I’m really excited to announce that I’m starting a new monthly series on Effy Talks Life! The series is going to be focussed on badass women who are traveling the world and working too.
You’re going to hear from people from all walks of life who will share their stories and give their best advice on how to follow in their footsteps. These interviews will be raw, real and like nothing else out there that I could find. I want to give you guys the good, the bad and everything in between.
So many people have the desire to work and travel, but just need that extra push to get started. Consider this your push!
Last month I chatted with Carrie from Bigger Life Adventures all about overcoming addiction and becoming a digital nomad. The post had an amazing reception so I can’t wait for you guys to get stuck into this week.
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Monika who is co-creator of Internationelle, a travel blog with a difference. Monika currently works as a digital nomad and journalist after studying Political Science at university. She discusses what it’s like to make the leap into location independent work and how to set yourself apart from the crowd.
It hasn’t been easy (think living on 20 cents A DAY) – but it definitely makes for an interesting story!
So Monika, can you tell us a little bit about you and how your digital nomad journey started? Was it something you knew you wanted to do for a while?
Sure. I’m a digital nomad, journalist, and co-founder of the travel website Internationelle. It all sounds a lot more glamorous than it really is. Still, when I think about sitting in a cubicle for eight hours a day, I’d much prefer this than being anywhere else!
Life can be funny like that. I find myself falling into things too! Did you start off as a journalist or were you doing something else first?
At university, I studied Political Science, Linguistics, and International Relations before moving overseas to teach English, work as a translator, as well as teach English. Like many people who are location independent digital nomad types, I sort of “fell into it”, without quite meaning to.
My first job after university took me overseas to Latvia as a journalist. That then evolved into being able to work from home, and then from anywhere, taking assignments for stories regardless of where I was.
On top of that, being hired as an editor/translator also allowed me to fill in the gaps during slow news periods, as there is ALWAYS something to edit.
I started my own editing company, as well, and started getting clients fairly simply. By going to a lot of foreign websites (for airlines, restaurants, hotels etc.), I would spot which ones needed some serious editing help and, would edit a small portion of their website so they could see how much needed to be done.
You’d be surprised how simply this worked!
That’s such a great idea – what a way to get yourself noticed! Did it take a long time to get to where you are now?
All of my opportunities have led me to where I am today, but it was not a linear progression by any means. I think of more as a poke bowl— altogether amazing, but made up of lots of different ingredients, each amazing on their own, but better together.
The combination of travel, journalism, editing, and translating, along with amazing people met on the way, have allowed me to co-create the Internationelle website, working towards spreading awareness of human-trafficking, while allowing those with uncommon adventures and stories to have a platform to share with the world.
All in all, the “journey” itself, since I started traveling full-time, has been about 10 years, but with great stops along the way, each with something to teach me.
In the beginning, there were some rough times. I remember budgeting 20 cents for food for the day at one point, as I was barely making enough to cover my $200 rent.
Fortunately, I was in a place where a ton of potatoes and onions were cheap and could be made to last. Years later, I had the opportunity to live in the same place as a linguistic contractor, with $150 a day allowance for food.
Needless to say, I made up for lost time and ate EVERYTHING.
The struggles must have made the good times a lot sweeter though. When everything finally pays off after pouring so much of yourself into it. That must be pretty rewarding?
Oh, definitely. My proudest moment was being able to dive deeper into my personal heritage and put together a translated book of ancient Latvian songs, something that hadn’t really been done before.
Being able to share these UNESCO protected songs with an English speaking audience has been super rewarding! In addition to that, via Internationelle, being able to spread more awareness of human-trafficking in the U.S. and every other country has been tremendously rewarding, as well, and allowed me to work with and meet other passionate and driven individuals in the field.
I feel proud and these aren’t even my achievements! If you had to pick what would you say you love most about what you do?
I love the freedom that it gives me to travel. I also love that I can pursue what I’m passionate about without being tied to one location, or having to trade off being location independent with having a job I may not love just to be able to travel.
Most of what I do for journalism, writing, or translating purposes, is very project-based, meaning that it’s not the hours I put into the day, it’s working until something is done (frequently, more hours than in a normal work-day, but then there are some days without much going on, so it balances out).
A lot of digital nomads say that although on the surface it looks like the dream life the lifestyle isn’t without some tough challenges. Would you agree?
It’s always a challenge to stay motivated when working remotely, sometimes not being able to establish a routine. There’s always a period of adjustment when you are someplace new, and, if you’re only there a short while, you have to train your brain to get into the swing of things really quickly in order to focus on work.
These days, while I have plenty to do, I see a lot more jobs focusing on skills I do NOT have, namely web design and programming/coding. Sometimes doing work for folks involves needing this skills that I haven’t quite mastered yet, and that work goes to other people, but I’m getting there.
This also shows the importance of making friends and connections with those who can do a variety of things you can’t!
Speaking of making friends and connections… What advice would you give to someone looking to follow this career path?
The best piece of advice I’ve received is my favorite one to give. That is, don’t fall victim to “Imposter Syndrome”.
Maybe you’ve never written an article before, or taught English or worked in customer service or edited books. That’s ok. You can learn. Most places hire you to be able to train you to their standards regardless!
Don’t be afraid to be confident in your abilities to know more and do more than you already do now. If something like moving overseas seems daunting? Make a list, divide it up.
You CAN pack your life into a suitcase and chill in an Airbnb in Vietnam for a few months while you figure out what you’re doing, connecting with those on a similar journey on the way. Even if you’re introverted, the power of human connection to drive your goals forward cannot be understated.
I think the idea of packing up everything and leaving sounds very lucrative. But what about those people who have the dream but aren’t quite yet ready to leave everything behind?
If you have any desire to start your own website/blog/business/move overseas, do your research but don’t let your dreams be dreams. If you don’t have much saved but can buy a plane ticket, you can move overseas.
Starting small is ok. If you’re not ready to make the huge leap and get rid of all your possessions to go abroad take baby steps. There are a lot of programs that will set you up in a place for a month or more for you to get a taste of the lifestyle and see if it’s a good fit.
Luckily, the more you do this, the easier it gets. Believe it or not, the brain loves having a challenge to figure out.
Some incredible, actionable advice thank you Monika. It’s been an absolute pleasure talking to you. Just before you go – Where’s your favourite travel destination and why? You must have been to a lot of places so I’m dying to know!
Since I travel solo a lot and love it, I tend to gravitate towards places that are less crowded, and people leave you alone. For this, Mongolia, Iceland, and Latvia are some of my favorite places to go for beautiful nature, peace, and solitude.
Mongolia has some incredible scenery and, if you’re not vegetarian or vegan, a steady diet of dumplings, fresh meat, and fresh cheese will surround you. Iceland also has great fresh seafood and amazing skyr yogurt.
Latvia is a land of many pork products, baked goods and creamy sauces for everything (including salad). These locations are often less crowded and more affordable than, say, Italy and France, which makes them great for the longer term, less aggravating exploration.
I’m just about to make dinner and it’s nowhere near as exciting as any of the things you’ve just mentioned! Thank you so much for chatting with me today. You’ve shared a lot of insights that I think everyone can gain some value from. When you’re not eating your way across the world where can we find you?
Want more travel? Be sure to check out:
What about you guys? Would you consider traveling and working? Do you already? Let me know in the comments!