A Day in the Life of an American Freelancer Living the Good Life in Thailand: How & Why She Made the Move

By Nina Lewis

A Word from the Publisher: This is a “trade off” post I did with social media marketing expert, Nina Lewis. We first talked about trading stories on our blogs this past summer since we both get so many questions about how and why we, as Americans, made the decision to live and work abroad.

So if you want to know what it’s like to live in another affordable country, check out this post for my story on how and why I made the move to Jamaica – and what it costs to do so. Note: This part details how and why I made the move to Jamaica permanent in October 2014.

Now, to Nina’s very detailed — and inspiring — story.

A Family Tragedy Sparks Change

I don’t remember the exact date because my mind was disturbed and my vision was cloudy. It was a beautiful spring day in Austin, Texas. The sun was shining and the trees were tall, lush and green, but my mind and soul were dark and filled with so much pain.

It was a few weeks after my sister had passed away; I found myself sitting on a bench and my heart was broken, my soul empty and my passion gone. While death is inevitable, and it’s a part of life, it hurt like hell. As I sat on that bench, I began to think about my own life, my own mortality and my own passions. As I pondered the death of my sister, I began to weep and a Spirit took over and started to speak to me in a way I had never heard before.

The Conversation I Had with a Spirit That Led Me to Thailand

As I wept, I said: “I am not happy, show me what to do?”

Nina Lews: Social Media & Content Marketing ExpertNow I don’t want to sound woo-woo or esoteric, but I am a highly spiritual being and I believe in the power of the Universe and I have living proof in my own experience that there is a higher power that cannot be reckoned with. As I wept and asked for guidance, the voice said clearly, “Nina, you are supposed to motivate, uplift and inspire people.

I began to weep more and then argue with the voice. “No, No, No! I am not good enough; that’s not my job!” Then I started naming names of “business celebrities” who inspired me. I told the voice, “That’s not my job, it’s their job, and I am not worthy.

The voice responded to me, “It is your job. You are worthy. People need to hear your story, need to hear your voice. Yes, there may be other people, but they are not YOU!

After crying and arguing with the Spirit, I was still confused. I wasn’t really sure how I was meant to inspire and uplift people. After all, my business was D.O.A., I was in a low-paying job and my soul was empty.

I knew in my heart that I wanted to travel the world and see all of its beauty. It has been a lifelong dream of mine. While I was in the states, I traveled to places like Hawaii, Aruba, Canada and all over the U.S.; but I’d never been ‘abroad abroad,’ if you know what I mean.

I had a longing and a craving to travel as far as I could from the states. However, I didn’t make the leap right away.

I guess you can say, fortunately and unfortunately, I befriended a friend who had similar issues as my sister before she passed. Therefore, I had a yearning to help him. During that process we grew close; however, it turned into a tumultuous, co-dependent, non-romantic relationship.

After he left, I cried like a baby for a few weeks. And while our friendship was tumultuous, co-dependent and every bit of wrong, I learned so much about myself and what I really wanted out of my life.

I asked myself, “What am I doing here? What am I waiting on?” I have always had a desire to travel the world. I mean, I am single and have no kids — I know how to create money out of thin air — so why not take the leap now?

Once I made the decision to go to Thailand, I contacted some of my past clients and let them know that I was ready to write again. On top of that, I also got two jobs and called them, “My Thailand Fund.” Was I excited to be working for someone else again? Hell no! But, I knew that temporarily working for someone else would get me to Thailand much faster than it would just building up my freelance writing business again.

Why I Chose Thailand

When I finally made the decision to leave the states, my first decision was Argentina. My desire has always been to go to Argentina. I speak Spanish, and I would have been able to brush up on it since I don’t speak it on a daily basis anymore.

Argentina is still on my list; however, it’s not the right time. I like to say I didn’t choose Thailand; Thailand chose me. While I was researching places to live in this country, Chiang Mai (where I live now), kept popping up. I yearned to be near the beach, but the Spirit led me to Chiang Mai.

I got chills up my spine and joy in my heart when I made the decision to be in Chiang Mai. I knew it was the right decision. For the practical folks, I also chose Chiang Mai because of its affordability, sunny weather, beautiful scenery and cheap Thai massages.

How Much Does It Really Cost to Live in Thailand?

