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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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What It Was Like Riding a Motorbike Around South India

Posted on August 28th, 2016

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In 8 months of traveling Asia, it was the best — and the stupidest — thing I had done yet. And after hitchhiking across Laos, taking deserted local boats up the Ayerwaddy river in Myanmar, and trekking alone in the Himalayas, that was really saying something.
 
I had just finished a 10 day silent meditation retreat in Tamil Nadu, and a 12 hour train ride dumped me on the other side of the country in the southern state of Kerala. Deep meditation had left me feeling both fragile and deeply connected to the world. Just a day earlier I stepped into a crowded Tamil marketplace and burst into tears — it was just too beautiful! 
 
Such was my state of mind when I decided against all my rational survival instincts to rent a motorbike and spend a week seeing this part of south India in one adrenaline-fueld solo tour. If anything could test my newfound zen and love of humanity, it would be driving a two-wheeler on the notorious highways and biways of India. 
 
The Indians refer to Kerala as “God’s country,” and it’s undoubtedly spectacular: white beaches, mountaineous jungle, lush backwaters, and the nicest people in the entire nation. I rented my motorbike in historic Fort Cochin, a heated two hour negotiation ensuing over the price of the bike and the absence of my license to operate it. Phone calls were made to cousins, “the wife of my uncle’s best friend,” and, cryptically, “the real boss” to finalize the meager $50 price tag for one week of free-wheeling. 
 
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I mapped out my route from the crumbling trading center of Cochin to the mountains of Munnar and back down to the silky backwaters of Alleppy. I’d cover nearly 800 kilometers if all went according to plan. Yet within minutes of starting the ignition, the comically bumpy, narrow streets of Fort Cochin turned into a sprawling six-lane highway with huge semi trucks and professional daredevils on Royal Enfelds, and everything in my body told me to GO HOME NOW. My blonde hair puffed out conspiculously from beneath my helmet and I drew amused stares from men and women alike, who whizzed by with several children and pounds of vegetables stacked on their laps. 
 
Gradually the highways morphed back into no-lane swaths of asphalt, quirky villages appeared out of dense groves of palm trees, and men frying up the morning parathas and dosas waved at me from the side of the road. I stopped for cups of chai in towns my GPS stopped identifying hours ago, practiced taking Go Pro footage with one hand, and relished the wafts of spicy-sweet mountain air.  
 
Most amusingly, I stopped in a very rural area one afternoon, deciding that the edge of one family’s expansive farmland was a perfectly normal place for a yellow-haired American to conduct her afternoon practice. I opened my eyes half an hour later to eight pairs of blinking eyes and huge, incredulous smiles inches from my face. 
 
“HELLO WHERE ARE YOU FROM ARE YOU MARRIED WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE HOW OLD ARE YOU CAN WE TAKE A SELFIE WITH YOU…” filled my ears and I was whisked away into their home for fresh Kerala lime juice, lots of questions about why I was single, and invitations to essentially never leave. It was no surprise that they had never seen a foreigner in their village, no less a woman traveling alone on a motorbike, and especially not one that practiced Vipassana meditation! It was only the second day and Kerala had won me over.
 
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And it continued to dazzle. After showing up in a mountain village in the rain only to discover there were no available hotel rooms, countless locals made phone calls to their friends and family asking who could host a foreigner for the night. A a man sat with me for lunch in a rural village and drew a map of the entire state with “too much beautiful” routes for driving. Two rascally twenty-something boys beckoned me to follow them on their bike when the only road I knew was closed for construction, and the father of a family ran down the mountain when he saw me stuck on a steep incline, nearly crashing the bike into a ravine. He drove it down for me and talked enthusiastically about his friend Sadik living in Ohio…maybe I knew him?  
 
Yet tackling India on two wheels proved more dangerous and utterly stupid by the day. School buses became my worst enemy, flying around blind corners at top speed and thrusting themselves between my scooter and oncoming traffic, tiny pigtails flapping out the windows. On one occasion, I dodged a bus so narrowly that I was forced off the road and into a ditch. I toppled gracefully and came away with just a few scratches, but apparently the accident was so appalling that even the usually-nonchalant passengers craned their necks out to gape at the rogue injustice.
 
Other times, I found myself on isolated country roads with no cell phone or GPS signal and no sign of civilization besides the occasional car filled with enthusastic Indian men, honking their horns and “cheering me on.” My heart would race as I prayed for them to speed past and leave me alone on my decidedly independent adventure. Was I even going the right way anymore? Where was I? There was no one to ask — and not even a chai place for miles around as far as this dummy could tell.
 
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There were never signs, and if they were, they surely weren’t in English. Mountain roads were steep, slippery, and composed of endless blind curves and deep potholes. I tried to exercise yogi-like compassion for my fellow road warriors, who would cut me off, speed up next to me to have a conversation, drive into oncoming traffic, navigate with one hand eating breakfast, and cause my heart to stop at least once per hour. I swung haphazardly between the highs of catching a breathtaking view over an evergreen valley and the lows of self-loathing for putting myself in such frequent near-death scenarios.
 
I’ll never forget battling rush hour traffic with frazzled nerves on the last evening, pulling into Fort Cochin and practically throwing the keys at the 17-year old skater boy who nearly allowed me to pay $50 in exchange for my life. I kissed the pavement and  thanked India for shaving a few years of my life expectancy, but also for gifting me with an unforgettable adventure, a bolstered self-confidence, plenty of stories for the grandkids, and, of course, dozens of selfies with the angels who helped me along the way.
 
I’d probably do it again in a heartbeat. 
 
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In the backwaters of Kerala
 

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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

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Follow me on twitter

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