Author Archives: willowwanderlust

About willowwanderlust

Inspired, confused, intelligent, dancer, poet, adventurer, reader, daughter, sister, friend, aunt, traveler, heart giver, nurse, dreamer, biker, seeker, imperfect, perfect, and everything in-between.

The Dos and Don’ts of Freelancing

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Pacaya Volcano, Guatemala

If you set it up right, freelancing can be a fulfilling career giving you the freedom to do what you want when you want, but that comes with a price tag. You have to be your own boss which means making sure you set work hours, take vacations, and get paid what you deserve. Here are a few dos and don’ts to help you out.

Do have a website and write a blog. If you have a personal website and blog, you are published, and you have a portfolio to show others what you do whether that is web design, creative writing, or photography.

Don’t ever do work for free. Several people will trick you into doing work for free even well known magazines and companies under the guise of “helping to get your name out there” or “making sure you are a good fit.” Your work should never be free unless it is a personal labor of love. Freelancing is work, and you should be paid for it.

Do order some business cards. On Vistaprint, you can get your first batch free. You never know when you might meet with a future client.

Don’t limit your options. All your skills can be used in freelancing. The awesome thing about it is you can be whoever you want to be, and you will learn along the way what you are good at and what you are not, what you love to do and what you don’t. The best thing is you are in charge. You don’t need a degree to freelance, you just need to be good at what you do so that people want to work with you. So pick what you are good at and do it well.

Do read the fine print. A job may say you will make $20/hr, but then offer you contracted pay instead of hourly pay. Be careful to do the math and make sure it really equals up to $20/hr. It is always a good idea before a job to calculate the estimated amount of time it will take you to complete and then negotiate a fair price. At the very least, charge whatever the hourly minimum wage is where you live. If you are experienced, have a degree in your area of freelancing, and have a well developed portfolio, you should be making a livable, even potentially six figure annual income depending on the area of freelancing you are in.

Don’t take a freelance job without a contract. Make sure you will receive credit for what you do if this is important to you, make money that is worth the time and effort you will put into the job, and regain the rights to your work if the person does not fulfill their end of the bargain. Usually, you can regain your work as long as you do not receive payment from the client or refuse/return payment. Know your rights. Each client will have different rules. Make sure they are in writing.

Do work creatively on your own terms outside of your freelance jobs without the intention to make money. Doing so will keep you fresh. Join a community of fellow artists to encourage and challenge you. You can send your independent creative work and portfolio to companies and clients you admire outside of your regular bill paying jobs that can often be tedious. You never know when your dream publisher or business will take notice maybe hiring you on as a regular freelancer with better pay.

Don’t take rejection personally. Learn from it. Stay true to yourself but also be open to change. Outside perspectives are not necessarily correct, but they do help you see your project with new eyes allowing you to create something completely different that can often be better than what you or the client even thought possible.

Written by Beth Ann Nyssen

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Filed under Digital Nomads, Motivation, Work and Business, Working Remotely

10 Alternative Nurse Careers that Allow You to Travel or Work Remotely

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Australian Nurses Serving in Malaya/State Library of Victoria Collections/http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/legalcode

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Nursing allows you to work anywhere in the world. With so many options, the destination and length of commitment to a job is really up to you. Here are the top ten careers that will give you freedom to travel and work remotely.

Telehealth Nursing: As a telephone triage nurse, you can work from home or remotely assisting patients with health related phone calls and directing them to appropriate services. Pay is equivalent to hospital salary. Usually, a minimum of three years in acute care is required.

Travel Nursing (USA): As long as you receive a license for each state you want to go, you should be able to be placed there if you have had at least two years recent acute care experience. Most travel nurse contracts last three months. Agencies typically will reimburse for state licenses, moving costs, certifications, a furnished apartment, and health/dental insurance costs once you are placed in a hospital. Until you have an official job with a hospital, you are in no way bound to the agency you work through. It is beneficial to apply to several travel nurse agencies at the same time for this reason.

Travel Nursing (Developed Countries Outside of USA): Australia and New Zealand are the best bets for travel nursing outside of the states. Like travel agencies in the US, they will cover all costs once you have been placed in a hospital. Payment for nurses is equivalent to hospital nurses in the states. Other Western countries do not have as much of a demand for foreign nurses, and Europeans will typically hire within the European Union. Even spouses of native Europeans find it difficult to sift through all the visa and license paperwork required. After being in Australia or New Zealand, your chances of working in one of these countries will increase.

