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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 Motorbiking Across Bali Taught Me About Life

Posted on September 25th, 2015

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Bali is stupidly beautiful, but you wouldn’t notice it at first when you land at Denpasar airport and make the two-hour journey north to Ubud. What you do notice are Balinese families stacked onto motorcycles like small houses of cards, babies swaddled in the left nook of the drivers’ arms like coconuts and only slightly older children hanging on the back, dozing off as if they were sitting in the backseat of the car. Men drive and smoke cigarettes with no hands and schoolgirls whiz by with friends sitting sideways on the back, toes dangling perilously close to the potholes.

 

Tens of thousands of these motorbikes sped past my taxi window, passing on blind curves and weaving a smoggy, motorized braid of metal and rubber towards Bali’s endless temples and rice paddies, an absolute surrendered belief to the goodness of the universe seeming to govern everyone at the handlebars. Naturally, I mused, I had to try this.

 

But the old “when in Rome” adage might have well been the end of me. It was my 26th birthday and one of my best friends had flown in from New York to join me for this leg of the trip. We agreed to spend 10 days of pure Bali bliss together before I went north to Laos and made my way towards India solo. Thankfully she’s as adventurous (or moronic) as I am, so I had no trouble persuading her to take a cross-Bali scooter trip with me for my birthday.

 

We rented our motorbikes with surprising ease: a quick check of our international licenses and a stern warning to obey traffic laws, ie. stop at red lights even when the locals don’t. We had the local equivalent of $10 in small bills for police bribes ready in case we got pulled over for doing something stupid — or just being foreign — and we were off across Ubud for a test run.

 

The bikes turned out to be as easy to drive as Bali is gorgeous, but the tricky part was navigating in Indonesian traffic. My heart pounded against my chest and I hoped the jeans and denim shirt I had chosen to protect my skin would be enough if I toppled over into a gravel pit next to a rice paddy. On one of my first laps through town, motorbikes, cars, trucks with chickens on the back raced around us and I immediately wondered why I ever imagined Balinese roads as wide beach-side thoroughfares with plenty of cruising room.

 

In one particularly frightening scenario, a truck carrying a giant golden Buddha statue in its flatbed (seriously, only in Bali) cut me off in an unfortunate spot, causing me to stall on a hill at a red light and roll backwards into traffic. A terrifying series of events unfolded where my brain stopped communicating with my hands and a spastic attempt to brake floored the gas and sent me nearly flying into a pole on the side of the intersection. Luckily, several concerned locals pulled up next to me to make sure I was okay. It turns out I was not okay. This was a bad idea.

 

But what do you do when you fall off a horse? I asked myself after a nice Balinese man backed my bike away from the pole and parked it safely for me. You get back on the horse. That’s when the next 5 days of managing Balinese roads began to teach me a lot about life, starting with my notion of fear.

 

While I’m someone who on repeated occasions has thought nothing of packing up and heading on her own to a foreign part of the globe or hitchhiking around random countries in Asia or descending into small, dark caves in Guatemala with nothing but a 12-year old guide and a candle, I’m not very good at confronting other types of fear, like driving a motorbike, which literally millions of people do everyday. I felt both scared and incapable, and while my instinct was to abandon this dubious brainchild of mine, I was pained knowing an entire island awaited my exploration (or maybe dreaded it and hoped foreign people would stop insisting on driving themselves around). From somewhere way beyond my body’s survival mechanisms, a new-found “if they can do it, I can do it too” determination set in.

 

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Over the next several days, I experienced the raw-dropping sights of Bali at my own speed and discretion, and realized that I had successfully done so by simply focusing on myself. I couldn’t control anything on the road except my own bike and I had a duty to myself and others around me to drive as responsibly as humanly possible. That’s all you can do in life, too, right? Take care of yourself first and by doing so, you’re taking care of everyone around you.

 

I maintained a razor sharp focus on what was immediately in front of me and never lost track of the moment. There was no space for daydreaming or navigating or thinking about anything except where my front wheel was going and who was immediately around me. That enhanced sense of presence has to be something close to what monks feel after a week’s worth of good meditation. It came in handy on a few harrowing occasions where I had to weave my bike between a deep ravine on my left and a long row of trucks on my right and that do-or-die tunnel vision kept me on the narrow ledge of safety. I couldn’t tell myself “don’t hit the trucks, don’t hit the trucks” or else I would have hit the trucks. Instead, I had to focus on where I wanted to go and how I wanted to maneuver, not on where and what I wanted to avoid. How many times do we NOT do that in life? How many times do we look at our past and tell ourselves, “Don’t do that. Don’t repeat that mistake. Don’t fall in love again. Don’t be jealous. Don’t make a fool of yourself.” We think about the worse case scenario and our lack of focus on the direction we should be going inhibits the wild success that could be. But let me tell you, imagining the best case scenario and living orgasmically in the moment was what kept me on the bike and out of the ditch.

 

In order to be that intensely “in the moment,” a lot of off-road planning had to take place. Strategy sessions over the map and pulling over to ask locals in our broken Bahasa were the keys to safety. Once we went speeding off, we didn’t dare distract ourselves from our motorcycle zen with navigation of any kind. Each time we stopped to regroup, I kept thinking how setting aside time for contemplation, inspiration, and goal-setting was just as important in our daily lives — an essential type of navigation that could help us stay us focused on the present moment while still reaching a meaningful destination.

 

I also saw the firsthand importance of taking my time. While that final destination was certainly in mind, I could be in no rush to get there with any realistic hope of arrival. I drove slowly and let the Balinese weave around me, blaring their horns in impatience, but I didn’t mind. My true New Yorker best friend had a harder time with that, imploring me to speed up on the next leg, but I never understood why. As much a part of the “next!” generation as the next twenty-something, I was relishing the idea that for once I didn’t need to worry about who or what or where was next and could simply enjoy the breeze and the sun-soaked rice terraces (when another Balinese Buddha truck wasn’t bearing down on me, that is). So we’d stop on bridges and take pictures; we’d pull over at random temples; we’d pause to go stick our toes in the sand. This is how I wanted to live life, now and forever.

 

Best of all, I learned to believe that I can do anything another human being can do — whether or not that is absolutely fact is irrelevant to the nourishing confidence it invokes. Like the old saying “Imagine you know what you are doing” goes, I am a fear-facing, testifying-under-oath witness to the notion that we can all rise to the occasion when we simply believe, foolishly or not, that we can.

 

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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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