It’s been two months since I’ve posted an update to this blog. In that time, I ticked off three more countries (Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Nepal), finished more than a few items on my bucket list, and returned to my home state of Colorado.

Almost everyone I’ve talked to since returning says the same thing: “I didn’t think you were going to come back.” When I left, I didn’t think I was going to come back, at least for a year or more. And yet, six months after I left with a head full of half-complete visions, a different me was clearing customs at LAX, and a stern-faced immigration officer was telling me “Welcome home.”

What brought me back?


Simple homesickness. Travel is a lot of fun, and it’s great to constantly be challenging yourself in new environments. But as I discussed in my last post, being a digital nomad can be very isolating, and I missed my big network of friends and family at home.

I had the money to keep traveling, and a job to sustain myself. I ran down a laundry list of cheap destinations I could hit next: Eastern Europe, Sri Lanka, back to Chiang Mai to meet a friend who was hitting the backpacker circuit in April… None of it sounded good. I was burnt out on travel, ready for the comfort and cleanliness of home.

So I bought a ticket home, and three days later I was on a plane. Such flexibility is one of the real joys of being a digital nomad. You are accountable to no one but yourself, and if you want to go home, you just go home. Here in the U.S. we are raised to believe international travel is this big, dangerous leap. But the truth is that the sort of always-connected travel a digital nomad enjoys is totally low-impact: you don’t like it, you leave.


The Grass is Always Greener

So, I’ve been home for a month now. I’ve seen my friends, broke bread and maybe a few beer bottles with lots of the people I wanted to see, and a few people from my past I never expected to run into. I see the “regular” life I could have here. It would come easy, without much effort or soul-searching. And yet, all I want is to get back on the road. The road that seemed so difficult and lonely at many points over the past half-year.

Life’s funny like that.

It won’t be long before I’m in some new place, taking pictures and creating new stories. In the meantime, I’ll be regularly dripping out content from the past two months— I experienced Chinese New Year in Taipei, breezed through Hong Kong in two (expensive) days, coughed my way through Kathmandu, and trekked nine days through rural Nepal to visit Annapurna Base Camp at 4,130 meters. I took some amazing pictures, met some great people, and partied a few nights away. I lost a job, got a job, and almost managed to get myself hired for a permanent position in Austria in the middle of all that.

So I’ve got some stories to tell. I hope you’ll bear with me as I try some experimental approaches to content over the next few weeks and months. You’ll get the stories and photos from Taiwan, Nepal, Hong Kong, and even some Colorado content, as my home has become an enviable travel destination in its own right recently (thanks, legal marijuana!)

And if that’s not enough, feel free to connect on social:

@thisisyouth on Instagram

@thatisyouth on Twitter

thisisyouth on snapchat.



Should I become a digital nomad straight out of college?

Graduation Gown Caps at Ceremony


I’m going to drop some real talk, which is rare amid the ENDLESS lifestyle porn of the “digital nomad” space.

I run a blog called “this is youth.” I’m 23. I’m a college graduate, tech-savvy, and self-motivated. I had never left the United States prior to this trip. I had a remote job lined up, and basically needed nothing except a little courage to step into this lifestyle. To be location independent was a serendipitous confluence of my professional goals and personal desires.

I still wouldn’t recommend the lifestyle to other young people. Here’s why:

Go join everyone else your age, and hit the backpacker trail

James Bond Island

There’s no wifi on that boat.

Look, I’m constantly called an “old soul,” told that I have my shit together, or asked for advice on “how to adult.” I don’t spend all my money or all my time binge-drinking, and that creates a bit of a disconnect for me sometimes. I’m not the most social person. But even with all that, I’m still jealous of the backpackers. I want to put down the laptop and go join them. Let’s hike to the waterfall. Let’s go out for beers, then have another one. And another one. And another one. And I want the people I’m with to understand that reference.

Nomads, by and large, wouldn’t get it. That’s because,

Digital Nomads, the successful ones, are mid-career people.

