What really happens when wanderlust meets work? Welcome to Digital Nomad Diaries, where we ask women to get real about the joys and challenges of remote work. Because even though this lifestyle is definitely a privilege, that doesn't mean it's not without its challenges and trade-offs.
Name: Ellie Malone
Countries/Cities You've Worked From: USA: Los Angeles, Denver, San Diego, Sanibel Island, Seattle, Portland, Bend, Salt Lake City, Boise Latin America: Belize, Mexico, Colombia, Guatemala, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Peru Europe: UK, Spain, Portugal, Turkey, Greece, Czech Republic, Germany, Switzerland
I’ve spent a bulk of my time working and living in Latin America and most recently Europe. I’ve spent the longest time living in Colombia and Mexico. Both are great locations for new U.S. nomads looking to get their bearings. The locals are welcoming, there’s strong expat and nomad communities, the weather is unbeatable and the working hours are in the same timezone as the U.S.
When did you first start working remotely? Did the pandemic make this possible for you or were you way ahead of the game?
I first started working remotely in May 2019, so I was ahead of the game and already acclimated to WFH life when COVID started.
At the time, I was burning out at an ad agency and had a miserable commute. In May of 2019, a company approached me with a contract job offer that would allow me to work remotely and explore life as a freelancer. While that role wasn’t a great fit for me, it allowed me to have my first digital nomad experience, and in fall of 2019, I joined WIFI Tribe, a community of remote workers who travel together, and worked remotely in Argentina, Chile and Uruguay.
What were the practical considerations of remote work? (Did you sublet your place, have to find a pet-sitter, make any arrangements with your workplace?)
During my first trial as a digital nomad, I was paying rent back in Denver while also paying for living costs abroad, which was not sustainable long-term. So I decided if I was going to fully commit, I would need to give up my lease.
Between COVID and some career changes, it took me until April 2021 to fully commit. The practical considerations make me dizzy thinking back on them, but it was so worth it. I sold a lot of the items I owned and moved everything to the garage of the current house I was renting, then eventually moved it into a storage unit. I remember one of my nomad friends telling me, “Just move your stuff home. You’re not going to want to pay for a storage unit long term, and I know you’re going to be traveling for much longer than you think.”
At the time, I was really reluctant because it felt like I was flipping the last page in a chapter of my life. I loved my life in Denver, but I knew it was time to start a new one. So I moved my stuff home to my mom’s house in Milwaukee and made a home base for myself there. I spent my “finally fully vaxxed” summer focusing on growing my PR business, getting clients and figuring out how I was going to make enough income to sustain my digital nomad lifestyle.
What was the time difference adjustment like? Do you pick your destinations with this in mind?
I was really intimidated by the idea of working from another time zone. I didn’t want to inconvenience my clients and also didn’t want to have to work late into the night and sacrifice my evenings.
I decided to try it out and work from Europe. At first it was tough. I hated getting email and Slack notifications while sipping a sunset Aperol spritz with friends at dinner. I felt like I couldn’t be fully present during my time off from work, so I learned to adjust my schedule.
Now, I reserve two nights a week for working U.S hours, which is when I have most of my meetings. On those days, I focus on deep-thinking work in the morning, take a break and enjoy my day, and then come back and have my Zoom calls. Then, the remaining work days, I work EU hours and turn my Slack and email notifications off in the evenings.
I’ve been transparent with all my clients and colleagues from the beginning. I’m very grateful to work with people who are supportive and work with my changing schedule. Asynchronous communication with teams can be tough at first, but I’ve found it's made me a better communicator and worker. I’m more intentional with how I communicate and my productivity has skyrocketed because I align my work around when I have the most bandwidth to accomplish it versus forcing projects on myself when I’m tired or not feeling creative or inspired.
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