Leaving the corporate rat race to become a digital nomad was the best thing I ever did. But it wasn’t all beaches and good times.
Today marks 2 years since I quit.
I’m proud and I want to share the good stuff. Nonetheless I feel a responsibility to be real with you and share the bad stuff too. One thing I’ve learned on this journey, is that being authentic is everything.
Even when it’s uncomfortable.
So here it is, in full colour, with nothing left out. 😨
I hope it helps you make the right decision for yourself, whatever that may be
The Call To A Greater Life
I endured 12 years in “the system” – hating my job every day. I worked in two Fortune 500 companies, with all the corporate perks:
- a brand new car every 6 months
- a steady paycheck
- staying in nice hotels
- travelling the world
- my company paying for all expenses dinners and nights out
- Industry events where I met celebrities
- Working from home 5 days a week
- Having time for my side hustle
- appearing “successful”
Despite that, I knew deep inside the corporate world clearly wasn’t for me.
The hamster wheel wasn’t going to allow me to become the best version of myself.
I wasn’t living my truth and that was eating away at me.
I needed to abandon superficial “success” to focus on more meaningful goals, no matter what everyone around me said.
Leaving my 9 to 5 was the only option.
I could have planned it better. Not only didn’t I have a plan, I wasn’t even sure what I was going to do with my life.
So here’s how I finally escaped the rat race, all the mistakes I made and what I wish I knew before.
Step #1: Building My Skills To Break Free
On evenings and weekends, I hustled to build the skills I needed to earn my freedom.
I spent every spare minute I had on self-improvement. I read books to teach myself marketing, copywriting and how to get into remote work.
Some part of me knew, at a deep level, that one day walking away from the rat race would be a real possibility.
The idea of being able to quit my day job to travel the world while working fascinated me.
Escape. Complete freedom. Unlike the 2 week vacations I was used to.
Then, Tim Ferriss published his book The 4-Hour Workweek. which absolutely changed everything.
That book really got me thinking about:
- Working for myself
- Transforming my working life
- Owning my time
- Earning money without sacrificing my freedom
- Doing meaningful work that lights me up
Step #2 – Making The Leap into The Unknown
I’d been grinding out the self-improvement with no pay-off for 11 years.
11 YEARS of hard graft with little to show for it.
Jacking in my job without a safety net was dumb. No doubt.
But what was it that finally made me take the leap?
The Fortune 500 I was working for hadn’t won a new contract in 7 years. They needed a big win, and fast.
Seeing it as an opportunity to “prove myself” I took on the task, despite it not being my job
I drafted a tender document, was super involved in the tender process and even pitched it to the boards of:
- General Motors
Fast-forward 3 months, it closed over £50 million in contracts! And the bonus they offered me for my contribution?
£1000 before tax. Tax would have cut 40% of that. I clearly saw that no matter what I did, I couldn’t win.That day I thought hard about whether it was time for me to finally escape.
It was time to escape, but I was scared.
My dad was an entrepreneur, so I’d grown up watching his ups and downs
That was what drove me into the “traditional life”. I wanted the financial stability. I thought stability meant success.
It took a long time (unfortunately), but I eventually learned most corporates would get rid of me without batting an eyelid if it made sense.
I felt like they were focused on keeping costs low, rather than recognising the value being brought to the table.
Experiencing that for myself was truly gutting.
I realised I couldn’t get ahead. I was playing a game I couldn’t win.
It was time to quit finally
So, I handed in my notice the next day.
What I Wish I Knew Before I Quit My Job (Big Mistake!)
I’ve got to be real with you.
After I quit my job, I realised, I didn’t have a plan.
I’d started my own marketing agency in 2012. But I wasn’t earning enough to live on from it because I didn’t have time to focus on it
But I just knew that my old life had to end then and there.
I had to be willing to walk away from what looked like a success (to everyone on the outside). To walk away from a steady paycheck, to actually doing something with my life.
I walked out the door on Halloween 2017.
To this day, walking out that door was one of the greatest moments of my life.
I felt ELECTRIC as I headed to the train station.
I smiled the whole 3 hour train journey from Bristol to London.
But it didn’t last long…
Tough times soon hit me.
In the space of three months, the world I’d known collapsed around me.
It was a total breakdown.