Travel Nursing (Other Countries): There are several organizations that work in other countries, but most are volunteer brigades. You will need to work with some of these first to put on your resume, but for paid work, Doctors Without Borders is one of the most respected. Contracts usually range from 6-9 months. The pay is descent, but much less than what you would make working in a developed country. Before applying, you should have travel nursing and acute hospital experience along with foreign language skills. Idealist.org lists several volunteer and paid international nurse opportunities through other organizations.

Medical Transcriptionist: Nurses are coveted in the transcriptionist world because they have had first hand experience with medical terms. Salaries vary and will possibly be half what you would make in a hospital, but this may be balanced by the ability to work from home or remotely.

Cruise Ship Nursing: As a contract nurse on a cruise, you receive free room and board and have set shifts allowing free time to be a tourist yourself. Contracts usually go for a few months, and then you will have the opportunity to renew. The pay is good and similar to what you would receive in a hospital setting.

Legal Nurse Consultant: This will require a Legal Nurse Consultant Certification (LNCC) and at least five years of hospital experience, but the pay is excellent, and consultations for medically related legal issues can be made via telephone or computer.

Medical Writer: Medical websites are searching for nurse experts to contribute to their blogs on health related topics to draw people to their sites. Pay will be poor in comparison to traditional nursing, but freedom may outweigh the loss.

Medical Sales Representative: Sales reps for medical supplies and pharmaceuticals make good money and often have the option to travel all over the world.

Full-time Nurse: There are several hospitals that will be willing to work with you if you have shown yourself of value. If you have been at your hospital several years, ask your manager if you can take a three or six month leave of absence to travel. They are more likely to accept if you are wanting to do some volunteer travel nursing in a third world country. While they may not be able to guarantee you a job on the same unit when you return, usually they will be happy to place you somewhere else within their hospital system knowing you are an experienced nurse who is familiar with their system. Training new personal can often be more expensive than just filling your position with on-call staff until you return.

Nurses are in high demand and make comfortable salaries making it easier to work from home or remotely, travel while working as a nurse, or work for a short period and save up to spend the rest of the year doing what you love. Contract nursing especially gives you incredible freedom to work where and when you want.

Written by Beth Ann Nyssen

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Filed under Digital Nomads, Location Independence, Preparing to Breakaway, Technology, Travel Tips, Work and Business, Working Remotely

The Advantages of Wearing Many Hats: Nurse, Writer, and Question Mark

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Antigua, Guatemala

So what happens if you trade in your regular every day job for a digital nomad life and find having a computer or cell phone chained to you at the beach was not exactly what you had in mind?

First of all, you are not the only one. You might think being a digital nomad (in my case, doing freelance writing through oDesk in Honduras) is your ticket to freedom, but once you find yourself sitting in a cafe surrounded by tropical plants, so engrossed in your computer or cell phone you are not spending time with real people or enjoying your setting, you might need a reality check. As a freelance writer, it is difficult to make a livable wage in a western country. Several writers often are expected to do free work for the privilege of being published. A recent article in The Guardian highlighted this issue when author, Philip Hensher, brought to the public’s attention that he was asked to write an introduction to a book for free and refused to do so. This is why I do my writing from Honduras where my budget for living expenses, food, and adventures is $300-$400/month. That way, I do not feel I have to be a slave to my work, and I make enough to get by and have some fun while working only part-time. However, my current financial state doesn’t give me much cushion in case of an emergency or if I want to take a spontaneous trip with friends. While I could sit in front of a computer full time and definitely make enough to continue my travel life style and still live in Honduras, the truth is I do not want to be in front of a computer for more than 20 hours. I love writing, but the computer part is torture especially when you take those jobs you really despise just to make a few extra dollars.

So this is where my solution comes in. Be a digital nomad with many hats. Know that being a digital nomad is only a part of your ticket to freedom and having lots of skills that have nothing to do with computers is the other part. In my case, I have a nurse’s license, and I have recently decided to return to the states to work as a travel nurse for three months and fill up my bank account. I can make in one week as a nurse the money I make as a writer working full time for a month. You do the math.