Young people in the U.S. romanticize travel. It’s a growing trend, I think largely due to the popularity of social media and the growth of travel blogs. Everyone wants to travel. “It’s just too much money,” or “I don’t have the time.” Being a digital nomad seems like a perfect solution to this problem.

And it is. But it won’t solve the problem in a way which will allow you to really see the world in the way you are imagining. Most of your time as a nomad is spent sitting in front of a computer, thinking about Twitter followers, and reading about growth hacking. Your peers are upper-middle class white people, digital marketers and entrepreneurs.

MOST of these people tried the office for years and years before embracing this lifestyle. Their perspective is very different from yours, a person who maybe, has never spent a day of your life in an office.

Yes, there are some young people out there trying it out, and a smaller portion making it work. There are many of these people in Chiang Mai. Leave the most famous and accessible digital nomad hub, and those young people start to fall off, quickly.

Suddenly, the only people your age are backpackers, and they look like they’re having a hell of a lot more fun.

Again and again, you will meet a young backpacker at a foreign coffee shop. You’ll strike up a conversation, and she’ll say “Wow! You’ve been here for two months?! I wish I could do that.” Then she’ll ask, “Have you hiked the volcano yet,” and you’ll have to say no. You’ve been working.

She’s off to the Gili Islands in two days.

You’ve gained twelve Twitter followers.

It’s really lonely

Look: everyone mentions this. “Being a digital nomad means you have to leave behind your friends and your life at home, but in the end, it’s totally worth it.” That’s the line, or whatever. Everyone acknowledges this. It comes at the end of a 1,000-word post telling you all the great things about the lifestyle— travel, culture, entrepreneurship!

What you don’t see online is a real, true telling of this isolation. It’s crushing— the constant movement of people and places presses on you, on all sides. Especially when you first start out, and the urge to move countries frequently is almost irresistible.

The friend you met at the coworking space, and the last two days talking to nonstop? Headed to Saigon in a week. Meanwhile, you’ve booked tickets to Chiang Mai already. Well fuck. See you on Facebook, I guess.

Spend a month in a place, start learning a few words? The shopkeepers start recognizing you, going beyond just “can I take your order please?” Your visa expires. Gotta go. Sawasdee!

This is happening to everyone around you, at all times. The rejection is almost total. There is little spontaneity— although with enough time, your paths may cross again, or you can plan a meetup in some foreign city. This is a cool sentence to write, and an inspirational one to read— but it’s simply not fun to live, day-to-day.

Those who choose to stay in a city for six months or more can avoid this, to some degree. But even six months doesn’t match up to a friendship at home, usually developed over years of near-daily contact. Your life at home will move on without you. Your college friends will get jobs, up and leave town, and you won’t even be there to buy them a beer at their going away party. And it gets a lot harder to make friends, after college. You want to hold on to the ones you have.

But I REALLY want to travel

If international travel is really the only thing you want to do, that’s fine. If you’re a startup-techy-marketing type of person who is ok with long stints of serious loneliness, you might be ok for a while.

But for most young people, I’d recommend working hard, saving up, then hitting the backpacker trail like everyone else your age. You will lack millennial peers as a digital nomad, and you’ll be adding more stress than you expect to your travel experience.

The Nomad lifestyle is only going to become more ubiquitous

Blurry Focus Coffee Cups on Hooks

Right now, being a digital nomad is still kind of cutting edge. With the huge shift towards distributed teams, it is becoming more commonplace by the day. The most commonly-cited studies say half the U.S. workforce is a freelancer of some sort, and that’s only likely to increase. Work-from-home is on the rise, and while most people will never go further than their neighborhood coffee shop, anyone with a remote job can technically be a digital nomad.

As visibility and understanding of this lifestyle grows, so will the number of companies willing to accommodate it; and the number of services designed to facilitate it. In 10 years, it will be considerably easier to be a nomad. You will be considerably further along in your career, and probably have less opportunity to drop everything and go travel without obligations for months on end.

