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!
Chelsea left the hustle of NYC for a year of working remotely and hasn’t looked back. She’s now helping others start their days with mindfulness and intention. Be sure to check out her audio program if this sounds like a good addition to your routine!
Thank you for sharing your story with Freedom Is Everything, Chelsea!
Key takeaways from Chelsea’s interview:
“Before I started traveling, I had fears about stepping outside of my comfort zone, but at the end of the day, no one ever says, ‘Wow, I wish I didn’t travel!’ The most important thing is just pushing aside any fears that you have, knowing that you’re going to have a great time (and you can always go home whenever you want), but it’s definitely worth it to give it a try.”
“The next time you feel inspiration strike – act. Make a step on the project that you’re inspired by. Find a way to get to work and make progress. To make progress, you need to make decisions. And to get motivated to make decisions, you need momentum. How do you get momentum? By making decisions! This is a positive spiral, where if you take action, you will then be motivated to take more action. This spiral will move you forward, no matter the industry or business you want to tackle.”
“After leaving a high-stress job in New York City to see the world, I realized that there’s more to life than just working hard. I learned to better manage my time, my emotions, and my relationships, and, in turn, I developed a morning routine that involved meditating, journaling, and learning, and a regular workout habit.”
Introduce yourself! 🙂 Who are you? What do you do for work? And what is your nomadic story?
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I am the founder of First Cup Morning Series, a mindfulness audio program that helps people to start their day with intention. After leaving a high-stress job in New York City to see the world, I realized that there’s more to life than just working hard. I learned to better manage my time, my emotions, and my relationships, and, in turn, I developed a morning routine that involved meditating, journaling, and learning, and a regular workout habit. I shared what I was learning with friends and family, who said that the tips I shared were having a positive effect on their lives, as well.
In March 2020, an idea hit me: if the concepts I had been sharing with family and friends could have a positive impact on them, they could probably help others, too. That’s how First Cup Morning Series was born. After working on it for a year and a half, I can say there is no bigger satisfaction than witnessing our listeners savor the benefits of a daily meditation, learning, and introspection.
I have been nomadic since the beginning of 2017, and I’ve spent a decent amount of time traveling around Europe, South and Central America, and some time in Africa. I haven’t done that much traveling in Asia because the time difference makes it really hard to work with any clients. When I wasn’t working, you could have found me café hopping in Portugal, wine tasting in South Africa, or diving off a catamaran in Greece, but now you can probably find me eating tacos in Mexico, where I’ve now put down roots.
What inspired you to start nomading? And how has nomading changed your perspective on life?
I started traveling at the beginning of 2017 with a program called Remote Year. The program gets about 50 people together to travel as a group, and over the course of a year, we live in 12 different cities for one month each. RY essentially acts as your landlord, providing apartments, flights between itinerary cities, cultural immersion events, and even a 24-hour office space so that you can always get your work done regardless of time zone.
When I first heard about Remote Year, I didn’t think it was something I could do – it felt too far-fetched to quit my job and leave the country for a year. But after thinking about it and looking into remote work, I realized that if it was important to me, it was something that I could make happen. While living in New York, I loved my life and job there but decided that traveling was my priority. It was only after leaving that I realized how unhealthy the stress of that lifestyle was.
Nomading has completely changed my perspective on life because before I started this lifestyle, I thought I would just travel for a year and then go back to New York City. But it’s made me realize that I can be happier and healthier while traveling full time and living around the world instead of just conforming to a normal life. Nomading is important to me because not only can you expand your knowledge, your ways of thinking, and experience different types of lifestyles through travel, but you have the opportunity to get to know yourself on a deeper level by overcoming unfamiliar situations independently to constantly expand your mind.
Please tell us the detailed story of how you started your business.
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After leaving a high-stress job to see the world, I realized that there’s more to life than just working hard. It’s ok to take a moment, take a breather, and take a lunch break. The clients I signed to work with remotely while traveling were no longer as fast-paced or demanding as those I worked with in New York, so I actually had time to 1) catch up on years of lost sleep and 2) figure out what I enjoyed outside of work. Of course, I loved exploring new places, trying new foods, and meeting new people. But beyond that, I discovered a love for personal development. I started eating up all the materials I could get my hands on, listening to podcasts as I walked around new cities, and ending most days with a book in bed. I read about health and nutrition, leadership, mindset, meditation, you name it – and then I started to put into practice what I learned. That’s when I developed a morning routine that involved meditating, journaling, and learning, and a regular workout habit. The information I was ingesting was making a real impact, and with thoughtfully doled out quotes and concepts, my friends began benefitting from it, too.
