[VIDEO] Finding Your Tempo: Ensuring High Work Output While Traveling | Tips for Location Independence

Quite a few people seem to feel like getting to the point of being remote is the most difficult part. If you’re not yet there, that makes perfect sense. The trick afterwards is maintaining high work output while being location independent, whether that is working from a home office, on the road or literally on the move during travel days.

Traveling can be stressful, as can work days. In this video I share a few tips I’ve learned to ensure I have high output during my travel days and am able to do so with minimal stress on me and my family.

Practice makes perfect and I used to be pretty worthless, work-wise, on travel days. Then I got to a point where I was able to get a lot done, but was pretty stressed out and in some cases miserable in the process. I’m far from an expert at it, there’s always room for improvement, but these tips have helped me along the way and I’ve gotten a lot better at playing the game. I hope you like the video and if you do, please subscribe to the Remote Control youtube channel!

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Budgeting for Your Breakaway: How to Determine the Costs of Moving Abroad

The big cull: if it didn't fit into the back of the bike...it was sold!

The big cull: if it didn’t fit into the back of the bike…it was sold!

Budgeting for a big move is a prospect often fraught with angst. Whilst I agree it may well be the hardest thing you’ve ever done up until now…it need not be all that difficult. I’ll start by admitting that helping digital nomads determine the actual cost of their move is a futile exercise, considering the endless contributing factors: where do you live now? Where do you want to move to? Are you single or with kids in tow? Are you planning to ship your car and a container full of belongings? Etc etc. You get the gist.

Instead, I think the best option is to share some tried-and-tested tips on the best way you can determine the cost for yourself and (perhaps more importantly) include some insider tips on how to reduce these costs.

After all…I’m going to go out on a limb and assume this may be everyone’s priority 😉

Separate the must-costs from the maybe-costs

Your first priority should be to make a list of all the costs you envisage for your move. Things like flights, above-mentioned container shipping; apartment and/or car rental and so on. Then, think long and hard about which costs are avoidable and which are not. Yes you will have to get yourself there somehow, so flights are (for the majority) unavoidable. Tick.

Apartment rental? Nope, don’t need that yet (more on this later.) Car? Definitely not at first. Double tick.

Now your turn.

Get at least three quotes on all the must-costs

Once you have determined what you must absolutely pay for (if you’re still undecided keep on reading) then best to get quotes as soon as possible. Making the move during low-tourist season in your target country can keep flight, shipping and accommodation costs down for example, so always keep this in mind when doing your research and you could save a small bundle right off the bat.

Sell more…take less

You know how I mentioned getting a quote for shipping all of your personal belongings? Yeah…not. Stop right there.

I know how enticing it is to want to duplicate your life at home once abroad but this does contrast with most of the reasons you decided to make the BIG move in the first place. This isn’t about duplicating, this is about reshaping. If you do want to take ALL of your material possessions and envisage placing them in your new home overseas, you may want to rethink your reasons for moving. It’s a hell of a lot of hassle just to get away from the mother-in-law! Just kidding…

Placing everything in storage and leaving with the bare necessities is a great option, although if you can stomach the idea, I suggest you actually sell off as much as possible before you leave. Not only will this generate more cash (there’s your flights!) but the psychological impact it will have on you may allow you for greater flexibility in your new home-country.

I did in fact leave all my belongings in storage before going travelling. The next time I saw them was three years later when I dashed home to sell it all off: I had spent $2000 a year on storing things I never thought about, nor needed, ever again.

Food for thought? Goodie.

The dreaded housekeeping

One of the hardest decisions you’ll make will be whether or not to keep your house, if you happen not to be renting at home. This is definitely a tough choice to make. Due to my fatalist philosophies I will come right out and advice you to get rid of it; the only thing it will gift you is hours and hours of worry and work; both things you can do without. However, I also understand and accept that this may be easier said than done. Well, I did do it and it was rather easy, but you get my point.

Factoring in the costs of keeping your home at home can be hard-going. Will you rent it out? What about unexpected repairs? Will you leave someone else in charge of managing it? What about the extra expenses: can you factor them into your digital nomad income?

It will soon will become painfully obvious that keeping your home is a huge commitment, one which is hard to maintain if you happen to be on the other side of the planet; and this is just taking practical matters into consideration. I can only imagine how many digital nomads have lost countless nights’ sleep over a major issue with their homes. I don’t envy them one bit.

You’ll need less than you think

This particular credo works for just about everything you can think of. Please excuse the hanging preposition.

