Once upon a time there was a grey cubicle on a high floor in a corporate building.

In there sat an employee. She always has to be sure to swipe her keycard just before 8:30am. Otherwise she’d be receiving a “soft reminder” email about punctuality.

One of the many emails to read, mark, reply and forward on a routine day.

This same employee then sat for hours on end. Monitoring the time from the bottom left bar of her laptop. Willing the time to tick 12:00pm for lunch. Then once again for it to tick 5:30pm and release from her office box.

The numbed journey back home involved a 40-minute commute.

Once home, her attention would still not drift from a screen. Scrolling down a newsfeed, binge watching TV and/or eating junk food was a routine distraction.

Press repeat for the next day.

Does this story sound familiar to you? It was my story in the last 2 years before I quit everything for the single conviction that I wanted to rediscover my passion.

I’m still rediscovering it, understanding myself better each day and haven’t regretted a moment since. Turning away from a cushy job and cushy income gave space for other aspects of life I had not been attuned to.

I joke and introduce to people for lack of a more accurate label that I’m a digital nomad. Though more digital than actually nomadic. I don’t make the big bucks as a full-time office job would give but I’m much happier now.

I choose lifestyle over work.

My friends and people, I’ve met through my travels often ask how to get to the stage I’m in. The conversation with her made me think that what I share next might help others have clarity on whether the digital nomad/remote work/location independence might be for them.

pino latte khao kho thailand
Photo Credit: Yone L

The person asked me the following:

I’m thinking I need a change and I want to know your perspective?

Alright, let’s start playing Devil’s advocate and answer me these questions:

  • Why do you think you need a change? Is it career, ambience, bored or just tired?
  • If you could go anywhere where would you go?
  • What job would you do if you could pick anything regardless of money?

The response was:
“I must want a change and really want to try something that I can work from my computer and travel.

I have so many ideas, so I do need to think it through and see which are my best options.

If I could go anywhere, I would go everywhere. Hehe. I have so many undecided questions.

If I could do anything, I would help out the poor in the US and around the world. It is very broad, but when I was younger I wanted to help the poor kids in the inner city. This was the one of the reasons I got into teaching. But I thought about doing nonprofits during college.
I don’t know if I would do that now, but if something came up I might. I guess I really don’t have a plan, but want to at least investigate my options.
I see several of my friends making changes and I don’t want to sit back just because I’m comfortable.

So, I’m trying to find another career move. But I know that I can travel and teach, so it might be my best option as of right now.”

This is probably where most of us start out at, we just want an out. An anything, anywhere and though at the time for me I had not even the digital nomad word in my vocabulary I had a faint sketch of what I wanted.

Here’s my response to my friend:

Well start writing out 2–3 options for each.

Having a very faint idea is better then none. Work wise for me I wanted something part time, remote and with a monthly pay to start in a startup/small business. By having that outlined in my mind those were the type of gigs I would apply or look for.

Not having a direction makes it hard to focus on what you want it will confuse you because there are many options!

Travel everywhere that’s fine. Especially if you have savings use those to take a break. Go do all the stuff wouldn’t be able to do on a full time routine. I had a list of things I wanted to do or see when I ventured to Norway and in Thailand — again for a rough sketch.. The nonprofits are a good starting point. If you have savings how about taking a month or two to volunteer? See what you enjoy from the experience — it will all provide an better idea of what role you gravitate more to. Or on a long run even lead to online consulting for non-profits to run more !

I noticed and found for myself that the options are within yourself and the choices are outside.

Knowing options brings awareness. Listen to the available choices that otherwise would not have been on your radar! This might sound ambiguous but take this recent personal experience as an example:

These last 30 days I started Thai boxing training. 6 days a week, every evening for 2 hours I’m engaged to this practice. I have been so committed to it that I realised I’ve always wanted to learn a martial art. It’s a bonus I so happen to be getting exercise and losing weight.

If recognise that people are making changes don’t worry.

Sometimes it’s not the moment. Others now it’s the time for you to “choose yourself”. Sounds like you already know that teaching isn’t your whole life. Instead, it can be a complement or a transferable skill for you to take anywhere.

Though if you de-plug instead of jumping from one career to the next career move it can give you clarity.

My first year after leaving China I noticed that for me it wasn’t enough time to “find my dream”. It was a reset period. Learning how to be better friends with myself by putting me first into whatever intrigued me.

Staying open to it without letting the negative get to me helped as well. The main shift that you are referring to is no longer living 9 to 5 job days to calling the shots. When you want to work and from where. It’s scary of course because it’s unchartered waters. But don’t worry you live/survived in China! I’m a firm believer after thriving in China one can go anywhere!

Know as well that if it doesn’t work out that you can always return to a full time job. It’s not a failure but a lesson. You tried it and it’s not a fit. Heck, I once thought that the corporate environment was for me.

But it sounds like you might want to take a month or a few as a breather. From there all your undecided questions will start to get less tangled.

Well, there’s my advice for anyone who is seeking clarity from perspective of someone still navigating between oceans. My friend responded that this was just she needed to hear and I hope this helps you too.

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