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Choose Your Own Career Adventures with Alice Johnson

As we return to our interview series we interview Alice, a vegan content writer and public health scientist. Like me, her nomad adventures have been paused this year due to the pandemic. Alice tells us how since going plant-based in 2015, she and her sister has made it their mission to discover the best food, travel destinations, sustainable fashion, and experiences available for vegans. Alongside this, Alice and her sister Lucy work together to use businesses as forces for good to promote a more vegan and sustainable world.

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.

As we return to our interview series we interview Alice, a vegan content writer and public health scientist. Like me, her nomad adventures have been paused this year due to the pandemic. Alice tells us how since going plant-based in 2015, she and her sister has made it their mission to discover the best food, travel destinations, sustainable fashion, and experiences available for vegans. Alongside this, Alice and her sister Lucy work together to use businesses as forces for good to promote a more vegan and sustainable world.

Thank you, Alice, for sharing your vegan nomad adventures that have taken you from Suffolk to Mexico, San Francisco, LA, New Orleans, Miami, The Bahamas, and Cuba!

1. Tell us about yourself

Hi everyone, I’m Alice! I grew up just outside of London and I’m currently spending lockdown with my family in Suffolk. Before the pandemic started, I was exploring the amazing vegan cafes and restaurants in the sleepy mountains of San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico. My other destinations this year include San Francisco, LA, New Orleans, Miami, The Bahamas, and Cuba. Whilst Cuba is probably up there as one of my favourite locations, it’s definitely not a good place to work as a digital nomad…or to persevere as a vegan. I just about survived on a diet of rum and rice!

I travel a lot, but I also love my home comforts and love nothing more than a good walk in the British countryside. Whenever I am at home, you’ll find me in the kitchen experimenting with kimchi, cashew cheese, and homemade skincare products.

2. What are you working on now? 

Too many things! Anyone who is familiar with me knows that I often bite off more than I can chew. My main source of income is freelance writing work but other things I am working on include setting up my own online vegan community (Vegan Sisters) and creating v-learning courses with my sister; studying the Korean language and English poetry; recording an EP with my step-dad; endeavouring to create the best cultured cashew cheese, fermented mushroom, and kimchi recipes so I can start my own fermentation business; and working on my strength gains. Oh…and trying to fit some sleep in there too!

3. Could you tell us about how your career adventure(s) started, about what experiences, challenges or opportunities you came 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? 

Having both travelled themselves, my parents have always instilled a sense of wanderlust. This is why, when I was 18, I jumped at the chance to go on a month-long trip to Tanzania with my sixth form class. We climbed Mount Meru, harvested coffee beans, bathed in the azure waters off the coast of Zanzibar, snorkelled with rainbow-coloured fish, spotted leopards on safari, tracked wild elephants, made jewellery in darkened mud huts with a Maasai tribe, and explored the bustling streets of Dar es Salaam. 

I knew I had to travel again and not just for a holiday. I mean really travel.

However, I battled internally for years with the idea that travelling was just something I should fit around my career. It wasn’t until I had graduated from my first degree, spent a few years volunteering at labs to further my career in science and worked long and unrewarding hours in a bar that I realised a few trips here and there just weren’t enough. So, I quit my job and signed up for International Citizenship Service, which is a government-funded placement at a chosen charity. I ended up in Zimbabwe for three months working for Restless Development.

It was definitely a challenging environment to work in, not least because of the polychronic culture. Nevertheless, it helped me realise that I was much happier working for a cause and doing something I loved: experiencing new cultures. Thanks to my life-shaping experience in Zimbabwe, I went on to study a Masters in Public Health and International Development, giving me the opportunity to travel to many more wonderful countries. But, try as I might, I still couldn’t land myself a paid job and, instead, I volunteered my butt off! Obviously, having no income at all is not particularly sustainable.

Finally, I settled as an Operations Manager at Food Works, a not-for-profit organisation working to eliminate food waste and redistributing it to community projects. It was an incredibly stressful but rewarding experience and I loved having the opportunity to benefit people’s lives. But (yes, there’s another ‘but’!) I felt trapped and over-worked and still felt like something was missing. After 2 years of working my way up the ropes, I quit my job and moved to South Korea for a year to work as a TEFL teacher.

From that point on I decided that I would make my own opportunities. No more competing with thousands of other well-educated hopefuls for a job that might allow me to see more of the world. I would turn my approach on its head by prioritising my need to travel and fitting a career around my lifestyle instead. I’ve always been a decent writer, having written for numerous scientific journals and magazines, so whilst I was working as a teacher, I began to build up my writing portfolio and networked on LinkedIn.

