2018 Nomad Summit Review: Thoughts and Lessons

I know it's strange writing a review as the founder of the event, but it's both my way of sharing the behind the scenes of the conference as well as a way for me to personally reflect on what went well and what could be improved for the next year. The 2018 Nomad Summit was our biggest event yet with 407 total attendees. A big secret on pricing is that instead of having to display "Sold Out" on the site, we just raised the price as seats started getting to capacity, especially with the optional workshops which had limited room. That way it rewarded the people who bought presale tickets early which helped us secure the room and made it more expensive for people who waited until the last minute as if we didn't we would have been over capacity. Another big change for this year was the fact that I hired event organizers to really level up the conference this year which ended up paying off as it was our biggest and best event yet, but with that comes a ton of challenges as we grow.

There was a ton of things that we could have done better and a lot of lessons learned along the way. We've now surveyed the attendees and have gotten some really valuable feedback, both positive and negative that will help us make the 2019 Nomad Summit even better. What I've learned is that if we try to make everyone happy, no one will be happy, so putting together a large event is trying to find the balance that will make the most amount of people gain value. So here it is, everything about the 2018 Nomad Summit, ups, downs, mess ups, successes, and statistics on who attended, what their favorite talks were, how we could have improved the conference and what we plan on changing for next year. A big thanks to everyone who helped out this year and made it an overall super successful event, and also to the 400+ of you who attended! For everyone who didn't make it out this year, keep reading for some insights on what you missed as well as some sneak previews of what next year's event will be like.

How It All Started

It's hard to imagine today as the digital nomad scene, especially in Chiang Mai is so big, but back in 2013 and 2014 when it was all getting started, the biggest events had 15 people max and even that felt epic to be surrounded by others who were on the same path of location independence. It wasn't until someone had organized the first big digital nomad meetup at a place called Blar-Blar Bar that I was ever in a room with over 75 digital nomads! I instantly thought, "wow this is amazing!" But the only downside was since it was a loud bar, fueled by alcohol, it was really hard to actually network, or dive deeper into what everyone was actually doing to make money and run their businesses online. It was then that I decided that someone should rent a big seminar room and have an event during the day, somewhere quiet, where we could all learn from each other.

But the truth is, the only reason why I had the confidence and experience to even be able to pull it off and create a conference was because I had done it before in Hollywood just a few years prior. Year before I was read "The 4-Hour Workweek" by Tim Ferriss and became both a Scuba Diving Instructor and Muay Thai Fighter, I read the NY Times Best Seller "The Game" by Neil Strauss and somehow ended up getting a job working for a company that taught pick up. I never talked about it publicly until August 2015 in my blog post "Who is the real Johnny" as it was embarrassing and something I went through when I was insecure, socially clumsy, and when I didn't yet know who I was. If I could do it all over again, I would have loved to have found Tony Robbin's Date With Destiny instead, as that's where I really learned how our need for love, significance, and human connection drives us to do that we do, especially when we're young, insecure and still trying to figure out who we are. That being said, I highly encourge everyone reading this to go to a Tony Robbins event as it's quite possibly the best self help seminar out there and I genuinely believe that the world would be a better, happier and move loving place if everyone attended a Date With Destiny.

Looking back however, as much as I wish I never had to go through those years of doing crazy and ego driven things if it wasn't for speaking at and helping to organize those events, I never would have developed the organizational skills to confidently put on truly helpful, large events, both including the weekly Nomad Coffee Club meetups, and ultimately the Nomad Summit. So even my past life was quite embarrassing and sometimes I'd like to forget it ever happened, I also have to be thankful for the lessons I learned and it's ability to help me do good things and connection people now and into the future. With the help of my co-organizer the first year Kathrin Folkendt we successful had 150 attendees attend the 1st ever Nomad Summit back in 2015!

Fast Forward to 2018

Here is the after movie for this year's Nomad Summit. It's an awesome four minute recap of the event by the talented David Karels, including the highlights of the conference. Think of it as a reminder and of the event if you attended and a sneak peak at what it was like if you couldn't make it this year but would have loved to see what it was all about.

