It’s time for another instalment of my monthly digital nomad series! The series focuses on badass women who are traveling the world and working too.
Each month we’ve heard from incredible women from all walks of life who have shared their stories and given their best advice on how to follow in their footsteps. The interviews have been raw, real and like nothing else out there that I could find. I wanted 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 Janice Laraine who spoke all about how to start freelancing (even if you have no experience)!
This week we’re diving into something that explores the creative side of digital nomad life with Nancy Chalmers. In today’s interview, Nancy shares how she built a life in Bali around a passion for art and spirituality.
Ready to dive in? Let’s go!
Hey Nancy, so happy to have you here. Can you tell us a little bit about you and your life at the moment?
A little bit about me?
I’m Nancy, but when people recognise me from my blog they shout out ‘Oh, aren’t you Jungle Shakti?!”. I’m a dreamer, a yogi, a vegan and an artist. I’m also a shocking introvert and general space cadet.
I’m currently based in Bali with my best friend, soul mate and travel buddy (@el_loco_lobo) in a little wooden joglo hut by the beach and rice paddies on the northern side of Canggu. We lead a pretty quiet life here just working away at our creative pursuits and planning our next adventures.
- Read similar: Carrie from Bigger Life Adventures talks overcoming addiction and becoming a digital nomad
Talking of creative pursuits… can you tell us a little bit more about the work you do? I know there are a few things. In the past, we’ve spoken a little bit about your energy work I’m sure everyone would love to hear more about that!
Haha, you’re not wrong. If I had to describe my work in a sentence I’d probably say I’m a digital nomad and blogger as that encompasses most of my pursuits. Mainly, I work as a freelance graphic designer, illustrator and artist. Right now I’m working on a series of murals for a café in the Maldives and custom portraits.
Graphic design is kind of my bread & butter job and pretty much the only thing funding my tropical travels right now.
Late last year, in Sri Lanka, I discovered an ancient form of energy work and astral projection. It allows me to ‘read’ peoples energies and spirits – connecting with their higher self, their aura, and uncover their life’s purpose.
I guess I’ve always had fortune telling skills call me a witch if you will haha. Lately, I’ve really started to embrace it and let my freak flag fly! I want to write more blog posts on the more ‘mystic’ side of Jungle Shakti. And create more intuitive portraits for my sisters around the world. That’s something I’m really passionate about.
My mum was an artist so I love that whole world. I also know it can often be a bit of a waiting game between jobs. How did you get started?
I finished school in the late 90s in Australia – and wondered how to make a living as an artist. I soon found my way into magazines (it was a bit like The Devil Wears Prada for a while there!). After over a decade of working as an art director in magazines, I decided to go freelance and take off to the tropics.
It’s been almost 10 years since I first left my 9-5 job and started my blog. I launched my blog way back in 2009 and it has transformed so much – at first, it was Indie arts & crafts, then vegan cooking, then yoga, then travel, and now I’m working on returning to the world of arts and crafts. My readers are so patient with me!
Ten years of blogging is an incredible achievement! It makes sense to have had a lot of change in that time. Is there anything else that stands out to you as an accomplishment that makes you proud?
I think single-handedly publishing 5 issues of my own online magazine and several e-books. But lately, completing my 200hr Yoga Teacher Training and running a beautiful, magical healing retreat in Sri Lanka was a highlight.
I feel so blessed to have the freedom and the ability to keep evolving and trying new things. There’s nobody to lock me into the same old thing each day. I just go where the wind blows and as long as I can keep a few things dear to me, like my crystals, my yoga mat and my pencil case full of art supplies. Truly, I am happy!
Do you find there are any downsides to all that freedom though? Either creatively or otherwise?
Oh my god! So many challenges. Like erupting volcanoes and lightning storms grounding your flights! And not knowing when your next paycheck is coming in! Getting your bank cards swallowed by ATMs in a foreign country. Being constantly exhausted. Trying to keep up a yoga practice whilst living in a tiny hut where you can’t roll out your yoga mat.
In the middle of this year I was feeling so lost, after a string of travel disasters we were stuck in a foreign country with no place to live and rapidly running out of money. I was anxious, exhausted and on the brink of a nervous breakdown. The situation was bad. All my hard work, all those photoshoots, all those blog posts, all those recipes and labouring over creating awesome daily content had led to this… nothing! Nada!
I really wanted to escape digital marketing and design – there are times it can feel very soulless. All about logos and newsletters and sell sell sell – but I couldn’t escape it. That’s what I was good at, that’s what I’m qualified in, and that’s what made the money – not my blog.
What advice would you give to someone looking to follow a similar path in life?
I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to follow your passions. That can be really difficult when it feels like your paycheck is at stake. I recently decided to relaunch my design website with a new look, go hard on promoting that and go after some big branding jobs and get inspired like I was at design school. I was sad to let my Jungle Shakti brand go but I figured, hey I’ve been given this gift to be a great designer I’ll just do it!
Then I thought well if I can also be creative in my own way and finish off my lifelong dream of writing and illustrating a children’s book then all this would be worth it! I rebranded the Jungle Shakti accounts as Nancy Chalmers and starting posting all my artwork. It was a huge risk, but the truth is I am excited again.
Working and travelling is not so much a holiday as an ADVENTURE. Like a rollercoaster, it has ups and downs and you just have to be comfortable ‘winging it’ for sometimes months on end. You have to give up on the idea of routine. With open arms embrace the abnormal.
So – is it Bali for good now? Is there any more travelling coming up in the near future?
I’m hoping to base myself in Bali for a while but will be travelling around Indonesia (going to Sumatra soon!). Bali is the perfect base for us – it’s tropical and beautiful, with more awesome vegan cafés than I think anywhere else in the world. There’s an abundance of great coffee, lush jungle and warm people.
As an added bonus it’s not too far from my home and my family in the snowy mountain valleys of Victoria, Australia. There’s some crazy energy here… as well as earthquakes and volcanoes, though, just to keep things interesting!
After Bali? Probably back to Australia for a while and then who knows…? Work-wise, I really want to focus on setting up an online store for my illustrations, make stationery and homewares and sell prints. I also hope to make some scarves and kimonos and design a few more murals.
But also I really want to start blogging more about spirituality and my more esoteric interests like astrology, reiki, moon magic, divine feminine and so on…
It sounds like there are a lot of great things on the horizon. I can’t wait to follow your journey in Bali and beyond. Just a quick one – where can we find you to keep updated?
I’ve recently started a course in children’s book illustration. Like I said before it’s something I’ve always wanted to do so I’m unbelievably excited about this next chapter for sure. Thank you for having me Efia, it’s been really great to chat.
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