As soon as I made the decision to move to Chiang Mai, things kept literally pushing me in that direction. For example, one person purchased my social media e-book, and he was an American entrepreneur who happened to be living in Chiang Mai. It was kind of serendipitous. He and I have become good friends, and we will actually be working on a business venture together in the near future.

Then I came across an article of a gal whose name was also Nina, and how she was a writer living it up in Thailand. There were so many things that happened that confirmed Chiang Mai was the right decision for me.

The cost of living in Chiang Mai is incomparable to any other place in Thailand. I went apartment searching the other day, and I found a semi-decent apartment for 3,000 baht a month. That’s only $90 USD. However, if you are looking for some nice, luxury-style apartments with amenities like a gym, pool, laundry facilities, etc., you can expect to pay anywhere from $200 to $400 USD a month.

If you are paying $400 USD or more per month, you can expect luxury. Right now, I pay $300 USD a month for my apartment. I get full maid service for FREE, and two free bottles of water and free toilet paper daily.

The Cost of Food (Eating Out) in Thailand

As far as food goes, you can get a tantalizing dish for only $1 to $2 USD. If you want to go to a restaurant with live music and beautiful ambience, expect to pay anywhere from $5 to $10 USD for a good meal. And that’s considered a high-end restaurant.

Massages & Entertainment

I am a massage addict! You can get a really good massage for $6 USD. As far as entertainment, there are really no night clubs here in Chiang Mai. However, they have the movies, some local bars, temples and other tourist attractions.

I usually stay away from tourist attractions, because I don’t consider myself a tourist. If I want to go to a nightclub, I can take a weekend flight to Bangkok for only $30 to $40 USD and party like a rock star.

My monthly expenses include rent, entertainment, food and miscellaneous items. They only add up to $600 USD a month. Therefore, it is very easy to live comfortably here without stressing. Plus if you are getting American clients, paying American rates, it works out really well. Let’s just say if I didn’t have any strong financial goals, I can have a well-balanced life with only 1-2 clients without stressing about money.

What Is Life Really Like for Me in Thailand?

Nina, do you ever work? It seems like you are always having fun!” This was an actual message from someone on my Facebook page. I laughed and said, “Yes, I work, but to be honest, I designed my life to have a better social life than a work life.

Trust me, I used to put in 14-15 hour days on a consistent basis — and I didn’t like it. Therefore, when I moved to Thailand, I made a commitment to not work more than 6 hours a day. Now don’t get me wrong, there are some days when I feel inspired and I will work more than 10 hours; but those are very rare nowadays.

I really feel like I am semi-retired. To give you an idea of what life is really like for me in Thailand, I want to give you an example of my ideal day. I wake up whenever I want to. I don’t have a set schedule per se, but this is usually what it looks like:

  • Wake up and say gratitude prayers
  • Go exercise (If I don’t exercise in the morning it won’t get done)
  • Eat breakfast at my favorite restaurant (The cashew nut chicken is off the hook)!
  • Return home and meditate for about 45 minutes
  • Take a morning nap – yes, I take morning naps
  • Shower and then go to a local café
  • At the café work for about 3-4 hours a day managing social media and writing for clients
  • After work have dinner with friends or by myself
  • Go get a massage
  • Go to the movies
  • Go shoot business videos at the waterfall
  • Return home and watch more movies on my Thai “HBO” (I am a movie addict too!)
  • Talk to friends back in the states
  • Read some spiritual/mindset books
  • Listen to business podcasts/interviews
  • Lollygag on the internet for a bit
  • Fall asleep

What Living the Simple life in Thailand Has Taught Me about Money!

When I first started my business, it was all about making millions, and buying a big house, and an Aston Martin, blah, blah, blah. Ha, I will still get my Aston Martin, but it’s not as important to me as it was before.

The most important thing to me right now is feeding my soul. The way I am feeding my soul is traveling the world and seeing all of its beauty. Material possessions get old, and you can’t take them with you to the grave. Therefore, I made a decision to commit to peace, joy, love and happiness.

Now I am realizing it’s not about the big house or fancy car, it’s about what’s in your heart. It’s about feeding your soul and living your passion. It’s about falling in love with the world and all of its beauty. It’s about living and NOT just existing. It’s about having no regrets at the end of your life. It’s about creating life-changing experiences that fill you up with so much joy that you say, “THIS makes life worth living!

You Can Live Your Life This Way Too!