Venue, Food and Breaks

Every year as the Nomad Summit grows in popularity and gets bigger, it becomes more and more of a challenge to make sure everyone in attendance gets the most out of the event as possible. Last year in 2017 we had 350 attend and introduced the the Le Meridien hotel as the venue of choice which was a huge upgrade from the Ibis Styles hotel where the 2015 and 2016 events were held. We took all of the feedback from the year before and focused on doing things like having longer breaks so people could spend more time networking and meeting other attendees, and for food we made sure there were vegetarian options at every break, have coconut milk as an alternative to dairy and vegan options during lunch. One thing we completely messed up on was the fact that even though we had asked for it, we messed up by not double checking that the hotel actually labeled all of the options as even though there was plenty of food options for everyone, it was hard to know what was what. Next year we'll be sure to not only have Vegetarian and Vegan options but to actually label them so people can easily find what they could and couldn't eat. Because of the lack of labeling we literally had some people comment "So great. Lots of vegan options which was amazing" while others commenting "almost no vegan food and no clear labeling for vegan, vegetarian, gluten free." The good news is that the vast majority of the comments were super positive.

As for breaks we've worked really hard to time it correctly, a few people also mentioned that it would be even better to have short breaks between each speaker or to spread out the talks over 2 days. We've really thought hard about this and because it's so difficult getting people back in the room after breaks having a short one after each speaker would become a mess, and spreading it out over 2 days would double our venue, food costs and other costs which would pretty much double the price of tickets. The solution however is even though it sounds cooler having 8 or 9 full length talks, what we'll do for next year is either cut out one entire talk entirely or shorter each one by 5 or 10 minutes. Most people really loved the coffee, but it's funny that the first year just having coffee was

Mushroom and Salmon Quiches during the Morning Break

Fruit and Fruit Tarts during the Afternoon Break

This Year's Talks

Aside from the coffee and food which is a nice to have, one of the main reasons people come to the Nomad Summit every year is for the talks. Every year it's a delicate balance between finding successful who's available to be in Chiang Mai during that time that are willing to share their knowledge, as well as having a good balance and mixture of types of subjects and businesses. I'm super fortunate to have access to a large variety of really open and successful people through both my own personal network as well as from hosting the Travel Like a Boss Podcast for all of these years. Even though I know we could have had even more attendees by having hot topics such as investing in bitcoin and cryptocurrencies, I purposely turned down those speakers as I really want the Nomad Summit to be about sharing journey to building successful, established online businesses that anyone can do and not just what's currently hot today.

That being said, our three most popular talks this year was Mike LaRosa's talk on Coworking and Community, Derek Pankaew's Bootstrapping to Millionaire Mindset, and Matt Bowles talk on running a Physical Real Estate business while traveling as a digital nomad with only carry on luggage. But that's really amazing is that all of our speakers this year were voted highly. Some people really resonated with Nick Nimmin talk on Youtube Optimization while others really liked Viola's Service Based Business talk, J Keitsu's dropshipping,  or Virginia's office to entrepreneur talk.  What I've realized is that by having a wide variety of speakers and topics, people will get a ton of value out of what they are currently focused on or lacking at the moment such as building their Youtube channel or transitioning from being an employee to an entrepreneur, scaling their dropshipping business, etc. But the real secret aim is to get everyone to learn something from the talks they didn't think would be for them, and judging by the majority of survey respondents, I think we've made that happen. But lessons learned for next year would be to go even more in depth on the technical "how to's" without losing the inspiration and motivation portions that people liked to hear.

johnny fd review

Speakers and Staff for the 2019 Nomad Summit!

Travel and Demographics

One thing that makes the annual Nomad Summit so cool is knowing how many people come to Chiang Mai either specifically to attend the conference or use it as a reason/excuse to come and stay for a while. Our attendee survey showed that 48.19% of people came either specifically to attend the Nomad Summit or used it as an excuse to be in Chiang Mai. That means that hundreds of people either visit or move to Chiang Mai every year because of the Nomad Summit which is an amazing feeling. We're bringing a ton of knowledge, skills, and money into the local economy by supporting local businesses and spending money on hotels, apartments, restaurants, cafes and coworking spaces. This is the real answer to why immigration allows digital nomads to exist in Chiang Mai, we're bringing money into their economy and offering more value than we are taking.

What's even cooler is based on the IP addresses of where attendees purchased tickets we had attendees from over 24 countries this year including Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, China, France, Georgia, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Maldives, Nepal, New Zealand, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, United Kingdom, United States, and Vietnam! Granted a lot of these attendees are digital nomads from another country that just happened to be living in these places when they ordered their tickets, but it's still awesome knowing that I've personally shook hands with people who came all the way from South Africa, Maldives, or a small town in America to attend the conference! 

