6 Min ReadCareer 24 April 2020
I had it all planned out. After a year of hard work at my first job after college, a New York City-based public relations agency, I could finally unlock my two weeks' vacation time. Cleverly, or so I thought, I would book a vacation over Fourth of July to eliminate a few workdays, allowing for a substantial almost two weeks of travel time! Giddy with excitement, I emailed my boss requesting the time off, outlining that this schedule would require me to use only seven of my fourteen vacation days.
I patted myself on the back for being so cunning.
My boss must have laughed out loud, replying to let me know of the company's policy stating employees can only be out of the office for five consecutive business days, thereby shattering my plans of frolicking through Switzerland and Malta for two weeks. As an avid traveler, I was seriously pissed off. Smoke fumed from my ears as I realized this was common practice for many businesses. How could I truly experience a new country with such little time? My dreams of exploring Bali, Australia, India, and other far-flung locations, now seemed way out of reach. Adult life was looking bleak.
I left that agency for another one a few months later and this is when I became introduced to a term that would change my life — "digital nomad." It was 2016 and working remotely was becoming a trend. Graphic designers, writers, social media marketers, and other online entrepreneurs were taking their work with them as they trotted around the globe, sipping cocktails out of coconuts while laying on the beach answering emails on their phones.
I wanted in. NOW. I already had an online job, sitting behind a computer all day. I knew I could live this lifestyle and the thought of achieving it completely consumed me. I was a girl on a mission to do something that no one around me could even conceive of. All I needed was a few clients.
Now, that part was daunting, but it wasn't going to hold me back. I made a list of the brands I wanted to work with and started connecting with them on LinkedIn. After countless emails and an in-person meeting, I landed a dream client — a winery that paid me six months upfront and signed a year-long contract! I was still employed at that point, so I took the opportunity to save all the money I received from my new client as well as a little bit from each paycheck.
Eventually, I was feeling financially secure enough to quit my job, leave my apartment, friends and family behind and booked a one-way ticket to Nicaragua. No big deal.
I left New York on October 2nd, 2017. As fate would have it, I met my long-term boyfriend three days into this journey, but I will save that story for another time.
Breaking the news to my family and friends was nerve-wracking. How do you tell people that at 25 years old you were quitting your corporate job and embarking on a yearlong digital nomad journey with no solid plans? My mother asked if I could just do it for a month and not quit my job. No mom, it doesn't work that way. It wasn't just my career she was concerned for. I knew she was also nervous that I was throwing away my chance at finding love. Why would I leave NYC? Surely this is the place to find a suitor. Somehow, I was able to abate her fears. Once they saw how determined I was, both of my parents were pretty supportive. My friends were sad but also excited for me to go on such a life-changing adventure. Everyone, myself included, thought I would be back in a year once I got this out of my system.
Flash forward to now, almost three years later, and I am still living nomadically with a successful PR business and a loving relationship.
For the first few months of my newfound nomad life I was traipsing through Central America. I lived and worked in Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Costa Rica. Then I met up with my boyfriend and we explored Saint Martin, Curacao, and Aruba before I jetted off to Bali, my dream digital nomad locale. After spending enough time frolicking through the jungle, enjoying lush beaches and fueling my avocado toast addiction, I headed to Australia with my mom. Then I moved to Kauai, Hawaii to live with my boyfriend. We spent about a year living in Hawaii, divided between Kauai and Maui, before leaving our stunning home for a campervan in New Zealand.
I spent my fair share of time working in cafés and hostels with questionable Wi-Fi, but a campervan would be the ultimate test if I could keep my business afloat regardless of where I was. I made it clear to my partner that I would need days where I spent hours dedicated to work, either in a café or at a camp park without feeling guilty.
There were mornings when I rolled out of the van at 5 am for conference calls with clients located across the globe. It was rough, but doing so proved that I was (and still am) able to adapt to any time zone. It is my decision to live this way and my clients don't need to worry about scheduling calls that fit wherever I happen to be in the world. That is my responsibility.
From New Zealand, we moved to Australia on working holiday visas, where we lived and worked on a tiny island resort off the Great Barrier Reef, Heron Island. This was by far one of the best experiences of my life, and it helped me grow as an entrepreneur. I was now juggling my PR business and working part-time as a bartender in the resort. I didn't need the extra income, but I did want to live on the private island and being a staff member was the only way to do so. I became meticulous with my time, balancing work, the beach, gym, and scuba diving as often as possible. The Gmail scheduling tool became a lifesaver. I tripled my income during these six months, and I proved to myself and my clients that I can be successful no matter what time zone I am working in. Yes, it is harder and requires more personal sacrifices (missing out on a party because I have a client call at 11 pm), but it can be done.
Now, I am back in the states waiting out COVID-19. I am working with corporate leaders, many of whom are in the healthcare industry, so thankfully, business is going well. Despite any ups and downs, I can still achieve great success for my clients in national media outlets, whether I'm hunkered down stateside for a pandemic or living it up on the other side of the world. I even recently reached a major entrepreneurship milestone — hiring my first employee to accommodate my growing business.
Sorry, NYC, I don't think I am ever coming back.