First of all, let’s talk high tech gizmos. By and large, I would suggest that whatever you need for one full day of working remotely from Starbucks is all you’ll ever need. I’ve seen digital nomads look like walking computer stores, whilst all I own is a small netbook, an external hard-drive and a couple of memory sticks. All three, by the way, can be purchased in almost every corner of the globe. I keep things stored on Dropbox and continually email my work to myself. Should the inevitable happen (things also go walkabouts in every corner of the globe) I won’t be jumping out of a 4-story window in despair.

Here’s something else to think about. Just because you can’t go down the road to buy milk without hopping in your car, it does not mean you ought to export this habit to your new home-country. Living without a car is not only possible and incredibly refreshing; it is also much easier to do it from the moment you arrive, when you have not yet become accustomed to the luxury of depending on one. Shipping your car overseas can be an awful waste of your heard-earned cash so I suggest you don;t even contemplate it. Likewise, leave the car rental/purchase expense in your new home country for a few months down the track. Unsurprisingly, most digital nomads who live abroad never even make this step, even after many years.

Homes are highly overrated and I do mean this in the nicest possible way. Yes it would be nice to land in Calcutta and head straight for your rental apartment, but the problem with this is that you’ll never really know how good a choice you’ve made until  you’ve seen it, smelt it and lived in it. Food and accommodation are life’s basics costs, yet holding off just a wee while on the latter can see your initial costs reduced drastically. First of all, you may want to spend a few weeks scouring suburbs of your intended abode and decide which one suits you best. Secondly, I don’t care what expat blogs/guide-books say, you are the only one who can determine what is good/bad for YOU so you do need to see it all for yourself.

Spending a few weeks in a cheap hostel will not only reduce your initial moving costs but it can prove to be highly beneficial in lots of other ways. I love hostels because they give me the convenience to stay in the heart of a city or town whilst giving me the freedom to suss it all out. You can get a private dorm to yourself/ves and enjoy the convenience of cooking your own meals, thus saving you money on food consumption as well. Most hostels will discount for long-term stays so consider it a bona fide genial option. The great thing about doing this is that you don’t need to yet budget for a rental-apartment deposit within the first few weeks. Give yourself some time to recover financially from the move before forking out even more cash and you’ll be a much happier digital nomad.

Budgeting for your move abroad is a task best tackled with nerves of steel and a sunny disposition; although most seasoned digital nomads will tell you to just chill right out. The whole point of this life-changing decision is to simplify your life and get back to the basics.

May as well start your spring-clean today.

Written by Laura Pattara

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Filed under Digital Nomads, Finances and Budgeting, Location Independence, Preparing to Breakaway

How to get more out of your travel plans by Trip Stacking

After you’ve achieved location freedom, every trip is an opportunity to see more and do more while you are traveling. My wife and I recently turned a 3 day wedding weekend into a 2 week trip to Northern California.

In this video I share some pointers I learned the hard way in trying to stack another set of trips in an attempt to turn 8 days into 3.5 weeks. We still got 18 days out of it, so no complaints, but I spent a lot of work researching the wrong things only to find out all of our trip scenarios weren’t doable for all of the people we wanted to see. If sharing these videos helps others learn from my mistakes, I’ll keep making them. 🙂


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The wandering digital nomad challenge: how to achieve a work-travel balance

View from my desk in a campsite on the Albanian Coast. It's a hard life, I know...

View from my desk in a campsite on the Albanian Coast. It’s a hard life, I know…

‘How do you manage to work and travel simultaneously?’ is possibly my most oft-asked question. Whilst some digital nomads are indeed blissfully located somewhere, usually for an extended period of time, I am a member of a small group of challenged individuals who are actually located everywhere, all the time. My partner and I are currently riding our motorbikes from Germany to Australia; we’ve travelled through 15 countries in the last 15 months, lived in a tent most of the time and I’ve managed to write almost 500 travel-related articles along the way.

Challenging enough? You could say that…

Yes it is true that wandering digital nomads face a few more challenges than their more settled (and some would say sane) counterparts, yet finding a way to earn money whilst travelling is by no means an impossible task to accomplish.

If you’d like to know how I manage my own work-travel balance, and get a few ideas on how to tackle this challenge yourself, now would be the time to continue reading.

1)      Establish good working relationships

If you’re planning to become a self-employed digital-nomad, feel free to skip this point altogether. If your income will depend on others however, do take special note.

All digital nomads will spend a serious amount of time setting up a good virtual job before they start packing their bags. Most of the time, they won’t consider making the big move until they’ve secured their needed income. This is, suffice to say, an excellent choice.