Most Valuable Takeaways

One thing that I'm always super interested in knowing what part of the event people got the most value from so I can focus on making sure that's a big part of the event for next year. I personally read each and every single survey form submitted and now have a super clear vision on what people really loved about this year's conference and what we can do to further improve the event for 2019! A big part of coming is to be around like minded people who are willing to invest in themselves and into networking. Even though it's becoming easier and easier to "meet" and communicate with other digital nomads online, the bigger it becomes, the more negativity comes along with it. If nothing else, coming to the Nomad Summit means you're surrounding yourself with 400 like minded people who choose positivity and the abundance mindset verses giving into the nothing works and everything is a scam comments that you often read in facebook groups, youtube comments, and on online message boards. 

Another big benefit is being in a room with 400 other people who are actually paying attention, taking notes, and actively listening to talks live as you get to not only share thoughts and ideas with them afterwards but you can ask the speaker's questions and meet them in person. But what's often even better is meeting fellow attendees that are doing well in your business niche and seeing that it's possible. The biggest downside however has been as the Nomad Summit grows, the harder it becomes to meet everyone especially if you're an introvert. One of the biggest takeaways we'll be applying to the 2019 Nomad Summit is making sure that we make it easy for attendees to connect with other people in their business model, as well as make it easy for everyone to meet others in a similar position as you whether you are already established or just starting out! Here are some of the comments we got from attendees when we asked: 

"What part of the summit gave you the most value? What would have you liked to see more of or had more of? Anything else you want to share?"

nomad summit is it worth it

nomad summit 2018

nomad summit reviews

Overall Thoughts on 2018

While there were a couple hiccups on this year's event and improvements that we can make as the conference grows every year, overall we're really happy to announce that the vast majority of people were really happy that they came and would recomend the conference to a friend. One of the hardest challenges with growing the even every year is making sure that everyone gets a lot from the event regardless of where they're from, what business model they're in, and what stage in their business they are. The good news is that we're confident that every year we're getting better and better and from the in person comments we get, we know that people are happy that they came. Not everyone filled out the attendee survey, and in general the people who were happiest usually don't feel the need to give feedback, but we really do take everyone's opinions seriously as our goal really is to see the Nomad Summit grow and stay true as the premiere event for digital nomads and location independent entrepreneurs across the world.

We're in the process of editing all of the videos from this year's event, so check back here on the blog and subscribe to the email list at to get access to the videos as they come out. Our dedication to the nomad community is to give away all of the talks for free every year regardless if you can attend in person or not, but even with that, we're happy to see 400+ people attend in person to gain the benefits of being here live, meeting each other, the speakers, and each other. We promise that we'll continue to learn from both our strength and improve our weaknesses and we look forward to seeing you at the 2019 Nomad Summit! Make sure you RSVP on facebook to get event updates and a chance to win tickets. If you want to save some money and guarantee your spot, you can buy discounted presale tickets here! 

I want to sincerely thank each and everyone who attended the 2018 Nomad Summit, each and every speaker, staff, volunteers, and our sponsors Empire Flippers, Payoneer, and for helping making it happen! Big thank you to Stephanie Simon and Kara-Jay Matthews my co-organizers for 2018, Max Summer on the backend and managing the video production, as well as Luke Walker for being the MC, James for being the Slide Master, and everyone else who helped make this event happen! 

The main metric that we measure our success by!

I hope to see each and everyone of you reading this next year in 2019! Comment below to let me know your thoughts, who you'd like to hear speak, and what you'd like to get out of the event!

Warm Regards,

Johnny FD
Founder of the Nomad Summit

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Post a Comment

  1. Wow, looks awesome! It's on my list of things to do for 2019!

  2. hey Johnny.. they usually call these things "post mortems" :)

  3. Are you still investing in peerstreet?there are several loans are delayed,I hope I could get my money back.

    1. Yup i'm still heavily invested with them. I have 38 active loans with them now 7 of them are late, and 3 them we're foreclosing on. I've also had 42 loans with them successfully paid off or paid off early. So out of 80 loans, it's pretty normal to have 12% be problematic. The good news is PeerStreet handles that and takes back the house, sells it, to reimburse us. More info on the podcast:

  4. Great, congratulations to you, wish you more success

  5. So, I'm considering signing up for the 2019 cruise. Am a fulltime Amazon seller and wanting to know how much/what advanced topics will focus on Amazon in discussions as this trip is rather expensive. Anyone that has gone on previous ones have insights?


Please take a second to log in before you comment. I've turned off the anonymous commenting option. I'm open and respectful with you, please be the same back. Stay positive, trolls and spam comments will be automatically deleted.


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