So take advantage while you have that opportunity. Leave it all behind, and I mean ALL of it. You’ll never get those gap years of your youth back. Live it up. There’s plenty of time for work, later.

Top 5 tips for a cash-strapped digital nomad


I had the misfortune of losing my job this past week. After two years of surviving cut after cut, the endless layoffs at Inside.com finally got me. That’s startup life, I suppose. And truthfully, it was probably time for me to move on, level up in my life and in my career.

I know it’s a weird thing to write from a foreign country halfway across the world, but I had gotten complacent.

Life as a digital nomad looks a lot different once your income stream dries up. Things get a lot more stressful. I’m lucky enough to have saved up a nice little cushion, so I’m trying to treat this break as a vacation, rather than an excuse to panic. Still, money suddenly became a lot more precious to me. Here are the top five things I’m doing to save money while traveling (as a digital nomad, specifically).

Get free water at your coworking space

Since nomads often frequent undeveloped countries, bottled drinking water is one of those little expenses that can quickly add up. Especially in a place like Bali, where we are currently experiencing 90 degree days with alarming regularity. You have to drink to avoid dangerous dehydration— but you don’t necessarily have to pay for that water.

If you are using a coworking space, almost all of them offer water coolers, with safe filtered water. Use them. Get a water bottle and fill it up every day before you leave. Bring it back the next day, and fill it up again.

It’s also smart to stop buying coffee, and use the free stuff provided at the coworking space. As a coffee lover myself, I find it hard to consistently obey that last rule, but I am trying. If you make use of the free water and coffee every day, you can often more than make up for the cost of your coworking.

Of course, if you are truly budget strapped, then it’s often more economical to just

Drop your coworking space

In Bali, this is simply not feasible— Internet speeds are awful in most places on this island. You can’t rely on a coffee shop, and most hotels, homestays, and guesthouses can barely handle your Facebook uploads.

However, in a place like Chiang Mai or Taipei, it’s worth asking yourself: is a coworking space a necessary expense? You can work just the same from your apartment. It might not be as social, but skipping the trendy coworking can save you anywhere from $50 to $300 a month.

You might have less cool Instagram shots, but you will have more money to eat and experience the local culture. Which is the reason you’re abroad in the first place, right??

One option here is to

Replace your coworking with a mobile hotspot

Since I don’t need blazing fast Internet, I’ve opted to supplement my basic coworking with pay-as-you-go mobile data. I use tethering on my iPhone to beam the connection to my computer. In general, it’s a lot cheaper. Here in Bali, 4 GB of data on Telekomsel costs 100.000 rupiah (~$7.50 USD). 25 hours of coworking at Hubud costs $60 USD. Guess which lasts me longer?

4G tethering through my phone is almost always faster than the free wifi offered at the cafes and restaurants throughout town.

Plus, Telekomsel has coverage throughout the Ubud area. I’ve actually been quite pleased with the coverage here: it’s fast (4G), and rarely do I drop coverage. I think Telekomsel must have invested some serious time and money into their infrastructure, because prior to arrival, I had heard their coverage was slow and spotty. That hasn’t been true in my experience, at all.

Eat local

This is a tried and true travel tip, or course. Local food is always cheaper, and often better, than the Western food on offer. When you have money coming in though, it can be easy to treat yourself; this is why its not uncommon for 20-somethings living in big cities to drop fifty, sixty, seventy dollars on brunch. Why not?

Why not is you’ll get just as full on a $1.50 dish of Nasi Goreng as you will on a $12 green shake with eggs and toast. Granted, you’ll get really sick of– and possibly from– the Nasi Goreng by the time to leave Bali (ahem), but over the course of a month, you’ll save enough to be able to afford a plane ticket to your next destination.

Plus, when you return home, you’ll be able to explain the ins and outs of Indonesian food, which will make it seem like you actually went somewhere, and did something.

