My Nomadic Life - How I Transitioned From a 9-5 to Travelling The World
Last year I wrote a post titled “How I’ve Built A Life I No Longer ‘Need’ a Vacation From” that went completely viral. It outlined my decision to take an indefinite break from the corporate world to purse a life of passion, freedom, and flexibility. At the time this was written, I had no real plan and was navigating life trying to figure things out.
And here we are today… one year after that blog was published. I’ve grown so much over this last year. I’m well on my journey and have identified a path that feeds my soul daily. Since that last blog, I decided to continue this break from corporate (with zero plan to return anytime soon) and started building a few businesses that I’m proud to say are profitable and doing extremely well.
But I always say: What good is living a life of success and fulfillment, if you can’t help others do the same? I’m all about adding value where it makes sense, and it just doesn’t feel right sharing all of this glamour without having you understand the path that got me here. I've been blessed in so many ways and I’d like to share my process in a little more detail with you. You see, being vulnerable and open is easy for me these days, because I see the profound impact it can have on others…. And that’s SO worth it. So here goes!
These days, I spend most of my time traveling the world while running my businesses. For the last few years, I’ve explored extensively through Asia, Europe, Africa, and North America travelling to over 40 countries. It’s been a blast! Many will look at my life and only see the glamour, but what most people don't know is that it took years of struggle, hustle, and planning to get here. Let me walk you through this 5-year journey of mine with the hope that it can help to show you that anything you put your mind to is possible.
My journey truthfully begins 12 years ago with my weight loss of 90 pounds. But back in 2013, having kept the weight off for 7 years, I began to take this weight loss more seriously and eventually became a personal trainer. I saw so many issues with this industry that I was determined to show people how to lose weight the right and sustainable way. I became obsessed with sharing a more balanced lifestyle approach in a world of fad diets, weight loss pills, waist trainers, and extreme measures. I began posting before and after photos on Instagram and my story and message went viral. Large publications began to feature my weight loss, and generally speaking, people seemed to really resonate with my approach to healthy living. Before I knew it, I had tens of thousands of people following me that relied on my tips to help them on their weight loss journey.
Around that time (about 5 years ago), I was so thankful I had personal training as my side hustle in addition to this online platform I was building because I was going through a lot of depression. My full-time job in Human Resources wasn’t fulfilling me and I was also going through a lot personally – I was getting a divorce and swimming in $50,000 worth of debt. My husband at the time deceived me in the most tragic way, so in addition to depression, I was also dealing with that trauma. After all the legal issues were settled, I needed a change – a big change. I just couldn’t simply ‘exist’ in life anymore. I always knew deep down I was destined for greatness, but something kept holding me back. In a way, I’m thankful for that traumatic situation. Because of it, I decided it was a good time to escape my reality. I needed OUT of North America.
I did a lot of research and realized the best way for me to travel extensively and make good money (to help with my debt) was to move abroad. Being in HR, I knew the safest way to do this was to have a company relocate me. I was risk-adverse, so it seemed like the best approach for me! The only issue was - I was working for a Canadian company at the time… so I knew I needed to find a new job. I hustled hard and after many interviews, I landed an HR job with a global corporation that publicly promoted their support of international moves. Only downfall - It was a 6-month contract.
I wanted change so badly but I was (naturally) hesitant. I went with my gut and took the biggest risk I’d taken to date; I left my full-time job, pension, company stocks, tenure, and benefits for this contractual opportunity. I had a mortgage, obligations, and crazy debt, but even the slight possibility of moving abroad was worth the risk.
After working extremely hard for 6 months, I was made full-time. Once I became full-time, I knew that I was eligible for international assignments, so I started campaigning. I began expressing extreme interest at every global opportunity that came up – my manager’s manager’s manager knew of my aspirations. I worked hard so I was on everyone’s radar. And then finally, after 6 months of campaigning, I finally got the chance to move abroad for a 6-month assignment. To Hong Kong! It was the perfect country to help fulfill my wanderlust desires and financial obligations. I picked up and moved to Hong Kong without ever actually seeing it. I was THAT eager to go! I got the offer in July and was out by September. Growing up in Canada, I had barely travelled internationally and never lived abroad so this now became the largest risk I had ever taken.
