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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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When You’re Different: How to Stop Comparing and Find Courage to Live Off the Beaten Path

Posted on May 15th, 2016

Last week I took four flights for two days straight to get from the capital of Nepal to my hometown of Buffalo, New York. I packed up the backpack I’d been living out of for 8 months and plopped back down into the middle of America and the middle of something that looks like most people’s day-to-day reality.

 

I'm watching my dad go to work at 6am like he’s done for the past 40-something years, while my mom wakes up at 5am to make his coffee and pack his lunch, like she’s done for the past 30-something years. I'm talking to friends who work in offices by day and come home to boyfriends, dogs, and sometimes kids by night. I went to the funeral of a family friend.

 

And so I’m (temporarily) back in the land where everyone goes through various amounts of schooling, reproduces, and then works until they die. That's NOT neccesarily a bad thing — it’s pretty much the normal course of life and it’s comfortable for a reason and most people are perfectly happy to live that way. 

 

I just don’t happen to live like that, so back here, I have to answer everyone’s questions: What do you do? How do you make money? How are you always traveling? Why are you always traveling? Don’t you want to get married? Where are you going next?

 

There’s something about being away, whether I’m living abroad for work or traveling for pleasure, that helps me stop comparing. I just live my own life in my own way and write about it on my blog for the people who are curious. “Out there” I’m inspired, motivated, and supported by people who have found similarly unconventional paths, so I’m happy to go about my business.

 

But then I come home and inevitably, I start to compare. I switch on social media more often than I usually do, I see people graduate with another degree already or move up really fast in the same company, I have coffee with old friends, I go to family functions and see my absolutely wonderful but very “normal” family — and I’m pretty much the oddball out.

 

It’s not just me that has this comparison problem. Many people, even big dreamers and those who live life dancing to a different tune, face this problem. 90% of the time we’re able to ignore what everyone else is doing and keep grooving, but 10% of the time, we notice that no one else is on the dance floor.

 

And, naturally, it’s hard to keep going.

 

This doesn’t mean we’re doing anything wrong or need to cut our dreams down to size, it just means, to the extent humanly possible, we need to stop comparing. Or rather, because comparison is a natural tendency, we need to be careful to select the right benchmarks for who we are.

 

We also need to stop second-guessing ourselves and find the courage to keep being different.

 

But that’s easier said than done, so how do we stop doing something that’s so natural and normal: to look around and size up where we are in comparison to everyone else?

 

Here are a few ways I’ve come up with to boost my courage and embrace my individual journey.

 

1. Monitor your consumption.

 

My rule: my phone is on airplane mode for the first and last two hours of the day. For my SANITY. If the first thing you do in the morning is wake up and look at Facebook and Instagram and ingest a steady diet of the polished, superficial social media relics of everyone else's lives, it's no wonder you're unhappy! 

 

It also means watching how many articles (like this one) you read that are made up of someone else's experiences and opinions. It means monitoring how much of the news you consume, how much TV you watch, and even how many books you read.

 

Stay close to reality, my friends. If you're constantly ingesting other people's ideas or scrolling through fairytale lives on glowing screens, how can you ever come up with or trust in your own path?

 

2. Ensure adequate alone time.

 

Once you regulate your intake of information, you have to give yourself space to let all the things you do consume digest and take shape in the form of your own opinions, ideas, creativity, inspiration, and self-understanding.

 

At MINIMUM, spend 15 minutes in silent meditation when you wake up in order to calm your mind and set positive intentions for the day, and 15 minutes before bed to prepare your mind for rest. I also go for evening walks most nights and have one hour of reading time before bed. No TV, no movies, no phone, just feeding myself what I'm intellectually curious about.

 

3. Track your own goals and successes.

 

It can be overwhelming to log into Facebook or LinkedIn and see acquaintances getting promotions, graduating from medical school, marrying a long-term partner, or traveling to an exotic locale. If you spend too much time focused on what everyone else is accomplishing, you can forget about your own "wins," which may be of a different variety than other people's.

