Manuel Brandt

Why I Decided to Settle in Taiwan After Travelling 5 Years

I’ve been a digital nomad for 5 years. In those years, I lived for few days to few months periods at places all around the world and traveled to ~30 countries. Since a few months, I’m settled. I officially live in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, with my own long-term apartment that I can call home and owning more than just what fits in my hand luggage. Here’s a quick note on why and how.

The Realization: I Wanted a Base 🏠

I left Germany to travel the world 5 years ago. After just a month, I ended up in Vietnam with a startup idea and lived there for 1,5 years. I was only starting to learn about startups and didn’t make money or forced myself to do so yet. My routine was to spend 3 months in Vietnam and then traveling for a while until coming back for 3 months again.

When I was in Vietnam, I was focusing on my career a lot. I studied about web development and marketing and ran some small projects. When I traveled, I spent max 10–15 hours per week on work and focused on traveling. This was the perfect lifestyle for me, and I planned to live like that for many years.

Then, being on a 3-months trip to Taiwan, COVID hit, and I ended up stranded there. Once flights back to the EU were working again, I spent a longer time in Portugal, and after that traveled around Europe, changing places at least every month, until the world opened again. I came back to Asia and asked myself, “now that the world is open again, and I can choose freely how I want to live, how do I actually want to live”?

It was a difficult question that took me half a year to answer. I was thinking about the previous years and about when I was the happiest. My realization was that the time in Vietnam, when I had a home with great people around, a good routine, and went on trips every few months, was the time I was truly happy.

Even though I knew that this exact lifestyle wasn’t possible now with running Blogtec and not being able to do long vacations, l knew I could have my base and do trips every few months. Not as travel-focused as before, but still a month with reduced work, or a week without work, should be possible.

Why It’s Great to Have a Base + Travel Sometimes πŸ€”

Working Full-Time and Continuous Traveling, Isn’t That Exciting

When I started to be a digital nomad, I was working maybe 10 to 15 hours a week. However, since I started my own company and COVID slowed down traveling, I rarely worked less than 60 hours per week, often way more than that.

The lifestyle of working a bit and traveling is great, but if you have a job that takes so much of your time, you can’t truly enjoy much of the traveling anymore if you do both at once. The best things, like meeting locals or volunteering, which I used to do a lot, become difficult or impossible.

Continuous Traveling Is Tiring & Makes It Unexciting

Even if you move slowly, traveling all the time and never feeling home can get tiring. Moreover, you also lose excitement. It’s a normal thing for you to be in a new country. Instead, doing a trip every once in a while is way less tiring and makes it something special and exciting.

More Close Relationships

If you travel all the time, you do meet many people and make friends, but after some time you get tired of sharing the same story again and again, and always having the same basic conversations. You want deep connections, close friendships, maybe a relationship… However, these need time; if you go to a place just for a month, you will never have that.

What I considered as well was to have bases in Germany, Vietnam, and Taiwan. I would spend one quarter in each country and travel a bit in between. It’s a cool lifestyle; you can make good friends and be with them. However, you might also want a relationship after some time, which would be difficult again.

You Can Build a Home With a Routine and Hobbies

Having a base allows you to create a home for yourself. I lived in Airbnbs for five years, and it did work. However, having a place that you can make how it works for you is something I was missing. Small things, like a big computer screen, a standing desk, or a good coffee machine, do make your days better.

In addition, you can build a solid routine because you have time for that and because your environment doesn’t change all the time. For example, if you want to go running, in some places that might simply not be possible. When I was living for 3 months in the middle of Marrakech without any parks or good places to run and gyms were still closed, running wasn’t possible.

This goes together with the advantage that you can follow your hobbies better when you have a home because for some hobbies you need a solid routine and free time. Also, some hobbies simply require physical things, e.g. when you like gaming you need a console and a monitor.

You Have a Place You Feel Safe and Can Rest

The last year, I was sick a lot. I had multiple infections and spent lots of time in hospitals. At that point, I just wanted to take a break and go to a place I felt at home and safe. But I didn’t have such a place where I could stay for longer than a few months and go to a doctor to get the long-term treatment I needed. Having a place like this makes you feel more comfortable, also at the times you’re healthy.

