Sole Sister Spotlight: Digital Nomad Aileen

Friday, February 06, 2015

It's a small digital nomadic world out there.

That's what I learned after meeting Aileen in Fort Bonifacio, Manila last year. She was moving out of a condo unit that we were moving into. We said our hasty goodbyes as she was off to the airport, not realizing that we would both end up in Europe months later.

A few months ago, Aileen emailed me to introduce herself and her website, without even realizing that we had already met! I asked her some questions about being a digital nomad, the freedom lifestyle and running her online business. Here's what she shared:

When did you start a travel lifestyle? What inspired you to take that big leap?

I started my travel lifestyle after I quit my job at an international investment bank. I was 21 at that time. I took the big leap because I was terribly uninspired—it was a job that I didn't love and much like everyone else, I was only clinging to it for the sense of security or stability.

Of course I had thoughts of quitting way before the 'big leap', but society always made me anxious for my future, and people also made me hesitate a lot. Fortunately, aside from stumbling into great self-help inspirational books, I also happened to meet a lot of folks from abroad—they were backpackers, nomads, or entrepreneurs who were traveling the world while doing the things that they love. Naturally, these people inspired me a LOT because they were doing exactly what I wanted to do.

They were even the first ones who encouraged me to quit my job, and that was very refreshing! Finally, I have met people who told me to embrace my fear, to be released from the concept of ‘security’, and to take the leap!

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And so I did.

I decided that I no longer wanted to be led by fear—what I wanted is to have the courage to live boldly and to live each day to the fullest. I didn't want to hate myself or my life anymore... I want to love and enjoy life! I also thought that it would be a waste of my 20s to be cooped up inside an office, doing work that I didn't enjoy.

Besides, I want to avoid looking back on my life with a bitter realization that I am filled with so many regrets, missed opportunities, and 'what ifs'. This a cliché statement, but I have met too many individuals who hold these sentiments and I don't want to end up like that.

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Is there any special work that allows you to fund your trips?

I manage to keep this traveling lifestyle with the help of my blog, freelance work, and online business.

I earn a bit from my travel + lifestyle blog due to advertisements and sponsorships. But the biggest perk from blogging—that helps me travel more—comes from my partnerships with tourism boards, brands, resorts, or hotels. They usually give me all-expenses-paid trips in exchange for added exposure online (accomplished through my written reviews and social media shares).

As for freelancing, I work as a digital nomad: "someone who makes full use of technology in order to work remotely and earn an income whenever and wherever they are."

I offer technical services online, work on them a few hours a day while I travel, and get paid in return. Through this way, I started earning for myself after I left my corporate job, and it was even through one of my online stints that ushered the idea for our online business now.

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What steps did you take to become a digital nomad and how long did it take you?

I actually just finished writing an article about the steps that I took to start this kind of lifestyle. But basically, for me to become the digital nomad that I am now, I first identified the things that I found interest in doing but never had the time to do so. They were: graphic design, web design, SEO management, and online marketing.

I already had prior basic knowledge of graphic and web design because I enjoyed doing these things (as a hobby) ever since I was 12; but, I knew that at that time, I still needed to learn more about these two topics. I also knew that I have to start doing an in-depth study on SEO and online marketing (which I didn't have much of an idea of, especially because they were new to me and they were not even taught in my college courses nor in the past corporate jobs that I had).

Therefore, I started reading articles and tutorials online. After I was confident enough of my skills, I built my digital profile and started doing technical work. In total, this took me 2 months to accomplish. When I was sure that I had a good start, I handed in my resignation.

(But certainly, the learning didn't stop after those 2 months, I still continue to read about these four areas because they are my interests after all.)

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What's the best part of being a digital nomad?

The best part is the freedom and happiness that comes with it!

Freedom + Happiness because: I can do jobs that I enjoy doing, I can bring my 'career' anywhere with me, I can make money while traveling the world, I can be my own boss, I can control my own time, I can do things that I have always wanted to do, I can meet different people from different cultures, I can experience more adventures than ever before...

...I can go on and on about this!

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Where do you think are the best cities to be a digital nomad and why?

I really can't say because there are too many cities that have its own charm or perks... and, it's not like I've been to every city in the world—I'm still working on that, haha! Now, I'm saying this because I don't feel comfortable giving out a 'top list' advice if I haven't tried a big sample yet. (If I may add too, it's also always so hard for me to play favorites!)

What I can say with confidence though, is that the cities in Southeast Asia are GREAT places for starting digital nomads because the cost of living is generally cheaper than the cities on the western part of the world. Besides, chances of meeting fellow nomads are also high in these locations, so networking or socializing will also be an adventure of its own!

