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I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Helen Lim, a pharmacist by trade who transformed her career in order to live life on her own terms. Now a full-time digital nomad, her story is one of courage and inspiration. Enjoy!
Actually a pharmacist by training, I followed my heart to write and travel starting six months ago and haven’t looked back. Currently, I’m building my business because I want to help people make their writing dreams happen. Every day brings on challenges I would have never dreamed I’d have to manage yet am truly grateful to have since I do what I enjoy – helping others while being true to my strengths.
How did you come to the decision to become a digital nomad?
The decision was easy – mostly because I craved traveling. I also really wanted to write for a living. So I was following my heart. With these two must-haves in mind, I explored lifestyle possibilities and decided to travel with a digital nomad community called Remote Year.
What’s Remote Year?
Remote Year is a work and travel company that arranges accommodations, workspace, and travel between cities for a set itinerary. I am traveling with them on a 12-month itinerary which costs a down payment and monthly fee.
Each month, I travel with the same group of remote workers who have their own jobs. Because we spend a year as a group, the community bonds over time by exploring each new city together and supporting each other for whatever personal goals we have for the year.
I’m living in Chiang Mai, Thailand for the month and have already called Lisbon in Portugal, Split in Croatia, Prague in Czech Republic, and Hanoi in Vietnam home. Meanwhile, I’ve visited a number of other countries and cities within these countries as well.
That sounds so amazing! So what are some of your favorite experiences so far?
I feel very fortunate to experience lots of excitement and beauty. For instance, I’ve enjoyed living 15 minutes walk from the beach in Split and taking in the most breathtaking sunsets of my life yet.
Outside of Lisbon, I spent a day kayaking in Arrábida Nature Park which was beautiful ocean views and rocks to see.
Another part of this lifestyle I like is meeting people with such different backgrounds, hopes, and dreams. Big ideas like communism become very real when you hear friends who live in Prague and Hanoi share their political views. There’s also the benefit of having a travel family for support and who understand the lifestyle because they are living it with you.
What kind of work are you doing now?
I coach writers and/or individuals who have many ideas to put processes in place so they are writing. Another aspect to what I do is accountability. My client sets their goals with me and has to follow up with it. They know what writing or creative project they desire to create and I coach them to get it made.
Was there a process you went through to get clear about who you wanted to work with and how you wanted to help them?
I used to think I wanted to write for people and be their ghostwriter but I wasn’t picking up any jobs doing that. I wasn’t even marketing myself for that.
Then a friend hired me to help him because his New Year Resolution is to be a writing professional. Through our sessions, I realized I’m a natural coach and I enjoy reading people’s writing and collaborating with them to make sure they are understood the way they want to be understood.
I also like to organize and keep track of progress which benefits a creative idea type of person because their strength is in having those ideas. What a blessing to do what I love while collaborating with others.
So how exactly does it work to work with clients while you’re traveling?
I start with an intake video call with clients. Two might be necessary to really understand each other. We chat to be clear about what the client wants to produce and how I will help them with the process. I set deadlines and follow up appointments at the end of calls.
Do you find that people are comfortable working this way? Does not being face-to-face ever pose any challenges for you?
People have responded well. I’ve had a good experience using video because I’m not nearby my clients. With technology making connecting to people anywhere in the world easier, I’m glad to leverage this way of communicating to help anyone anywhere in the world.
This is a question I know a lot of people have: How do you find clients?
I tell people I know what I do. I’m part of a few communities and I tap into those networks. The more people I tell, the more I can be referred to the clients who actually need me.
Are there any specific obstacles you have to overcome? (Time zone issues, etc.) and how do you approach those problems?
Time zones to arrange appointments can get tricky. Good communication is necessary to make sure the client and I are on the same page. Luckily there are useful websites like, https://www.worldtimebuddy.com to help with finding a time that works.
The obstacle of managing myself is consistent on this journey because only I hold myself accountable. I have to put in the time and energy for my service to reach more clients. When the world is the playground, to go exploring and have fun would be easy to do so the discipline to do important work first is a practice. The Remote Year community has other entrepreneurs which I use as an accountability group.
What does working with your Remote Year colleagues look like? Is there a set routine or a specific time devoted to work activities? Do you meet in co-working spaces, etc.? Are there organized work activities?
With these other entrepreneurs, I have power hours to do an hour of focused work. We start the hour sharing with the group what we’re working on for the next hour. Then we work quietly for the hour and end with sharing the progress of our work. Every month, we also set a monthly goal.
Have you discovered any advantages to working remotely?
I like working according to the schedule I want. There’s flexibility with the times I work because clients are in different time zones. I can work in the day or at night. Then I can use time to explore the city I call home for the moment.
For my personality, working remotely is a way I get to choose a quiet atmosphere to work. I’m at my best when I can work quietly.
A lot of people aspire to become location-independent and work from anywhere, what kind of advice can you offer them to get started?
Interview someone who is living this lifestyle to be informed about if the lifestyle is a fit for you. You can also try being location-independent for a month or so to experiment if its fit for you. Recognize there’s a difference between the idea that seems great and actually living the life.
Has the dream lived up to the reality for you? Would you do it all again or do anything differently?
I love living my dream. Yes, there’s been challenges and some days I want to quit it all and go back to what I knew and the comfort of that. However, I recognize that feeling of defeat is temporary because I am enjoying life finally which I wouldn’t trade for anything.
Thank you so much for sharing your story, Helen!