- My 12 year relationship ended
- The 12 year corporate career was over
- I gave back the company car, laptop, phone
- I had to sell my house in Hertfordshire (county outside of London)
- My Grandma passed away. She was favourite person in the world and my inspiration
- My appendix burst and gave me sepsis (blood poisoning). 6 days without food in hospital caused me to lose 30 pounds in a week!
As I sat in hospital, broke because I couldn’t work, a client of mine invited me to Dubai for a 10 day “Mastermind” with him.
I didn’t think I would be able to get well enough to make it out.
But it was the only positive thing in my life at that point, and that pushed me to get myself better.
I knew I had to get on that flight to Dubai, even if I was sick.
My friends pulled together to help me. Steph from Project Glow helped get me better with every alternative therapy in her toolbox:
- electromagnetic mats
- essential oil massages
- grounding blankets to sleep in
I managed to hold it together and made the flight.
Day 1: With The CEO of a $1bn Company
On that first day in Dubai, I ended up having dinner on a yacht with the CEO of a $1 billion (with a B!) shipping company.
Before that trip, I’d planned on moving to Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Everything changed in those 10 days. I saw a vision of my future. In Dubai was the opportunity to work daily with a man who coaches CEOs with companies valued at $3.5 billion.
Someone like that, wanting to work with someone like me was intoxicating.
After feeling so low, for so long. It was nice to feel valued again.
I knew being around him daily could transform me.
There was no choice. I had to turn my back on my old life and everything I knew.
I agreed to move to Dubai to start my new life in February 2018.
Fear, Doubt and Feeling Like a Failure at 32
After Dubai, it was back to London.
I had to wait for my house to sell, it felt like I was being held back by my old life.
It was time to move on, but life wouldn’t let me yet. It reminded me daily that I’d failed and I hated it.
Some days I didn’t want to get out of bed. On others I’d find tears in my eyes, but not know why. I needed a car, but I was so broke.
All I could afford was a £400, 10 year old Ford Fiesta.
On a late November afternoon, driving back down the motorway, I realised it had holes in the windscreen.
For 2 months I had to drive in a hat, scarf and gloves to stop myself freezing. And of course the heating didn’t work.
I was broke and depressed. I had nothing to my name.
Eventually my house sold and I decided to leave London.
I knew I needed to make the leap. Even if there was no net to catch me.
Closing The Chapter On My Old Life
The last day of that horrible year of 2017, I was in Holland for New Year’s.
I was surrounded by my family. my sister flew in from Australia, my Dad came from Wales and my Italian family flew in from Milan.
Seeing them all again gave me the drive I needed to start transforming my life. We’d all been together at my grandma’s funeral not long before and this really bonded us.
I told them I’d found my life purpose:
To create an entrepreneurship academy that I would name after my grandma.
I showed them the brass plate I’d had printed for the building and told them that one day it would be real.
They all crowded around me, hugging me and patting me on the head.
The tears flowed again, but this time not tears of pain. But tears of gratitude.
I felt happiness again for a few brief moments.
Step #3: Day 1 of The Digital Nomad Life
The next day, New Years Day, I took 3 flights in one day.
- Amsterdam to London
- London to Manchester
- Manchester to Houston, Texas
I went to Houston to meet up with one of my mentors, Dr. John Demartini (from The Secret, look him up).
I spent the first 3 days of 2018 in his program Master Planning for Life.
You answer over 2,000 questions.
You learn how to set empowering goals in all 7 areas of your life which are your…
- Purpose or spiritual mission
- Mental genius/creativity
- Social influence and leadership
- Physical health, stamina, strength and well-being
After the 3 days, I stopped off at NASA before returning home.
Another 3 flights later, I was back in London.
5 days after that was flight #7. To Bangkok, to travel through South East Asia for 2.5 months.
The nomad life had sucked me in. Leaving the “traditional path” was the right thing to do, I was certain.
Even so, I have to be honest here.
The independence appealed to me and the lifestyle looked glamorous.
But when during those early days, I was isolated and lonely.
- I worked long hours in my hotel room, barely getting out to see the sights.
- My only “friends” were restaurant staff and hotel guests.
- When I moved, no friendships moved with me. I had to start from scratch every few weeks. That was truly exhausting.
I was living day-to-day, making sure my income covered my living expenses.
No luxuries, no lavish lifestyle.
I was frustrated.
Besides, I still felt that I wasn’t making much money and I wasn’t building anything. I just surviving.
No passive income stream, no financial security, no product, no guaranteed paycheck.
