a long one-month course, but to balance it out, you have the evenings and weekends to explore, and if you do well, the school administering the course may just offer you a job. It’s recognized worldwide and as some Asian countries are tightening up on what’s needed to get a work permit, it’s handy to have. At around USD 1,500, it should pay for itself within six months.

  2. Jo (The Blond)

    I like the fact that he mentioned what he does, and what being digital nomad actually means. Many bloggers just mention that they are digital nomads, but they don’t actually say what they did to get there, how they’ve actually achieved this.

    • Pamela

      I agree. It’s something I’m asking ALL the people I interview. Some are vague, but others (like James) actually give more information. Being a digital nomad can mean SO MANY things.

  3. priya

    Ooo Coffee ooo! How would one go about finding good quality guesthouses off line? And can you look for restrictions? For example, a guesthouse without pets?

    • Pamela

      Great question, Priya!

      Many offline guesthouses can be found in guidebooks, and sometimes you can email them to ask whether they own pets or not.

      I think what James is referring to (and he can correct me if I’m wrong) is showing up in a city and looking for a guesthouse when you get there, whether by asking others, or walking around. In places like Chiang Mai there are A LOT of guesthouses. The first time I went, I hated the guesthouse I had booked. The morning after, I checked out and walked around looking for a new one. I found a place called Gap’s House, which was WAY better than my original guesthouse choice. In fact, every time I go to Chiang Mai, I make a b-line for Gap’s House and pray they have a room open. 🙂

      • James Clark

        As Pam said, guidebooks often list places that aren’t online, so that is a good place to start.

  4. Steve

    I enjoyed the comment about meeting a “new” traveller. I’ve met a few and hear their itineraries and most end up in Australia. As for “portable skill”, in addition to web design and teaching ESL, I’d hasten to add trades can often be transferred. And let’s not forget entertainment a la music!

  5. Max Neumegen

    Ummm I am a bit lost for words. I feel I am still looking for the so called interview? Where is the depth? Where is the detail? Like how do u use your Mac air, what programs u use and why? What do u actually do as an online business? How much is it costing to live? What is your average income? What hours u spend on line? What’s hours u spend with the local people?
    A say again, has blogging and the digital world ended up as a “twitter” ? Ie I only learnt two months ago that one can only put on 140 characters on a twitter. Is that the length of the attention span now of online audience?
    I just want to pose the question where has the personal stories and experiences gone.? Where is the sharing with the local people. Not the hostel or hotel or expat party?
    Or am I still too much of the old school of overland travellers? Seems there are more people traveling but most stay with “their own kind” to “see the sights” and miss experiencing the people. Has this thing called travel changed?
    For debate.
    Thanks max

    • Pamela

      I can certainly add some of your questions to future interviews. James does talk about his online business, which is a mixture of web design, and travel blogging/writing. James also has some fabulous cost of living posts on his website.

      I think it’s important to remember that there are several styles of travel, and that travel means different things to different people. There is no set rules in terms of travel. One person’s style is not necessarily better than everyone else. Travel is about the search for experiences and the discovery of oneself in the process.

  6. [Interview] Diana Edelman from D Travels Round - Spunkygirl Monologues

    […] am loving this interview series, and I hope you are as well. James and James gave some great tips in their interviews, and I hope you were able to learn from […]


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