Set aside an emergency fund

This is something you should do BEFORE you start your trip. Not everyone has this luxury, I know. But IF POSSIBLE, you should set aside at least a few hundred dollars in case things go sideways. Ideally, this fund should contain enough for a plane ticket home, and then a few hundred on top.

I understand a lot of people like to live life a little riskier than that, and that’s fine. It’s certainly possible– and probably a better story– to work yourself out of that hole, learn to survive, and find a way home from the verge of bankruptcy.

But for me, I prefer a little more stability. My savings account means I have a few months of runway to seek out freelance work, affiliate income, or a new full time job before I have to head home with my tail between my legs.

In the meantime, I’m taking all the steps above to reduce my burn and increase my runway, but I’m damn glad I have the safety cushion.

Backpacking Singapore’s famous Marina Bay Sands

Marina Bay Sands hotel at night

We were the only people wearing backpacks in the check-in line at the Marina Bay Sands, Singapore’s most famous 5-star hotel. All around us were businessmen in slick suits, Indian families on holiday and wealthy Korean socialites. Shiny, wheeled suitcases abounded, sliding silently across the perfectly polished floor of the Marina Bay Sands’ immaculate lobby.


And then there’s us: two very young Americans, soaked in sweat and baggy under the eyes, with these huge scruffy backpacks sticking up above our heads; looking up at the impossibly high lobby ceilings, with their suggestive curving lines and beautiful architecture. We were starstruck.


Probably looking something like this.

A five star hotel isn’t a traditional backpacker– or even flashpacker– destination. But this was the Marina Bay Sands— it is THE touristy thing to do in Singapore. It has the world’s highest rooftop infinity pool. The supertrees at the nearby Gardens By The Bay were one of the first things we agreed we wanted to see, a year ago when we first started discussing travel. And, it was Polly’s birthday.

So I booked a night in the cheapest room at the Marina Bay Sands.

The cheapest room at a five-star hotel is not cheap. In fact, I paid as much for one night at the Marina Bay Sands as it costs to rent a lower-end serviced apartment in Chiang Mai for a month. But sometimes in life, you have to go big. This was one of those times.

The benefit to looking out-of-place

After quickly reaching the front of the check-in queue, we were greeted by a very friendly clerk, who asked us if we were backpacking around Asia. “Traveling,” we said. “It’s my birthday,” Polly told him. “My great boyfriend over here bought us a night here as a birthday present.” “Good present!” he said, and upgraded us to a 51st-floor suite with a view of the bay.

Sometimes, looking out of place can make things happen for you.

Sometimes, it just makes you feel awkward as hell in Malaysia.

A suite at the Marina Bay Sands


Now in possession of a suite for the price of a simple deluxe room, we giddily headed to Tower 3, where we used our RFID room card to gain access to the upper floors (exclusiveeeee).

We were floored when we walked into the room. Coming from tiny backpacker rooms on Ko Lanta and Ao Nang, to THIS, was more than we could handle.

The suite consisted of a big lobby area with a couch, chairs, and big screen TV, and a wall of windows looking out into Singapore Harbor, where dozens of ships were docked. There was a small– very small– balcony you could walk out on. For a couple of landlocked kids like ourselves, this was an amazing sight.



The living room was separated from the bedroom by two large sliding doors. In the bedroom, the wall of windows continued. A plush, king-size bed commanded the room, facing a second, slightly smaller TV. All the lighting and drapes could be controlled from switches on either side of the bed.

In the bathroom: a huge bathtub, two sinks (godsend for couples), an opaque toilet cubicle (complete with a wall-mounted phone), and a rainfall shower. Toiletries and puffery out the ears, of course. There was also a huge walk-in closet and massive safe, but we honestly had no use for that. All our possessions fit on our backs.


The room was so cool it was tough to convince ourselves to leave it and actually go see the city. You could easily spend a week in Singapore without ever needing to leave the Marina Bay Sands complex— provided you had the money to burn. The area has a high-end Vegas vibe and is priced accordingly.

