The golden glow of our final family gathering embraces us with the laughter, hugs and familiar faces of our beautiful friends in Chiang Mai.

Stepping out the door of our friend’s apartment, I take a last look at these people, this tribe of world-wandering creators who have all picked up their lives to join this epic dance of community, entrepreneurship, and lifestyle design in Northern Thailand… embodying the “digital nomad” movement and creating lasting bonds that transcend societal norms and global boundaries.

Seriously. I f*cking love these people.

Fittingly, I’m sharing this last night with Steph, my soul sister who began this journey with me here 4 months ago (for me, the fourth year in Chiang Mai, and for her, the first.)

Flying on our motorbikes down the narrow back soi, the warm night air kisses our cheeks as we search for the perfect place to enjoy our final meal together: a late-night pad see ew.

And sitting down in anticipation of this final MSG-laden fried noodle experience, Steph suggests a game…

“What were the 3 biggest things you learned this time in Chiang Mai?”

And so in we dived.

Our 6 biggest insights/lessons from 4 months in Chiang Mai:

1. Choose your mirrors wisely (and use what you learn)

(Kristen)

As we go through life, we surround ourselves with people that reflect parts of us back to ourselves. It’s so important to cultivate the kinds of close relationships we allow to be our mirrors, because these reflections can either drag us down, or lift us up into the person we’re meant to become.

So choose people who see your highest potential, who love the person you’re becoming, and who will hold you in your brightest light even when you feel unsure or afraid.

That’s not to say that we run away from people who reflect things we might not want to see… in fact, these reflections are often the most helpful for our growth.

For some context, I was a part of an Entrepreneur House last October, and this powerful group of entrepreneurs reflected a LOT back to me: my creative energy, enthusiasm, AND my tendency to be super scattered and often non-committal. I greatly value this reflection, recognizing that these are people who genuinely cared about me, and are creating the kind of life and business I aspire to.

I’m also fortunate enough to be part of an INSANELY amazing group of friends in Chiang Mai who constantly support each other and hold each other up, pushing and growing together… it feels AMAZING.

The problem arises when we consistently allow people close to us who mirror only our weakness, or bring unnecessary toxicity into our world. I chose this for a bit this time in Chiang Mai as well… and it was draining beyond measure. There are just too damn many people who love you and want you to succeed and shine in the world, to allow anything else close to you.

So be ruthless in cultivating your tribe, choose people who mirror your highest self back to you, and reflect the highest essence of your closest people right back to them. A fantastic upward spiral of greatness!

2. Wherever you go, you can’t run from your stuff

(Steph)

We digital nomads are so blessed with the opportunity to fly nearly anywhere at a moment’s notice, bringing our laptops and our dreams along for the ride. With great ambition and solid internet connection, the world is basically our oyster!

So when it comes to dealing with any nagging feelings of insecurity, uncertainty or fear, it seems easy enough to just leave them all behind at the airport when we head off to the next place. 

Noooot…so much. 🙂 The fact is, wherever we go, there we are – and that goes for EVERYTHING – our inner world, unresolved dilemmas and emotions, thoughts and beliefs.

Yes – it might seem easier to just ditch the emotional baggage out with your old clothes (all in the name of minimalism, right?!) But life doesn’t work that way. We can’t run from our stuff, because it’s working through our stuff that makes us who we are.

So cool, we get on a plane and we can’t escape any discomfort within ourselves – it’s right there when we arrive. The GREAT news is that being with your whole self, all of the time is a fantastic opportunity to strengthen and deepen your experience of self-development and self-love in different contexts (and continents!) 

3. Life isn’t about the big epic “Movie” moments – it’s about our moment-to-moment choices

(Kristen)

You know how in movies, there’s always this big epic moment where EVERYTHING turns around… Where the music escalates as she gets on the train, making that one bold move that changes her life forever…

Yeah, turns out life doesn’t really work that way.

