Category Archives: The Breakaway

Third World Digital Nomad – It is not Just a Dream!

Malalison Island kids

To be a lawyer. That’s what I’d subtly sculpted myself into.

So, I studied Political Science as my pre-law course. Now, I am no lawyer. Not even close to becoming one. These days, I am dedicating my time helping typhoon Haiyan survivors re-build not just their shelters but hopefully, their lives. Alongside with that, I play with my younger siblings or bike slowly, as if I’m a little imaginary zipper between country roads.

In 2007, I quit my office job and dared to work remotely. Being from the Philippines, it’s an insane move for many. We spend most years studying as hard as we can – our parents and the society would constantly remind us that education is the only way we can win over poverty. So, most people, after college, take the necessary license exam and try their best to get a job. Not everyone lands at the best places where they can cultivate their interests. Both unemployment and underemployment stop someone here to really take that journey within.

One day, I felt that the usual route is NOT also for me. So I just had to set my self free.

As soon as I started working from home, a lump of fear grew inside me. But then again, I told myself “is life full of certainties? No. I might as well just enjoy the ride and focus on my passions.” I ventured and pursued my love for the written. Then, I seeked for writing-related job opportunities online (Onlinejobs.ph, Odesk.com, Freelancer.com)

Mind you, Charles Bukowski is one of those dead people who have deeply influenced me in my decision.

“now, I’m not saying that I’ve conquered
the world but I’ve avoided
numberless early traffic jams, bypassed some
common pitfalls
and have met some strange, wonderful
people

one of whom
was
myself—someone my father
never
knew. “

(excerpt from ‘Throwing Away my Alarm Clock’)

 

Indeed.

My life as a digital nomad has paved the way to simple living. And by simple living I mean experiencing life as a complex process – rich, enjoyable, affordable and profound.

  • Investing in relationships

In the mornings, I’d walk to the old coffee house in the town center of Barotac Viejo. Owned and managed by a lovely old couple – he is 84, she is 76. He reads a lot of cowboy novels, she wears 1960s dresses. They’d tell me about their lives – about how they once got this book which unraveled her roots. That her great grandfather was a Portuguese pirate. For 10php (0.25 USD), I have native coffee and time machine hitchhiking. They both have become my friends.

Being a digital nomad allows me to spend more quality time with my family. From this, I learn not only from the wisdom and experience of my parents but as well as the wisdom and energy of my younger siblings and cousins. Coming from a culture of close family ties, I can say that at this point of my life, I’ve realized what ‘home’ feels like.

At some point, I’d found it hard to hang out a lot with peers since most of them work 9 to 5. When I began to travel and immerse with the grassroots (doing volunteer work), everything seemed to change.

Keeping rich relationships make life simpler for me. Though I still have to deal with few forced conversations, I feel lighter when I spend time alone and know that whenever I want to find comfort in the company of others, I’ll no longer have to settle for less.

 

  • Investing in experience

Back in the office, the air-conditioning and white walls made me feel sleepy. I knew there was more to life than sitting there and waiting for things that never arrived. Working remotely has opened the world of wandering and wondering to me. With more time in my hands, I enjoy finding myself in a new place, around new people.

When not travelling around the islands, I host or meet people through Couchsurfing or sometimes just by randomly starting a conversation. As I help my family (dominant cultural component of the East), I also water the seeds of my own heart, mind and spirit. I love people, I love the unknown. And I love the intangibles between both loves. I love places. Sometimes, I feel those that I’ve been to still dream of me… until I return.

Because of my heart to experience, I am able to feel that my dreams do breathe and they are sometimes uncategorized. Back in the days, people told me that I’d definitely make a great lawyer but as the years were swept away by my curiosity and Romanticism, I’ve come to realize that I don’t want to be in such place. I am fond of writing, seeking, taking pauses after a deep thought and reflection. I enjoy finding out about my own loopholes. I enjoy carefree clothes and nature. I feel alive when I meet people who feed my longing for the softer world.

Travel through the soles (via my feet, boats, buses and aeroplanes) and the soul (via books, music, films and serendipity) fuel me.

