By: Tekisha Harvey, Cape Town and Buenos Aires Alumni
I knew it for the longest time that Corporate America was not for me. It was never part of my 10-year plan. I enjoyed working in branding and marketing. However, after spending 15 years in 5 different companies, I felt the corporate life was not a fit for me anymore. So I made an exit plan, and quit my job in July 2017. But here’s the thing: quitting a job doesn’t have to be followed by a narrative of being a free-spirited traveler seeking the Instagram-friendly, wanderlust lifestyle. Quitting a job can be a revelation - a shift in your mindset and orientation to how you work. Behind all of the glory built up around being your own boss today, many people actually have deeply held doubts and fears about it because of, ironically, the immense freedom it brings, and the dreaded 'P’ word. You know it... procrastination!
My plan was to take a year off to travel and figure out what was next for me. I felt an increasing call to explore the world. I felt the urge for some epic adventures. For me that meant going to different countries and experiencing new cultures, languages, and food. But do it on my own.
We work most of our lives and often feel guilty about taking time off. Well, guess what? We weren’t put on earth to work, work and then work some more. It’s okay and necessary to feed our souls with breaks from our daily life. Growth comes from being outside of our comfort zones.
Four weeks after I quit my job, I satisfied my inner explorer and landed in Africa. In Kenya, I went on a safari in Maasai Mara, and rode a camel on the white sandy beaches of Mombasa. Being on my own in Tanzania, I reconnected with myself on the serene island of Zanzibar. Maybe it was because I was alone, or maybe I was on an intentional break from work, but I was taking in my surroundings like never before. I experienced true freedom.
Soon after I connected with 25 beautiful souls at an Unsettled coworking retreat in Cape Town, South Africa for a month, and it was then when I realized how travel and work could coincide in my life. I connected with people in transition, people taking a sabbatical from corporate jobs and some who were already living the entrepreneurial life. The best part of the experience was getting access to a community of people who supported and helped me to form my new business. When I took this new career path, I wasn’t aware that I could find so many other people who were like-minded and had a more purposeful approach to making a living. The experience helped me tremendously in walking forward in my new career as an entrepreneur.
Fast forward to now, I find that travel and getting out of my usual setting plays an integral role in clearing my head and finding inspiration. Since Cape Town, I’ve spent a month in Colombia and then my second month living Unsettled in Buenos Aires, Argentina. As I pen this, I’m plotting two months of travel around Europe and SouthEast Asia. The more places I visit and the more people I meet, the more I want to make it a permanent part of my lifestyle.
It does take some discipline; so here are some tips on how you can achieve that work/life symphony.
The basic logistics
Pick a country or city where you’d like to live for a few weeks. I like to travel slowly to really absorb the culture. You can see beautiful pictures of places, but you can’t experience what people are really like through Instagram photos. Once I have a destination in mind, I typically stay in an Airbnb and make it my new ‘home’. Adapting to the new environment keeps my mind off autopilot -- and this is important when you’re trying to explore and be productive at the same time. Conquering how to get around and where to shop for groceries energizes me and fuels the go-getter spirit in all aspects of my life. If I’m worried about reaching out to a client or putting myself out there, I just remember that I can navigate in a country where I don’t speak the language, so “I’ve got this!”
Finding a community
When it comes to networking, I meet and connect with other digital nomads or locals via introductions from friends or connecting with the Unsettled community of over 800 alumni from around the world on Facebook. I once met a guy in Medellin who had a podcast about families who launch new businesses. Turned out we had a connection we didn’t even know about - he was from my hometown in Florida. After we connected, he offered me great advice for my new business at the time. This moment instantly proved that I could meet great people from around the world who’d inspire me personally and professionally.
Find a routine
Does your day start at 10am, break at noon for a Pilates class, then resume again from 2pm until early evening? Whatever your ideal day is, you create it. Ever since quitting the 9-5 grind, I often find myself working the weekends because my whole idea of a traditional ‘work week’ has shifted. When I’m in a different time zone, I adjust my work times to account for client calls. You know you’re on the right career path and have somehow managed to find that work/life integration when you’re energized to work on weekends and take a Skype call at 10pm on a Friday night (insert praise hand emoji!).
Here’s a glimpse at my general daily routine, as it changes based on my location in the world;
8:30AM Wake up and meditate for 10 minutes
9AM Breakfast and write down my intentions for the day
10AM Start my work day at my local coworking space or cafe
1PM Lunch break
2-4:30PM Work again
7PM Exercise class at the gym
9PM Work, read, browse internet or watch some Netflix
In addition to a daily routine, short checklists help me with productivity and accountability. Having them, especially while traveling, keeps me on task and tracks what I’m accomplishing every day.
But where does sightseeing and visiting local sights fit among all this? When living and working in another country, I make time to enjoy the city I’m in, but since my goal is not to simply see the tourist hotspots,I don’t feel like I’m missing out if I don’t see them immediately. Breakfasts with new friends, or going for a short walk around the block post-lunch are good ways to explore and not feel like a tourist either.
In the last few months, I’ve found that travel has fuelled my creativity and has changed my outlook on what work looks like for me. There are a lot of jobs out there that sit outside of the traditional office space, and guess what, we’re all still surviving and motivated as ever.
Travel has benefited my business by making me a happier, and a more fulfilled person. I’m a true ‘pleasure to work with’ (my clients words, not mine!), and I wouldn’t trade these good vibes for anything.