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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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A Practical Guide to Using “Flow” to Create the Life of Your Dreams (With Examples from My Life Story)

Posted on January 26th, 2017

Some people don’t believe in luck. There are idioms in countless languages that mean some variation of “you create your own luck” or “the hardest-working people are also the luckiest.” 
 
And then there are cultures like the Chinese, who believe luck is more of an ingrained biological trait, like the color of your hair, than a case-by-case intervention subject to the whims of the cosmos like we tend to think in the west.
 
Whatever your official stance on luck is, I think lucky people understand a few key things: curiosity, connection, and flow. And I consider myself very lucky.
 
Striking the Balance: Flow and Self-Determination
 
There’s a lot of talk about “flow” in the blogosphere. Self-development and spiritual gurus alike love to talk about the collusion of the universe and individual desires, and it was my interest in learning more about “flow” that led me to pick up Michael Singer’s “The Surrender Experiment” last month.
 
Singer tells us his life story, in which he transforms from a PhD student living alone in the woods, singularly dedicated to yoga and meditation, to a wildly successful corporate executive running a multi-billion dollar company. This is what happened, he tells us, when he simply surrendered to what life was asking of him each step of the way, when he served life moment-by-moment instead of forcing his way ahead with one regimented vision, “when the assertion of will was guided by what life was doing instead of what I wanted it to be doing.” 
 
The thought-provoking premise lies in the idea that “each of us actually believes that things should be the way we want them, instead of being the natural result of all the forces of creation” and in exploring what would happen if we “respected the flow of life and used our free will to participate in what’s unfolding, instead of fighting it.”
 
As much as I was fascinated by Singer’s life story and eager to say “yes” to what life naturally seemed to be offering me, I lingered with a question that Singer didn’t adequately address in his book: how do we balance being in the flow with still taking charge of our own lives? 
 
Finding the Flow in My Own Life
 
I’m going to try to answer this question by give you some examples from my own life and then extracting some instructive and highly retrospective lessons learned that may be able to help you balance being open to what life is naturally bringing to you and what you are dreaming up and actively working towards. 
 
It turns out that my life has been an unconscious surrender experiment all along! When I reflected on the significant twists and turns in my own path so far, I realized that every major change was completely unplanned, every opportunity literally found me — I just happened to be receptive to those opportunities and was curious enough to say yes and explore them and let one incredible thing lead to another. But, of course, nothing is ever quite that simple…
 
Let’s start with where I am now, working in a job so perfect for me I couldn’t have dreamed up a better fit. I’m working on the international operations team of a new project for Uber, currently on assignment in Mexico but flying to Australia next month, with Southeast Asia, Europe, and South America on the horizon for 2017. I pinch myself every day! And the job found me. 
 
I was all set to travel to Zambia on a freelance contract with another company when everything fell through at the last minute. I was left scrambling to start applying to jobs and figure out a plan B after a blissful 15 months of travel and adventure, money pouring out of my bank account like Victoria Falls. The same day that I officially began to panic, I looked on my Facebook newsfeed and saw a distant friend from college posting that the west coast branch of her recruiting agency was looking to fill an international management position for Uber. 
 
I had always pictured transitioning from my previous job in international media sales and project management to operations and project implementation for start-ups in emerging markets. And there it was. The exact opportunity I had long been harboring in the back of mind — and I was connected to the hiring manager by a loose second-degree connection. I reached out, she forwarded my resume, the hiring manager interviewed me, I did four other interviews with the Uber team, and, before I knew it, I was on a flight to Mexico City. Was it luck? Was it flow? What the hell was going on?
 
I’ll dissect the lessons learned in the next section, but I think I happened to strike that balance between being in the flow and working as hard as I could. For starters, I knew what I wanted. I had a little part of me that, while everything else was going on, was connected to my instinct. It was connected to what was coming next. And that was an important part of knowing that I was making the right call to inquire about that opportunity and then give it my all. I holed up in my room in Oakland for two days straight preparing each interview. I read everything about Uber on the internet (which is a lot), inventoried, drilled, and prepped my experience for any conceivable interview question, and I prepared for their notorious situational questions, too. I also didn’t send out a single additional job application — everything was hanging on this one opportunity. I was in the flow, but I was focused as hell.
 