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With a lack of certainty surrounding the future, being and feeling healthy may help bring the security that you need during these unpredictable times.
When it comes to your health, there is a direct relationship between nutrition and physical activity that play an enormous part in physical, mental, and social well-being. As COVID-19 continues to impact almost every aspect of our lives, the uncertainty of the future may seem looming. Sometimes improvisation is necessary, and understanding how to stay healthy and fit can significantly help you manage your well-being during these times.
Tip 1: Communicate with your current wellness providers and set a plan
Gyms, group fitness studios, trainers, and professionals can help you to lay out a plan that will either keep you on track through all of the changes and restrictions or help you to get back on the ball so that all of your health objectives are met.
Most facilities and providers are setting plans to provide for their clients and customers to accommodate the unpredictable future. The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C. An enormous amount is on the table for this coming fall and winter; if your gym closes again, what is your plan? If outdoor exercising is not an option due to the weather, what is your plan? Leaving things to chance will significantly increase your chances of falling off of your regimen and will make consistency a big problem.
The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C.
Tip 2: Stay active for both mental and physical health benefits
The rise of stress and anxiety as a result of the uncertainty around COVID-19 has affected everyone in some way. Staying active by exercising helps alleviate stress by releasing chemicals like serotonin and endorphins in your brain. In turn, these released chemicals can help improve your mood and even reduce risk of depression and cognitive decline. Additionally, physical activity can help boost your immune system and provide long term health benefits.
With the new work-from-home norm, it can be easy to bypass how much time you are spending sedentary. Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity. Struggling to find ways to stay active? Start simple with activities like going for a walk outside, doing a few reps in exchange for extra Netflix time, or even setting an alarm to move during your workday.
Tip 3: Start slow and strong
If you, like many others during the pandemic shift, have taken some time off of your normal fitness routine, don't push yourself to dive in head first, as this may lead to burnout, injury, and soreness. Plan to start at 50 percent of the volume and intensity of prior workouts when you return to the gym. Inactivity eats away at muscle mass, so rather than focusing on cardio, head to the weights or resistance bands and work on rebuilding your strength.
Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity.
Tip 4: If your gym is open, prepare to sanitize
In a study published earlier this year, researchers found drug-resistant bacteria, the flu virus, and other pathogens on about 25 percent of the surfaces they tested in multiple athletic training facilities. Even with heightened gym cleaning procedures in place for many facilities, if you are returning to the gym, ensuring that you disinfect any surfaces before and after using them is key.
When spraying disinfectant, wait a few minutes to kill the germs before wiping down the equipment. Also, don't forget to wash your hands frequently. In an enclosed space where many people are breathing heavier than usual, this can allow for a possible increase in virus droplets, so make sure to wear a mask and practice social distancing. Staying in the know and preparing for new gym policies will make it easy to return to these types of facilities as protocols and mutual respect can be agreed upon.
Tip 5: Have a good routine that extends outside of just your fitness
From work to working out, many routines have faltered during the COVID pandemic. If getting back into the routine seems daunting, investing in a new exercise machine, trainer, or small gadget can help to motivate you. Whether it's a larger investment such as a Peloton, a smaller device such as a Fitbit, or simply a great trainer, something new and fresh is always a great stimulus and motivator.
Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine.
Just because you are working from home with a computer available 24/7 doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your entire day to work. Setting work hours, just as you would in the office, can help you to stay focused and productive.
A good night's sleep is also integral to obtaining and maintaining a healthy and effective routine. Adults need seven or more hours of sleep per night for their best health and wellbeing, so prioritizing your sleep schedule can drastically improve your day and is an important factor to staying healthy. Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine. This can help the rest of your day feel normal while the uncertainty of working from home continues.
Tip 6: Focus on food and nutrition
In addition to having a well-rounded daily routine, eating at scheduled times throughout the day can help decrease poor food choices and unhealthy cravings. Understanding the nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy can help you stay more alert, but they do vary from person to person. If you are unsure of your suggested nutritional intake, check out a nutrition calculator.
If you are someone that prefers smaller meals and more snacks throughout the day, make sure you have plenty of healthy options, like fruits, vegetables and lean proteins available (an apple a day keeps the hospital away). While you may spend most of your time from home, meal prepping and planning can make your day flow easier without having to take a break to make an entire meal in the middle of your work day. Most importantly, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
Tip 7: Don't forget about your mental health
While focusing on daily habits and routines to improve your physical health is important, it is also a great time to turn inward and check in with yourself. Perhaps your anxiety has increased and it's impacting your work or day-to-day life. Determining the cause and taking proactive steps toward mitigating these occurrences are important.
For example, with the increase in handwashing, this can also be a great time to practice mini meditation sessions by focusing on taking deep breaths. This can reduce anxiety and even lower your blood pressure. Keeping a journal and writing out your daily thoughts or worries can also help manage stress during unpredictable times, too.
While the future of COVI9-19 and our lives may be unpredictable, you can manage your personal uncertainties by focusing on improving the lifestyle factors you can control—from staying active to having a routine and focusing on your mental health—to make sure that you emerge from this pandemic as your same old self or maybe even better.