  • Investing in the simplest pleasures

The digital nomad lifestyle has led me to a realization – I want my life simple. Not a shopping mall person here. Not a cosmetic lady too. Not a gadget freak.

I own less – a bike, a 3-year old laptop, a super cheap old-model cellphone, some clothing, mostly handmade/ DIY accessories and some second-hand books (those I haven’t given away just yet).

Come to think of it, if I have spent my time sitting on that work desk (which I did not like much), I wouldn’t be able to try and err, try and realize, try and journey within my heart. I wouldn’t be able to have enough peace that would one day take me to the path I am more comfortable with. All those people and places, circumstances and solitude have washed me to this happier shore where I am now.

Perhaps, I am not fancied by the shiniest of materials and commerce because I find joys in little things – a slow bike to the foot of the hills, a dip in the nearby sea, a view of the sunset, playing with my younger siblings, an aimless walk, a little yet relaxing conversation with someone, a sight of the trees or wild flowers… cuddles whilst low-voiced talks.

To be a lawyer. That’s how I subtly sculpted myself into.

Now, I am a freelance web writer-social media specialist-crowdfunding VA and…

a free spirit (hmmm yes!).

—–

Kristine Buenavista

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Filed under Digital Nomads, Motivation, The Breakaway, The Decision, Working Remotely

Breakaway…how to free yourself from those invisible shackles

Breaking free from my previous life was not easy...but boy was it worth it :)

Breaking free from my previous life was not easy…but boy was it worth it 🙂

The decision has been made. You’ve spent months (sometimes years) debating with your soul about what it is, exactly, that you want from life. Once you’ve finally realized that breaking free is your ultimate goal, you think all your problems are over. That’s it! The hard part is over! You’ve made the decision to cut the shackles which are holding you back and to set off into the sunset; oh how wonderful do you feel right now?!?

Forgetting something? Not so fast there cowgirl…

Yes it is true that the hardest part, for me personally, was coming to the realization and making the final decision, that long-term travel was what I craved most. Yet this does not mean by any stretch of the imagination, that what came next was pure bliss. It wasn’t. It was a bit hellish actually. I had an apartment to sell and the contents to store, I had to disconnect from everything in my life, hand in my resignation, pay off my credit card, close all my accounts and, if all that wasn’t enough, I had to break the news to my mum. Once you learn my mum is Italian, then you’ll understand my angst ^_^

Handing over the keys of my former abode to the real estate agent felt like a huge relief. Sort of. You see, everything about the ‘breakaway’ was immensely contrasting for me: I was elated yet hesitant, adventurous yet cautious. Nothing about it was black and white and, to tell the honest truth, nothing has been ever since. I love travelling with every inch of my soul but at times I get homesick, friend-sick and mamma-food-sick. Whilst I cherish making new friends every day I miss having D&Ms with my life-long friends. I dare say that life for most long-term nomads is one of contrasts and contradictions, so I suppose the internal turmoil I felt when I was in the midst of reorganizing my life  was Mother Nature’s way of telling me ‘well you better get used to that kid…there’s a lot more where that came from!’

Being virtually homeless at the age of 31 felt a little scary although having a 3m³ storage space full of my ‘stuff’ helped alleviate my fears. This was my back up plan, my fall-guy, this was my way of saying that while I very much wanted ‘out’, I did also want to leave the door ajar. Just in case.

Considering that the next time I saw my stuff was when I flew home three years later to sell it all off, one would think that I’d be an ardent advocate for complete and total initial sell-off. But I’m not. Sure, sometimes I kick myself at having spent $6,000 over three years to store things I never needed nor wanted again, but I do think my gradual detachment from what I sometimes call my ‘previous life’ was exactly the right recipe for me. I’ve had people ask me how one just breaks away completely and sets off, but fact is I have no idea how anyone could do that either! I did it in steps and it worked a treat and this is something I would highly recommend to anyone who feels a little nauseous at the mere thought of ridding themselves of their life-long’s possessions. I can plead and beg and swear to you that you won’t give two hoots about them in two years time, but fact is everyone needs to get there on their own.