And it worked. Within 10 days of collapsing in a rented room in northern California, confused and mortified that I hadn’t thought of what would happen if the Zambian government turned over and my company went into a temporary freeze on projects, I touched down on Mexican soil, the ink not yet dry on a dream contract. Actually, I’m still in shock. But you can see it was hard work following intuition following human connections following reality.
 
Let’s review what happened with my previous job, equally as interesting from a “flow” perspective. In 2013, I had been working at IBM for almost two years and had casually been looking for an international role for about six months with no luck. But yet again another dream job found me. I had been very vocal in my extended network about what I was looking for, and finally the right person had gotten the message: a random friend of my ex-boyfriend was working in international advertising sales for a company based out of Spain that was looking to bring on multilingual country managers with prior emerging markets experience. Luckily, I happened to speak fluent Spanish and Chinese, had worked successfully in the consulting wing of one of the biggest companies on the planet, and had done college internships in Egypt and Guatemala, making me convincing enough for at least a first-round interview. 
 
Fast-forward two weeks. I had flown out to Barcelona for a three-day intensive selection process, was offered and accepted the job on the spot, flew back to New York to quit my job, and two weeks after that I was on a plane to Nigeria for my first assignment. What a whirlwind. 
 
Of course, what’s not described here are the countless days and nights of preparation to sell myself for a job I was still only partially qualified for on paper. The mountains of books and articles I read on the industry. The three days I barely ate or slept during the selection weekend as I prepared for role play after role play in multiple languages, with other candidates being cut before lunch on most days. I was saying yes to the opportunity and it was saying yes to me and it all seemed to be part of the “flow,” but there was also a good amount of effort and drive happening beneath the surface.
 
The Lessons Learned: How to Invite Flow Into Your Life
 
These are just a couple of examples I’ve come up with after a lot of contemplation of my life and all of its astounding examples of flow. Other examples include how I got started traveling despite coming from a very low income background by applying to scholarships to go wherever my university would send high-performing students for free (which was mostly Asia and Latin America, so I learned Spanish and Chinese as a result and look where that led), studying whatever was interesting in college and counting up the credits senior year to see what degree I could graduate with (distinctly not recommended but led to me discovering my most authentic academic interests), and accepting a consulting job in New York at a major Fortune 500 after four years of liberal arts studies and no corporate internship experience whatsoever. There are countless examples of funny twists and turns in my life that have each played a role in accidentally getting me to where I am today. I’m sure anyone who’s been unconsciously doing all the right things to get into the flow could come up with dozens of their own examples, too. 
 
So what are some of those “right things to do” to tap into the best the universe has to offer? Here are the concrete lessons I’ve been able to extract out of all this meditating and marveling at my path to date. 
 
1. Know what you want. 
 
While there is a difference between knowing what you want and forcing it to transpire prematurely, the patient awareness of your own desires makes it easier to recognize when the right thing has come along. It’s easier to say yes when you know what you want to say yes to in the first place. 
 
2. Tap into your gut instinct. 
 
A lot of people ask me, how do I even really know what I want? My simple answer: Get quiet. Get bored. Pursue solitude. And listen.
 
Solitude is different from just being alone. Solitude is, as Sherry Turkle says, “a state of conscious retreat, a gathering of the self.” 
 
I’ve had the luxury of living a life filled with lots of travel, which means a lot of time in solitude, a lot of time on the periphery of society, a lot of time to watch and think about what’s going on. That’s gotten me in touch with my gut. And that helps me instinctively and subtly move through the world and find the pathways that are right for me. 
 
Think of how you can give yourself “conscious retreats” to figure out what your gut is telling you. You’ll find it to be very talkative if you listen closer. 
 
3. Be endlessly curious and experimental. 
 
Being confidently in touch with your wants and needs doesn’t mean you sit back and wait for what you want to come to you, nor does it mean you only pursue the things that fit your previous identified desires. You continue to gather all kinds of experience. You continue to stay open to what’s happening in the moment. You continue to be the kind of person who’s more likely to say yes than no. 
 
