Today I’m writing this from a street side cafe in the bustling streets of Saigon, Vietnam.
Hundreds of motorbikes are constantly fleeing by, the occasional one-man karaoke cart (it’s an Asia thing), and merchants peddling fake Ray Ban sunglasses or other crappy tourist gifts are a regular sight as well.
It’s been two years since I’ve sat at this very same table in Saigon, and I must say – I’ve missed it.
The roots of this blog are engrained in the idea of building a business from Asia. Seven months after starting Location 180 I blindly moved to Thailand having no idea what to expect. I met Dan from the Tropical MBA at 1am at the Bangkok airport, and that set off a chain of events that has changed my life forever.
Quite simply, had I not moved to Asia at that time, I can’t say that I’d still be running my business today.
Living in Asia not only gave me the free time to spend working on my business, but it made it financially viable during a time where money was extremely tight and my plans for the future were unbelievably hazy.
Being back here has reminded me of all of the reasons why moving to the region makes so much sense for the adventurous entrepreneur and the person who is truly motivated to build a lifestyle business.
Today we’re going to look at 10 of the reasons why I think starting a lifestyle business in Asia is such a good idea.
1) Cheap Food and Drink
This seems like such a generic answer for why you should move here, but it’s such a big part of the appeal that it has to be mentioned.
Living in the States is expensive. If you’re in the UK or Australia it’s even more expensive. Food and drink are easily one of the most expensive aspects of our day to day lives.
Especially when you’re in build a business mode and are constantly out meeting people and socializing. In Portland I easily drop $50 or more on a night out meeting people.
Last night in Saigon I got an incredible bowl of pho for 35k Vietnamese Dong – just under $2. The local beer here can be had for 12k Dong – about .$60.
Simply by relocating I can go from averaging $40-50 a day on food and drink to $10 or less all while maintaining a very active social and networking life. That’s huge.
Keep in mind every city is different – Hong Kong for example is not cheaper than living in the western world. But Bangkok, Pnomh Penh, Chiang Mai, Hanoi, Manila and even Bali can be unbelievably affordable.
2) Easy Access to Other Regions
This is one of the things I loved about my time in Bangkok. I could hop on a train and for about $20 I could be on a tropical beach in less than 12 hours – for less than $100 I could be there in a fraction of the time via plane.
With budget airlines and bus systems getting around SE Asia is not only easy, but affordable. You can usually get to any major hub for under $200 round trip if you can stay flexible.
My flight round trip from Hong Kong to Saigon was 15,000 Avios points and $70. Not bad. Although I did chip in an extra 7500 miles to make one of my legs business class.
Can’t go wrong with Cathay Pacific Business 🙂
3) Easier to Make Contacts
This seems counter intuitive, but I promise you, it’s easier to meet new people likeminded people when you’re in Asia than back home.
Why? Well for starters there’s the simple question:
“Where are you from?”
It’s the easiest intro ever, and you can go to any number of thousands of expat or tourist bars across Asia and meet people simply using that one line.
I’ve found usually if someone is over here from the States they’re usually doing something interesting – and know other people who are as well.
There’s a huge community of entrepreneurs and people who read this blog here in Vietnam. I had a group of a few dozen friends when I lived in Bangkok – and no matter which Asian city you go to, you’ll find the same and find it’s easy to break into the circle.
4) Everyday is an adventure
I often tell the story about how during my first day living in Thailand I saw an elephant walking down the street.
I’ve been in Vietnam for about 24 hours and I’ve already seen a guy with a washing machine on the back of his motorbike, containers full of snakes for sale on the side of the street, and I’ve been nearly killed trying to cross the street no less than a dozen times.
In Bali, I got lost for hours on a motorbike. I was supposed to be going on a quick hour long trip to the center of the island. 2 hours into it I found myself on a beach. To this day it’s one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had while living abroad.
It’s that sense of adventure and “you don’t see that everyday” that makes Asia so unique for me. Every time you travel to a new city, or even a different part of a city you know – you’re exposed to a new adventure.
5) Inexpensive Talent
Many people in Location Rebel start outsourcing and hiring remote workers as their business grows. I’ve found that when working with remote teams it makes a huge difference if you can meet them in person.
Back during my days with the Tropical MBA I spent 3 weeks working with our remote team in the Philippines and the quality of both the work and the relationships were greatly improved.
There’s a plethora of talented people out there that you can pay much less than what you’d pay in the States – but much more than they would typically make in their home country. It forges a unique win/win scenario that is much easier to setup when you’re on the ground.
6) Forces you to think differently
Blind routine is a terrible thing. Deliberate routine is what will make your business successful.
When you’re at home, and especially in a day job, it can be easy to just go through the motions of life and before you realize you’re so stuck in your ways that change is nearly impossible.
Living in Asia forces you to think differently. When you’re first starting out you have to be deliberate about the routines you setup, and it can be a great way to force positive changes.
When I’m in Asia I usually wake up, work out, find a coffee shop or cafe and work for 4 hours. Then I use the afternoons/evenings to explore, meet up with friends, or do more work if I need to.
It gets me out of my normal routine, but also makes me think differently about how I spend my days and make me more productive in the process.
7) Enhanced Access
Like I mentioned, it’s easier to make contacts and meet expats and travelers when you’re in Asia. But what about those top tier people that you’d normally never have access to?
It’s much easier abroad.
Imagine trying to meet Donald Trump in the United States. Probably never going to happen unless you have dreams of reality television.
Simply by speaking English and engraining yourself in one city for 6-12 months you’ll be amazed by who you’ll meet. In BKK I met CEOs, 8 and 9 figure entrepreneurs, and high level political contacts.
If you’re ever looking for funding or to expand beyond a standard lifestyle business, these contacts can be invaluable.
8) Ever Wanted to Live Like a King (or Queen)?
It’s easy to focus on the low cost reasons to come to Asia when you’re starting out.
But whats cool is once your business starts to have even a little bit of success, your lifestyle can ramp up quickly. Bottles in the club? 5 star restaurants? Infinity pools over looking the ocean?
You can have access to all of these things for a fraction of the cost of what they would be in Melbourne or Venice Beach.
A little bit of money goes a long way, and then add on top of that the fact that you’re the anomaly. You’re the one who doesn’t fit in, and who will garner attention. It’s a unique feeling, but one that can allow you to thrive and want to work even harder to continue the success.
9) The Opportunity for a Fresh Start
Many of the people I work with have been beaten down by their jobs and routines. Years of complacency and sleep walking through life can take it’s toll.
Coming out to Asia gives you an opportunity to start fresh. It can take you from jaded to wide-eyed in the time it takes to travel across the Pacific.
For me it was a rebirth. Coming to Asia and having an adventure while building my business, allowed me to truly build the business I wanted and continue that sense of excitement long after I moved back to the United States.
10) The Stories
This one is simple. I judge my success in life by the number of amazing stories I have to share. Why fly halfway around the world to get wedding suits made, when there’s a perfectly fine Mr. Formal, down the street?
Because, a week wandering the streets of Vietnam is much more memorable and story worthy than a quick trip to a strip mall.
As you can see, there’s more to Asia than just a cheap cost of living. The elements of adventure, access, and bustling startup scene make moving there a viable option for someone committed to making things happen.
Have you built a business in Asia? Are you thinking about moving to Asia to start a business? Share your thoughts in the comments below! I’d love to hear about your goals or experiences.