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About Me

About Me

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Hi, I’m Elaina and I want to help you live life on your terms, find a career you love, and travel as often as you want. 

 

I’ve lived, worked, and traveled to more than 60 countries, including some pretty off-the-beaten path destinations like Mongolia, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Paraguay. I’ve also lived out of a suitcase as a full-time nomad for the past 4.5 years, ever since leaving my management consulting gig in New York back in 2013 when I landed an international role at a media company that sent me all over the world to work. You can read my full story here

 

What makes my story unique is that I’ve traveled AND built a professional career, working for companies like IBM and Uber over the years. I’ve also spent long stretches of time freelancing and traveling adventurously through South America, Asia, and Africa. I’m currently freelance writing, coaching professionals through career transitions, and working on a few small business ideas while splitting my time between Berlin, the US, and India. 

 

I write about self-development, digital nomadism, charting unconventional life paths, finding REAL jobs overseas, pursuing long-term travel, and living more purposefully in a fast-paced, confusing world. There’s simply no one-size-fits-all model for creating a life you love. I’m not a full-time digital nomad and I’m not a full-time corporate professional: I’ve done things a bit differently and I think it’s feasible for more people to live “off the beaten path” this way. I hope my blog lets you see that it’s both possible and practical.  

 

I started this blog because I want to help you find an exciting career, travel the world, break the norms, and develop yourself both personally and professionally. Read on or get in touch to set up a 1:1 session with me: elaina@lifebefore30.com.

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3 Strategies to Change Your Life (And How I’m Employing These While Traveling the World for a Year)

Posted on September 25th, 2017

Not many people go from riding around the desert on a fire-breathing dragon for a week to working in one of the poorest countries in the world. And I definitely overestimated my ability to go from the corporate world of Uber to my alternative life in Berlin and Burning Man and then straight to rural Africa in the course of just 90 days.

 

Biking around Burning Man

 

A week later, biking around with bicycle taxis in Malawi 

 

Clearly I’m on the verge of a massive life and career pivot, not something uncommon for me having gone from non-profit work to consulting to sales to operations to being a freelance writer/digital nomad to now working out how to make a life that’s a fusion of all those things. Not to mention my long-term plan to get a PhD and have my own psychotherapy practice. 

 

I read that back and I marvel at how it’s possible for someone to sound both like they know exactly what they’re doing and sounding like a complete headcase at the same time.

 

I’m constantly balancing one foot in the corporate world and one foot in my hippie land of following my wild whims around the world — a juggling act that despite making this all work from a financial perspective, often leaves me seriously stressed and confused. Next month I’ll be in the Indian Himalayas and by January working in an off-the-grid community in Hawaii.

 

I regularly go from my laid-back base in Berlin and pursuing my multiple income stream strategy to high-strung San Francisco where I’m bombarded by American egos and the pressure to do everything yesterday and change the world and create the next big thing. If that’s not confusing enough, I then go and do something like fly to Malawi to spend a month working with prisoners and ex-offenders on income-generation plans and doing things as silly as carry 50 pairs of socks flown in from UC Davis to kids with no shoes.

 

That’s when I find myself with my head spinning and asking myself: How did the world get so messed up that we resort to giving out SOCKS to people who don’t even have a way to earn a living?

 

I flip-flop between a survival-minded self-interest that keeps my head down on relatively small issues like landing my next freelance writing gig to contemplating the economic system as a whole and the breakdown of meaningful and affordable higher education in the US. Where do I fit in? How can I work to make a difference but also have an enjoyable life that keeps me centered? What do I do when I care about so many diverse things? I go from feeling “rich” when I’m traveling and grateful for my relative wealth and prosperity to feeling like a speck of dirt when I read the biography of someone like Elon Musk who operates in default billion-dollar territory on a daily basis. 

 

But we don’t have to be billionaires to make a difference. We can free up our ability to make a difference and choose meaningful work by simply getting more creative.

3 Ways to Start the Change

 

Now that I’ve spent most of this post just venting what’s on my mind (maybe you relate), here are some strategies I’m employing to work this all out as best I can.

  1. Map it out

This month I got to Malawi and made three columns in my journal: 1) area of interest, 2) way to test it, and 3) logical next steps. I limited myself to 3 areas of professional interest (in my case, international development, counseling, and business) and listed out the easiest ways I could gain exposure or more information to make a decision about if I would pursue each one.

 

Here’s an example to illustrate the exercise: 

 

Area of interest: International development

 

Ways to test it:

  • Volunteer in exchange for experience
  • Find a professional certificate program to learn more
  • Think about doing a 1 year Masters in Europe 
  • Find a contract-based or short-term job in the field

 

Logical next steps in order of ease of execution:

  • Find another volunteer experience that will further inform my perspective 
  • Make a list of everyone I know in development and reach out to them with my questions
  • Make a list of every organization I’d consider working for in this area and prioritize 10
  • Make a list of short-term certificate programs to gain new knowledge and networking capital
  • Figure out where there are 1 year Masters degrees in Europe and how much they cost
  • Start seriously applying to jobs to see what’s out there and how I compete
  1. Action+reflection: Focus on practical ways to test your hypotheses

You can only do so much thinking. I was really dissatisfied with my last job (but thanks for the cash!) so I decided this year I would try something radically different career-wise and see where that lands me.

