The Start of Studio Yoto

As I step off my connecting flight into Chiang Mai I’m greeted not only by the humid evening heat but also by an immediate sense of clarity which will reoccur throughout my first few weeks. It seems every conceivable concern which I had created for myself suddenly didn’t exist, nor was it ever there in the first place.

A revitalised sense of focus and passive mindset was the perfect environment I needed to flesh out my ideas for the agency. It was clear the next step would be a website along with supporting social media platforms to increase traffic. The final designs for the website were completed on the first evening and handed over to our developer* meaning I could use the rest of the time to focus on social media and prepare projects for presentation.

It wasn’t all work, however. A typical day would be started in one of Chiang Mai’s many cafe’s. In my first month I stayed in the Nimman area which has a plethora of work spaces. Just take your pick and you can guarantee they’ve got good coffee and equally good internet. The food here is also second to none. I can honestly say that within the past 4 weeks I haven’t received a bad a meal. With meal prices sometimes as low as £0.80 is easy to wonder how that is even possible. Most afternoons would be spent exploring the city, admiring temples and dodging rainstorms. After my first week I knew that if I truly wanted to explore the city and the surrounding area I would need a scooter, even if the traffic did appear as pure chaos at first. After a few rides in the many tuk-tuk’s and red cars I would eventually come to realise that it in fact moves in an almost molecular fashion.

My experience from the tuk-tuk’s served me well as I prepared for the 4 hour ride to Pai. Usually a drive that long wouldn’t be something to be excited by however this journey would make its way along spiralling bends, through dense mountains, tropical rainforests and unfortunately torrential rain. On arrival in Pai it was clear that the lifestyle was very similar to Chiang Mai yet somehow more relaxed. I stayed in Pai for 2 nights making my way around the usual places of interest – hot springs, waterfalls and the infamous sunset at Pai canyon. Refreshed by the rural landscapes I prepared for my return journey, luckily I had better luck with the weather on my trip back.

With my flight to Kuala Lumpur looming it would be a shame to miss the opportunity to visit an elephant sanctuary. This would later become one of the most profound experiences of my life. Our small group spent the afternoon feeding the elephants to gain their trust. We then walk alongside them through the jungle and eventually bathed them in a flowing river. Once getting within a few inches of these giants its clear how gentle they truly are. Most of the elephants that we met came from a life of abuse and exploitation yet were still able to show compassion towards humans.

As the final week went passed and my outbound journey crept closer I looked back at the humble carving which was beginning to take shape in the form of a business. It was in this realisation that I decided to try and perpetuate my focus for another 4 weeks. As I write this I’m currently sat in my new apartment preparing for another 4 weeks in Chiang Mai with luggage still in the middle of the room, dense jungle forna trying to make its way through the window and a bright blue hue from the pool in my peripheral vision.

If there is one thing I have learnt throughout the last 4 weeks it is that opinions, assumptions and lifestyles need to be challenged. They say you only start truly living once you push past your comfortable zone, maybe there is some truth in that.

Shot of beautiful mountainous region in northern Thailand