If you have been following my story or you have read my post about yoga teacher training in Rishikesh, India then you will know that I have recently been inspired to sell my possessions, pack up my life and hit the road to live a crazy digital nomadic lifestyle! It has been a dream of mine for a number of years now to be location independent, but I was lacking in confidence to make it happen. So it must have been fate when I met Miss Molly Maine on my YTT course. I think the conversation went a bit like this:
Me: So, what do you do then Molly?
Molly: Oh, I'm an illustrator and graphic designer digital nomad.
Me: SHUT UP! I am an illustrator and graphic designer and I WANT TO BE a digital nomad!
Molly: OMG. SHUT UP!
Anyway, we really hit it off and Molly's story has given me the necessary push I needed to get my ass into gear!
INTERVIEW WITH MISS MOLLY MAINE
Hi Molly, what are you up to today? More importantly WHERE are you today?
Today’s quite a typical day - a mixture of working and chilling. I’m currently living on the beautiful island of Koh Lanta in southern Thailand, which is the perfect place to do both. This morning I got up around 7am, practiced yoga, took a fifteen minute walk along the beach to Kohub, the co-working space I’m currently work from. I had a delicious breakfast of fresh tropical fruit, muesli, yoghurt and iced coffee before starting work on a few jobs for my clients in the UK. I’ll probably be done around lunch time, so this afternoon I might head down for a swim and then meet up with some of the other DNs for sunset drinks at one of the beach bars.
Wow! Are you intentionally trying to make us jealous? Let's cut to the chase... what made you decide to become a Digital Nomad?
Before making the switch, I spent the past 5 years working 9-5 in a marketing job in London. The job was good, but I started asking myself the question, what do I REALLY want to be doing? How do I REALLY want to be spending my life? I made a list of all the things that I knew made me happy and all the things that excited me, and I realised that I wasn’t doing any of them often enough. It sounds cliche but you really do only live once. So, I decided to take the plunge and in January 2016 I threw stability out the window and quit my job for a life on the road.
Damn the man!! How did it happen and how did you know it was the right path for you?
Well at first I didn’t actually plan to become a digital nomad - I didn’t even know what a digital nomad was! All I knew was that I wanted to travel. A lot. But the problem was I didn’t have any money. So I started off by taking on a work exchange program in India which offered free food and accommodation in exchange for work - which is a great way to get on the road if you don’t have lots of savings. I left the UK with just one month’s pay cheque in my bank account and no idea how it would pan out. But I was excited, and something inside me told me that I just had to trust that everything would somehow fall into place.
The placement was a great way to get me started, but after four months I ran into some unexpected problems with the management so I decided to leave. At the time this was a huge setback as my funds were low and I had lost my free food and accommodation. I remember at one point checking my bank account and realising I only had enough money to last me two weeks! Unsure what to do, I met up with a friend of mine in a cafe in the Himalayas and told him my predicament: I had no money, but I wanted to keep travelling. Most people would have told me the sensible thing to do: go home and get a job. But instead Pete (a born entrepreneur, hustler and nomad) asked me the question: What can you do? And can you do it online?
Despite working for many years in marketing, design and illustration, I had never considered the possibility that I could do this remotely. The next day I was desperate so I took a chance and posted a status on Facebook asking whether anyone needed any work doing - and I was blown away by the response. Within 24 hours my inbox was full of jobs, and by the next morning I had enough money to stay in India for two more months! During these months I worked remotely from a Himalayan cafe and was introduced to a whole world of DNs who were working online whilst travelling. I read The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss (the Digital Nomad’s bible!) and started listening to the Travel Like a Boss podcast and within weeks I was overflowing with ideas and inspiration. From copywriting to coding, photography, teaching, consulting and commerce - you name it, it seemed like most things you could do in person, you could now do online. I instantly knew that this was what I wanted to do; I was filled with an unexpected energy, passion and drive to make it happen and from that moment there was no going back.
