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This is the latest interview in a series featuring digital nomads talking about their lives and lessons (click here if you want to be interviewed). The goal is to help demystify the process of making money online, wandering the world, and living an unconventional life!
Maria grew up as a third-culture kid, so when she decided to create a business that would allow her to work from anywhere, she was already used to acclimatizing to new “homes.” She offers great tips on how to start nomading!
Thank you for sharing your story with Freedom Is Everything, Maria!
Key takeaways from Maria’s interview:
“Trust your gut – if you feel called to explore the world, go for it! Wherever you’re moving from isn’t going anywhere.”
“Meeting other people who have dared to forge their own path helps me trust that this is sustainable and what’s right for me. There’s something so special about the friendships you make as a nomad because what you share runs deeper than just going to the same school or growing up in the same place; you see the world in the same way.”
“Be yourself, unapologetically. Don’t wait for the approval of others to do what you want. Life is too short not to follow your joy. Too many of us chase the idea of it instead of what actually lights us up.”
“I don’t take any calls on Mondays and instead ease into the week by savouring my morning, planning out my work, and then choosing to do the tasks I feel called to in the afternoon. It’s completely changed how I feel on Sundays, making me look forward to the week instead of dreading it. It’s my small act of rebellion against hustle culture.”
Introduce yourself! 🙂 Who are you? What do you do for work? And what is your nomadic story?
Hey, I’m Maria. I was born in Denmark, moved to Tokyo when I was five, and grew up attending international schools around the world, which is why I identify as both a third culture kid (TCK) and a nomad. After high school, I spent a year in Tuscany before moving to New York for university and trying to build a career as a fashion journalist. I ended up moving to London due to visa issues and for a long time thought that was where I’d finally plant roots, but during the first lockdown last year, I realized I’d outgrown that identity and began exploring options for where to go next.
I currently call Lisbon home and run Be Conscious PR full-time, helping entrepreneurs get the recognition they deserve in the media so they can reach millions of people and make a bigger impact. When I’m not coaching or consulting on all things PR, I teach yoga online and, when Covid allows, in a local studio here in Portugal, which is part of my personal practice. Back in 2017, I took a career break to solo travel around central America to nourish my wanderlust and trained as a yoga teacher at the Mystical Yoga Farm in Guatemala. At the time, I could easily have continued traveling and teaching on the road, but eventually found my way back to London and started my own agency so I could apply my yogic values to PR and still preserve the flexibility and freedom to travel that I craved.
What inspired you to start nomading? And how has nomading changed your perspective on life?
As a third culture kid, I’ve always been a nomad, though not always by choice. While it wasn’t easy always being the new kid in school, moving around so frequently has opened my eyes to the possibility of making a home anywhere in the world and an interest in fully immersing myself in local cultures wherever I travel to.
I’ve never really belonged anywhere, but that’s made it possible to find a way to belong everywhere. Always feeling like an outsider has also made it easier to reject society’s expectations to prioritise a “stable” career above all else and instead focus on building a life I love. I’ve gotten swept up by these social norms throughout my 20s and still do sometimes, but meeting other people who have dared to forge their own path helps me trust that this is sustainable and what’s right for me. There’s something so special about the friendships you make as a nomad because what you share runs deeper than just going to the same school or growing up in the same place; you see the world in the same way.
Coming out during my solo travels also propelled me to reject all that I’ve been taught was normal….
Please tell us the detailed story of how you started your business.
When I came back from my solo travels with a yoga teacher certification in tow, I thought I wanted to teach full-time and started working at a PR agency a few days per week just to pay the bills. Getting back into PR reignited my passion for communications, and I discovered that I wasn’t entirely done with this part of my career. Around the same time, I started freelancing for a feminist travel publication that I really believed in and, as a result, secured some of the most high-profile coverage of my career, including the New York Times and Forbes. That’s when I realized that I could work with conscious entrepreneurs and startups who shared my yogic values and use my skills to make a positive impact on the world by amplifying their missions to millions of people through the media, which led to me launching Be Conscious PR.