I left my car with a friend who paid and maintained it whilst she used it (sold that two years later), consolidated all my accounts into one and took a debit VISA card with me (incidentally this is still the only bank account I have) and I did take out an emergency MasterCard for the unthinkable. Knowing that I could buy a flight home at ANYtime helped put my mind at ease.

Those who are intending to live an expat existence in another country will probably have an easier time I dare say, but of course cutting off from the emotional attachments in our lives will always be the biggest challenge. It really does help to keep in mind that, this being the 21st century and all, one can get back ‘home’ in two days from just about every corner of the globe. Your chosen financial step of choice (do you live off your savings a while, make virtual connection before you leave etc?) will also determine just how nervous you’ll be at the airport, yet I imagine that even the most organized wannabe-nomad will suffer many sleepless nights.

Taking all the necessary steps you need to free yourself from your restrictions is never going to be the easy part. Emerging from the other side unscathed however, will definitely be the most rewarding.

Welcome to your new life.

Written by Laura Pattara

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Filed under Digital Nomads, Location Independence, Motivation, The Breakaway, Working Remotely

My biggest challenge in working from home

Laptop and Home Office Desk

Staying motivated while the TV is calling in my home office.

A handful of us have made changes in life that seem bizarre to normal people. ‘Crazy’ is a term regularly used to describe the choices I have made. I threw in the towel, giving up a well-paying management role to relocate over 8,500 km into a country with no idea of my next step. I was in need of something new, however in hindsight I do agree this was a rather extreme decision

I justified the choice to my wife, my family (and most importantly my mother in law) with a need to recharge, revitalize and discover a different type of income that would give me both flexibility and freedom. I had savings to get me through the dry spell in the beginning, reassuring the largest doubts in my mind. I was also lucky to have fantastic people close to me, and received phenomenal understanding and support through the transition. Would I recommend this path to everyone? Probably not. I jumped off the deep end, and failure was an outcome I had to stare in the face each and every day.

Fortunately, there are less dramatic options for those of us seeking something new. Even a small change can be a very good thing, revitalizing our passion for the job and recharging our batteries. When you want to keep your day job but take more control, I recommend negotiating a work from home arrangement with your employer. Conducting business from your sofa in your pajamas is a dream of many office employees. I have been consulting out of my home office on-and-off for over a year, but believe me, it comes with it’s own unique set of challenges.

Managing distractions is simply the hardest thing to do. For anyone even considering this change of lifestyle, you will not succeed if you cannot take responsibility for your own actions. Before you take that first step, ask yourself if you are ready to handle being your own boss. You will have no one in your lounge room forcing you to turn off the TV and focus on work, no colleagues to keep you on track when you hit a slump after lunch. This is what I personally have struggled with, staying on task when there are so many other things to do!

My house is my castle, and unfortunately, coping with the call of the latest Xbox games, fantastic movies queued up in Netflix  or my dog calling for attention means that it can be very difficult to remain productive. In the last 12 months I have learnt how critical it is to be disciplined, otherwise nothing ever gets done. Being strict with yourself is very, very hard. In the beginning I thought that I was doing incredibly. I was always ‘busy’ and the day’s seemed to fly right past. Looking back, I know now I could have achieved much more in my first months. Time and goal management needed to right up top of my priority list, as I was now my own boss. I realized the change in my lifestyle would also require a change in me. Success hinged on my ability to adapt, and only I could bring this change in myself.

Today, I am more scheduled than I ever could have imagined. I start my day at 7 am, with a ridiculously large coffee and build a task/reward list. This is what I developed to keep me motivated and on track, essentially its a to-do list with a reward for finishing each task. Some are small, like reading all of my new emails before I can send one. Other tasks are much larger, like finishing this article before I can head to the gym! I have found that making sure I achieve something before I can go for lunch, turn on the TV or even walk my dog is an excellent motivator. It forces me to get things done when otherwise I will have an empty belly or a grumpy puppy on my hands.

Working from home is a fantastic change, whether its for yourself or for your employer, make sure you understand the challenges involved before you take the leap. You won’t get anything done if you think checking your emails while you watch 4 hours of daytime soaps is working. Learn to manage your time and you will find that both your lifestyle and happiness will improve. Remember, working from home is a privilege you get from your employer. It’s not a right, and you need to earn it. Once you earn it, make sure you continue to deserve it.