Being a published writer has always been my dream, but now that I am a writer, I am finding I want to start focusing on my own work not on doing freelance work for others. While all my oDesk and other freelance jobs have given me great experience and put a long list of published items in my portfolio, somewhere along the way I stopped writing what I want to write and for less than what I believe my work is worth. So now I am taking a step back and working as a nurse to put a significant chunk of money in my account allowing me the freedom over the next year to only take freelance jobs I want and focus on taking the time to do my own writing, the kind that is not dictated by word count, money, and deadlines.

You don’t have to get lost in the making money part of your digital nomad lifestyle. You can take breaks and find other skills. Sometimes instead of working all year long, a little here, a little there, and trying to be your own boss (which trust me is complex), it is good to work in the system, live cheap, and save for a few months. This way you can dive back into the freelance world, but on your own terms, and to fund fun adventures as needed instead of to make ends meet.

Keep life interesting while adding to your skills. Learn a language if you are in a foreign country. Volunteer where you are at. In my case, I started volunteering with different organizations in Honduras, and before I knew it, I was learning new skills like fundraising, which helped my application jump out to a foundation in the UK I am currently working for. I love yoga, and the next skill on my list is to become a yoga instructor. The more skills you have, the more options you have. One of the best books I ever read to help me gain perspective and see myself as more than just a nurse was The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron. This three month book (in my case, it took a year) helps you to release your creative energy and find new hats to wear so that when you talk with people and they ask you what you do, you can reply, “What don’t I do?”

For the nurses and freelancers, be sure to follow my upcoming Remote Control posts on the 10 Alternative Nurse Careers that Allow You to Travel or Work Remotely and The Dos and Don’ts of Freelancing.

Written by: Beth Ann Nyssen

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Filed under Digital Nomads, Finances and Budgeting, Location Independence, Technology, Work and Business, Working Remotely

Creating the Perfect Exit: Leaving Your Job (If You Must)

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Iguazú Falls, Argentina

In my post Creating the Perfect Exit: Preparing, I talked about the importance of getting ready for making a big move. Once you are prepared, the next step is to either leave your work permanently or propose a way you can have more freedom but still work for the same company. As a nurse, there are several options for working remotely if you work with a travel nurse agency that sends you to locations for only short contracts. When I decided I wanted a change, however, I was a long term employee of the hospital I worked for making it difficult to find remote work options. When I decided to make my big move, I had been working for the same hospital for four years, and I wanted a break or a change, but I wasn’t sure if I officially wanted to leave my job yet. I also wasn’t sure if I still wanted to be a nurse. Here are a few of the options I explored which apply not only to nursing, but other jobs as well. Eventually, I decided to quit my job, but it is always good to explore your options first before severing your main source of income.

Ask for a leave of absence: I had been working as a nurse for about three years when I first asked for a three month leave of absence to travel. My leave of absence was not accepted, but I know several people who have done it successfully. Depending on where you live, people can usually take anywhere from three to six months off but still have a job waiting for them when they return. This is a nice option if you need something a little more stable and enjoy the work you are already doing. If you have vacation pay, you can use this usually during your leave of absence to provide you some income even though you are not working.

Look forward to layoffs and voluntary separations: In the current economy, people cringe when they hear the word layoff, but getting laid off might just be your ticket to freedom. Several countries provide aid to those who have been laid off while they search for a new job. Apply for the appropriate programs if you can apply to receive aid and travel while you search for your new dream job. I took a voluntary separation from my work which means that my job asked people to voluntarily quit in exchange for a chunk of money. The benefit of a voluntary separation for a business is that they can avoid the dirty word “layoff” while still getting rid of people and trimming the budget. For me, the chunk of money I was given was just what I needed to get started on my travels.