As I was gearing up to move, all of my personal training clients from my side hustle (I was juggling about 10 at the time) were wondering how they were going to keep up with their wellness journeys without me there. I saw this as an opportunity to start helping them virtually (providing meal plans, fitness plans, and accountability to them). This was the beginning of my online training business. Because I was still posting regularly online and growing my social media accounts, when I purposed the Online Training offering to my followers, I garnered a lot of interest. I began taking on 20+ online clients a month.
While working in Hong Kong and juggling my new side hustle, I began seizing every day and found a new zest for life. I started travelling monthly visiting Thailand, Bali, Philippines, India, Taiwan, China, Japan, Korea… basically every country in Asia! My love affair with travel officially took off and at every opportunity, I was out exploring. I also worked like crazy in my new position! That ‘6-month assignment’ turned into a full-time permanent role in Hong Kong, all while I was building my side business. I was easily working 60-70 hours per week. But I was determined to live my best life, get out of debt, and grow this side hustle.
I’m going to segue briefly to discuss the debt – $50,000 is a lot of money. When I found this new zest for life, I still felt bogged down by OSAP (Canada’s Sally Mae/student loan program), the debt from my divorce, and consumer debt (which piled up from years of living outside of my means). I wasn’t as free as I wanted to be because I had this heavy weight over me. I began to read books on how to get out of debt. To date, the best one I’ve read was Debt Free Forever. It was a no-nonsense practical approach to tackling debt once and for all. During this time of getting out of debt I lived EXTREMELY humbly. To give you an idea of what humble meant for me - even though I was making 6 figures, I lived in an old 300 square foot walk up apartment, made every meal at home, walked or took the bus everywhere, and got the cheapest phone/cable/utility plans I could find - these were my only monthly expenses. I cut up/froze my credit cards and began to use everything in cash (for online purchases I used a visa debit card). I used all the money from my side hustle to pay for travel, while my generous income covered my (very) basic expenses and my debt. It took me about 18 months until I became completely debt free and I haven’t borrowed a penny since. I paid down approx. $1500 a month on the debt, and used 2 hefty end-of-year bonus paycheques to clear the rest. Once I got out of debt (about 3 years ago), I began saving like crazy as I was already accustomed to a very simple lifestyle. All the money I put towards my debt started going directly into savings. I was able to save about $2,000 month (again living very humbly and juggling a side hustle to top up my income), and threw bonus paycheques into savings. I’ll touch more on how much I saved a little later on :)
2015 to 2017
My overall time in Hong Kong (working, jugging my side hustle, and travelling extensively) lasted about 3 years. Sadly, it was no longer rewarding. When the honeymoon stage of living abroad was over, the truth was clear: I still wasn’t fulfilled in my full-time job. The actual role or function hadn’t changed - just the country I was working in. And on top of that, I was working insane hours and on the verge of a burnout. I began to realize my time abroad had been a bit of a band-aid solution; the root issues still existed. I started having dreams of traveling the world without limits and working full-time in my passion for health and wellness. HR was not my passion. Living a life of freedom, flexibility, and purpose became my new goal. My online business continued to boom, so I officially began planning for my departure from corporate. Once I got out of debt and started aggressively saving, the options felt endless. And because I took that first leap to move across the globe, this upcoming leap didn’t feel so overwhelming. By the time I realized I was ready to plan my entrance into the world of entrepreneurship, I started to save even more.
