Many of us dream of travelling as a digital nomad in the middle of the pandemic. But for former start-up guy John Paul Bayang, he wasn’t going to let any restrictions leave it as just that — a dream. After enduring innumerable challenges in Manila from the day COVID-19 hit the Philippines, he decided it was time to move on.
To do this, he made the decision to travel to Thailand and start a life as a digital nomad.
Bayang, known simply as JP, is a Filipino and an aspiring digital nomad. At the moment, he works as an Operations Leader at a New York-based venture capital firm. But before that, he spent years hustling in the start-up, corporate, and academic fields. He even co-founded and used to co-manage a mobile app that helps organise trips as its Head of Marketing.
Why he decided to start a digital nomad life
That mobile app company unfortunately had to close down, and according to JP, his perspective in life really changed because of it. A lot of opportunities came and were gone. Through all that he had put up with, he turned to the life of remote work. On top of the venture capital firm, JP manages his own YouTube channel.
“I realised that there’s so much more to the world than staying in your comfort zone and doing things that you already knew you do well at,” he said in some of his YouTube videos. “My failures were also the reason why I am motivated to try even more to fail often and fast, and learn much more — now on an international point of view.”
In order to do that, he chose to start his journey in Thailand, which he had visited a few times since 2018. “Since I’m remotely working (for now), I am reminded of my profound desire to get to live in Thailand. Chiang Mai, specifically,” he told TripZilla. “I wanted to live in a place where digital nomads are around me. I wanna build collaborations or possibly learn new things from their awesome work.”
This is not to mention that the country, in general, offers affordable food and rent, and the overall lifestyle is chill.
What he had to go through before his travel to Thailand
To say that JP had quite a challenging ordeal prior to arriving in Thailand is a serious understatement. He was offloaded twice, travelled back and forth to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, was interrogated at immigration, and even left one of his bags on a plane.
Also a former financial technology company employee and a Romblon co-working space owner, JP had a number of other overseas travel requirements to secure before flying out. In his case of travelling as a tourist amid the pandemic, here’s what he basically had to complete to travel to Thailand:
- Valid Philippine passport
- Thailand Special Tourist Visa
- COVID-19 insurance worth US$100,000
- Round-trip ticket from the same airline
- Proof of Alternative State Quarantine (ASQ) in Thailand
- Certificate of Entry (which requires all the above)
- Medical certificate indicating you’re fit to fly
- Negative RT-PCR test result valid for 72 hours after test
- Proof of residence after ASQ to show at immigration
JP specifically emphasises the third requirement of booking a back-and-forth ticket through the same airline. He failed to board the first time because one of the airlines he was booked with required it. One should also allow ample time for securing the Certificate of Entry. When he failed to get one in time to check-in at the airport, he got offloaded again.
Acquiring the documentary requirements of travelling amid the pandemic is hard enough for the average person. But that’s not all JP had to go overcome in his journey to travel to Thailand as a Filipino digital nomad.
“Be prepared with documents, but more so financially, mentally, and physically. Rules change drastically. I had people beside me flying out to somewhere in the Middle East who failed to board because the rules for COVID-19 test result validity changed five hours before their scheduled flight. That’s how drastic it can be,” JP said.
See JP explain the requirements to travel to Thailand as a long-term tourist here.
What he wishes aspiring Thailand nomads knew
JP also advises Filipinos to plan really well and learn to make decisions in an instant when a situation calls for it. For one, when he needed to charge his laptop, he had to strike up the courage to ask a fellow passenger at Changi Airport (his Manila to Thailand flight had a Singapore layover) if he could borrow one. Gadgets aren’t the easiest thing to borrow from strangers, after all!
He did the same thing when he had to consider rebooking flights a week later or right away. “Booking flights later was like spending more money because it meant new COVID-19 testing and new insurance purchase. Hotel bookings can be left unrefunded, too. Quick decisions give you quick results that may or may not turn out well but will give you quick access to a better turnaround,” he added.
Furthermore, make sure to have the mobile travel resources, including online hotel booking platforms, that you need. Lastly, keep yourself safe by following basic health protocols. “I was very uncomfortable with my face mask and shield then, but I had no choice. Bring alcohol with you because you’ll talk to so many people.”
Rather than let his departure experiences keep him down, JP looked at the brighter side of things. In one of his videos, he showed how the most random people can help one power through a seemingly hopeless situation. Of course, this is on top of his persistence and ability to decide at a moment’s notice.
All images credited to JP Bayang.