Retire early: After four years of working and investing 3% of my pay check into a retirement account, I decided to take all that money out and invest it on living the life I wanted to right now. I used the money to pay off the remainder of my loan debt and to travel the world for a year without working. I have met too many people who waited to explore the world until retirement only to have grandchildren to care for, cancer to treat, and foreclosures on their home. I know few people who by the time they retired had the time, money, or health to go on that after retirement trip around the world. Retirement accounts are good to have while you are working at a place for a long time, and I recommend investing in one, but don’t feel obligated to keep an account until you are too old to enjoy it. You will be penalized for taking the money out early, but there are ways around additional fees for the early withdrawal such as removing the money the next year so it does not count towards your overall income of the previous year when you do taxes. Also, you can often take loans out from your own retirement account up to half the amount of your total investment. Of course these things will vary from one retirement account to another, but just make sure to ask about your options. If you take out a loan from your retirement account, you will have to pay monthly payments and interest. However, these are monthly payments and interest to yourself, not to a bank or the government, and there are no penalties as long as you repay the loan by the designated time. In the end, you won’t loose money, you will gain money, and you can fund a retirement lifestyle right now instead of waiting for a far-off date.

Written by: Beth Ann Nyssen

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Creating the Perfect Exit: Preparing

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Portland, Oregon, United States

Breaking away from the daily grind has been a gradual, lifelong process, but I would say that it took three years to be in a situation where I could consider it and one year to make it happen after deciding to do it. At any time during those four years, I could have broken away. However, I had personal barriers emotionally, mentally, and physically that I needed to work through before feeling good about my final decision to leave my old life behind. Here are some bits of wisdom I learned over the years about preparing for the perfect exit.


Pay off your debt: After nursing school, my focus was to pay off my loan debt. I grew up with a father who ingrained in me that any kind of debt was unacceptable debt. If you owed money, you did not just pay the minimum, you paid the maximum you could. So while several of my friends were thinking about expensive weddings and buying new cars and houses after university, I focused on paying off college loan debt. I rarely paid the minimum and usually payed quadruple my designated monthly payment. Credit cards were not something I would even consider using unless I had an emergency, and then I would pay them off in full each month. I spent the money I had, and that was it. I never had much saved in my bank, but I also had less accrued interest and overall debt than several of my peers. Now, I have zero debt, and nothing will make you feel more free than that.


Donate all your stuff and claim it on your taxes: My friend told me, “You only need to keep one thing to remember each person.” This insight helped me to move past the staring at things phase and into the saying good-by to things phase. Letting go of personal items is like loosing parts of your self. Each item represents a memory in your life. The beautiful thing is that once you get rid of everything you can finally see your true identity, separate from the past, the butterfly you have become. You can sell things to fund your new life or you can donate them and deduct them from your taxes. Storing them is also an option, but I personally am a strong supporter of the clean getaway. I made thousands of dollars in refunds on my taxes by donating everything I owned and then deducting those items. I felt this was a lot easier than taking pictures of all the items and trying to sell them on a site like Craigslist. Give your stuff to someone who needs it more than you and reap the benefits as well. Satisfaction will replace any remorse you have at loosing your material items. You will not only have less stuff dragging you down, but you will receive a nice fat refund check at tax time while seeing that your things are more appreciated by people who really need them.

Save money: Having lots of money saved is not necessary to travel and start a new career working remotely, but it certainly makes everything easier. Tell yourself you will save a certain amount each month and stick to the plan. If you choose to cut out some expensive fun activities, you can always replace them with cheap fun activities. I like spending money on fun experiences and probably could have left earlier if I did not, but I don’t regret my decision. However, if you want to get out fast, change your financial priorities and get creative with your social time. Maybe you will sacrifice some adventures, but you might just surprise yourself with the ones that pop up instead that are totally free. Think outside the box. Instead of going out to a restaurant, have a picnic in the park or instead of going swimming at the pool, spend a day at the river or a nearby lake.

Written by: Beth Ann Nyssen

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Rules are for Breaking

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Versailles, France

The biggest mistake you can make is to tell yourself you have to do everything by the rules. Doing things by the rules is more expensive, time consuming, and just damn boring. So learn that rules are for breaking.

I am privileged. I am from the United States. Unlike most people in the world, I can travel pretty much anywhere I want. I can cross borders as easily as I can slice through a stick with a machete. I did not fully understand this until I came to Honduras, which is the size of some states in America. Hondurans need a visa most everywhere in the world, even to take a vacation in countries that are close to them. I understand why so many of them feel trapped within this small country. However, I still think that where there is a will there is a way. I have met several people, especially through Couchsurfing, people from places like China, who do not have a free access pass to the world. They have to apply; they have to pay; they have to beg to go to a different country, but they do it because it is important to them. If these people can travel the world so can you, and if you say otherwise, especially if you are American, then you have created your own doom.

