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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 55 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 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, East Africa, and India. I'll be overlanding on local transport from Malawi to Kenya in September — stay tuned for that adventure! 

 

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.

 

I've kept Life Before 30 ad-free for 5 years. If you've found the content helpful, please consider making a small donation to support my work. 

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Are You Traveling to Escape or Because You Need THIS?

Posted on October 20th, 2016

ocean
 
I used to think my traveling fell into a form of escapism, of running away from places and people that were small and constraining, places and people I perceived to be stunting a growth within me I didn’t even fully recognize I needed. 
 
I was like a little bird repeatedly slamming itself into the walls of its cage, squawking and flapping furiously at every glimpse of sunlight, wind, and, God forbid, brother and sister birds that had made it out. I wanted out.
 
And I still want out. If I’m in a country for longer than a couple months, I start to get trapped bird syndrome. I feel the impulse to learn a new language, cope with a new set of weird challenges, meet a whole new group of friends, take a new lover, and sleep under a new roof. 
 
It’s not so much out that I want out, I realize, as I want in. I want the feeling of going into something again.
 
Like when I wade into a new body of water and it’s cold and my skin prickles and it takes awhile to muster up the courage to put my belly button, chest, neck, and finally entire head underwater. And then I emerge back onto the surface and my whole body is warm and acclimatized. No more painful chills, no more questioning if I was going to go for a swim at all. 
 
Many people like the acclimatized feeling, but I like the feeling of wading in. 
 
Just last week, I was in the midst of squawking for new shores when someone reminded me of the quote that goes something like, “You’re most yourself when you’re in the company of strangers.”
 
And I stopped banging my head against the cage for a minute. I thought, That’s it. That’s why I travel. Why so many of us travel. We say it’s because it makes us come alive and ignites our senses and challenges us and teaches us new things and lends a hell of a lot of perspective. 
 
Yes, but
 
I think it’s really because travel surrounds us with strangers, and strangers provide the freedom to be our most authentic selves. Back home, you have to act and react in response to certain expectations. But “out there,” you act and react however you feel in the moment. You run on gut instinct, and instinct, I believe, leads the way to our true nature.
 
The little voices, the little impulses, that’s who we really are. But we silence those voices and temper those impulses when there’s people we know watching, because we worry, what would they think? I rely on them for love and acceptance, so will they still love and accept me if I act differently?
 
Travel takes me away from everyone who loves and accepts me, and I know that going in. I get on a plane to South Korea and I’m headed seven time zones away from anyone who actually cares if I live or die. 
 
I never knew why that was so exciting until I heard that quote — because I’m taking a break from the push and pull of relationships that have stakes, relationships that turn down the volume of my true, wild nature. I hop on a plane and I'm turning up the volume on the human interactions that allow me to fearlessly express more of who I really am.
 
I thought back to the times I stayed in a hostel in a tiny town in Brazil for just one night, and had the absolute time of my life, running around and talking to everyone, dancing on the bar at 2am, and having soul-baring exchanges on the beach before sunrise with strangers whose names I can’t remember and who I’ve never seen since. 
 
I thought back to why freshman year of college was the best year of my life, why I felt so alive having moved 14 hours away from home to be one of 25,000 students on a campus where I didn't know a single other soul. I was happy because I could finally be whoever I wanted to be, after 17 years of being who people already expected me to be. That complete freedom and anonymity brought me into my truest self. 
 
I thought back to 14 months of travel through Southeast Asia, India, Nepal, and Europe, completely solo except for the short periods punctuated by the company of strangers who would slowly turn into new friends and travel with me for awhile. I always felt at such peace with these new companions because there were no ulterior motives, no need to act a certain way to “keep the peace” because we’re family and we’ve got a long life ahead, or because we shared the title of “best friend” and I wouldn’t want to tarnish our history.
 
I thought back to my favorite romances, all of which occurred when there was a definite termination point in sight. I acted and loved with abandon because I didn’t care if they liked me anymore. The fact that we were both moving in different directions was a given, so I didn't to act a certain way to earn their approval or commitment. I was just me.
 
After hearing that quote, I began to realize that people who “know me well” only know one particular side of my personality, one predictable pattern of many possible variations that I fall into when I’m with them out of habit, out of the unconscious need to confirm who they think I am, to remain consistent, because erratic behavior is not conducive to the reliable relationships we need to “survive” out there. Showing a yet unseen shade of my personality that differs from the one they’ve already accepted and loved is dangerous and makes me self-conscious, so I don’t take the risk. I keep that little part of me tucked away. 
 
And I know that I’m doing the same with the others I “know and love” — I’m unconsciously measuring them against who I’ve come to understand they are. If their behavior continues to match my understanding, we’re good, but if there’s a huge deviance, I’ll feel a form of distrust (So you’re not who I thought you were). 
 
Close, intimate relationships clearly have a place in my life and in yours, too, so of course I’m not saying to reject or replace them and I'm definitely not saying to never get close to anyone new. What I am saying is that these consistent relationships may actually be suppressing an important part of your being that only strangers can unleash, that only travel into a strange and lonely land can awaken and liberate. 
 
I will always have my trapped bird itches, and I’m guessing you will, too. But I think it’s not because we want to escape from anything or anywhere or anyone, but because we need the feeling of going into something again, of wading into a new ocean, of moving into a glass house and being around people who can see our truest selves residing there. People around whom we can stop acting, stop conforming, stop unconsciously acclimatizing to. People and places that, for a time, provide a space for our wildest selves to journey. 

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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 55 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 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, East Africa, and India. I'll be overlanding on local transport from Malawi to Kenya in September — stay tuned for that adventure! 

 

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.

 

I've kept Life Before 30 ad-free for 5 years. If you've found the content helpful, please consider making a small donation to support my work. 

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Currently in: Berlin

 

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Previously in: Australia

 

IMG_2444

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s Hot

Recent Posts

Coaching

Coaching

Step into my office!

 

Three 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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Follow me on twitter

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