It’s challenging to be your own boss, but the rewards are phenomenal.

Author: Travis Bennett

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Filed under Expats, Motivation, Preparing to Breakaway, The Breakaway, Work and Business

Turning Nomad: Motivated by inspiration

Believe_Inspiration_Stones

It takes inspiration, but requires motivation. Sounds like something you would hear at a life coaching seminar to change your life, and while it is a bit bumper sticker slogan, it is actually true. To make the move that will change your life both in terms of location and economics it always takes a dream (the inspiration), and throughout my life I have always been well acquainted with dreaming. Motivation has been more of a stranger to me, but more on that later.

Growing up in a small town in South Wales, UK, people are faced with two choices; stay and have a normal and perfectly healthy middle class life, or leave and have a different kind of existence. While most stay, I always dreamt of the “more” and wanted to explore the world that I loved so much when I was younger. I loved exotic locations I would see on TV and was particularly passionate about animals, so it stands to reason I wanted to leave a country where it rains all the time and the most wildlife you´ll see is a sheep or badger.

Ironically I have come to appreciate Wales for the small jewel it is in recent years, but perhaps that´s another story to be told. Anyway… I spent much of my youth and early adulthood deep in the dream of escaping my boring life when actually I was sleepwalking into being an engineer and living in the area I was born, probably one street from my parents.

The normal chain of events for someone becoming an expat and becoming financially free is meeting someone, a girl, a guy, you know how it goes. For me it was slightly different as the profession came first when I realized that I was a very capable writer while studying engineering in university. I left my course and waited a year to enroll in a different degree program for creative and professional writing, which I guess is why I am here now, writing this for you.

Then there was the girl (what? You thought there was not going to be one?). Of course, we fell madly in love and she helped give me something I had never had until then, motivation. She lived in Spain, me in the United Kingdom, and her life meant that if anyone was going to move, it would have to be me. Obviously the idea appealed to this 15 year veteran of dreaming about the big escape to another country.

My degree studies meant that any permanent move was off for about two years, which meant we would have to travel to see each other. My explorer’s heart finally got to do what it craved, and I traveled extensively over the next two years to various locations around the world to see my new girlfriend. The seed had been planted and as they say, I got the bug. I now wanted to travel more, so in-between the times I would see my partner I would travel to other places, and even came up with a few grand adventures (again, another story).

One fact I am mildly proud of is that I have flown on a plane countless times, but have always traveled alone, I have never been with a companion on a flight. I wear that as a sort badge of honor to show off my nomad tendencies, but I doubt anyone actually is that impressed by it.

My now fiancée is from Argentina and just as the move to Spain was shifting into gear she had to move back to her homeland permanently. That was no issue really, I would just move to South America instead, but what would I do for a job?

The truth is, the idea of becoming financially independent did not occur to me at this point. By the way, I do not class financially independent as being rich, if that´s what it means, where´s all my money? Instead I class it as having the freedom of profession to be able to live anywhere and generate the same income. At that time four years ago I sat a number of TEFL teaching courses which allow you to work as an English teacher in foreign countries, this I thought would be my career in Argentina.

This was just a little concerning because on those courses I was a frankly terrible teacher who passed because, well everybody passes. I arrived in Argentina pretty sure I would not be a teacher and by that point not speaking a word of Spanish. What possible career could await me I thought, but then I found the courage to explore my talent.

I decided I would write for a living and through the days and months I built up a portfolio by doing painstaking jobs until I had a reputation in some circles as a good freelance writer. I now work full-time doing that and am developing a publishing business and get a good if unspectacular income here in Argentina. I work from home, I largely work when I want to, and if I was inclined to I could move to a different location tomorrow with ease.

So what´s the moral of my story? Well, I guess it is that the inspiration is fine, without it you will never get the independence of location and finances. However, don´t dream too long and instead find the motivation, find your path to achieve your dreams, because trust me, even though there may be a few stumbles, you do have a path.

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Filed under Expats, Motivation, The Breakaway, The Decision

Rules are for Breaking

Image

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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Filed under Motivation, The Breakaway