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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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The Other Kinds of Poverty

Posted on March 13th, 2016

I sat on the rickety wooden terrace of my guesthouse in central Swaziland, blinking mosquitoes out of my eyes and sipping a cold Savannah cider, fixed in the kind of late-night philosophical discussion you can only have in places in the world that don’t burden its visitors with a constant internet connection.

Most members of the group had spent extended periods of time living or traveling on the African continent, so the conversation turned, predictably, to poverty. I had just spent the past twelve months working in Nigeria, South Africa, and Ethiopia, in addition to working and traveling widely in South America and Asia during the past eight years, and wanted share a controversial thought, bracing myself for rebuttals.

“The most heart-breaking poverty I had ever seen wasn’t in Guatemalan villages or Indian slums, but in the streets of New York City,” I ventured with a gulp of cider, knowingly stirring the pot for a good discussion.

The South African in the group was the first to come to arms, protesting with descriptions of Johannesburg’s infamous townships, but I continued.

“The homeless population in the United States, for example, is the epitome of a people who have fallen through the cracks of society and now suffer alone, ostracized and belonging to no community at all,” I explained. “While we can’t say that poverty in one place is worse than poverty in another, we can see that those who suffer with social support from family, friends, and neighbors manage to endure their situations with greater hope and dignity.”

Many poor communities I’ve seen in Asia, South America, and Africa are economically devastated, but they have a systematized support network that helps one another leverage more utility from fewer possessions and ensures that no one falls below an unwritten standard — a kind of “social richness” if you will. In most villages, neighbors will feed the family of a man who lost his job, the community cares for their own sick and troubled, and friends pool money to put another person’s child through school. These acts in the interest of communal welfare are done on an unsolicited and unquestioned basis, demonstrating a pooling of resources and a consideration of the needs of others on a level almost completely unseen in “Western” societies.

As I returned home over the years and saw the poverty in my own streets, which we can argue is less severe on a purely economic basis, I began to understand that poverty is not just about money, living conditions, and opportunity, but about the mind and spirit.”

A German woman in her 60s who had motorcycled (twice) from Germany to South Africa joined in. “Why is it that people in Europe, the United States, and other wealthy metropolises can import anything, eat anything, do anything, suffer no shortage of technology, connectivity, accessibility, and opportunity, yet are more deeply alone in the navigation of those options than in the history of the human race?”

Invoking our recent experiences in southern Africa, she implored us with a simple illustration: “Look at a family of baboons or elephants in the wild. See how much time they spend as a unit, and especially how much they touch one another. Then on the same planet, we have old people in the United States and Europe dying alone, or young people committing suicide because they feel this lack of human connection so profoundly, and you have to wonder, are the members of societies we deem “wealthy” better off than even the animals? Loneliness is a poverty we can’t fit into a World Bank report.”

For a moment we listened to the nighttime noises of animals and birds in the valley below us. A young Danish girl who had worked on several farms in east and west Africa began to speak: “I think there’s poverty in our disconnect from nature. For most of human history, we made our living from the land and each person had an intimate connection with the planet, depending on it directly for their individual survival. Studies show that we are happier the more time we spend outdoors, but now society, for this brief blip of recent human existence, has us working indoors all day, so far upstream or downstream on the value chain that we no longer see a connection between our daily activities and our survival, which served as a constant reminder of our mortality, and I’m guessing inspired more gratitude for life than we experience now. We feel lost in our own man-made world, because that’s not how we were made to live. We were meant to live under the sun and trees and sky, breathing fresh oxygen and being part of the greater ecosystem, not disconnected and sitting on top of it all like most of us in cities and corporations do now.”

The group nodded along, and I spoke again. “Yes, and what about the poverty of time many of us endure? We are unable to seize opportunities or live out dreams or even spend as much time with our loved ones because of self-constructed societal limitations. We never ‘have enough time,’ right? It’s a perverse manipulation that only services the economy.”

The South African jumped in. “And this leads to a poverty of service in our world. We’re indoctrinated to be highly individualistic, which maintains competition and in turn capitalism itself, and coupled with this ‘commoditization’ of time you mentioned, the incentives just don’t line up for us to work together like we need to do to combat all these kinds of poverty.”

A soft-spoken Swazi woman who worked at the guesthouse had migrated over to our circle, probably to tell us to quiet down until she caught wind of the topic.

“And does this not all lead, above all, to a poverty of understanding?” she said, shaking her head. “We have more access to information than ever before, but we understand so little about what the real issues are. It’s a poverty that afflicts us all, even in my village. We know so much and criticize so much, but take so little action. It seems we don’t recognize our capacity for change. We are made to feel weak, but we are strong. We are made to feel confused, but all we need to do is wake up.”

That night in Swaziland, and the days and nights I’ve spent digesting that conversation in the year since, has made me question concepts of poverty and progress that I’d always taken for granted. “Progress” is a very important ideal in modern civilization, across poor and rich communities, but is it one we understand accurately?

Compared to previous generations, we have arguably less leisure time, less physical time spent with one another, less significant social support structures, less say in our governments, less time spent with extended family and neighbors, and less connection to our natural environment.

And what have we gained in return? With so many kinds of poverty plaguing our world — poverty of material wealth, opportunity, health, but also time, understanding, service, nature, and spirit — isn’t it time we re-calibrate how we measure wealth, growth, and success?

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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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