Nevertheless, at least it was on my own terms.
I had a service business (marketing), I had purpose, some happiness, no debt and a little money.
I owned my time, I had no day job, I could control my income, my schedule and how much I was working.
I was in love with the life.
After a few days in Bangkok, I boarded flight number 8. I was headed to the islands.
I spent time in Krabi, on Tonsai island.
Tonsai, Krabi, Thailand
I stayed in a jungle hut with no WiFi and no power for days.
It was ideal to switch off and reconnect with my surroundings (and myself).
kayaked 22km in a day and got robbed by a monkey.
That pretty much sums it up.
It was beautiful.
Next was a flight back to Bangkok (#9) and on to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (#10)
First I enjoyed Ho Chi Minh for a week. Along with that, I visited the Vietnam War Museum and the famous Cu Chi Tunnels the Viet Cong used during the Vietnam War.
Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
Vũng Tàu, Vietnam
After Ho Chi Minh, I hit up Vũng Tàu on the Vietnamese Coast.
I rode a motorcycle along the coastline for 12 days. It was liberating.
Also Vietnamese coffee is the shit. Try it.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia was next. The big city and its bright lights.
It was mad being back to the rush after my time on the islands.
Even so, it was inspiring. It gave me the drive I needed for my next leap.
Starting My New Life in Dubai
Valentine’s Day 2018 was the day.
I had unusual Valentine’s plans: moving to Dubai to start a new life. Solo.
Transforming My Life
Dubai gave me invaluable experience and exposure.
For 15 months, I worked as Marketing Director for two companies:
- CBG – The CEOs Business Growth Program
- Milestone Dubai, a luxury landscaping and interior design company that transforms Dubai’s villas.
After a while, I was made president of the CEOs Business Growth Program’s CEO Community.
In that role, I met and interviewed some truly inspiring individuals:
- David Allen, creator of Getting Things Done
- Nishit Majmudar, CEO of AVIVA Singapore
- Marshall Goldsmith, the world’s #1 Executive Coach
During my time in Dubai, Rajesh Nagjee mentored me on a daily basis.
Rajesh mentors a group of top CEOs with a combined asset value of 3.5 billion dollars. That’s right, 3.5 BILLION.
I was around CEOs doing major things daily. I was in Masterminds with them, having dinner with them 3-5 times a week.
Honestly, I felt like a fraud.
I knew I had the knowledge, after 11 years of learning from books, seminars and just trying things out. But I felt like an impostor.
I had no faith in my own ability to execute projects. I held back from sharing during workshops and in meetings because I was scared of embarrassing myself.
But Rajesh made me feel like family from day one.
Being around his expertise for 10-14 hours, 6 days a week was a gift. His mentoring was what kept me in Dubai so long.
He also got me travelling to India on a monthly basis to participate in and sometimes, co-lead parts of his workshops.
Overcoming My Greatest Fear
As any great coach does, Rajesh identified what was holding me back.
I had a deep-seated fear of presenting. Especially unprepared.
He told me “Life comes at you like a bullet from a gun, we don’t get time to prepare”.
So he threw me in at the deep end. Harsh but necessary.
The first time it happened, he told me the night before that I’d be leading a workshop for 50 CEOs and business owners the next morning.
50 people staring at me expectantly, waiting for me to deliver the top-quality content they were expecting.
I had no idea how the teaching worked.
I had no leadership or presentation training. I’d only been through the workshop once, as a participant!
Unsurprisingly, it was painful. I’m not ashamed to admit that I sucked.
But the next month I was better. I kept striving to improve.
This exposure enabled me to conquer my fear of presenting once and for all!
Consulting One of The World’s Fastest Growing Companies
I had the privilege of spending 6 days working with Zoho in Chennai, consulting them on their Marketing Hub software.
Amazingly, I was the first person in the world to see the system outside Zoho.
Mostly I gave them an insight into how a real user would use the system, and helped them make it more robust before its successful launch.
Spending Time With a Billionaire
Through Rajesh, I met Mr Vijay Chauhan.
He’s the Chairman and Founder of Parle Products and is on the Forbes list as one of the top 75 wealthiest Indians in the world.
This man and his company are an institution in India.
Parle is the world’s largest biscuit brand.
They churn out 60 million tonnes of biscuits a month. That’s triple the amount Oreo makes.
I was privileged to join Rajesh’s family dinners with Mr Chauhan whenever he came to Dubai.