Now I know what the Spirit meant when she guided me to uplift, inspire and motivate people. On a daily basis, I get messages from people telling me how I inspire them, and how they are taking action to live the life of their dreams; how they were always scared to take the leap, but now that they have seen that I did it, they want to do it to.

HOWEVER, for every positive email I get, I also get emails full of excuses. “Oh Nina, I love your life! You are so lucky. I wish I could travel the world, but I have no money; I have kids; I have pets; I can’t miss my American T.V. shows; I don’t know the language; etc., etc., etc.

But the truth is, if you say that you want to move abroad and you find excuses, you simply don’t want it bad enough.

‘If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.~Jim Rohn, American entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker

There is always a way to get what you want. You may have to make some temporary sacrifices in order to make your way to your dream life. Do you think I liked scrubbing toilets and dealing with angry people on a daily basis (which is what I did in one of my jobs)? No, but I knew that it was only temporary, and it was going to get me closer to the dream life I am living now.

Every day, I am filled with so much gratitude, love and joy that I can’t even begin to fully describe it.

If you really want to move abroad, and start living your dream life, are you ready to do whatever it takes? Living a life of freedom is truly possible if you make the decision, work hard, let nothing stand in your way … and you believe!

P.S.: Want the freedom to work and live from anywhere you please?

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    1. thai romance language says:

      Spotted a magnificent e-book for learning thai. “Romancing the thai”. I used this book in the nana plaza to pick up the Thai females – they really love it, numerous love & romance phrases it’s brilliant!!romance language thaiThanks a lot!

    2. Thank you, Deevra. I am glad you enjoyed the story!! 🙂

    3. Thank you, Paul! I would love to explore the Philippines at one point in the near future. I hear mixed reviews about it, but I would like to go check it out for myself. 🙂

    4. Thank you, Cassandra!!

    5. Thank you for sharing your story, Nina. Very inspiring post. Keep following your spirit! 🙂

    6. Actually I just got back from a trip to the Philippines a few days ago, so I was SO not ready for snow and cold. I assured my wife that we wouldn’t have snow yet — “it’s still early November, we still have a few more weeks of Fall left,” I said stupidly. Two lessons learned — do not vacation to the Philippines in October (though very cheap to fly there this time of year, you miss one of the most beautiful months of the year in Minnesota) and never try to predict the weather in Minnesota 🙂

      • Paul:

        RE “and never try to predict the weather in Minnesota”.

        I heard a guy say on the news last night that when he was considering moving to Billings, Montana, a friend of his said, “And don’t worry, If you don’t like the weather, give it 10 minutes — it’ll change.”

        Apparently, the temps had dropped some 60 degrees in less than 24 hours, so I can see what you’re saying.

        I hope your wife is not giving you the “what for” too bad. LOL! 🙂

    7. Great story about Nina — and I can certainly relate having lived in the Philippines for 5 years. Thailand sounds a lot like the Philippines in cost of living and lifestyle. This is the wonderful blessing of being a freelancer — we get to choose where in the world we want to live and when we want to work. And as Nina’s story shows — sometimes out of tragedy comes some of our greatest successes. She is certainly ‘living her dream’ now and I’m sure her sister would be proud of her.

      • I knew you’d relate to this story Paul — the cheap living aspect of it that is. I still can’t believe how much I pay to live here in Jamaica. I spent more on gas in a month for my car sometimes when I lived in the states than I pay for rent here in Jamaica — and my ocean view (wow). I open up my door every morning and sit out on my balcony to have coffee, just constantly in awe that this is where my life has led me.

        I’m sure Nina’s sister would be proud too. Sometimes tragedies (although profoundly hurtful) are blessings in disguise. I know I feel that way about my parents, who died when I was in my early 20s. Losing them both so young (mom 45; dad 47) made me realize at a very early age how preciously short life is. It’s why I live the way I do — seizing the moment; not being afraid to take the leaps. And although my leaps are more thought out and calculated now, I’m glad I’ve taken the road less traveled.

        Thanks for stopping by to share your thoughts. It’s always a pleasure hearing from you.

        Stay warm — I’ve been seeing the news about the record-low temps in your part of the country. I miss snow and cold, so am actually a bit jealous! 🙂

    8. Great story! Great way of life! Love it! 🙂


    1. […] questions about how and why we made the move as Americans to live in other countries.  Here’s her story on my blog about how and why she made the move to Thailand – and what it costs to live […]