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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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Want to Change Your Life? Try Making a Chaos Plan

Posted on April 16th, 2015

ostrich
You, in your 20s

I would venture to say that when it comes to questions about life, your career, what you want, and what you think will make you happy, you probably have your head in the sand.

 

Most of us twenty-somethings do, actually.

 

This isn’t by choice of course, because (career-wise) most of us crave unique work experiences that challenge us, give us a sense of purpose and belonging, reward us with a good standard of living, and offer periodic recognition that makes us feel proud of what we’re doing day-to-day.

 

But the reality is that most of us are not finding, taking (if we do find them), or creating (if we don’t find them) jobs that fit the description of the work we dream of. And ever more rapidly, our talent is being immediately funneled from university graduation into narrow channels that our career centers present to us during senior year. These options are usually a limited selection of “prestigious” and well-paid consulting and investment banking jobs, currently consuming up to one-third of the graduating classes of America’s elite universities. Most of us didn’t go into college thinking we wanted to be consultants or bankers, yet we’re graduating into these jobs in huge numbers.

 

Something is at play here. We are making the obvious, comfortable choices when we know better.

 

This is because we are confronted with a huge systematic challenge that is genuinely painful to address: the directionless drive our decades of education unknowingly instills in us (and the cut-throat nature of “extracurriculars” that accompanies fierce classroom competition) renders us extremely vulnerable to the aggressive and well-funded marketing tactics of a handful of America’s major corporations, which sell us their options as the logical next step in our high-achieving lives. In other words, they see us as hamsters in excellent condition, innately attracted to the idea of just another wheel.

 

And that is how our ideals are getting stifled. We are signing up to go to places where we cannot even think clearly about the important questions that we should be asking as freshly-ordained professionals: What makes me happy? Is happiness the most important objective? What do I genuinely do well (not in the areas where I used to get As, but in the areas that were never even tested)? How can I be a better citizen? What does that mean? How can I work to help others? How can I challenge customs and authority that need to change?

 

What we need is to go somewhere else and do something else that gives us more than a minute to think about all of this. We need to overcome these big challenges with a healthy dose of two things: intent and chaos.

 

What I mean by intent is that we need to actively allocate time and energy into surveying what is possible, rather than probable, to accomplish in our careers and consciously fight the fast-paced nature of an education and employment system that is otherwise dictating our futures. We need to seek out a wide-open vantage point and examine the world, finally, on our own terms. To get our heads out of the sand.

 

It has to become our mission to discover what our real talents and interests are and align them with the greatest challenges we see in the world today — before we free-fall into the first open rung in America’s corporate ladders. If we stay focused only on what we are already familiar with or passively exposed to, we close ourselves off to the opportunity to learn about problems in the world that we didn’t even know needed solving, the very problems that we may be best suited to solve, the very problems that may spark new career paths chosen with true purpose and perspective.

 

The best way to achieve this, I think, is to plot a “descent into chaos” — a leap into full abandon of what you’ve always been told or even genuinely believed would make you happy and successful; an excuse to explore new ways of living and thinking and try them on for size. This doesn’t necessarily mean to quit your job and run away from society and travel until your last $50 in the bank account tells you to go home. Rather, it means that you establish a plan to meaningfully interact with the world in a way that will break you free.

 

The “chaos plan”, whether engaged at home or abroad, should force you into unknown territory to learn, start things from scratch, and overcome personal and professional obstacles. I can’t tell you exactly how or when or where to take this journey; I can only tell you that you must. Everyone’s idea of “chaos” will be different. Everyone’s readiness to chuck out old ideas and values will be different. Everyone’s creative genius, when let loose to find a new way of life, will be different.

 

My choice involved stepping away from my easy/obvious/comfortable job in New York City and moving to Nigeria and taking a risky/uncertain/unconventional job that set me head-first into a whole lot of chaos over two years (and counting) on five different continents. It hurled a sledgehammer into my ideas about the future, job opportunities, international development, family, education, my own self-confidence, people and places themselves, concepts of growth and justice and service, global politics, the energy crisis… the list goes on. After two years, this constructive “descent into chaos” has melted me down and given me new raw material to rebuild my life with.

 

Heck, maybe I’ve realized that opening myself up to this journey in the first place meant never going back.

 

The “chaos plan”, however you choose to go about it, is yours and yours alone. Though I can tell you it should probably involve travel. It should probably involve packing up and moving out and over and away. But it should also involve sitting very still and listening — to yourself, to others, and to the world. It could involve taking a random job in a place you’ve never been in an industry you’ve never heard of, staying home to write a novel for 6 months, or opening a small business. Or it could mean quitting your job to teach yourself how to make films or pottery. But it must involve taking risks. It must make you legitimately scared (not like going sky-diving scared, but the kind of scared you get when you think about starting a controversial blog or walking across China or leading a demonstration in your hometown… or moving back in with your parents and doing something very un-glamorous). It should involve genuine service to others (and please don’t go sign up for some cliche volunteer program in Peru; try spending a few weeks gathering old clothes from friends and delivering them to the homeless people on your street). It should involve intense intellectual exploration (dedicated time to reading and writing about great novels). It should involve many deeply personal conversations with friends, family, and strangers. And it must involve your heart, not your head, as much as possible.

 

This is a call for us, as twenty-somethings with all the promise of our lives ahead of us, to take the time to travel farther — literally and figuratively — and to think more deeply. We cannot accept the places we fall into or the obvious choices presented to us in our immediate environments. We must go now and create space for ourselves to engage with the world.

 

And by taking the time to explore our boundaries and perspectives with intentional chaos, we build the courage to rebuke norms and engage in a life-long journey of self-discovery. That new spirit of courage and adventure will in turn unearth the unique and meaningful careers we’ve been craving and shape the rest of our lives with ideas, experiences, and values that are ours because we chose them. We chose them as the things we held on to when we introduced ourselves, at last, to chaos.

 

chaos

 

Found this article helpful? Please share with your family and friends on Facebook and Twitter!

 

I love hearing from my readers, too. Shoot me an email at elaina@lifebefore30.com and share your thoughts and ideas with me.

 

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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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Follow me on twitter

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