I travelled 37 036 KMs last month. I figured that was worth a blog post (actually, more like two!).
One month ago, in Singapore, Catherine and I got the news that we were accepted into JFDI with whom we’d been talking for months. Along with that announcement came one that the program would begin one month later than originally planned. At first, knowing we’d have to go another month before being set somewhere felt like a setback, but then again, we had plenty of work to do. With no one to actually build our platform, a name we knew would get us sued and only a handful of actual transactions, we definitely could use another month of prep.
We got started and met with one of our engineering prospects. It went horribly. The personal and cultural barriers were so strong we could barely exchange a sentence. Not a great start for choosing someone with whom we’d spend 90% of our waking life with for the next months.
A few days later, we met with another prospect, Francis, who was more like us. Roughly the same age, he was from New York and had been freelancing while traveling. We’d begun talking with him about two month before. Even though he now had two other offers on the table, he agreed to fly over to Singapore and meet with us.
We took our time to tell him everything about Bringers. Why we were doing it, why we thought it could work, and what risks there were on the way there.
Singapore was getting expensive, so Catherine and I had booked tickets to Thailand and were flying out the day after. After debating whether we should head to Bali or Bangkok, we both agreed to go to Chiang Mai, in Northern Thailand. Not only is it the ‘world capital of Digital Nomads’, which are our target users, but we’d both spent some time there last year and it had been really good. So 48 hours after meeting with Francis, I was off for my first 2,010 KMs of flying that month.
When Catherine and I left for Bali, we had no clue how long we’d be leaving for. We had about 4-5 month’s worth of money when we left, so a realistic assumption was that we’d be gone until we ran out. It gets much harder to travel with no funds, and virtually impossible to do so and be productive, too. But things changed.
When we got funded it became clear that we would be in Asia for longer than the 4-5 months we’d planned. Along with the excitement and relief we felt from knowing that we’d be able to pursue Bringers full time came the homesickness of not knowing when we’d be back to see our families.
I spent the past two Christmases abroad and have been absent for nearly all family gatherings of the past few years due to work or being away. My mom was (is) probably the most affected by that. She’s extremely supportive of everything I do, but I know she wishes I’d do these things a bit closer to home.
She was turning 50 in a few weeks and I now had some time before JFDI. I looked online and found a cheap ticket to Montreal. I’d be back for only a weekend, but would be there for her 50th.
I’d be flying 35,026 KM. From Singapore to Montreal. And back. For the weekend.
I’d land on Thursday night, spend four days in Montreal. Tuesday 10AM, I’d leave again.
My mom had no idea.
With the ticket booked, we now had a little less than a month in Thailand to make our startup “ready for acceleration”.
I have fond memories of Chiang Mai — it’s where Catherine and I had made most of our friends traveling together last year, where we’d said goodbye when she went back to Montreal, where I’d spent 10 days meditating and two weeks volunteering on a farm, where I’d met great people to celebrate the new year, and where you can find sushi for 15 cent a piece. It’s a good place to be.
However much we liked the city, we had trouble finding somewhere to stay. We were there for an awkward duration (25 nights) and everything we visited felt a bit off. Dorms in sketchy hostels, expensive rooms in mediocre guesthouses or even apartments in a resort outside the city that looked (and felt) like they were built for retirees.
But after two days of going around the city looking for a place (and from the pressure of having nowhere to sleep that night), we found a sort of hostel over a restaurant. It had 2 person dorms, which were great for us, was clean, and located less than 1KM from the co-working space we’d booked, Punspace.
Once we found our accommodation, things quickly fell into place.
Punspace exceeded our expectations. Not only was there a cool fingerprint scanner at the entrance for after-hours working, but inside it was spacious, beautifully decorated, had comfortable chairs and a free-flow of coffee and candy available to its members.
We spent nearly each day there from morning to night. The first week, it was only Catherine and I. One week later, Francis joined us. Spending three hours passionately going over every detail with him in Singapore until my voice almost ran out had been worth it!
Adding Francis to the team went by smoothly. It felt natural having him there working with us, and we managed to get a lot done. In under two weeks, we built a new branding, a good chunk of our application, continued coordinating deliveries, established a more organised workflow among us and officially relaunched under the name Envoyrs.
Our schedule became routine and it was a good one. Catherine and I would wake up, grab some oatmeal at the bakery beside our hostel, head to Punspace and get to work. At around 11 or 12, Francis would show up. We usually had lunch in a small kitchen next door that was run by a man (which we affectionately referred
to as “Grandpa”) and his wife. For 1-2$, we could have the closest thing to a home cooked meal we’d eaten in months. With a Thai twist, of course.
We spent our afternoons back at Punspace, fuelled by coffee, cookies and candy. Around 5, Francis would leave to get some rest before clocking some nightly hours. Catherine would usually stay until about 8.
And that was it, every day. The routine felt good, and we had just enough activities to break it when needed: hiking up to a temple, grabbing a beer at a rooftop bar, or “rock” climbing at an indoor center nearby. My childhood friend, Simon, even came to visit us one weekend.
These weeks went by quickly. Honestly, aside from the constant smog and poor air quality (which we’ll now consider when choosing where to go!), Chiang Mai was our best month since we left Montreal. It was extremely productive, but also incredibly fun.
And now, I was headed back home, to Montreal. I’d be flying around the world (literally) to be there for a weekend.
On Wednesday March 18th, at 12PM I took my last tuktuk to go to the airport.
I was going back home, to Montreal, after months abroad and not having experienced winter for the past two years!
I was about to fly over 18 000kms, only to surprise my Mom for her 50th birthday.
I had 44 hours of transit ahead of me, and she had no idea I was coming.
[to be continued]