I had the idea for coaching people on how to do their own PR when I was cycling home one day after teaching yoga in London – strategy has always been my favourite part of consulting, so it made sense to embrace the role of a mentor. Plus, I love giving advice and have a knack for getting people to see and step into their potential. After working with a couple of clients on a consulting basis, I tested out the idea by offering free strategy calls to small businesses, and it confirmed my intuition.
A lot of business owners who want to leverage the power of the media to grow their brand awareness and income but aren’t quite at the stage where they can outsource it. By learning how to do PR on their own, they get to reap the benefits and, once they’re able to hire an agency or consultant, they’ll have the knowledge to manage them effectively and be a great client because they understand how it all works.
With everything moving online during the pandemic, it’s been easy to connect with clients all over the world and retain my UK clients, which made relocating to Lisbon possible.
Since launching, what has been most effective to acquire/retain customers and scale your business?
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My main method of promoting my business is through PR. Getting featured on podcasts and in entrepreneur-focused media titles has helped me reach potential clients, which I’ve amplified through my newsletter and social media channels to build trust and credibility with my existing network. Countless studies show that people prefer media and personal recommendations 10:1 over traditional advertising, and that’s why leaning into your network and leveraging the power of PR is such a powerful way to connect with your target audience.
For someone interested in becoming an entrepreneur in your field, what’s the best advice that you would give? And what books, podcasts, thought leaders, or other learning resources do you recommend?
Lean into your zone of genius. What do you love doing that you’re also really good at? For me, that’s dishing out PR advice and empowering people to use their voice to make a bigger impact on the world and grow their business as a result. The Big Leap is a super quick read that discusses this concept and spotlights how you may be holding yourself back.
If you’re just starting out as a freelancer in PR, consider creating profiles on sites like Worksome and Upwork to source clients initially and start collecting testimonials and case studies for you to use on your website and social channels to build up your portfolio of work. Lean into your network and make sure everyone you know is aware of what you do. Most of the time, new clients come from someone we know. There are also a number of Facebook groups for entrepreneurs and PR professionals. Pitch! Please, for example, is a community for publicists and agency owners who want to help each other out with campaigns, outreach, and client challenges.
Regarding podcasts, check out Change Your Latitude, a podcast for conscious entrepreneurs hosted by Pascale Côté; Bossing It, featuring interviews with female entrepreneurs on how they built their businesses; The BossBabe Podcast for all things entrepreneurship and The Mindset School podcast, which I appeared on recently sharing PR tips for entrepreneurs!
I’d also strongly recommend getting a business coach and finding a community of like-minded people for support. Entrepreneurship can be lonely, especially if you’re the only one in your social circle who is self-employed. Ask for help, give yourself permission to take the shortcut – it makes everything so much easier than trying to figure it all out on your own. Natalie Levy is an incredible business coach for women and helped me get my idea off the ground – you can book a free discovery call with her here.
What are the 2-3 favorite places where you’ve lived/traveled to and why?
Tokyo will always have a special place in my heart. It’s where I’ve spent the most time growing up, and you can’t compare it to anywhere else in the world. I also loved visiting Mexico on my solo travels and was very tempted to move to one of the little villages on the Pacific Coast of Oaxaca – delicious food, very affordable, beautiful culture, stunning sunsets, and the friendliest people. The last new place I visited before Covid was Tel Aviv, which was also a place I could see myself living in. It felt like Brooklyn on the beach, with incredible food, cool bars and rooftops, and welcoming locals.
What advice would you give to someone who’s thinking about nomading?
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Trust your gut – if you feel called to explore the world, go for it! Wherever you’re moving from isn’t going anywhere. My biggest concern when deciding to move to Lisbon was how I’d make new friends. Moving around as a kid wasn’t easy, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how easy it’s been to meet people as an adult. There are a number of Facebook groups for nomads and newbies to most places where you can connect with fellow travelers and locals who want to meet international people – you can even join these as part of your research to get an idea of what to expect before you go.
Once you arrive, say yes to as many social events as possible in the beginning and ask for help with getting yourself set up locally – chances are, your new friends just went through the same thing and can help you avoid their mistakes. Plus, what better way to bond than over a shared experience?
What is unique about the way you travel, and what advice do you have for someone who wants to travel with a similar style?