What Happened Then? πŸ”Ž

Once I had the idea to have a home in my head, I sat down and made a list of countries I could imagine to live in. On there were Germany, Vietnam, Portugal, Taiwan, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, and Australia. These were all countries where I spent a longer period of time already and knew a bit about.

I then listed categories that are important to me and ranked the countries from 1-3 in the different categories. Taiwan had the most points, followed by Vietnam and Germany.

I then further compared the 3 countries. Germany was not an option right away, due to legal limitations with my company setup, so it was Vietnam vs. Taiwan.

Vietnam vs. Taiwan

The first bummer about Vietnam was that it doesn’t have a good program to get a residence card unless you work there, are married, or invest 120K+ EUR. However, without a residence permit, I don’t want to set up a real base somewhere, as you never know what happens. For example, during 2 years of COVID, you could only enter Vietnam and Taiwan when you had a residence card.

Second, at that time, there was also just a 1-month tourist visa available for Vietnam, which means I would have had to to leave the country every month and come back.

Third, Taiwan seemed like a better long-term option, as it’s more modern, has better healthcare and education, and a great political system.

Last, I just started having a girlfriend in Taiwan 😁

Everything just made sense. Taiwan scored the highest on my list, I could get a residence card easily, I knew the country, and started having a girlfriend there. It went really fast from there. I applied for my residence card and started looking for a long-term apartment. After a few months, everything was done.

What Is Great About Taiwan? πŸ‡ΉπŸ‡Ό

Taiwan had the most points, as I mentioned, but it was also the only country that did at least solid in all of my categories. The other countries were usually great in some and bad in some. Here’s a quick additional list of what I like about Taiwan.

  • Easy to immigrate with their Gold Card if you have the right skills.
  • It’s modern and the average living standard is high, so you’re not in a third-world country, living in your fancy bunker while everyone else there is living under bad circumstances.
  • Taxes are not too high if you don’t earn crazy high salaries, plus you get tax discounts with your Gold Card.
  • Good and affordable healthcare and education. Especially healthcare has good quality and it’s super fast. In Germany, I need to wait months for appointments, while here I can spontaneously go to a specialist without a private insurance.
  • Great people and culture, plus I already knew people here.
  • Living expenses are okay compared to Germany, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, however still average EU prices I’d say.
  • Super beautiful and diverse landscape. It’s easy to do mountain or ocean trips here. I especially love to get the car and travel the south and the east coast.
  • Great transportation with a good traffic system for scooters and cars, plus the best MRT and train system from all countries I’ve been.
  • Close to many countries I like. Australia and New Zealand would be super far away from Germany and my family, for example. With Taiwan that’s better, plus it’s close to Vietnam, where I do still travel regularly. Many other great countries are close as well, like Japan, Malaysia, or Indonesia. The US is also not too far away.
  • Good government. Especially with low corruption, unlike in many other Asian countries.

Not that everything is perfect in Taiwan. I also noted some downsides below. However, none of those play a significant role for me currently.

  • Property prices are really high when buying.
  • The air in the cities can be bad sometimes because the Chinese megacities are not too far.
  • There should be more regulations for the look of houses. Due to missing rules, many old houses are not painted or have other things that look bad. They were careful with this for a long time to support freedom and their strong democratic values; however, they now slowly start to make changes.
  • There are not many nice countryside houses and beautiful little towns, as I know it from Germany.

Conclusion πŸ‘¨β€πŸ’»

It’s great as it is now. I have my base here. A place with friends and a girlfriend. A place where I feel safe and can come to rest if I’m not doing well. That I can make how I want it and where I can set up a great workplace and routine.

And I can still travel. Just the week writing this article, I went to Japan. I have some big trips in my head that I want to do in the following years, and I still come to Germany and Vietnam every year, especially Da Nang in Vietnam is like my second home.

To end this article, here are some stock images of Taiwan 😁

Kaohsiung, the city where I live. (Photo by Kaohsisung Government).
View from the mountains near my apartment.
Kaohsiung MRT, which is the best MRT I ever tried.
Highspeed trains that are never even a minute late.
The east coast always gives me Hawaii vibes.
Endless grass fields.
Beautiful (and empty) beaches in the south.
Could be the alps, but it’s Taiwan.
Perfect hiking trails across the country.
Beautiful lakes in the mountains.

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