 

Since that something is working in the international development space, I decided to fly myself to Malawi for a month and work directly on the ground at a development organization. The hands-on experience PLUS thoughtful reflection is sparking a lot more change than just contemplating what it would be like. It was also one of the easiest (and free!) ways to take action

 

I’m also enrolling in a certificate program in impact investing in the winter to further my exposure and credentials in the field. A 2-week certificate is much cheaper than a 2-year Masters, so this is a small and relatively affordable step towards seeing what further education in the field would be like and seeing what I may want to focus on. 

 

Working with a Malawian organization that protects youth offenders and prevents child crime

  1. Find create ways to finance the work you really want to do

Sometimes the things we really want to do don’t pay very well, but we can’t let money get in the way. The economy may be broken, but that doesn’t mean we should just all become bankers. The day job paycheck isn’t the only way to make a living.

 

My solution to this problem has been to alternate time in the corporate world with being a freelance writer and supporting development projects, using the money from one or two years of corporate work to finance one or two years experimenting with my other interests. I now have multiple income streams that, however small, help support a life that involves more meaningful work. 

 

A concrete example of this is a 27-year old Canadian woman I met in Malawi who serves as country director of a small but incredibly effective NGO. She built up an e-commerce business selling travel products on Amazon, which brings in the money while her day-to-day work is fundamentally done a volunteer basis. In Malawi, if you’re able to pull in even $1,000 per month from freelancing, you can easily afford to live here at a cost of about $5/day for food and housing and do work that has a direct effect on people’s lives. 

 

My travel model — an example

This model can apply to many people who are passionate about areas that don’t pay very much, like teaching, activism, counseling, social work, and the arts. You just have to find a way to bring in enough money with part-time efforts so you can fundamentally finance your own dreams. There’s other examples of artists and freelancers I know who have a part-time job in marketing that brings in enough cash to float their “real work.” Aspiring actresses in Los Angeles have figured this one out long ago, but it applies to many fields. Where the money comes from doesn’t have to define you or even your job title.

 

In my case, this year I have savings from my last corporate job plus the income from my freelancing efforts to float my travels, which are not about seeing the world anymore, but about experimenting with my place in it. Volunteering, studying, and setting up office in locations where I can learn specific things with an affordable cost of living: development work in Malawi, meditation and yoga in India, permaculture in Hawaii, certificate training in California, and e-commerce and digital nomad strategies in Bali and Costa Rica. The destinations become the backdrop to advancing myself and experimenting practically with areas of interest. 

 

So there you have it, a massive brain dump of what I’m thinking about and doing lately. As you know, I always like to share what’s on my mind and my wacky ways of structuring my life in case this resonates with you — and I hope it does!

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About Me

About Me

IMG_5937

Hi, I’m Elaina and I want to help you live life on your terms, find a career you love, and travel as often as you want. 

 

I’ve lived, worked, and traveled to more than 60 countries, including some pretty off-the-beaten path destinations like Mongolia, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Paraguay. I’ve also lived out of a suitcase as a full-time nomad for the past 4.5 years, ever since leaving my management consulting gig in New York back in 2013 when I landed an international role at a media company that sent me all over the world to work. You can read my full story here

 

What makes my story unique is that I’ve traveled AND built a professional career, working for companies like IBM and Uber over the years. I’ve also spent long stretches of time freelancing and traveling adventurously through South America, Asia, and Africa. I’m currently freelance writing, coaching professionals through career transitions, and working on a few small business ideas while splitting my time between Berlin, the US, and India. 

 

I write about self-development, digital nomadism, charting unconventional life paths, finding REAL jobs overseas, pursuing long-term travel, and living more purposefully in a fast-paced, confusing world. There’s simply no one-size-fits-all model for creating a life you love. I’m not a full-time digital nomad and I’m not a full-time corporate professional: I’ve done things a bit differently and I think it’s feasible for more people to live “off the beaten path” this way. I hope my blog lets you see that it’s both possible and practical.  

 

I started this blog because I want to help you find an exciting career, travel the world, break the norms, and develop yourself both personally and professionally. Read on or get in touch to set up a 1:1 session with me: elaina@lifebefore30.com.

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Five years ago, I changed my whole life in 30 days. I scored the job of my dreams, quit my job in New York, sold everything I owned, moved to West Africa, and never looked back. Read about it here.

 

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Currently in: Malawi

 

 

Previously in: Berlin

 

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What’s Hot

Recent Posts

Coaching

Coaching

Step into my office!

 

Five years ago, I changed my whole life in 30 days. I scored the job of my dreams, quit my job in New York, sold everything I owned, moved to West Africa, and never looked back. Read about it here.

 

Now I use Office Hours to help my clients do the same.

 

Do you want to travel but are scared to quit your job?

Do you want to find a job overseas but don’t know where to start?

Do you wake up in the morning dreading what’s ahead?

Read more

Like Me on Facebook

Like Me On Facebook

Follow me on twitter

Follow me on twitter

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Elaina on Instagram