The PR Consultant Who's Shopping and Noshing Her Way Around the World
Digital nomad diaries

The PR Consultant Who's Shopping and Noshing Her Way Around the World

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
Industry: PR/Marketing
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.

Ellie Malone digital nomad in marketing/pr

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.

    For you, what are the costs of working remote? (Rent, co-working space, flights). Would you say that this cost you more than working at home, less or about the same?

    The biggest question I get from people curious about the digital nomad life is budget. It really depends on your location and how you budget. 

    In Latin America, I typically spend less than working at home, but short-term rentals are becoming more and more expensive, so this is starting to change too. In Europe, I would say it costs about the same, but sometimes more depending on where you are in Europe. The most I’ve spent on accommodations is London and the least is Mexico.

    My rent is my biggest cost, followed by flights/transportation and then dining/entertainment. If you can find a longer-term rental, negotiate with your host/landlord or find a roomie, that’s the best way to make things more affordable.

    Ellie Malone digital nomad in marketing/pr in Machu Picchu

    Any unexpected costs? 

    Transportation and clothes are two things I spend more money on than I expected. 

    Getting from one destination to another is costly. Flights, which are becoming more and more expensive, and all the surprise fees add up (“check in at the gate fees”—South American budget airlines have this fee, so don’t forget to check in online or else you will pay an extra $30). When you don’t have a car, you also pay a lot more to get around. Some places, like most of Europe, will have good public transportation, but other places you’ll have to take Ubers/taxis or pay for expensive tours to see more remote spots. 

    Also, clothes! I try to start out packing light, so I can shop and accumulate more clothes while I’m traveling. Sounds very *material girl* of me, but not having my closet is really tough on me, and I get really sick of my clothes. So, I pack my basics and favorites and give myself a hefty clothes budget, so I can buy more things I like when I get bored of my outfit options. For example, I arrived in Europe with only a backpacking backpack and since then, I have also accumulated a suitcase full of clothes…

    What are the best parts of working remote?

    The new people you meet. I’ve met some of the most interesting people on my travels who have completely challenged my thinking. I’ve met locals who have taught me important life lessons, other digital nomads that have given me some of the best business advice and fellow travelers I’ve only swapped mere days with but have made lifetime bonds with. 

    The food. Maybe I’m just an extreme foodie, but I love nothing more than eating my way through a new country. Ceviché in Peru, wine tastings in Mendoza, Turkish breakfast, Pastéis de Belém in Portugal, Oaxancan mole—going to stop here before I start drooling.

    What about the worst parts and frustrations? 

    Building meaningful and deep relationships—that goes for both friendships and dating. When you bounce around a lot, it doesn’t give you a lot of time to nurture your relationships which leads to a lot of fast friendships and flings. I’ve had many broken hearts having to say goodbye to partners whose paths didn’t align with mine and many frustrating, lonely days where I just wanted a close friend who would be cool with a movie and wine night on the couch instead of having to go out and make the same small talk with acquaintances again. 

    I also struggle with feeling more distant from friends and family. I’ve missed milestone moments for my nieces and nephews and some of my very best friends feel further and further away every day. Being away from your community is by-far the biggest sacrifice and one of the hardest things to overcome as a digital nomad.

    Also, sometimes the smallest tasks and chores become the more daunting and irritating things to accomplish. Need to do laundry? Well, you’re going to have to find a laundromat and attempt to use Google Translate to ask the worker to please, please, please separate your white shirts or wash on cold, only to come back and find all your white shirts are now pink.

    Other things that have driven me to tears: giving directions to a taxi driver in another language and ending up on two different sides of towns before you find your apartment, cooking a recipe for a friends dinner and going to five different stores to find all the ingredients and then translating that recipe to the metric system, wandering around Puerto Escondido for hours trying to find any sort of working WiFi for a very important new biz call (IYKYK).

    Did you find that you were fully able to enjoy being abroad while working? 

    I do. There are many days where I don’t get to explore everything I wanted, or an important meetings pops up that ruins plans, or times I feel guilty for taking a lazy day when there’s a new city to explore, but I always try to keep it in perspective and be grateful that I get to see and experience as much as I do.

    How does remote work affect your productivity? 

    Learning to manage your time as a digital nomad is an art form. I’m a to-do list person, and I find that works for me. I have an extensive planner that is my bible, and I assign myself things that need to get done for the day and stick to it. As a freelancer, I don’t have to abide by a 9-5, so I actually find it more motivating sometimes to get my work done as a digital nomad because if I’m more productive, I get rewarded with more free time to explore.

    Ellie Malone digital nomad in marketing/pr in Cappadocia

    With all of your experience now, what are your current thoughts on remote work? Would you do it forever/indefinitely? 

    I think sometimes digital nomads get a bad rep, that we’re all running away from something or that the lifestyle is a form of escapism. For some, that may be true, but for me, it’s a way of life that suits my free spirit best. Like the Stoic Seneca said, “Traveling will not solve your problems, a change in character, not a change of air is what you need.” To be successful as a digital nomad, you need to fully accept it as your way of life, not a form of hiding from your problems or an extended vacation. Fully immerse yourself in the new cultures, food, people, dancing, nightlife, adventures and build your life around it.

    From when I started in 2019 until now, it's been really exciting to see how much the community has grown. There are new colivings, communities, websites, blogs, content creators and more being created everyday. I was pleasantly surprised to see my favorite e-newsletter and news site had started a series on it! It's only getting bigger from here.

    For right now, it's what I love doing and can see myself doing it longer term. Although, I see myself slowing down a bit and adopting more of a ‘slowmad’ lifestyle and finding two to three home bases a year, so I can slow down and build more of a community.

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