We met Beatrice Chan, digital nomad entrepreneur and founder of mademoisellenomad.com. In this interview, she explains her choice of lifestyle, its advantages and disadvantages.
Hi Bea, when you were in your twenties, you left Mauritius to work in hotels, after which you quickly made the transition to a life of digital nomadism. Can you explain this choice?
I like the novelty, that every day something happens that breaks the daily routine. And I also like to have the freedom to work at my own pace. In this sense, my jobs in the hotel and tourism industries have allowed me to have a bit of both. I saw different clients (tourists), and as a client relations officer and later event coordinator, I could draw on my own creativity.
“Eager to discover new countries and travel, I was often caught up in a lot of time-consuming administrative tasks – housing, employment permits, etc.”
The idea of finding a way to be my own Boss by working from my computer started to germinate in me. My other passion is writing, so I started writing a novel in the hope that one day I would be able to make a living as a writer by working for myself. This activity was also very time-consuming, although it was not paid. So I decided to start writing freelance for various clients from sites like eLance, Freelancer or oDesk. At the same time, I was saving my salary from the hotel to travel. I also took online courses on various subjects that interested me such as Social Media Marketing, Digital Marketing, Public Relations, Entrepreneurship, and many others. When you have big dreams (and you’re not a millionaire), you have to go all out and seize the opportunities that come your way!
Today, a computer and an internet connection are enough for you to work… Can you share with us the jobs you have done in your nomadic lifestyle?
I’ve drawn on all the expertise I’ve acquired (languages, writing, digital marketing) to work as a freelance writer, content creator, creative writer, copywriter, translator, transcriptionist, French tutor, and – something I never thought possible – as a Latin dance teacher! And if your freelance life isn’t enough to pay the rent, it’s always possible to find a part-time job by presenting your digital nomad situation to your employer so that they can prepare for your departure! “What are your strengths? What do you like to do? Turn each of your qualities into a service you can offer in exchange for pay!”
In 2014, you created your blog Mademoiselle Nomad on which you share your impressions and advice about your nomadic lifestyle. What are the elements that pushed you to create it?
I started blogging in 2006, I told everything that came to my mind so I wouldn’t have to write hundreds of emails to my family and friends when I was living abroad. After that, people I didn’t know started leaving me comments on this blog. I was surprised: my blog was of interest to people other than my relatives! People wrote to me for advice on living abroad, for example. To meet these demands I created the professional blog Mademoiselle Nomad in 2014.
Last year, you became a digital nomad in your home country by participating in the “Coworking retreat” organized by DodoWorkPlay in Mauritius. What was the purpose of this retreat?
I was looking forward to rediscovering my island while wondering if I could live there again! I then discovered this retreat which aimed to combine idyllic surroundings and work with a community aspect: sharing with other digital nomads, entrepreneurs, freelancers was one of the key points of DodoWorkPlay and the internet connection offered was fast and of quality. I also needed to be with people who shared a similar lifestyle to mine… which I did! The retreat met (and exceeded) my expectations!
What was a typical day like for you?
Every day was different (which is why I love my nomadic life). Breakfast on the veranda with a view on the pool, a little aqua gym and swimming between lunch and work, sharing with the other co-workers, nap and snack in the sun, yoga, or a little walk around until the sun goes down and I talk with my new friends under a starry sky… I get a lot of joy from these ordinary moments of the day.
“I was also delighted to see that Mauritius has changed in a very positive way: a lot of young people are actually getting into entrepreneurship with an unconventional lifestyle.”
It was during this retreat that I came up with the idea for my second online business: Brandsalt, a community management agency for social networks. This activity allows me to work from anywhere (in bed, in the living room, in the garden, in Milan or in Tunisia!)
In your blog, you advocate the slow life: is it compatible with a job without an office? Is it easy to mix discovery and rigour?
It is a lifestyle where we learn to better appreciate life, for what it is, as it is, by becoming aware of our actions, our gestures, the imprint we leave behind. It can also mean adopting a more minimalist lifestyle where each object has its own purpose.
“Slow life allows you to increase your productivity while avoiding burnout thanks to simple ‘rituals’ such as naps or the importance given to special moments (taking the time for a nap, fully appreciating your cup of tea…)”
What difficulties have you faced in adopting this lifestyle?
In a city, it’s not always easy to find peace and quiet. But he always has good places to work – a garden, a bookshop, a park, by the river. As I move around a lot, I also often have a lot to do (simultaneous organization of my work and my travels / visits in a country I don’t know for example!)
“The first few days in a new place can be a headache: it is difficult to find your bearings.
Where to buy a new Sim, where to find the medicine I need, how do you say camomile in Swiss or German? what am I going to eat here? (the brands are not the same, some foods are impossible to find!), how to make new friends to break the loneliness, manage the internet, etc. … These little elements sometimes put my nerves to the test, but combining work and pleasure is my reality, and it is a reality that I assume because such is the life I chose.
Finally, what advice would you give to a young (or not so young!) person wanting to start a life as a digital nomad?
Before you take the plunge, do your research: does your motivation come from Instagram photos of people working poolside or on a yacht? These moments are possible, but we must realize the difficulties that this way of life can represent. My best advice would be not to give up: This way of life is difficult but if you fall, you get back up, you continue to believe in your dreams…by adjusting them to reality!
“You have to be able to motivate yourself, and put enough money aside, you also need to have a good client base so that the experience isn’t too stressful… It’s important to have a plan B, a C and a D!”