The Skypool at the Marina Bay Sands

We didn’t have a week, we only had one night; so we had to jam as much as we possibly could into that one night.

First stop: the famous Skypool on top of the building. Visitors willing to pay a small fee can access the restaurant, bar and observation deck on top of the Marina Bay Sands, but pool access is a privilege reserved exclusively for hotel guests. You can be damn sure we were going to take advantage of it, and get those Instagram photos.

To be honest, I never did nail “the shot” from the skypool. I got a lot of good ones, but no one definitive image. So I’m just going to post a gallery.

The pool area’s actually quite large, stretching on for 300 meters. It is pretty crowded, but we didn’t find it obnoxiously so. There were few enough people that your personal space could still exist, something which you can’t always take for granted in Asia. We were able to grab pool loungers or a spot in one of the three hot tubs without any trouble.

Unfortunately it was pretty chilly while we were there, so we didn’t spend too much time in the pool, which was apparently calibrated to help beat those sweaty tropical nights. We spent most of our time in the hot tubs, which don’t have such spectacular views.

At night, they put on a fireworks and laser show in the marina, which you can view from the infinity edge— an experience sure to make you feel like you’re “on top of the world!”

The Casino


We lost some money in the casino. I tried to take a picture but got yelled at and then followed by a guy in a suit. As you can see, it wasn’t a very good picture. Not worth the yelling. Turns out I’m a bad gambler no matter which continent I’m on.

The Gardens By The Bay


We went at 1 a.m. just to check out the Supertrees— this is a cool, free activity which is also open until late at night! Singapore’s reputation for extreme safety had us feeling fine strolling through the deserted Gardens in the middle of the night.

The Supertrees aren’t to be missed. They are huge, man-made megastructures, covered in lattices for vines and other tropical plants to grow on. Additionally, the trees are models of sustainable engineering. They have open funnel tops, which serve as water reclaimers: they capture rainfall, which is then recycled. The wonderful purple lighting comes from solar power collected by panels installed on the trees themselves.

The tallest supertrees are 50 meter (150 feet) tall. For a small fee, you can go up and walk between two of the tallest trees on a skywalk (we didn’t do this).

In addition to the supertrees, the Gardens By The Bay boasts an impressive collection of international flora. Sadly, we didn’t have much time to experience this, but those into plants and gardning would find a lot to like in this attraction.

In Conclusion

Despite taking a significant chunk out of the budget for one night, I don’t regret staying a night at the Marina Bay Sands. Our free upgrade to a suite definitely colored my experience, but I think I would have been just as blown away by the simplest room this hotel offers. I can’t imagine anything here being bad.

Feeling Othered in Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur Regalia Serviced Apartments AirBNB

NOTE: I’ve really been slacking on the travel blogging, partially because we’ve been having so much fun, and partially because I do have a day job. Bler. Despite that, I do have a backlog of adventures to write up, so look for those in the coming week. They’re not quite in chronological order, because I figure it’s better to get content, any content, flowing again. So, without further ado:

Feeling Othered in Kuala Lumpur

Before we were feeling othered in Kuala Lumpur, we were in Ko Lanta, Thailand, sitting cross-legged in a treehouse on the beach. It was nighttime, and now and then a huge lightning storm went off in the distance, lighting up the whole Andaman sea for a moment, before it all went black again. In the foreground, a few local Thais put on a show of their own, spinning and throwing flaming balls of kerosene-soaked rags for the tourists in the chintz plastic chairs.


One of those things a picture could just never do justice. 

Polly and I sat cross-legged above the scene, in a second-storey tree house nested in the clavicle of a beach palm. A local Thai and two British schoolteachers were our company. We told the teachers of our travel plans: to Singapore, where we’d stay at the Marina Bay Sands, then on to Kuala Lumpur for a few nights, in transit to Bali.

“Two days is about right for Singapore. Like… negative one days for KL,” they said. “It’s… not a very nice place.”

This is what everyone says about KL.

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