Vagabonding digital nomads however, must also establish work contracts with people who understand that they are going to be constantly moving around. This turned out to be easier than I had anticipated, although I admit that the fact I only work within the travel niche may have something to do with it. Travellers dig travellers!

You can start off every month with the best intentions in the world, but let it be known that the life of a long-term traveller is one of complete and utter chaos. Most of the time. Finding a sympathetic ‘boss’ (or three) was my top priority before leaving, and something which I recommend you do as well. No matter who it is you work for, they must realize that whilst you’ll endeavour to deliver/contact/skype/email, sometimes you just won’t be able to, end of story. The internet will be down; you’ll be stuck in the middle of nowhere with a broken bike-part, you’ll be sick etc. This is why it is just so imperative that you build up a good reputation as a professional and conscientious worker and establishing a trusting relationship with your work provider. Should the inevitable happen, this will ensure the boss is not left disappointed and you are not left unemployed.

The fact that I also held a daytime job and learnt a new language during my pre-departure period is testament to the fact that…

2)     You should learn to be a multi-tasking-master

Juggling several balls simultaneously is what I do best and something with which I have the most experience. Before meeting Chris I’d worked as an overland tour guide for five years and mastered the skills of multi-tasking. After spending years answering 24,000 questions a day whilst making a mental food-shopping list and finding time for email answering, account keeping, problem solving, activities booking, mental-breakdown-preventing, leg shaving and travel itinerary researching… I knew I could do anything simultaneously 😀

Squeezing 27 hours out a 24 hour day is child’s play (once you get the hang of it) and a perfect skill to have when desiring to work and travel concurrently. The most important part of this talent is that teaches you what I call ‘mental multi-tasking’: the ability to switch your working and travelling brain on and off at will. This was by far my most challenging hurdle in the first few months; I needed at least two days to go from sightseeing and bush camping to writing a coherent enough travel article my boss would be willing to pay for! The process is getting easier and easier as the time passes and I have gotten to the point where I can go from spending five days crossing the Caucasus Mountain Range to churning out a decent amount of work, with just a good night’s sleep, a decent shower and a strong cup of coffee.

The good news here is that this is indeed a learned talent and something anyone can actively practice. Manage your work time efficiently and you won’t ‘waste’ a minute of your day.

3)     Find your groove & perfect your work routine

Whilst I may be a mental-ninja, I’m not superhuman, which means I can’t actually visit a historical site and write a travel article at the same time.

The options of work routine are various, so you may have to try out a few scenarios before you know what works best for you.

What I have managed to do is set up a completely imbalanced life balance which seems to work a treat for me: I travel most of the time and only work some of the time. I’ll stay put for a week in one spot with good internet and comfortable living quarters and work (at a campsite with a cosy cafe’, hostel or rental apartment), then travel for 3-4 weeks after that. Sometimes I also play it by ear and fit in a couple of working days when the weather sucks or if I happen to be in a particularly productive mood. This is also the reason I only accept monthly travel article requests; knowing ahead of time what I need to deliver in a month gives me the freedom to rearrange my days as I see fit.

I’ve known of digital nomads who travel and work on a 3 or 6-month-rotation basis and this may well turn out to be your preferred method. In the digital-nomad world, this is called ‘cycling’. It actually sounds perfect to me personally, yet my particular trip is so physically demanding (I’d never even ridden a motorbike before) that I really couldn’t travel non-stop for three months straight without a week-long break somewhere along the way. My work week has also become my rest & recuperation week. See? There’s that multi-tasking thingy again 😉

I plan my work-week about two months in advance and research what seems to be the ideal place to stop. A capital city, for example, will always be a good bet even in the most undeveloped countries; chances that you’ll find a decent place to stay with good Wi-Fi are surprisingly high the world over. This little plan has turned out to be ideal for me, because I don’t particularly like cities. Having to bunker down and work for a week straight in the big smoke is infinitely less painful than trying to do the same in a gloriously small beachside campsite on the southern Mediterranean coast in Greece in July. Now THAT was painful.

4)     Slow is key

When all is said and done, the only thing which will ensure your success as a wandering digital nomad is time. Give yourself lots of it; you’ll need it.

The only way Chris and I can manage to live as we do is because we travel so incredibly slowly. We cover only about 1,000kms a month and usually only visit a few places in each country. We’ll ride just a couple of hours each day and usually camp for a few nights in each spot. We tend to move faster during summer and spring and a little slower during the colder months, when bad weather can see us ‘stuck’ in one place for two weeks at a time, or more. When you’re a digital nomad you’ll never resent a rainy day on the road!