There are many obstacles I overcame to get to the freedom I have now, but mostly they were obstacles I set up for myself. In following all the rules that were supposed to help me get to my end goal of traveling the world, I, in many ways, could not see the many different options available. I could only see the ones that fit within the system of socially acceptable pathways for travel such as set vacation times, study abroad programs, or working for oversees organizations. I could not see options like working for a year in your home country then taking a year off traveling, volunteering abroad so you can travel with free room and board, being a freelance writer online so you can go anywhere but still work, Couchsurfing for cheap travel and cultural exchange, or asking for a leave of absence so you still have a job to come back to.

I could not have broken away from the system of rules if not for the people who inspired me to do so by their own real life examples. I would say I first began to think outside the box when a friend, who was also a nurse, told the hospital she worked for that she wanted a leave of absence to travel for three months, and that they could either let her have it or she would quit. She was the first inspiration, but there were others. A Couchsurfer from the UK had also done something similar but in a different job and had been traveling for months in the USA.

Then I had a Couchsurfer live with me who totally turned my world upside down. I had broken up with my boyfriend, and I needed help with rent, so I put up an add in Couchsurfing for someone to pay to stay on my couch long term as a flat-mate. The girl who came broke every rule in the book. She had never been to college, but she was one of the most intelligent people I had met, choosing to learn through reading instead of paying for an education. She, unlike most people her age, was debt free. She would work and save for a year as a nanny then travel the world until her money ran out. She volunteered at a food shelter which often had too much food, so the shelter would give her the leftovers to take home to eat. She rarely had to pay for food herself. She loved to dance and would go out most nights, but she knew all the times when she could dance for free. If she went out with friends to a restaurant, she would not order anything, or if she did, it was tea or a small drink. When there was a free event in town, she would go. Her eyes were on the prize, traveling, and nothing was going to distract her, but she made sure to have affordable fun while waiting for the end reward. She was my biggest inspiration. Because of her I realized that any dream was possible. It was really only about how much you were willing to give up to fulfill it, and I discovered that I could give up a lot quite happily to find my freedom. Within a year of careful planning and positive thinking, I had my reward.

Written by Beth Ann Nyssen

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My Decision to Go Remote – From Portland to Honduras

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Hacienda Grande, Copán, Honduras

Someone once told me children know with great accuracy what they want to do as adults at 6 years old. The media and social pressures are what make you forget. As adults, most of us are trapped by a mold designed by our personal expectations and those of others. I broke out of that mold about two years ago when I realized the only person keeping me from my dreams was myself.

I was on the right track for the American Dream: Educated, working full time in a well-paying job, with a spacious city apartment, and a steady boyfriend. At the back of my mind though, in the bottom of my heart, there was a dream of a 6 year old girl to live a simple life riding around the world on a donkey. As a child, I saw myself traveling with a mission to love others and share and learn from them. Even then, I could see how America’s consumeristic society kept us working instead of living, and I did not want to be a part of it. However, at 25, I came to the upsetting realization that I too had fallen into the consumerist trap. Advertisers had brilliantly distorted the American Dream concept to lure me and others in.

I was working with cancer patients as a nurse in the United States and hosting people from Couchsurfing, a website where wanderers can host or stay with fellow travelers to learn and explore the world more openly, when I had my Aha! moment. My cancer patients taught me it was the relationships, the interactions, the learning and loving that made life important. They helped me remember my childhood dream. Couchsurfers gave me the hope that my dream was possible. People from all over the world came to my home telling me their adventures, living on the cheap. They inspired me to see the world with new eyes.

The decision to leave my job and my beautiful apartment in downtown Portland at first seemed daunting because they were what I knew and the unknown seemed terrifying. As I got rid of each item in my apartment over the course of a year, I felt more free, and I realized these things were what were tying me down all along. The desire to collect them, to store them, to own them, and the same went for people. Letting things go, I realized that letting people go often is what gives you and those you release the power to fly. Once you are free, anything is possible.

Written by Beth Ann Nyssen

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