I took your advice and posted a similar post on FB when I was in India - the response was amazing! It really gave me faith that I was on the right path. What top tips can you give to anyone setting themselves up as a DM? i.e. moi
- Book your flight. Pick a date, tell yourself that this is your deadline to get all your shit together. Then write a big list of all the things you need to do before this date - and do them! If you don't give yourself a deadline, your dream will always be just that - a dream. Only you have the power to make it real.
- If you don't think you have a skill you can monetise online, you're wrong. There are a million ways to make money online, and most of them don't require a degree or years of experience. If you're open minded to what you can do, then with a bit of research, a few online courses and some hard work you'll be on your way. Think outside the box and you'll be rewarded.
- Believe you can do it. The only thing stopping you is you. Thousands of people all over the world are making money online whilst travelling - many of them who started out with hardly any skills, experience or money - if they can do it, why can't you?
Most of us creative types have all had run ins with creative block or lack of motivation. Have you been a victim? How do you get yourself out of the slump?
And I know you are going to say Y O G A.
I've found that you can't force creativity; all creative people have blocks from time to time, but it's all part of the process! Usually the thing that gets me back on track is immersing myself in art. If I'm in a city I will often take myself off to an exhibition. If I'm on the road I might listen to a podcast by someone creative I look up to, read a book I’ve been told is amazing, or watch a movie recommended to me by a film-buff. Losing myself in other peoples’ creativity usually starts to spark ideas, and before I know it I'm raring to go again. And if all else fails, headstands are great for getting more oxygen to the brain to get those ideas flowing ;)
I totally agree ~ one of the things I miss most about living in a big city like London are the abundance of amazing art galleries. Luckily the world is filled with lots of art to inspire us. What aspects of DNing appeal to you most and is there anything you find particularly challenging?
For me, the most appealing aspect is the freedom. No more booking holiday time off work - your life is a holiday! As a digital nomad you have the freedom to live anywhere in the world you like, to work when you like and the ability to hop country whenever you choose. You can follow the sun, making friends as you go without ever feeling trapped. You have no boss, home or possessions tying you down. You're free!
The most challenging part probably comes from being a woman travelling alone. Unfortunately being a solo female traveller is a lot more difficult than being male, particularly in countries that have less respect for women. But with a bit of common sense and a few precautions you can usually create the security needed to feel safe and comfortable. For example, I always carry a personal alarm with me when I’m out at night alone. And if I'm travelling on a long-distance overnight bus in somewhere like India I'll book two seats instead of one, so I don't have to worry about falling sleep next to a strange man! (Unfortunately I've heard one too many horror stories to take risks). I also tend to make friends with other female travellers wherever I go; single women are usually pretty good about looking out for each other :)
Yeah - men are creeps! Ha! Top 5 packing essentials for a DN/Cannot travel without?
- Laptop (mine’s a Macbook)
- $100 US emergency cash (tucked away somewhere safe)
- External hard drive (always back up! Mine’s 1TB)
- An unlocked smartphone (essential for local SIM cards, which you’ll need for data unless you want to be tied to wifi - mine’s an iPhone)
- Probiotics (I swear by Acidophilus, - I take one a day when travelling and never get sick)
Aside from the 4 hour work week - Who/or what inspires you?
(creatively or other)
For me, most of my inspiration comes from people. I once heard that you are the average of the five people that you surround yourself with, and personally I have found this to be true. I try my best to surround myself with positive people and when I meet someone inspiring I do everything I can to keep them in my life and learn as much as I can from them. I also try and do the opposite with negative people. I’m careful about who I spend my time with and stay away from people who I know will try and drag me down or drain my energy. Everybody is always quick to offer you advice about how you should live your life, but you have to be selective about who you listen to. Why take life advice from someone who isn’t living a life that you aspire to live? Nowadays I only take advice from people I admire and look up to, or people who seem to be truly happy, successful or knowledgeable in the area in which they are advising. As a result, I feel very lucky to have some amazing people in my life, and some of my greatest inspirations are my friends, family and people I’ve met on the road. Sometimes you don’t need to go far to find inspiration - surround yourself with good people, and inspiration will come to you.