We are actually, for the first time in years, about to settle down for the winter in one single spot. I’ve recently been offered the amazing opportunity to write a long-term traveller’s guide book for a European publishing company and wish to do so from the comfort of a rental apartment in Tbilisi, Georgia. This will not only give me the chance to try ‘cycling’ for the first time ever, but it will also provide me with enough income should our intended crossing of Central Asia next year prove to be a tad work-challenging. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see how that pans out. Keep you posted!

You should realize by now that there is no such thing as an ‘ideal work-travel balance’ for nomadic digitalists…different strokes for different folks really is quite the apt adage in this case. Find your own grove, routine and balance and, most importantly, remember to love what you do.

Manage this…and you’ll always find a way to make it work.

Written by Laura Pattara 

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The Do’s and Don’ts of Working Remotely

Cars stuck in a traffic jam

Avoiding the morning commute is a great part of my day

In the beginning, working from home is bliss. You set your own schedule, have a fantastic commute and the daytime soaps take the place of even the most chatty co-workers.

Richard Branson is a big supporter of telecommuting, working from his island in the Caribbean he believes “remote working is easier and more effective than ever.” Faced with endless perks, there are a couple of hazards you must learn to navigate. Follow our advice and you will be more productive than ever in your home office. Even if you only work remotely once a week, our tips will help you accomplish more and make sure you stay productive – even when no one is watching.

The ability to work from home has many advantages, but requires more self-discipline and motivation than a traditional office environment. To set yourself up for success this is what you need to do:

  • Have a workspace separate from your home, with minimal distractions. The TV isn’t turned on as background noise in a normal office, it shouldn’t be on in your home office either.

  • Create boundaries. Despite being at home, you have work to do. Your friends and family need to respect that, and they should limit any distractions while you are working.

  • Get ready for each day. Shower and change out of your pajamas. You never know when the boss will call on Skype, or your friends drop by unannounced.

  • Stay organised. Use to-do lists, calendars, apps on your phone. Whatever it takes for you to stay on top of your tasks and never miss a deadline.

  • Form a schedule, a semblance of routine office hours so that your colleagues, boss and your clients know when it is OK to contact you. Try to match this as close to normal business hours as possible, it makes it easier for everyone involved.

  • Having a schedule also stops you working too much, It’s important to take breaks throughout the day. Take time for a relaxing lunch break and get outside, if only for a short period of time. It will leave you refreshed once you begin work again.

  • Have a back-up plan. There will be days where the internet goes down, or for whatever reason you can’t work from your home office. Scope out a library of coffee shop you can work from as your plan B, or you could always just pop into your normal office.

  • Make the extra effort to stay in touch with your colleagues. Pick up the phone to speak to people, even if it’s not 100% work related. Use technology to help you here, Skype and instant messaging are great way to stay abreast of the latest office news without leaving your remote office. If there is a birthday or special event, make it a point to attend in person.

There are many hazards a telecommuter needs to learn to manage. More so than in a normal office, a remote worker has to look out for the following:

  • Don’t become a recluse. Just because you work from home doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to leave the house. The same goes for showering. Stay clean people!

  • Don’t ever lose touch with the people in your company. It’s easy to do, when you are not forced to interact in a lunch room or cafeteria. You need to work extra hard to maintain your relationships with colleagues while you work remotely.

  • Don’t take personal calls during work hours. Often family and friends think that since you are home you can catch up on your work later. Unfortunately this is not the case. You need to manage your close acquaintances expectations, and only return calls once your work is done.

  • Don’t do personal chores or errands while you are meant to be working. It will take twice as long to get your work done. Don’t tweet about it either, your boss is going to see you’re not working.

  • Don’t procrastinate and let the hours slip away. Create a routine you can stick to with a schedule that allows you be productive throughout the day.

  • Don’t work too much. Typically remote workers put in a lot extra time, its easy to fire up the laptop and spend another few hours working late into the night. You have a huge risk of burning out. Make sure your schedule makes sense.

These tips are a great start in being effective while working remotely. Follow them to the letter and you will be a very successful telecommuter. But if you’re anything like me, every now and then you need to throw caution to the wind. Go see a movie, take the afternoon off to enjoy the sun in the park, or dive into a book only to emerge hours later. The real joy in a flexible schedule is that you dictate when you need to work, and when you can afford to indulge in some spontaneous fun. Just don’t forget that an afternoon off might equate to staying up till 4am to meet that deadline.

