Remember how I mentioned during the second month that I met an entrepreneur who completely changed the course of our travel plans? Some of you asked for details about how and when we decided to come back to Chiang Mai.
We met Nati about four days after we arrived in Chiang Mai from Sukhothai. We intended to stay in Chiang Mai for three weeks before continuing our journey. But everything changed when we met Nati Sang, the founder of Makerspace. He unknowingly inspired us to stay longer in Chiang Mai. Read on about this fateful day during our year of travel.
Today was a workday
It was a day where we find a place to sit down and catch up on everything that needs to be done. We’ve been travelling for two months nonstop and we needed some downtime to catch up on errands. You know, open that laptop, pay bills and check up on things back home.
And like all things in life, defining moments happen when you least expect it.
So like I said, it was a workday. Those were our priorities. And so we found two potential places to work at, Punspace and Starbucks.
We checked out Punspace but decided it wasn’t for us. It wasn’t until we made our way to Starbucks that we passed by Makerspace (duh, it’s right next to Punspace!). Right away, I recognized it as the workspace that allows members to use machinery to create and explore their ideas.
But wait, before I continue with this story, let me take a step back and add some context!
The core of makerspace Chiang Mai is “creating something out of nothing and exploring your own interests”
Quoted from this article, which sums up makerspace quite well.
A makerspace is a collaborative work space inside a school, library or separate public/private facility for making, learning, exploring and sharing that uses high tech to no tech tools. These spaces are open to kids, adults, and entrepreneurs and have a variety of maker equipment including 3D printers, laser cutters, cnc machines, soldering irons and even sewing machines.
I learned of Makerspace Chiang Mai the day I left Toronto to start my year of travelling
It was a 15-hour flight from Toronto to Taiwan on our way to Bali, and I was quickly running out of movies to watch on the airplane. I flipped through tv shows and found an interesting one highlighting Thai entrepreneurs.
I was so inspired by all these people that I told myself that I would try to find their businesses while in Thailand. In fact, I was determined to meet find these entrepreneurs and meet them. To me, these are the individuals who care about making the world a better place and I want to be around people like them.
I never know what to expect in these situations, except that I will walk away with a broader perspective.
This is the video I saw on the airplane that convinced me to find these entrepreneurs. The interview with Makerspace starts at 5:25, but you should watch the whole video.
It was touching to hear about the purpose of Makerspace Chiang Mai by the founder:
In order for people to innovate, they need to try to experiment, they need to be able to fail. If they have these cost pressures in place, who is going to experiment and try things out? In other words, it allows people to be more entrepreneurial and try to monetize their ideas.
Now, when you’re on an airplane for 15 hours and living off the high that comes from travel, your emotions are heightened like crazy
So at that moment, my belief of “where there’s a will, there’s a way” was strong, and I didn’t think about the way, just the will to make what I want happen, happen. And that was to meet these entrepreneurs.
So I started by writing down the names of the companies I can potentially meet in my notes based on the cities we’d be visiting. This step is important to me because it’s the start of my to-do list.
At that moment, I felt nothing but hope and excitement for my new purpose when we finally make it to Thailand. Yes, travelling in itself can be life changing, but it’s the moments where I meet inspirational people who reframe my thinking that stay with me.
Fast forward to almost two months after that airplane ride, and the idea to meet these innovative leaders remained where it is at – an idea
After two months of exploring Bali, Kuala Lumpur, and travelling throughout Thailand, I was tired by the time I arrived in Chiang Mai. I needed downtime to recharge my batteries and tend to neglected tasks.
As I reviewed the notes I made on iCloud, I decided to delete that memo because I didn’t have the energy to find these people that I so wanted to meet.
Call it fate, luck, coincidence or whatever term that floats your boat, the universe (you sneaky phenomenon!) has a way of granting me my wishes.
