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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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Taking Responsibility for Your Happiness: Practical Ways to Optimize Your Life

Posted on January 17th, 2017

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I’m coming up on four full years a nomad in March of this year. Given that this is roughly the same amount of time it would have taken me to get a PhD, I’ve become an expert at arriving, settling in, and temporarily making a life for myself everywhere from Ulaanbaatar to Johannesburg.
 
Earlier this week I pulled up on my rented bicycle (with no kickstand, no lights, and quirky brakes, but it’s perfect) to the little casita I rented while working this month in the city of Merida. The is backyard full of overgrown tropical plants, the swimming pool is surrounded by 17th century stone walls, and I literally wake up to the sounds of birds at sunrise. 
 
Merida itself is charming, crumbling, creative colonial town that sits on the tip of Yucatan peninsula, one of the most beautiful places I’ve been in Latin America, and is widely recognized as the most livable city in Mexico. People move at the pace of the swaying palm trees, there’s live music in every bar, and every restaurant or cafe lets me bring my bike right into the garden and lean it up against their art-splattered walls. Little cantinas are packed every night with locals and a small group of savvy expats, all drawn to this laidback city that celebrates culture, music, good food, and the company of its friendly and charming occupants. I’m in love.
 
But what struck me as I was pulling into the garden that surrounds my casita and waving hello to the retired American writer hosting me, is how easily I’ve managed to identify what makes me happy and work it into my life wherever I go. Some people go their whole lives and don’t know how to make themselves happy. I touch down, get my passport stamp, and set out to figure out how to both fully embrace the beautiful things about this new place and adapt my new environment to my personal needs.
 
As a minimalist, the things that make me happy are basic and mostly easy to come by: a private and quiet place to sleep, a desk for writing, access to fresh fruits and vegetables, a bicycle for getting around, somewhere to get a good coffee, and sunshine and some way to connect to nature. 
 
It occurred to me, as I was sitting on an isolated strip of coastline on the Gulf of Mexico this past weekend, that not everyone has this all figured out. I happened to be sitting in a lounge chair facing the ocean, but the sun was awkwardly setting behind my right shoulder and tanning only the right side of my body. So I got up and adjusted the chair to face the sun. Problem solved. Work with nature, not against it, right? But I know some people who would have just sat there and gotten grumpy about the lack of sun or gone inside altogether. It’s like their brains don’t think along the lines of, “How can I work with the situation? How can I adapt myself or my surroundings to optimize my experience?” 
 
I’m always thinking how I can make the best of every place, time, and situation, but it also works for me because I know the things that make me happy and I’m brazen enough to do them or ask for them. I don’t flinch over buying a $80 bike for a couple weeks (that’s very overpriced in Mexico) because I know it raises my quality of life. But I’d never spend $80 on something that didn’t move the needle the same way.
 
Here’s another example. When I started work last month in another city in Mexico, my company put me up in a hotel. Essentially, they were establishing that I’d be living in hotels with the 25-40 people I manage as I traveled almost 365 days a year for the foreseeable future. I was not happy with the arrangement, so I voiced my concerns to management and proposed a solution that made financial and professional sense to them. They agreed to let me rent an AirBnb instead, and my happiness and productivity surged. In this situation, many people would have been afraid to speak up and propose a solution — and their well-being would have suffered and potentially permeating into other aspects of the job or their personal life. 
 
This applies to relationships, too. You have to be in touch with what you need from your partner and be able to communicate that appropriately. I recently had a new partner who I interpreted as not being sufficiently interested in me emotionally. I cuddled up to him one night and said I was unsure how he felt about me because he wasn’t asking me about myself as much as I’d hoped. I explained that I’m not very good at sharing unless I know it’s being received in a safe space. Of course it was scary being so vulnerable and I admit I even collapsed into a ball of tears at one point. He proceeded to tell me he thought I wasn’t really interested in him because I hadn’t been opening up as much as he’d hoped. We were able to talk it all out and modify our communication habits to better accommodate the other person — and it brought us so much closer together. That just goes to show you how important this combination of self-awareness and honesty is in creating optimal life experiences.
 
These are just some of the many happiness tweaks I’ve executed throughout my life, which I accomplish by 1) knowing what I want, 2) understanding why I need that to make me happy, then 3) not being afraid to make the request, and 4) knowing how to do so reasonably and persuasively, or 5) just hunkering down and making the change myself if I can.
 
This is a theme you’ll see often on my blog: how to use self-awareness and small tweaks to improve your personal and professional life. It’s often not necessary to quit your job or move across the country or break up with a long-term partner. What’s often more necessary is to sit down and understand what makes you happy and then summon the courage to communicate what those things are, to yourself and to your loved ones — and then actively pursue them into your life.
 
And here's the best part: Once you know what makes you happy (and I'm talking the little things, not the "I'd be happy if I had a six-figure income" things) it makes it easier to be present in your life. I know what I need to feel safe with my partner, so I do it, and then I can enjoy being in his arms and feeling in our moments together. I know I don't like being around smokers, so I make sure I hang out in healthy environments, and then I enjoy those moments of my social life more easily. I know I love my bike, so I savor the hours riding along on cobblestone streets and waving to the rickshaw drivers hawking tortillas and tamales on my street.
 
So many people spend so much time figuring out what makes them happy, or wasting mental energy trying to change the things they don't have control over that they lose the opportunity to grasp all the wonderful thousands of little things they can control to empower their own life experience.
 
Ask for more responsibility at work if you’re feeling stagnant, start a journal if it helps you manage stress, go to a speed dating event if you want to meet someone new, invest in eating healthier food if it makes your body feel good, buy a scooter if you’ve always wanted one, join in the conversation if you feel isolated. Opt into every moment of life, ask if you’re unsure, go out on a limb, take a small first step, do an experiment, engage and tweak and try new things until you find what works for you. 
 
Life is not obligated to deliver what you want or need — the universe has trillions of intelligent occupants to sustain. You alone are responsible for your happiness, so take the time to understand and invest in it and you’ll reap a lifetime of benefits.

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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

 

img_6015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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