I saved for an additional year and a half before I decided it was time to leave. Between my side hustle and my aggressive savings plan, I saved about $80,000 over a year and a half. I had already saved about $20,000 before I started getting serious… so in total I had $100,000 before leaving corporate. Now, before you think this is a lot of money, Hong Kong is extremely lucrative. It’s a cash cow as taxes are very low. Because of this, I could have been living like a complete baller (like most of my peers), but instead, as mentioned above, I decided to live like a student. Doing things like making food every day for lunch, taking transit everywhere, and being extremely frugal while living in a place where people bought and did everything.
No shopping. No Nails. No Hair Appointments (thank God for Youtube). No Nothing. While aggressively saving, I even took a break on the intense travel. I made use of work travel and all of my personal travel took a back seat. I lived so minimally the average person probably thought I was broke. This is how badly I wanted this dream. I started a money group with a dear friend who shared similar aspirations, together we met monthly to hold each other accountable, share new learnings, and go over our budgets/expenses/savings plans.
I also became interested in investing, so I didn’t need to physically save all of that money, as my money started growing for me thanks to the wonderful world of compound interest. I joined every matching program at work (I mean, it’s free money) and I began to invest in ETF’s, Index Funds, and Stocks. The best investment book I found was Money Master the Game . That really showed me how to make my money work for me, diversify my portfolio, and plan for financial freedom… forever.
My savings gave me the confidence to eventually leave my job. Don’t get me wrong, I was still extremely nervous! It actually took me not getting a promotion to finally build up the confidence to leave. I left on great terms with my company with the thought that if I ever needed to go back, I could! I served my 2 month notice period and haven’t looked back. I still remember the last day of work (May 5, 2017): I was taking the train home and cried while giggling the whole way out of sheer disbelief and fear. I had no idea what was coming.
After I left my job, I travelled Europe for 4 months to do some dreaming, planning, soul searching, and deep reflection on what it was that I really wanted out of life. This was the first time in my adult life that I had ever taken time off… for me.
Summer 2017 to Today
After the 4 months of travel, I decided to give the world of entrepreneurship a real chance. I set up shop in Bali and began to plan and execute. I chose Bali for a number of reasons. Since living in Asia, it has always been my happy place, and it’s somewhere I had travelled to time and time again. It’s also extremely affordable - cost of living is about $1200 USD/month all-in for a lavish life of: healthy living, massages 2x a week, a gym membership, daily housekeeping, a motorbike and gas, and beautiful accommodations with a pool - walking distance to the beach. I wanted to keep my savings secure and not have to touch it, I knew with my side hustle I could make at least $1200 a month so I didn’t feel too much pressure. It was also important for me to be free of money worries as I built my business, so I could really focus on my passions without having to worry about finances. “Purpose over Paycheque” was my mantra. If one month went by where I didn’t hit my targets, that was okay, because life was simple and affordable. My work and creating impact was all I cared about.
I lived In Bali for almost a year with the intention to build my online business of coaching clients and building digital products (like e-books, online courses, and downloadable health products). However, the universe had a very different plan for me. A few months into living in Bali, I began to notice a niche opportunity: Health Retreats. All of the retreats coming in and out of Bali were filled with the same demographic of women. Usually Caucasian women in their 20’s, from the west coast, beautiful and thin, affluent and wearing expensive clothes … and heavily focused on yoga (I’m generalizing, but you get the gist). I thought, even as a fitness professional, I wouldn’t be comfortable on these retreats. Where were the retreats for ALL women? I started envision a retreat for women of different shapes, sizes, backgrounds, and ages. One focused not only on yoga and meditation, but fitness, too! One that had educational aspects that showed women how to create a lifestyle that works for them. And a trip filled with FUN! Experiences and Adventure. A whole experience.