But hey, that’s your call. The biggest perk of working remotely is being your own boss.

Author: Travis Bennett

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Preparing for the Breakaway: Crossing the Atlantic Ocean

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One of the biggest challenges in preparing to breakaway is hearing others opinions of what you should do. When I decided it was time to breakaway I had just graduated from university and I had been discussing traveling abroad for a while. Luckily I was at the right point in my life where I had no real responsibility yet, other then some college loans I was able to pay off. My biggest challenge in this adventure though was convincing my parents to let me do it. It took a lot of effort to persuade them that this was the right time in my life for me to go and live my dreams and finally after weeks of hostile chats and some disappoints they finally relented.

After they were onboard the rest of my plans were smooth sailing. I knew that I was to move to Amsterdam so I tirelessly researched living and working there. Luckily since I am a Dual Citizen of Italy and the United States I did not need to apply for a working visa for Europe. Packing my belongings to go aboard was a marathon, not a sprint. I had to box up everything I would be leaving in the United States and move it into storage. Packing what I would be bringing with me was also quite difficult, not knowing what I should bring or leave here. I mean how are you mean to know how the weather will be the entire length of your trip or what other trips you may take while your away? I didn’t want to have to buy something while I was away that I knew I had at home, I’m cheap I know this.

The other biggest challenge is deciding how long you’ll actually be gone for, do you want to leave forever or just for a couple years until you find yourself? At first I decided I was only going to gone a year but that year turned into an indefinite period. It has been one of the best decisions of my life, at times it can be difficult especially around the holidays but I have a new family of amazing friends to keep me company. Leaving home is one of the biggest decisions you can make but once you make the choice the rest falls into place.

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Location Freedom is the Primary Objective, Not Necessarily Digital Nomadism [VIDEO]

There is a lot of hype around the Digital Nomad lifestyle, definitely a good thing, but it isn’t for everyone. For most people, having location freedom would be life changing in the most positive way possible and they won’t need to be on the move all of the time. I spoke with a woman yesterday whose interest in the Remote Control Project was because she simply wants location independence to see her children more who live in 3 cities.

Learn how to work your existing job or business from anywhere in the world. Change your location, not your financial situation. Become a Remote Professional by establishing location freedom with your current income stream in tact and have the freedom to go and live wherever you want.

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Arthur C. Clarke Predicting Digital Nomads in 1974

A great quote by Arthur C. Clarke in 1974 talking about computers and basically predicting the internet and location independence.

“They will make it possible to live really anywhere we like. Any businessman, any executive, could live almost anywhere on Earth and still do his business through a device like this,” he says. “It means we won’t be stuck in cities. We’ll live out in the country or wherever we please and still carry on complete interactions with other human beings as well as computers.”
– Arthur C. Clarke, 1974

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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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Taking a Chance: My Leap to Expatriatism in Russia

russia-the-decision

It was some point during a University lecture on a topic which had no interest to me that I realized ‘I don’t want to be here anymore.’ Slightly ironic as I’d happily signed up to the three years and paid my dues to do so. And yet, at some point into my second year I knew that it wasn’t for me.

Not the University course itself, I did end up finishing it. But what would come later such as the task of searching for positions that I knew would not fulfill me or going through endless rounds of interviews lying through my teeth at each stage. It just wasn’t something that I had the heart to do. I guess I wanted to follow some free path in my life rather than struggle to climb someone else’s ladder.

Of course, that is easier said than done.

The lucky break happened during the World Cup in 2006. I was in Moscow as part of a year abroad through University. I can’t remember which teams were playing but I do remember that I got chatting to a Scottish guy who was editor for a magazine for ex-pats in Moscow.

We bought beers, ate food and I took his card. When I got back to my apartment later that night I wrote a travel article from the perspective of a foreign student in Russia and submitted it.  On and off over the next year while I completed my final year of University we kept in touch and I sent my articles in.

When my course ended I asked straight out for a job and got it. By that time he was working on a new magazine which was yet to launch and I was thrown in at the deep end to write content, source advertising and take photos.

My Russian language wasn’t the best and there were some tasks I was vastly inexperienced in. Building a sales team when I had no sales experience myself was tough. But I maintained belief and persevered and it came off. The magazine launched and it was a proud moment to have been part of something like that. That kind of break just would not have happened for me back home.

I guess my biggest advice would be not to fear opportunity. Chances really do happen, especially abroad when people are outside of their comfort zones. Strike up conversations, don’t be forceful with it and if and when an opportunity arises then take it.

And in my experience, a beer goes a long way towards helping too.

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