Sabine and I are writing this from the Northern Thai city of Chiang Mai, which has been called the ‘digital nomad mecca’, an incredible place with the infrastructure of major western cities, but not the prices yet. We are studying computer science and data science online, the reasons for this will hopefully become apparent in the post below. We have only been 4 days in Chiang Mai so far and 6 days in Thailand, but feel it is time to start in earnest.
What is this blog about?
So why write this blog, beyond being stuck in the 90s and not understanding the modern picture based social media! Well, we both hope this serves as an account of the journey we are starting out on, for those who might be: interested, confused, or hopefully even inspired; by what we are trying to achieve. In it, we hope to record both the our learning process, as well as the experience of living in a lower cost, beautiful country, trying to set a life up there at the same time.
What are we doing i.e. this is not a belated ‘gap yahr’
We are completing our own masters programme, using open source tools, in the areas of data science and computer science.
Why data science & computer science?
Both of these areas are booming & shaping the world right now and many articles, such as this: ‘sexiest job of the 21st century’ have built up the hype. But here are our reasons for why we are doing this:
- Developing real expertise in an under-served area – From my own experience there are not enough skilled people in this area, perhaps due to the complex skillset required and many professionals are not prepared or are deciding not to re-train. This left us in a position where it was very difficult to become a good data science practitioner on the job, particularly due to our own backgrounds not being in computer science.
- Enjoy it – This one is simple, we enjoy it. Data science is an area that combines both scientific logic, with creative story-telling and attention snatching design. As such it is rewarding in itself to do it well, and as my current reading on happiness (Jonathan Haidt) reveals there are many good reasons to pursue activities that you have a degree of skill in and fundamentally support for their own sake!
- Future lifestyle – Beyond present enjoyment and with an eye to the future, we are hoping data science is a good investment. It looks like there will be jobs in the future, but more importantly these jobs will be working for great companies who are building their dreams, self driving cars, predictive government services or maybe even real artificial intelligence.
Why an open source masters?
Open Source Tools
We designed our own masters programme which we are able to do thanks to the amazing open source resources that now exist for learning. When I say amazing I really mean it!! Right now you can follow the same courses that are being run in the world’s most prestigious, and expensive, universities like Harvard, Stanford et al and it is completely free. But monetisation and capitalism may be on their way…Although some of the founders of this movement want to give access to education free for everyone, some places are starting to charge or create freemium models where content is now going to cost. Maybe we are living in a lucky narrow window of free learning, so learn on.
Don’t Need More Fees or Degrees
Sabine and I are also in a fortunate position where we already have an MSc degree in Physics. We hoped we might not need another accreditation and instead just focus on learning the skills we lacked. This way, we can learn what is most appropriate for our level and focus on only the latest and most exciting technologies out there. Then hopefully our portfolio will speak for itself.
Cost of Living
Finally, why Thailand. Well in some ways we are not doing ourselves any favours with the people back home who think Thailand is the original gap year destination. However, from our research, the testimony of the huge online community living here and 6 days experience, it is the perfect location to have a high, modern standard of living for cheap. We will break down costs in another post once we have them under control, but after coming from London every cost is a welcomed surprise. To study online for 6 months, without a source of revenue, the two main considerations for us had to be: – low cost & high speed internet !
Standard of Living
What is more surprising in many ways about Thailand, and particularly Chiang Mai where we are staying, is what you get for that cost. Here more cafes and restaurants have free internet than in London, the food is healthy and delicious, while the bureaucracy of staying long term is minimal. Additionally as we are both keen climbers we have already located an excellent indoor climbing wall, salsa classes, open mike nights, crossfit training, yoga and running club – all costing fractions of what they might back in the ‘big smoke’. We will keep you posted but this might just be the place where we can finally get good at some of these things at the same time as studying 9-6.
We hope to give more focussed posts in the future but in a nutshell: we are living cheaply but developing ourselves and pursuing the things we are interested in, while keeping in mind how we can work towards the lifestyle we would like in the future.