Over 10+ dinners, I got to know him quite well. Despite being 83, he still had a zest for life and ran his company successfully.
Turns out you can gain a lot of invaluable insight over dinner, if the right person invites you to the table.
I always heard you become the average of the people you spend your time with.
So, during my time in Dubai and India, I became a real CEO. I transformed as a leader. I was growing because of the people around me.
But under all that, there was something that was very wrong.
Things Started To Go Wrong
I’d reached my limit. I’d taken on too much.
- Chief Marketing Officer for two companies
- President of the CEOs Community
- Leading workshops every week
- In a CEOs Mastermind Program 2-3 days a week
- Too busy for the people and things that matter
I wasn’t even making much money and the stress just kept mounting…
- Hiring and running a digital team of 20 remote workers who depended on me for absolutely everything
- Working 6 days a week, an average of 10-16 hours a day
- We had 86 physical employees relying on my marketing strategies to bring leads in so that they could earn money to send home to their families in India and the Philippines
- The one day a week I had off was often spent travelling to India
I had no time to recharge. I was burning out.
Dubai had pushed me to better myself, but it was also taking everything from me.
And just like when I left corporate, I realised I was still building other people’s dreams. Not my own.
The call for independence rang loudly inside my heart once again.
Hitting a Low Point
My lowest point was Christmas Day 2018. I was alone in my Dubai apartment.
No family, no friends, no gifts. No celebrations.
It was another working day like any other. Instagram showed me my friends around the world happily celebrating with their loved ones.
I felt really lonely on that day.
Worst of all, I was working so hard, but I wasn’t fulfilled.
In March 2019, I headed back to the UK to see my family and go to a friend’s wedding.
I thought I was fine. I thought I was dealing with my non-stop lifestyle well.
But my family realised something was wrong.
They told me I wasn’t engaging. I was answering every question with “yeah” or “no”.
They knew I wasn’t myself at all.
I was withdrawn and depressed. I stopped waking up early, I didn’t want to make any effort to get dressed or take care of myself.
Escaping my “day job life” was supposed to give me freedom, but I found myself more trapped than ever.
The Moment I Realized My New Life Was a Lie
The day I flew home from London, I realised Dubai wasn’t working for me.
I couldn’t afford a direct flight, so I flew to Stockholm, caught a connection to Oslo and finally a night flight to Dubai.
Landing at 09:00, I went home, showered and went straight back to work (this time helping run an event).
That day was pivotal. I was…
- Completely exhausted.
- Living a life not true to myself.
- Didn’t like the work I was doing.
- Felt trapped and unable to travel freely.
- Was stuck in another day job living for a paycheck.
- Had an income that barely covered my expenses.
- Disconnected from my goals and purpose.
I’d been too isolated in Dubai, without my family and friends. I had the guys I worked with (and they were great), but it’s not the same.
I’d worked myself into the ground, to the point of damaging my mental health.
That’s not success no matter what the rewards.
I’d given Dubai everything, but it wasn’t giving back what I needed to feed my soul.
I was lost, but I knew 3 important things:
- CEOs wanted to work with me and saw value in what I can do
- I wanted to work with CEOs, but remain independent
- I needed to control my time and my location with ease, not be chained to a desk 6 days a week
Taking Control Back
I left Dubai on the 21st May 2019. I had to sell everything and headed home to London, to reconnect with my family, friends, my goals and my purpose.
Then I was off again. The travel bug had me again.
I was excited to work remotely again, to hustle again, to rebuild my business and my income.
But I felt like a failure all over again.
My “second chance” in Dubai had allowed me to grow as a person, but I deeply regretted not achieving what I set out to do there.
I guess I’m just not built to survive in Dubai’s intense environment. And I’m OK with that.
Plus, I can see now that I was still being driven my insecurities.
I didn’t feel like I was enough on my own. I thought I would only be valued if I “became someone”.
It was all wrong. I was being driven by selfish self-validation rather than meaningful contribution.
I guess that’s why it ultimately hadn’t worked out for me.
Step #4 – Nomad 2.0
I flew to Miami in early June 2019. The first 18 days I drank only fresh juices.
I lost the all weight I’d gained in Dubai and felt focused.
My days were spent working from my room, riding the Lyft scooters around South Beach and exploring Miami.
Next was Cancún for 12 days. Working remotely, starting to make money.