Now, I’m my own boss. I work when I want and wherever I want. Thanks to content writing, I’ve been able to swing into the blue lagoons of Laos; learn how to swing dance and dress up for a Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans; walk the canopies of Singapore’s Sky Garden; waddle around the cobbled streets of Kyoto in a stunning pink kimono; drink mojitos and dance the night away on the streets of Old Havana; and relax at a yoga class on a beach in The Bahamas.

Yes, I do work hand-to-mouth. No, it’s not the best-paid job in the world. However, even this has led to some incredible experiences. Perhaps, if I was earning enough to sleep in fancy hotel rooms instead of CouchSurfing, I would not have met so many amazingly generous and kind souls. Nevertheless, I am working on setting up a more consistent and reliable income with Vegan Sisters. You never know when you might need that safety cushion!

4. What past projects or anything that you have worked on spark joy?

There are so many! In a nutshell, anything involving charitable or community work.

For example, during my masters, I had the opportunity to stay at the University of Makeni in Sierra Leone and conduct research on the well-being of Ebola survivors. Whilst I was there, the university asked me if I could share some of my time with their students and so I volunteered to lecture on Public Health. It gave me joy to think that my lessons were helping others to gain skills to benefit their communities, especially in a time of crisis.

Writing has also been amazing – it is more than just a job. I am lucky in that I get to choose (to some extent) the clients I work with and I’ve had some incredibly inspirational ones! That means I have had the opportunity to write about subjects I really care about, such as saving the coral reefs, reducing plastic waste, rewilding, veganism, and sustainability.

5. How do you choose what to work on?

That’s a difficult question! I don’t think I always do at the moment. The majority of my content writing clients have come through Shido Digital Marketing Agency, which already does most of the vetting for me (they only work with vegan and sustainable businesses). But for other projects (everything I mentioned in Question 2), I really don’t know when to stop! I’m working on it, but I find it difficult to say no if something comes up that I am passionate about.

6. What advice, practical or otherwise, would you give to someone looking to start a career adventure similar to your own?

There is no right or wrong way to embark on a career adventure. Society is not the same as it once was, where you have to work in the same career for your entire life. I let the thought of a diverse and eclectic career history worry me for far too long but why shouldn’t we be able to try different things? If something doesn’t work out, pick yourself up and try something else. It’s not always easy but the experiences are priceless.

7. Could you describe your day-to-day at “the office(s)”? 

That really depends on where I am, but I tend to start with a workout (strength, gym, bike ride, whatever is available to me at the time) and then a shower and breakfast. After this, it’s work mode. I can’t lounge around in pyjamas like some people, I have to be fully dressed and sat at a desk with a cup of tea/coffee. Sometimes this is at the place I’m staying, sometimes it’s at a cafe.

Depending on my workload, I like to write in the mornings and spend the afternoons exploring wherever I am. I might do a bit more work in the afternoons/evenings but mostly admin, such as answering emails to clients, developing Vegan Sisters, editing, networking/generating leads on LinkedIn, etc.

Actually, to tell you the truth, a lot of my life revolves around food…I’ll often choose where to work based on where I can get hold of the best vegan doughnuts or find a coffee shop that’s not too far from a restaurant I wanted to go to for lunch!

8. Where do you feel you work best and thrive the most? (This could be ways of working or environments)

If it’s possible, I like to work in a quiet space on my own. As an introvert, I work best when there are no distractions and I can shut myself off from the world. This is often quite difficult whilst travelling, especially because I CouchSurf, but sometimes I get lucky and have the opportunity to work at a table in an empty house. It has to feel different to my relaxation space though, working in the same place that I sleep doesn’t feel right and leads me to distraction.

Furthermore, when I’m writing, I have to zone in. I’m not the type of person that can write a paragraph, talk to the person next to me, and then write another paragraph. It ruins my concentration and my writing doesn’t flow. Music is also a distraction, I get so into it that I have to work in silence. However, I do sometimes find that I hum to myself as I work – much to the annoyance of anyone sat next to me!

9. What inspires and drives you every day?

You only get one life and there’s so much to see, people to meet, food to try, music to dance to, and experiences to share. What’s more, there are still many barriers for women. I make it part of my mission to push for change, inspire others to follow their hearts, and change some attitudes whilst I’m at it!

10. What advice would you give to your younger self, knowing what you know now?

No advice. I’ve made some pretty big mistakes in life and it’s not always been easy, but I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.

You can learn more about Alice’s work by visiting her Vegan Sisters online community or Vegan Sisters online learning platform!

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.

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I’m often working on stories and blogs from cafes or co-working spaces while fueled by copious amounts of tea and coffee! 🙂 If you’d like to support Project Anywhere by buying me a cuppa you can do so by clicking on the button here. Thank you! Becky x

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