Nomad Summit – How it Started!

In 2013, in the small mountain town of Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand, the digital nomad community had started to thrive.

Even though it was almost six years earlier when Tim Ferriss first published his book, The 4-Hour Workweek that Chiang Mai was first mentioned as an ideal place to live, it took a few years for expats and travelers to start full time businesses online.

During that time, the first coworking space opened and with just 10 members along with a few other entrepreneur friends, small meetups would happen once a month.

It wasn't until mid 2015 after a digital nomad meetup in a night club, called the Blar Blar Bar did the idea of the first Nomad Summit come about.


nomad summit birth in nimman blar blar bar

The bar where it all started...

We wanted a way to gather people that work online, travel through Thailand, and live The 4-Hour Workweek, as a way to learn from each other, meet, and network.

Since then, we’ve now hosted yearly events in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and two in 2019 in both Chiang Mai, Thailand and in Las Vegas.

It has made the Nomad Summit the premiere digital nomad conference in Thailand and now around the world.


The first year was an experiment. Founder Johnny FD used his own money to rent a seminar room at the Ibis Styles Hotel and created the event, not knowing if anyone would come. The tickets were donation-based and thankfully quickly attracted over 100 attendees the very first year.

Thanks to co-organizer of the year Kathrin Folkendt and her connections to Buffer, we were able to get the event sponsored and it kicked off an amazing start to what would then become an annual conference and even film and professionally edit the talks.

Here's a video from one of the talks:

Lee's Talk at the 2015​ Nomad Summit


The second year became even bigger and better attracting over 200 attendees.

Even though we've always made it a point to record all of the talks and edit them professionally so those from around the world that couldn't attend in person could still benefit from the lectures, we never had the budget to hire a second film crew to create promo videos or after movies.

But with the spirit of the digital nomad community, one of the attendees, Ian Robinson created his own! The theme was finger snapping along with everyone who came and it turned out great!

Check it out below:


As the Nomad Summit conference grew, we started attracting more and more publicity including fellow digital nomads with large audiences. This video was made behind the scenes as a mini-documentary by Chris the Freelancer.

It was another huge risk to level up as our fixed costs went up by almost 400% moving from a mid-range hotel that had the maximum capacity of 200 attendees, to doubling our size and moving to the 5 star Le Meridien hotel with a larger conference room. It was the biggest event yet and the start to a huge community!

We also started the annual tradition of the Nomad Pool Party as a casual way for attendees to hang out and enjoy the sun. Even though it was January and technically winter, in Thailand the weather has always been perfect.

Here's video of some of the attendees and why they came and what they thought of the conference.

2018 - Chiang Mai

This was the first year that the Nomad Summit went from a side hobby of getting people together, and turned into a large event with staff, professional organizers and a second set of professional videographers to create an aftermovie.

This is the year that Stephanie and Kara came on board as full time organizers for the event during what was an intense couple of months of planning a 400 person event. 

2018 - Las Vegas

This year also marked the first ever time we had two events in a single year.

Instead of making people wait an entire year for the next conference, in 2018 we decided to have a mid-year event outside of Thailand and chose Las Vegas as the destination. It's a city that everyone has on their travel bucket list and over Labor Day weekend, we had a blast hanging out, and partying together after the conference.

Most of the attendees were from the USA or Canada and many have never traveled before nor met another digital nomad.

It was truly a great event as it was a gateway for a lot of people who have dreamed about quitting their 9-5 jobs to meet others who have already done it successfully to see that it was possible.

Here's an amazing documentary style video of what it was like.

2019 - Chiang Mai

It was time to level up again, and this year we moved the conference to the 5-Star Shangri-La hotel where we could have all events in house including the pre-registration party, main conference, workshops, and the pool party at one location.

But the main reason for the move was to prepare ourselves for an even bigger turnout next year as we had yet again outgrown a venue.

With 400 attendees again this year in Chiang Mai, Thailand, it was the biggest entrepreneur or digital nomad event the city has seen and over 50% of attendees came either specifically for the event or at the very least, the conference was a reason for them to come to Thailand. Here's a video of how this year's conference went.

2019 - Cancún

We're really excited to bring the Nomad Summit to Mexico for the first time ever! We decided that even though Las Vegas was a ton of fun, it really isn't a digital nomad location.

But Cancún would be perfect as not only does it have an international airport where attendees from Canada, USA, Central and South America can fly to, but it is a thriving digital nomad destination already and also a gateway to Western Europe.

This year we're partnering with Selina and the Tech Tourism Association of Mexico to bring the first ever Nomad Summit digital nomad conference to the city and we're planning to stay afterwards in Playa Del Carmen for at least a month after to check out the nomad scene and community there.

The Current Nomad Summit Team​​​​

Johnny FD

Johnny is the founder and main organizer of the event. He has given a speech on the Nomad Summit stage every year since 2015.

Alexandra Kozma

Alexandra has worked as a co-organizer since May 2018. She handles the Nomad Summit website and does general email and content marketing. 

Rachel Yoma

Rachel joined the Nomad Summit team in December 2018 as a co-organizer for the conference. Her main duties involve brand design and outreach.

Chris Lioe

Chris has been our Facebook marketing ninja since December 2018. 

heather pollock nomad summit

Heather Pollock

Heather joined our team after our 2019 conference in Chiang Mai. She's behind the posts you see on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Fun Facts

The Nomad Summit started in 2015.

We've now hosted 5 conferences total. 

Over 1,400 attendees have attendees from around the world. 

We've had people come from over 35 countries.

Our seminar videos have been watched over 150,000 times.

Johnny FD

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