An income stream for my travels was my only drive. I needed a rest, and I had to be able to cover my expenses.
Then, something very important happened. Out of the blue.
I met a girl, Miriam.
We went out a few times and I realised I liked her. A lot.
My flights were booked and I had to leave.
But we both knew I was coming back. I just didn’t know when.
I flew to Panama to pick up a Spanish speaking cruise with a friend from Dubai.
Our first stop was Cartagena in Colombia.
Then we hit up the ABC of the Dutch Antilles (actually, it was in reverse order. But CBA doesn’t quite have the same ring…😉)
Curaçao, Dutch Antillies
Bonaire, Dutch Antillies
Aruba, Dutch Antillies
Panama Visit #2
The cruise ended in Panama, so we spent 4 days exploring Panama City and the forest and mountains of El Valle de Antón.
Next I went to Costa Rica for 5 days. Starting with San Jose.
I saw the gorgeous La Paz Waterfalls (5 of them surrounded by mountains FULL of animals) and also the active Irazú volcano.
Back to Cancún, Mexico
In early July, I travelled back to Cancún. Back to Miriam. I’ve been there ever since.
Finding her made a big difference. It kind of “anchored” me. I felt calm, and everything just started to work.
Growing My Marketing Agency
Settling into Cancún life, I began growing my marketing agency to new heights.
I’d been building it slowly since 2012, whenever I could scrape the time together.
Now I could give it my full focus. The hustle began.
Soon, I was making in a week, what took me a whole month when I worked in my corporate career.
I finally felt that I’d “made it”. The sums of money weren’t that much, but I felt so proud of myself.
But honestly, that process nearly broke me.
And it took me almost 2 years after I quit.
I was stressed out of my mind, all the time. Sleep became a stranger again.
I had to do it all myself:
- Hiring people I’d never met and trusting them to run parts of my company
- Splitting my time between growing the business…
- finding remote partners to outsource work to
- …and working in the business
- strategic planning
- client calls
- business development
- Juggling expenses and income to be able to pay the team
- Making sure the projects turned a profit
- Dealing with workers missing client deadlines
After a month of struggling, I finally managed to build a trusted group of expert remote workers. I now have a team of 30 people who help me run the agency.
The insanity paid off. It’s going well.
What Year 3 Looks Like as a Full Time Entrepreneur
My business has been growing well in these past few months, but 2020 is where I see us achieving amazing things.
It’s going to be my best year yet financially. No doubt about it.
2020 is going to bring even more freedom.
It’s going to be a year of travel: Miriam and I are going to live in 12 cities in 12 months, all over the world.
(March 2020 Update: I’m at 36 countries, and we’ve visited 10 cities in 3 months already!)
(May 2020 Update: What the fuck happened! 😳)
What I Learned After Everything
Leaving my career wasn’t the hard thing, in fact it was the easiest and best moment of it all.
It was the dark times, the hard slog in Dubai that transformed me the most.
It’s true that we grow through both support and challenges. I’m grateful for all the hard times now, because I see how they served me.
After everything, here’s the best of what I learned:
- Trust the little voice that tells you to leap, even if you have no plan
- Open your mind and travel, don’t plan ahead to much, go with the flow
- Be willing to be the dumb one in a smarter group, rather than stay where its comfortable
- Seek mentors already where you want to be
- Listen more than you speak
- Remain a student
- Keep building your skills
- Do things that scare you – growth is on the other side
- Leadership isn’t about the head, it’s about the heart
- Vulnerability = authenticity. That’s what helps you connect to others
- When you give up on “being successful” – You open the door to becoming successful. What you chase eludes you. Be the honey pot instead.
- Keep the faith, do the work, trust the process (thanks Steph 💪)
- Be yourself and back yourself
Whilst all of this will help, I won’t sell you a pipe dream here. I just can’t do that.
Want To Escape & Work Remotely Too?
It’s important you know this:
- Success isn’t guaranteed.
- Abandoning everything gets lonely.
- Doing what you love doesn’t always pay.
But I promise you one thing…the journey will still transform you as a person.
That’s the real pay-off.
And it’s worth it every time, even if on paper you’re worse off.
The process changes you as a person. That new version of you can create success beyond what you would have been capable of before.
It’s the real you. The best version of yourself, waiting for you.
And remember, when you’re walking the path that’s true to you, you will be provided for.
You just have to start walking that path.
So take the first step.
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