I often get asked why I moved to Saigon.
For me, there were several reasons – some personal, some financial, some business related – but the reason I’ll touch on here is that, for the few years I was living in the US before moving to Vietnam, I felt what I started referring to as “lifestyle isolation”.
I’ll start by saying that I love the US.
I love my family and friends there. I love the cities, the food, the events/festivals/concerts, the music.
Unlike, it seems, a good number of expats, I love my country and will always call the US “home”.
In the US, along with an incredibly supportive family, I’m blessed with amazing groups of friends from my hometown, college, and other walks of life that have all managed to keep in touch and stay up-to-date with one another.
I appreciate how special this is, and I love and miss these communities of homies whenever I’m abroad.
But there was a discomfort that I first started sensing back when I was living in New York City in 2012 when Mike and I started SimpleCrew, and that I felt again during the few months I spent at home in the suburbs outside Washington D.C. after Start-Up Chile and before moving to Vietnam at the beginning of 2014.
That discomfort was “lifestyle isolation.”
Simply put, at the time, I didn’t know many other small bootstrap entrepreneurs, and the lifestyle as a small bootstrap entrepreneur was, well, isolating.
No matter how much history, past experience, or mutual love and affection I shared with my communities of friends and family, as I started to work on my first business, there started to become important aspects of my life that my friends had trouble relating to.
And the other side of the coin became true as well: as many of my friends started their post-graduation lives, started families, and made progress down different career paths – there started to become important aspects of their lives that I was less able to relate to.
Different life paths, it seems, tend to present different problems, challenges, limitations, and opportunities, and the more unique mine became (not better, mind you, just different), the more isolated and lonely I felt.
Some time during my time in Start-Up Chile in 2013, I mentioned to a friend that I was interested in spending time in Vietnam.
At the time, I didn’t know anything about the entrepreneurship community or what the lifestyle would be like.
My thinking then was just that, as a Vietnamese-American boy quite disconnected from my roots, I felt a growing desire over time to experience Vietnam, and that I finally had the means to do so.
But I mentioned it to my friend, and he clued me in on a growing community of location-independent entrepreneurs in Ho Chi Minh City.
Bootstrapping in Saigon, it turns out, is a thing.
Once that was clear to me, the decision was made, and not long after immersing myself in both the Vietnamese culture and the tight community of location independent hustlers, and digital nomads, I realized, ironically, that I feel at home in Ho Chi Minh City in some ways that I don’t feel in the US.
My lifestyle isolation was cured.
I’m writing now in mid-October.
I got back to Vietnam about a month ago in mid-September, after a 6-week trip to the United States.
My recent trip home rekindled my love for the US in a big way, and as I told some friends shortly after arriving back in Vietnam, I’m missing the US now more than I have in the past.
Part of it is that the recent trip home included some incredible shared experiences with my friends and family whom I’m looking forward to spending more time with again soon.
Part of it is that, as our business has grown, we can now actually afford decent lifestyles in the US, so the financial reasons for staying in Vietnam have started to become less of a factor.
And, last but not least, part of it is that, over the last year and half since I first moved to Vietnam, my network of entrepreneurs and hustlers in the US has grown, so I know that now I’ll have a great community of entrepreneurs in the States to relate to, alongside my groups of old friends and family.
Lifestyle isolation cured.