So on that fateful day when we were debating where to work, we passed by Makerspace (which is right next to Punspace)
Feeling super excited, I decided that we should go inside, despite not knowing if this place is open for
wanderers nonmembers like us.
So we stand around the foyer looking at all the things that have been created by other people when we saw a staff member walk towards us.
He must have sensed our aimless curiosity because he offered to give us a tour of the place, which we accepted in a heartbeat. Phew! And here I was preparing to run away to save myself the embarrassment of getting kicked out.
He took us inside and showed us all the cool machines and the gadgets created by members. There was so much equipment, ranging from 3D machines to laser cutters. All available for members to use at cost! If you don’t know how to use the equipment, not to worry – you can learn for free!
Then, as the staff member showed us to the wood carving area, a man in a dark shirt walked out and asked if we need help. I stared at this guy and could not wrap my head around why he looked so familiar. It took some time before my brain was able to process what was happening and once it did, I went from confused to freak out mode.
Crap! That’s the guy on TV! What’s his name, what’s his name? Ahhhhhh!
Not knowing what to say as my brain froze at that moment, the most intelligent thing I could think of went something like this:
“Uhhh… I think I saw you on TV.”
I think that worked because the man is, in fact, the founder that I saw on TV. He introduced himself to us and gave us a tour of the rest of the facilities. It was really cool to see projects like the smart farm system, and other techie stuff that went over my head.
We were coming from the perspective of not knowing what to create and were eager to learn about the process of creating. At some point, I said I wasn’t creative, to which Nati gave me this look and said, “Nonsense, we are all creative. You just forgot that you are.”
Those words caught me off guard by the truth and power in his statement. His comment brought flashbacks of the days when I used to draw using my left hand and how much I loved (still do!) to create. I couldn’t help but think about the famous talk about school and creativity by Sir Ken Robinson.
“Nonsense, we are all creative. You just forgot that you are.”
These words stayed in my heart as he continued to give us a tour of Makerspace.
As he showed us all the unique things created by Makerspace members, I thought about my past ideas. Many were shelved once I realized the amount of money needed to tinker with an idea that might fail.
I was also overwhelmed with thoughts and emotions as he continued his tour of Makerspace. It was like a gazillion thoughts that I left behind in my lifetime were flooding my brain at that moment. I also had to bite my tongue from asking Nati a thousand questions to be respectful of his time.
He later shared his life story and his journey on how he got to where he is today
I saw some parallels of his life with mine and resisted the urge to say “Me too!” as he talked about his life. It was so great to talk to him about things that only other Asian North Americans understand. What’s impressive is that he broke out of that mold and took the path that led him to where he is today.
It was indeed a very very touching conversation. When you meet people who create the life they envisioned, you cannot help but feel motivated to do the same.
To explore, to wander, to be curious.
To be in touch with our roots and understand what it means to be Asian
Talking to him brought so much clarity to the thoughts and dreams that I’ve held in my heart. I was even reminded of an abandoned dream I had to open a gift shop. I had wrote about it during my high school assignments in my business class. My teacher loved it so much that she made a photocopy of my assignment.
We are so grateful for those moments and were left with more clarity on what we wanted to do next. Of course, we were also reflecting on some of the life lessons he shared and life’s purpose…
More on life’s purpose later…
The more imminent thing to do was to reflect on what we just learned, thought and felt.
Needless to say, Gary and I had an unproductive day as we tried to figure out what to do next.
We both agreed that we should make time during our year of travels and stay in Chiang Mai longer. We sat down, opened up our monster spreadsheet and completely changed our plans for a part of our nomad year.
Once a Chiang Mai extension was planned, apartment hunting was next. Funny enough, we ended up staying in a place that we were destined to stay in (more on that later).
So there you go – now you know the story behind that defining moment and why we changed our plans to come back to Chiang Mai.
I hope you enjoyed this read and would love to hear your thoughts in the comments. Writing this all down was not easy and a bit personal but I hoped you enjoyed it.