As I started to brainstorm this idea, I began to realize the universe was speaking to me. I was brought to Bali for a reason. Through a twist of fate, I happened to be in the retreat centre of the world (unbeknownst to me at the time) and also serendipitously met my soon-to-be business partner. All of the stars were aligned. After a lot of hours, hard work, and passion – The Whole Experience Retreats were born. It’s a week-long travelling health retreat, where we host up to 14 women and help them achieve their health and wellness goals while experiencing beautiful countries around the world. At our retreats, we have Bootcamps, Yoga, Health Seminars, Healthy Eating, Luxury Accommodations, and the Experiences of a lifetime! Being able to blend my passions of health & wellness with travel has been my biggest dream come true thus far! We’ve since run 2 retreats in Bali and have a Thailand retreat coming up next month. South Africa and Colombia are secured for early 2019 with a plan to run 10-12 over the course of the year. This is now my bread and butter and I couldn’t be more thrilled!
The Key Factors that made This Work for me
The above 5-year journey is summarized of course, but I think what you can gather from above is that it took a lot of work, sacrifice, risk taking, and trust in God’s plan to get here. It hasn’t been easy. Many times, I still wonder if I’m cut out for this life of entrepreneurship, because it’s hard and extremely lonely at times. But being able to live the life I’ve dreamt of for so long keeps me going.
Financially I’ve been really blessed, but again, there have been (and continues to be) a lot of sacrifice. Being successful for me has not come from chasing money but fuelling my purpose. While money is always a touchy subject, I believe we need to talk about it more - especially women and people of colour. It wasn’t until I faced my financial demons and started the money group with my friend, that I was able to take control of my finances and begin a path towards financial freedom. I’ve since become an aggressive saver and work on improving my financial literacy weekly by listening to financial podcasts regularly, meeting regularly with my financial accountability partner, and including finance books into the rotation of books I read.
You’ll also notice that my journey was very methodical and pragmatic and I am not a natural risk taker. But it’s because of this approach that my businesses are cash flow positive, I’m financially secure, and I’ve never had to touch my savings. I’m 1 year into my entrepreneurship journey and continue to keep expenses low while ensuring every investment has a good return. I continue to live out of a suitcase and live humbly; the only physical thing in this world that I own is a rental property back in Canada that sustains itself.
I hope you see from all of this that it hasn’t been easy. But the journey is SO worth it. To summarize, let’s recap the sacrifices and risks I took to get to this place of freedom, flexibility, and choice:
I left my husband after the ultimate betrayal.
I left my full-time job with pension, benefits, stock, and tenure.… for a contract opportunity. All for the potential (no guarantee) of an international assignment.
I left Toronto to move to Hong Kong for a 6 month assignment having never even visited once.
While in Hong Kong, I lived like a broke student while making 6 figures, all to fund this dream.
I sat and methodically mapped out my 2 year exit plan; while unfulfilled in my job, I sacrificed true joy and remained patient.
I sold everything I owned in this world to pick up and move to Bali… alone.
I pivoted my original business plan of digital services and products to start a retreat business with a complete stranger (having only known her for 2 weeks) who is now a dear friend.
So, What’s Next?
Well, I’m keeping this life afloat for as long as it continues to bring me joy, serves my purpose, and feeds my soul. This past June, I left Bali for good. While bittersweet, Bali served its purpose and I’m now a full-time nomad living life on the road. Funny, I’m currently writing this from a plane flying over Dubai as I type!
I’ll be travelling every few months to a new country as I work on my online business and run retreats! It’ll be just me and my business partner continuing to hustle hard to sustain this dream! We plan to set up shop in each new country we run a retreat in so we can travel, work, and understand the lay of the land before we invite our lovely guests to join us!
It’s definitely not a lifestyle for everyone, but I think the key takeaway is… whatever your purpose may look like, Go After It. And if you are still figuring out your purpose, actively work to get there. Take chances. Do ‘crazy’ things. Leap. Dream. Think BIG. Be Bold. Have Courage.
I don’t know about you, but when I look back at my life, I never want to think “What if…?” Instead, I only want to smile and find joy in the fact that all the decisions I made were because I wanted them. Not because I felt obligated to fulfill society’s terms and conditions. As the saying goes, you only live once… but if you do it right, once is enough.
The world is our oyster, and I’m thrilled to explore every nook and cranny!