Go where the good vibes are, eh?
It seems like more and more people are realising they too could be living the dream, quitting their 9-5 jobs and hitting the road. Where do you see the future of the DN movement heading? And on a more personal level, where do you see yourself in say the next 5 years? Does DNing have an expiration date? Is this something you want to do FOREVER or do you see yourself settling down, maybe investing in some cats?
The digital nomad movement is undoubtedly growing; offices around the world are closing every day as businesses realise that the 9-5 is no longer a sustainable (or necessary) way of working, so it will be interesting to see how it changes things over the next few years. Coworking spaces are popping up everywhere, and we’re now starting to see niche coworking spaces emerge too. For example, I just heard about a coworking space specifically for fashion designers, which gives access to things like sewing machines, cutters, printers and mannequins, as well as networking events and talks. I think niche spaces like this will become more common and will be great for entrepreneurs, freelancers and startups to grow their businesses at a much faster rate. Places like this give DNs instant access to a wealth of equipment, resources and contacts that it would usually take them years to buy, build or develop.
Where do I see myself in 5 years? Personally I don’t like to plan more than one year ahead. Ideally no more than three months if I can help it! One thing I believe is that everything is constantly changing - as people we are changing and growing every day, so tying ourselves into goals that we created five years ago can be dangerous; it can stop up from being open to new opportunities that arise. I set new goals for myself every year (in four categories: health, business, creative projects and travel) and I try and check in on them once a month to see where I’m at. I also re-evaluate them regularly to check that those goals are still relevant to my life - and if they’re not, I scrap them. As a yogi I try to practice what I preach and try to live as much as possible in the present rather than worrying too much about the future. Do I want to be a digital nomad forever? Who knows! Do I want to be a digital nomad right now? Yes!
Do you have a base in the UK? A home to go back to? Or do you mark your address down now as ‘The World’?
Yes. I’m a born Londoner and my family and friends are all based there, so I’m very lucky that I will always have a place to stay in the big smoke. I love London; it’s an incredible city full of diversity with a vibrant art scene, tons of free parks, events and great museums. It’s just a shame that it’s so expensive and rainy! I’ll be heading back at Christmas to see my family and friends.
If you had a stupid amount of money, is there anything that you would do differently?
Good question. Honestly? Not much. Maybe upgrade my MacBook! Haha. When you travel, you quickly realise that you don’t need much to be happy. For me, money buys freedom, so once you have that freedom money becomes less important. If I had a stupid amount of money then I’d probably cut out the work I’m less excited about and only work on projects I am really passionate about, focusing on drawing, writing and yoga. One thing that would be great would be to have the financial ability to give back more. The more you travel, the more you come across people living in extreme poverty and you become increasingly aware of the unequal distribution of wealth in this world. It would be amazing to be able to contribute more to the local communities that I travel through, to make a positive difference.
Top 5 DN places (in the world) you have been to or would like to co-work at?
- Thailand (Koh Lanta and Chiang Mai - the world hub for DNs!)
- Bali (Ubud - cheap, great DN community and coworking spaces)
- India (Goa and Manali - unbeatable on price, but more difficult to find the good wifi spots)
- Mexico (I have friends DN-ing in San Cristobal and Puerto Escondido, living in paradise on next to nothing)
- Vietnam (next on my list!)
So, you are moving to a desert island. And you can only take one item with you. What is it? (Bearing in mind there is no wifi!)
I’d love to say a yoga mat, but that would definitely be a lie. Seriously? Probably a knife! My vegetarianism would go out the window and I think I’d have to go all Bear Grylls.
And if you could have one super power?
Teleportation. The novelty of long haul flights wears off pretty quickly!
Molly is also very knowledgeable in the world of Marketing. We have realised that our skill sets do actually compliment each other so if something doesn't fit for myself I will send it over to Molly and vice versa. If you would like to work with Molly or myself please get in touch!