(Don’t tell me you haven’t played epic music in your head during certain pivotal moments of life! Not just me, yeah?! 🙂

Sure, life has epic moments… REALLY epic moments. But the thing is… there’s no such thing as instant change. A moment is just a moment.. and then there’s another one. And another one after that.

And guess what? A lot of those subsequent moments… are pretty mundane.

Yeah that’s right. After the epic moment, that CHANGES EVERYTHING, comes the normal moments. Where we have to just make those boring, everyday decisions that KEEP our epic reality, a reality.

In essence… an extraordinary life is about making CONSISTENT, momentary decisions that align with our highest truth, and the epic life we want to live. It’s easy to live fully into the obviously awesome times… but in the day-to-day, when no one is watching, we are the only ones responsible to keep our lives heading in the direction we want to go. 

Eyes on the prize, people. No lights, no camera, just action.

4. Everything aggregates

(Steph)

When you’re 20, 25, 30, you’re not really seeing the tangible results of the choices you’ve been making your whole life.

It can seem like we’re just in this fantastic game where we flit around, doing as we please and enjoying the moment for what it is.

The little choices we make day-to-day just don’t seem to matter.

But in time, we do start to see these choices aggregating. Everything from what we choose to eat and drink, to prioritizing external freedom over intimate relationships… the results start to show up in our life. And it’s not a bad thing at all – it all just starts to become more meaningful.

We start to see the wisdom of the years on our face, start to realize that we could have a 15-year old child by now… our choices and experiences in the past have suddenly aggregated to show up for us now.

It’s humbling… meaningful… and beautiful.

And it’s a fantastic opportunity to be radically intentional about the choices we make now… setting ourselves up for the life we envision to come.

5. Self-love and internal validation are the foundation for EVERYTHING.

(Kristen)

The core, the basis, the foundation for ANYTHING and EVERYTHING great that we create in the world… is self-love.

If we’re still trying to validate ourselves with anything from the outside… seeking to verify our self-worth in other people, in accomplishments, in “success”… to be honest, we’re f*cked.

And it’s POINTLESS to try to build an empire on top of anything but solid, RADIATING self-love and worth, because we’re then basing our INTERNAL validation on the success or failure of that particular project.

Without RADICAL self-love, we’re more inclined to engage in toxic cycles with people who validate the weak image we hold of ourselves – NOT the powerful person we actually are.

And we’re more inclined to sway between decisions, projects, scattering our energy around as we look for the thing that will make us feel whole.

But the good news is – once you learn this lesson… wow. It’s a game-changer. I believe the bounce-back can be swift and powerful, as we cut out the old shit, toxic people and thought patterns, and create the space for a new reality based on loving who we are, NOW, fully, as we are.

It’s a tough lesson to learn. And an even tougher one to share on the internet. 🙂

And it’s a f*cking exciting space to be creating in… because life becomes a playground, a blank canvas on which to splash your incredible colors of energy and experiment with making something beautiful in this world.

6. KNOWING how to grow is never enough – we have to do the WORK.

(Steph)

We may have been in the personal development world for quite some time now, and are quite conscious of our own patterns, the changes we need to make, the practices that best support our best self…

We might be perfectly aware that we have to love ourselves fully, have to integrate all the pieces, and work through some seriously hard stuff sometimes, to get to the place where we can fully thrive and flourish.

And sometimes? We just have fucking resistance to it. We become like that whiny child that just WANTS THE CANDY… why can’t we just have it?! Whyyyyy do we have to do all the work that’s uncomfortable and scary, dealing with old deeply entrenched stories and patterns that just feels like a pain in the butt to dig up and look at…

Because it’s never enough to just know.

The treasure comes when we do the work.

When we combine conscious awareness with action.

When we love ourselves FULLY – flaws and all.

When we realize that personal development isn’t a fun workshop or retreat or chapter of an inspiring book – it’s deep, personal, and often terrifying.

A journey that doesn’t end – and once committed to – unfolds into the most rewarding adventure you could imagine.