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I’m not sure if it’s super unique, but I now have a partner and a dog that I travel with, which means any place we go needs to accommodate all of us. We like to travel around the country we live in, which makes it easier to bring our dog along and spend summers in my hometown in Denmark so we can go sailing with my family. For the rest of the time, having a dog daycare is a lifesaver, so we’re still able to preserve a sense of freedom to travel just the two of us.
I wouldn’t recommend flying frequently with a dog unless it’s small enough to come into the cabin with you. We have a rescue, and he’s been strongly affected by the change of environment, which has set back our training together. As a one-off, I’d say it’s worth it, though, as we couldn’t imagine going anywhere without him!
As a woman, what should other people who identify similarly (and who haven’t traveled much) know about traveling/nomading?
It’s important to understand the local culture and perception of the LGBTQ+ community anywhere you go so you can keep yourself safe. Before coming out, I felt like I could go anywhere in the world. Now, I’m less inclined to visit places that aren’t accepting of us – especially when I travel with my partner. As a white, cis, straight-passing queer woman, I have quite a lot of privilege, but I still like to get a sense of local attitudes to our community before traveling somewhere and rely a lot on my instincts on whether a place is safe to hold hands, for example. Don’t let it hold you back, though, because there are plenty of places in the world that accept and celebrate us.
I’m still looking for my community here in Lisbon, but I know once bigger social gatherings are allowed again, they’ll be more visible.
What digital tools do you use for your work/business?
I use Calendly to schedule client calls, as it integrates with my Google Calendar and allows me to require anyone who books in to answer some questions before they can confirm, which helps me better serve them when we connect. The scheduling service also sends out automated reminders and can collect payments through PayPal when needed.
I also use Flodesk to design my newsletters and manage subscribers. It’s a women-owned startup with a super intuitive interface, beautiful templates, and so far, always delivers an above-average open rate.
For client presentations, workbooks, social media content, or anything else creative, I use Canva.
What scale is your business at today, and what are your future goals?
I’m just about to approach the one-year mark and have set up my business with the support from a business coach. I’ve hired contractors in the past to help with client work when needed, but I am not at a stage where I can hire any full-time support yet. This is the learning phase, where I’m figuring out what works best for my audience. Moving abroad has lowered my expenses and allowed me to keep investing in my business in a way I couldn’t have if I’d stayed in London, and still giving me the financial freedom to play and explore here in Lisbon. My goal is to scale my business slowly and sustainably so I can help more entrepreneurs reach millions of people and make a bigger impact while still maintaining this freedom to travel and explore.
If you only had a few minutes to live, what are the most important life lessons you would share with the world?
Be yourself, unapologetically. Don’t wait for the approval of others to do what you want. Life is too short not to follow your joy. Too many of us chase the idea of it instead of what actually lights us up.
Don’t take anything personally. Other people’s judgement is a projection of how they feel about themselves and how they see the world – it’s got nothing to do with you.
Be kind. This is so simple, but it goes such a long way. Give others the benefit of the doubt. Chances are, they’re just doing the best they can with what they’ve got.
Set strong boundaries and protect your energy. If spending time with someone drains you, distance yourself or stop seeing them. Just because they’ve been in your life a long time doesn’t mean that they are entitled to remain in it.
What do you travel with that you couldn’t imagine traveling without?
My journal, crystals, my Yogi Bare yoga mat, paperblanks diary, and a good book. Right now, I’m reading Period Power by Maisie Hill about how to harness the power of your hormones throughout your cycle, and it’s honestly life-changing. If you menstruate, give it a read!
What small change has made a big difference in your life?
Slowing down my Mondays. I don’t take any calls and instead ease into the week by savouring my morning, planning out my work, and then choosing to do the tasks I feel called to in the afternoon. It’s completely changed how I feel on Sundays, making me look forward to the week instead of dreading it. It’s my small act of rebellion against hustle culture. Give it a try!
How can people learn more about you and your work?
Find me on Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter and check out my website or sign up to my newsletter and get 100+ story ideas that land press year-round. If you’re interested in exploring what PR can do for your business, you can book a free strategy call with me here.