Imagine if I never said “why not” and enrolled in a Chinese 101 class. Imagine if I never took the opportunity to work in Egypt because my studies were focused on Asia. Imagine if I never jumped at the chance to work in a huge corporation in New York for a few years. As I sit here today, exactly where I know I’m meant to be, I know that everything that was pretty much a random experiment at the time, everything that was a result of my curiosity to try something different became an integral part of getting me here, and it’s all going to take me somewhere amazing next.
 
Go out and gather all kinds of experience. You never know how it will help you. 
 
4. Leap into stuff without a clear plan. 
 
On a related note, don’t be fearful. Don’t be needy. Don’t live with the harsh prerequisite that you need to be able to see where you’re headed next at all times. That’s the great fun of being alive! Imagine if you already knew how everything was going to turn out. Boorrring. We get to live our lives moment-by-moment, a great mystery novel in which we get to be both the leading character and the captivated reader.
 
5. Nurture your connections with others. 
 
Some call this networking, I just call it being a good person. Help everyone around you however you can. If you can pass on a friend’s resume, do it. If you can hop on a 15 minute call with someone who wants to learn from you, do it. If you can provide a useful introduction, do it. We’re all in this together. I’ve always helped my friends as much as I could and these strong connections have benefited me in return, not directly and not in equal measure, but in their own balanced universe of “goodness in, goodness out.”
 
6. Be extremely hardworking. 
 
Obviously the universe has little patience for slackers. As I told you, I didn’t just assume I’d get a job because of a lucky introduction. Flow brought the opportunity to me, but I toiled my butt off to make sure I nailed the every single interview during the selection process. I strongly believe that the luckiest people are 1) the kindest and most generous and 2) the hardest working. 
 
7. Foster an abundance mentality.
 
This is a reoccurring theme on my blog, that one of the most harmful things society does to us is to foster a scarcity mentality. We’re taught there’s never enough money, sex, resources, time, or opportunity, when reality the limitations are self-imposed (or rather, culturally-imposed).
 
Tap into the truth that there’s unlimited possibility out there, unlimited opportunities and friendships and relationships and wealth and experience and time. Relax into the amazing abundance of life out there. You’ll be less stressed, more open, and more positive, all things that attract the right opportunities.   
 
8. Pay attention to the little voices.
 
Everyone has little ideas in the back of their head, like my subconscious desire to work in international operations for a startup. Those little, barely-there voices could be pointing you in a new direction and help you be ready to say yes to what’s already flowing your way.
 
9. Be positive, grateful, and communicative to the universe. 
 
Whatever you want to call it — God, intelligence, creation, the universe — there’s some powerful forces out there that are bigger than the individual. Positive people attract positive things. Grateful people are often rewarded with new opportunities. And people who communicate to others are more tightly woven into the threads of life that tie us all into that bigger picture.
 
To put this in more concrete terms, when you identify your desires, come up with ideas, and listen to your little voices, tell other people about them. Tell the universe. I’ve made it a practice to actively communicate about what I’m thinking and wanting and doing in my life, and it’s only strengthened my connections with others and helped me along the way. 
 
Embracing the Freefall
 
I’ve shared parts of my life story with you here today, trying to boil it down to a few things I think I’ve done right that others can replicate in order to invite more “flow” into their own lives: I generally know what I want, experiment a lot, put myself out there, care for people around me, pay attention to my gut instincts, and overall try to be someone who attracts good things by just being good. I sure mess up a lot, and I bet I’ve missed even more opportunities for amazing things to flow into my little section of the universe. Even so, I’ve been rewarded by an incredible stream of things that I can essentially chalk up to curiosity, connection, and flow.
 
In this life, we can’t possibly know where we’re headed or what’s going to happen next. It’s this amazing mystery we get to experience as every moment unfolds in front of our humble human eyes, and it demands positive thinking, courageous risk-taking, helping one another through its twists and turns — and a healthy amount of throwing caution to the wind and simply trusting in the freefall.
 
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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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Previously in: Berlin

 

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What’s Hot

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Coaching

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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

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