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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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9 Little Things Nigeria Taught Me That Make Sense Everywhere

Posted on September 2nd, 2013

naija

 

With over 170 million people, 1 out of every 4 Africans on Earth is Nigerian. After spending my first 3-month assignment based in the business capital of Africa, my worldview has radically shifted to duly embrace this part of the world, which boasts a culture as dynamic and influential as China’s, India’s, or Russia’s, and an economic potential just as mighty.

 

Locals face life in chaotic Lagos with a graceful strength, an unshakable core of endurance for the city’s assault on the human senses. Its 20 million residents are unrelenting, virile, and enterprising, forcing outsiders into a jolting recognition of what it means to be alive in the most raw, feral way.

 

The city’s human engine thrusts itself through its maze of battered market stalls, webs of highways streaming with mobile junk yard relics, and women hawking goods on every crevice of soil, babies slung like rucksacks over their shoulders.

 

Nigeria has significant implications for the world over, and has made an indelible impact on how I will perceive and interact with people everywhere. I’ve learned that you aren’t acquainted with a Nigerian until you make him laugh, and you haven’t danced until you’ve shimmied every muscle in your body to those enrapturing Afrobeat tunes.

 

naija1

 

Even with so much going wrong, Nigeria has taught me a lot about how to do things right.

 

1. Chit-chat is important. In Nigeria, we never start a business meeting without at least 10-15 minutes of pleasantries and general shooting the breeze. Even when asking for directions from a stranger on the streets, we ask, “Hi, how are you?” (and wait for the answer) before trying to get where we need to go. Inquiring about other people’s well-being is a lost art in much of the Western world. In many other places on Earth it is unforgivably rude and generally unthinkable to fail to do so. Nigeria has taught me to show genuine interest in the people around me – it builds a foundation of the relationship on something other than what we need from one another.

 

2. Difficulty breeds community, and community matters. Lagos is a tough place to live, frequently named one of the Top 10 Worst Cities in the World. In spite of (or because of) the debilitating frustration and exhaustion that comes with being a foreign resident, the expat community is one of the most vibrant worldwide. No bonds form over how easy and comfortable life is – people develop connections when they overcome adversity, share interesting experiences, and relate to one another in vulnerable states. Nigeria has taught me that a strong, supportive community far supersedes how trendy and “cool” my zip code is. It has also allowed me to embrace how much positive impact seemingly negative external factors can have on the deepening of my personal relationships.

 

3. Make the best of absolutely every situation, especially the ones that threaten to break you. When I am stuck in four-hour traffic jams in a car with broken A/C, without my books, iPod, or laptop or any feasible way to finish the hours of work I still have left to do after dinner, there is nothing left to do but crank up the radio, crack a joke with the driver, and let go. Being a grouch the whole time (tempting option) just makes everything worse. Nigeria has taught me to make the best of sanity-breaking situations, be easy to laugh, and learn to relax when I’m not in control. No one successfully micro-manages in Africa…or in any other aspect of life.

 

4. Smiles change everything. I found the default facial expression of Nigerians to be icy, distant, and angry-looking, which makes for a very intimidating experience when 160 million people utterly glare at you all day. After some experiments, I found that the perceived hard Nigerian exterior melts away with one deliberate, genuine smile.It’s amazing how an interaction can transform with one simple facial expression. I’ve gone from having a high-decibel screaming match with locals to hugs and handshakes in a matter of minutes after smiling and asking their name. These elements are the basis of universal human connection, and Nigeria has taught me the importance of proactive warmth in my non-verbal communication.

 

5. Africa is where the real growth is happening, whether we are comfortable with it or not. New York, London, and Tokyo may be convenient, sophisticated, and seductively cosmopolitan, but modern visionaries are leaving home behind (wherever it may be) and heading to Lagos – or Nairobi, Kigali, and Dakar – to bring investment, technology, sushi, pizza, coffee, Prada, small business solutions, clean water, books, gas lines, Toyota, televisions, Chinese food, and vodka to the African continent. Nigeria has taught me that this part of the world deserves to be seen as far more than slums and safaris. If you want to make a difference – and a serious profit – then Africa is calling.

 

6. Don’t be a doormat. Saying Nigerians are aggressive is an understatement – it is probably the most aggressive culture I have ever experienced. But in the biggest city in Africa, you need to be loud and proud…or get eaten alive. I’ve had people in Lagos ask me for just about everything, directly and unabashedly. More of us could learn from this kind of approach: to see an opportunity and walk right up and introduce ourselves, to confidently ask for what we want. Nigeria has taught me that if you don’t even ask, the default answer is no…and you may be surprised just how easy it is to get a yes.

 

7. The answer is to stop comparing. When I first arrived in Lagos, I had never felt such a deep, throbbing sense of homesickness in all of my travels. The way I eventually came to terms with my new life was to stop comparing everything I had just left behind in New York. Comparison is a deadly weapon that allows you and your experiences to be defined by their reflection in society’s mirror. It rears its ugly head every time we log into Facebook, every time we competitively swap stories with friends, every time we size up the car next to us in traffic, and every time when we catch a glimpse of someone else’s CV. Nigeria has taught me to appreciate every person, place, and experience for its inherent, distinctive value, independent of our compulsive instinct to juxtapose.

 

8. Don’t take freedom and safety for granted. Being driven around 24/7 by a private driver and accompanied by a local when walking anywhere over 15 meters away is a serious adjustment for the free-wheeling backpacker-type who lands herself in Lagos…or just about anyone who is accustomed to walking in the streets without fear. Weekly news-flashes about killings in the north and kidnappings in the south profoundly deepened my sense of gratitude for the safety and freedom I experience at home and in many calmer places on Earth. Nigeria has taught me that not everyone is privileged with tangible security in their everyday lives.

 

9. Err on the side of kindness. Tone of voice, body language, exercises of empathy, appreciation and consideration for others, and simple gestures of generosity all help to express yourself as a good human vs. bad human to someone who doesn’t know anything about your language, culture, profession, or family background. Kindness, above all, is truly universal. Pack it with you wherever you go, near and far.

 

naija2

 

 —

 

What is the most important lesson another country and culture has taught you that can be applied more broadly? Please share in the comments section below.

 

Did you enjoy this article? Please share on Facebook and Twitter.

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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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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

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