You could say that you are on a “career adventure” instead of a career path. Welcome to “Choose Your Own Adventure”! Our “career adventure” interview series charts the joys & challenges, and many different directions our career adventures can take us. Anything from career changes, working remotely, freelancing, contracting, self-employment, starting your own business, working on your own projects alongside your day job, having a side hustle or a portfolio career – all depending on what choices we make, what steps we choose to take, what opportunities or challenges that come our way in the most unlikely of places that help you to choose your own adventure.
Since quitting her job as a magazine editor in London seven years ago to go freelance, Elly has lived in and worked from Thailand, Bali, and Ibiza, where the apartment she decided to give up had been home for the best part of two years. We interview Elly Earls while we’re in Thailand and she’s in New Zealand!
Here she shares her digital nomad adventures living with no home base as she travels quickly between multiple different countries and taking her work – as a freelance hospitality and travel journalist – with her! Thanks for sharing your story with us, Elly!
Tell us about yourself
I’m Elly, I’m 33 years old, I’m a freelance journalist and I’ve been location independent for the past eight years. Prior to that I worked as a journalist and editor in London and Dubai. I spent my teenage years in Thailand and took my first ever solo trip when I was about 9 years old to visit a school friend in Spain!
Travel has been a big part of my life for a very long time and I can’t imagine how differently things would have turned out if my parents hadn’t decided to up sticks and move to Bangkok almost 20 years ago. I’m very glad they did.
In terms of hobbies I love to read (my happy place is curled up with a book on a hammock), do yoga, hike, swim, surf (although I’m very much a beginner!) and the usual stuff – listening to podcasts, watching movies, spending time with friends and family and enjoying a nice glass (or three) of Sauvignon Blanc.
What are you working on now?
I have various magazine and website clients in the hospitality and travel industries but I’m mainly focusing on pitching article ideas about digital nomadism and remote work. Eventually, I’d love that to be all I write about. I also have a book in the pipeline. Stay tuned!
Could you tell us about how your career adventures started. What experiences, challenges or opportunities have you come across over the years that led you to choose your own adventure? Where has your career adventure taken you in the past leading you to where you are now?
It was actually my boyfriend at the time who convinced me to go freelance back in 2011. He was really keen to try out the digital nomad lifestyle and knew I could do what I do from anywhere. I wasn’t happy in my editor job and had been thinking that I wasn’t interested in progressing beyond where I was – becoming a group editor or a managing editor would just mean more paperwork and meetings and less writing, which is the part I love. So we quit our jobs, sold all our stuff, moved out of our three bed house, spent a few months at his Mum’s place getting my freelance career off the ground, while he figured out what he was going to do, and then we headed for Thailand!
Where has my career adventure taken me since then? So many places, literally and figuratively! I’ve had incredible highs and horrendous lows. We made so, so, so many mistakes in those early years! We worked way too hard, didn’t make any time for fun, drove our relationship into the ground, became incredibly stressed and eventually after a couple of years in South East Asia, mainly between Thailand and Bali, ended up moving back to Europe because it was too hard.
But after we broke up and I spent a few years in Ibiza, enjoying having a base and getting back to myself, I realised I wasn’t done with digital nomadism. So I hit the road again – alone this time – in early 2018. It was the best decision I could have possibly made.
This time around, I’m doing it very differently. I don’t get it right all the time, but I have a much better work-life balance than previously. I’m disciplined with separating when I’m working and when I’m having fun – whether that’s exploring or just taking some time for myself to do the things I love outside of work.
“Freedom comes from discipline,” according to productivity coach Jo Bendle, who I interviewed for a recent article I wrote for UK freelancing magazine UnderPinned.
I’ve also made a big effort to get involved in the various communities that have popped up over the last few years in the digital nomad world. Digital Nomad Girls and 7in7 have been particularly life changing. That feeling of being part of something, a bigger movement, and knowing you have a digital nomad family all over the world is probably one of the main reasons I’m still on the road almost two years after leaving Ibiza.
What past projects or anything that you have worked on spark joy for you when you look back at what you have worked on?
Outside of paid work, the community projects I’ve created have been the ones that have sparked the most joy. When I was based in Bangkok in 2012, I created a book club called Runaway Readers because I was struggling to meet people there. It was such a great feeling to bring people together who were also feeling lonely!
Similarly, in Ibiza, a friend and I created a monthly event called Ibiza After Work designed to bring expats and locals together. It was great fun and a really rewarding little side project.
Last year in Bali, I also created a group for writers, where we got together to co-work once a week, as well as helping each other out with writing related challenges.
Work wise, I’m happiest when I’m writing about digital nomadism. I feel like this phenomenon is going to have such a huge impact on the way we work and live in the future and when I’m writing about it, I sometimes catch myself grinning and have to remind myself that this is actually work.
How do you choose what to work on?
I try to find a good balance between well-paying bread-and-butter type work, which is writing about hospitality trends and copywriting, and the stuff I really love, which, as you may have gathered by now, is writing about travel and digital nomadism. I’m also trying to make more time to work on my book– currently it’s an hour a day but I plan to crank it up in the next month or so.
What advice, practical or otherwise, would you give to someone looking to start a career adventure similar to your own?
I’d advise them to suck up a few years of working as an employee before going freelance. During the time I spent working as an editorial assistant, then features writer, then editor in Dubai and London, I built up the contacts and experience that I needed to go freelance successfully. If I’d started from absolutely nothing, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have got where I am now.
Could you describe your day-to-day at “the office(s)”?
I try to stick to a similar routine most days, no matter where I am in the world, but obviously I don’t succeed all the time. The goal is to get up early – about 6.45am or 7am, do 10 minutes of meditation and then either a yoga class or a swim. Then I write for a few hours in the morning – that’s when I’m most creative. In the afternoons, I do my emails, research and pitching. As mentioned, this is a massive generalisation and definitely doesn’t happen every day!
Also, the amazing thing about this lifestyle is that I can take a day off mid-week if I feel like it (and don’t have any urgent deadlines).and go for a hike, do some exploring or just have a lazy day on the beach. I do a lot more of this than I used to and am overall much happier, more productive and more creative because of it.
Where do you feel you work best and thrive the most?
Routine is really important for me. Even if I’m moving quickly – say every few weeks – I try to get into a routine as soon as I get somewhere, which means either finding a yoga class or a pool and blocking out the time in my calendar when I’m working.
What inspires and drives you every day?
My friends and accountability buddies. I’m incredibly lucky to have amazing people in my life who are always on hand to pick me up if I’m feeling a bit (or a lot!) low and get me back on track. I have one friend who I exchange voice notes with almost every day – I think we’ve probably only missed a week in the last two years! There’s no way I’d have achieved what I have over that time without her. More recently, I’ve become part of an accountability group with three other writers – we all want to write books and we check in every day and have a group call every week.
What advice would you give to your younger self, knowing what you know now?
Great question! One of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt over the last couple of years is the importance of living in the present and not being sucked into worrying about the past or the future. Obviously, that’s easier said than done, but it’s something I always try to keep in mind these days. I’d also have told my younger self to pick up Brené Brown’s books ASAP – everything she has to say about courage and vulnerability and putting yourself in the arena, even if it’s hard, is must-read material for everybody.
Feel free to contact us at Project Anywhere if you have any questions about any of our career adventure stories. Come back soon to read more career adventures! Contact us here if you’d like to be featured here to share your own career adventures story or if you would like to write a guest blog for Project Anywhere.