 

80% of the time, measure yourself against yourself. Then 20% of the time, measure yourself against someone who's really over-the-top successful for inspiration. Not your neighbor or your friend, but someone 20 years ahead of you. THAT'S who you need to look at, and THAT'S who you need to bring into your life if possible.

 

The rest of the time, keep track of what's important to YOU and remind yourself of all the things you're doing well. 

 

4. Do a reality check.

 

And then, because you can't just be your own cheerleader, you have to face the facts. Are you actually falling behind? Are you not living up to your own potential? When you feel jealous or ashamed or anxious, what are the roots of those worries? 

 

If there are some valid concerns behind your comparisons, lay those out too. Be brutally honest with yourself, identify your weaknesses — and make a plan to overcome them. If you want a graduate degree, don't drool over someone else's grad pictures, start studying for the GRE. If you want a promotion, don't spend time being jealous over a colleague's success, start working harder.

 

5. Evaluate who you spend time with.

 

Ever heard that you're the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with? If some of those people are causing you to consistently second-guess who you are or bring too much negative energy into your life, trim the fat. 

 

Surround yourself not only with like-minded people — crazy and outlandish ones are even better — but individuals who are the kind of people you want to be like. Look at everyone you spend the most time with and ask yourself, "Do I want to be like them?" If not, try to make some new friends or at the very least read good books, follow inspiring blogs, connect with people online, and craft a virtual or intellectual place for yourself where you feel supported.

 

6. Meet with your Board of Directors.

 

Your Board of Directors should consist of people you've hand-selected and appointed, usually without their knowing, to have a position of influence in your life. (Remember, members of the Board can retire or be asked to leave.) They can be loved ones, mentors, colleagues, friends, or spiritual "gurus."

 

When you're really in a crisis, open up to members of the Board, honestly share your feelings, and ask for feedback. The people who truly love and support you can provide some perspective and perhaps show you some things to consider to keep dreaming big while staying "on track" — or they can assure you with confidence that you're doing just fine.

 

7. Ask your 85-year old self.

 

One of your members of the Board should always be yourself, on her death bed.

 

Whenever the doubt creeps in ("Am I the crazy one?" "Am I out of touch with reality?" "Am I going to wake up one day and wonder what the heck I'm doing?" "Am I setting myself up for failure?"), spend some time alone, do the reality check, and then ask yourself: what would 85-year old me on her hospital bed tell me to do?

 

Usually that answer is very honest and very accurate.

 

And then, friends, the most important thing of all, is to understand the underlying fear. When you look at other people and think everyone's doing "so much better" than you, dig down on that. What are you afraid of? Why are you reacting that way? Does it boil down to pride, money, reputation, love or losing love? 

 

It's like a child who's afraid of the dark. You'd want to sit them down and ask, "Sweetie, what are you afraid is going to happen to you in the dark?" And you'd want to listen to and pacify the child's fears by breaking each one down and assuring them that a) that's never going to happen or b) how to deal with it step-by-step if it did happen. ("Here's the light switch, you can turn it on at anytime. This is where you can come get mommy and daddy…")

 

Do the same thing for yourself. Ask yourself where the fear is coming from and objectively check to see if it's based in reality. Most of the time, it's an irrational emotional response and, by simply being aware of it, we soothe and alleviate those fears.

 

And, some of the time, there are some valid concerns that can be planned for on a very practical level in order to make us feel better about taking risks, chasing dreams and living unconventional lives…while still living on Planet Earth.

 

That kind of planning might sound something like this: "If becoming a radio host doesn't work out, which I define as not earning more than $50,000 a year three years from now, a back-up plan I'm happy with is going back to school to study nursing. Worst case scenario, I'm going to be fulfilled doing something else and I'm blessed to be in the position to pursue further education and change courses if I need to. However, I'm excited to give Plan A my all and cope with a lower income and less recognition than my peers for the next three years while I test the waters. I accept that I'm on a different path and as long as I'm happy and not harming anyone else by chasing this dream, I will persevere."

 

That balance of being grounded and self-aware while still daring to live at the far-end of your possibilities spectrum is a life-long struggle.

 

But I'd rather worry about going too far off the deep end than never really living at all. Who's 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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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.

 

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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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