*For Filipinos like me that might want to venture out of Asia, try going to South America first because there are several visa-free countries there that will save you the hassle and costs of visa applications.

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You just started a new company, how did you come up with the idea and how's the entrepreneurial journey so far?

Yes, I have, and it's called Adalid Gear! (Adalid is my last name and it means 'champion' in Spanish). It's an online Amazon business that my boyfriend, Jonas, and I have set up together.

*Note: Jonas is a digital nomad himself and he was one of those people that I have met before who inspired me to quit my job.

Now we came up with this company idea because of my online work. During the early months of my digital nomad life, I managed to get a contract with an online Swedish brand that paid really good for the services that I can do. As I worked with them for a year, I managed to learn more about their processes and I also learned how insane the return can be in this kind of business! At one point, I even found out how easy it can be to start a similar business! This surprised me (well of course, as long as you have the right knowledge and resources).

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I told Jonas about this and he too was inspired or encouraged to do the same. As a result: I ended my contract with the Swedish company, partnered up with Jonas, learned more about the business, got ourselves some mentors (such as the CEO of the Swedish company that I was working for), and come May 2014, we managed to get our shop up and running!

Right now, I can say that the business is going really good and the entrepreneurial journey has been very exciting and fulfilling! There were times that we feared that we might fail, but we believed in what we have done. (Up till now, we are still and always taken by surprise whenever we see our products taking off very well!)

I guess in a way, this tells me that going by my journey, taking bold + informed 'leaps' and having great sources of inspiration or support will ALWAYS be important factors in order to be successful in what you do.

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You've mentioned that you travel with your boyfriend, what are the highs and lows? 

Yes, we do travel together! But we also travel separately sometimes; once, he went to Japan and I went to Thailand and that was a nice plan because it made us miss each other a lot. I say this because being together all the time almost always leaves no room for missing one another, so it's good to have some space sometimes. (Though I have to admit that we actually agreed that a month away from each other is too much... I guess we're inseparable now.)

So yeah, I guess that's the 'lowest' it can get when traveling with your boyfriend (the 'no room for missing each other', etc.). Other than that, I can't think of anything at all... which makes me realize that Jonas and I are really good partners that we never had any significant 'lows' when we're together. We always joke about this because after more than 2 years together, we haven't had a serious argument yet. Of course we had serious discussions but never to a point that we fight, raise our voices, get angry, etc. This is why, sometimes, we make up arguments of our own playfully:

Jonas: "Is there mushroom in this?"
Me: "No... but I could! So we can finally have a serious argument now!"
Jonas: "Meh... maybe not today."

So for my top most tip: communication. It really just boils down to it and it's the definite 'key' in relationships. I'm not much of an emotional person so I stray away from the silent treatment or whatnot. If I don't like something, I tell him instantly—which he appreciates. We both value honesty and we hate wasting time. Other than that: compromising, setting roles, and sharing costs fairly are all good things to exercise as well especially when traveling.

Now the obvious 'highs' of traveling with your partner is that you grow together and you enjoy wonderful moments together—you go through things with your best friend. There is this quote from the movie Into the Wild: "Happiness is only real when shared."

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What advice can you share with those sitting at their desks right now thinking they can't do what you're doing?

Just do it.

Especially if you don't love what you're doing. It's never too late and it's a lot less scary than you might think. Remember this famous quote:"Making a big life change is pretty scary. But you know what’s even scarier? Regret."

Besides... "You will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do." So take the leap.

Now I know that some of you might think that it's not the 'right time' yet. Well, let me tell you this: There's NO right time. You just do it and make time for it. It's as simple as that. Besides, we are never ready for anything anyway... may it be love, studies, or moving to a new place.

It just happens if YOU let it happen.

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Aileen is a 20-something wild spirit from the Philippines who has an incurable case of wanderlust. She is the mastermind behind 'I am Aileen', a travel + lifestyle blog where she documents her travels, thoughts, and experiences as she aims to inspire other people to live life to the fullest. Follow her adventure updates around the globe on Facebook!

Want more? Read other features on Sole Sister Spotlight.

Do you know of travelers who conquer the world one country at a time? We would love to interview them for Sole Sister Spotlight. Please send us an email at solesisters .weare@gmail .com. We look forward to your suggestions!

Searching for other sisters who make travel happen,
Sole Sister Lois

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2 sole trails

  1. Thank you so much for the feature, Lois! It's an honor to be here as a 'sole sister' :) Cheers!


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