That was how First Cup Morning Series was born, always from the intention of making a positive impact and helping others in their personal development journey. A mindfulness audio series sent to subscribers’ emails each morning, in each six-minute clip, listeners savor the benefits of daily meditation, learning, and introspection. It’s designed for busy individuals who don’t have time to devote to hour-long morning routines but still want to add an extra ounce of calm, productivity, fulfillment, and joy into their lives. And it comes from a completely remote business model, with an all-female team located all over the world from Mexico to Canada and even Australia!
What advice would you give to someone who’s thinking about nomading?
Be as open-minded as you possibly can!
The whole point of traveling and going to different places is to learn different cultures. And one of the best ways to do that is to speak to people, the people who live there and people who are traveling from destinations that are not the same as where you’re coming from, not just other travelers that seem similar to you. Try to truly open up your mind and listen to what other people have to say.
Another piece of advice is less is more! I used to live in New York City, where I worked in fashion, so I had an extensive closet, and I thought I needed to bring a lot of it. That’s not true. You don’t need as much stuff as you think! You realize that it’s more important to collect memories and friendships than it is to collect souvenirs.
Before I started traveling, I had fears about stepping outside of my comfort zone, but at the end of the day, no one ever says, “Wow, I wish I didn’t travel!”. The most important thing is just pushing aside any fears that you have, knowing that you’re going to have a great time (and you can always go home whenever you want), but it’s definitely worth it to give it a try.
What are the 2-3 favorite places where you’ve lived/traveled to and why?
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- Mexico City, Mexico: The place where I’ve ended up putting down roots as a result of COVID and not being able to travel anymore. But also because I love the food, I love the culture, and I love the people! And I love that Mexico City is such a centralized hub that we can travel to other parts of Mexico really easily.
- Bodrum, Turkey: Besides the surface-level similarities to Greece, to the point you could call Greece and Turkey cousins, Bodrum boasts not only the best Turkish virtues such as hospitality in the form of invitations for tea or pride in their regional cuisine but also it’s ten different tiny beach towns, each with their own waterfront and village, make the perfect spots to enjoy the best sunsets over the Mediterranean.
- Cape Town, South Africa: South Africa as a whole has my nomadic heart, but some of the most breathtaking parts of the country are the winelands that surround Cape Town. A quick drive from the city center, most of them boast stunning views with world-class wine. Enjoying a French-style MCC, a crisp Sauvignon Blanc, or a native Pinotage from a mountain-side vineyard looking over a valley of vines is definitely my idea of bliss!
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What is unique about the way you travel, and what advice do you have for someone that wants to travel with a similar style?
For the first three and a half years of living nomadically, I would live in one place for anywhere between four and six weeks at a time and then move on from there. My goal was to constantly explore new places, but I felt that going much faster than that didn’t give you the chance to really settle in and make a home. But, at the same time, if you stay much longer than that, it limits the number of spots you can see. For me, four to six weeks was the perfect amount of time to find a local grocery store, join a gym, make some friends, and have a coffee shop that knows your name. For me, that was the correct pace so that I wasn’t getting burnt out on travel.
And then now, with COVID restricting global travel, I’ve made a home base in Mexico City. It’s a great hub from which to visit places in Mexico that I probably never would have even heard of if I hadn’t lived here for as long as I have!
For someone interested in becoming an entrepreneur in your field, what’s the best advice you would give? And what books, podcasts, thought leaders, or other learning resources do you recommend?
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Just Start Today! Inspiration isn’t something you can call upon and expect it to arrive with the reliability of an Uber. Inspiration comes when it wants to but also has an “expiration date.” Have you ever had an idea you felt inspired by, only to sit on it long enough for the inspiration to leave you? At one point, you were really jazzed by this idea, feeling like you were ready to take on the world, but then slowly, after not acting on it, the idea had less and less weight in your mind and heart? That’s inspiration expiring.
The next time you feel inspiration strike – act. Make a step on the project that you’re inspired by. Find a way to get to work and make progress. To make progress, you need to make decisions. And to get motivated to make decisions, you need momentum. How do you get momentum? By making decisions! This is a positive spiral, where if you take action, you will then be motivated to take more action. This spiral will move you forward, no matter the industry or business you want to tackle.
As for audio-related resources, I love the podcast “On Purpose” by Jay Shetty, which isn’t specifically a business one, but I feel like it’s given me a lot of tools in my life that I can then apply to business. Who What Wear has a podcast called Second Life that interviews female founders about their career trajectories, which I’ve found very inspiring. Also, the Tropical MBA podcast is great for digital nomads who want to learn a little more about that lifestyle and relevant businesses. In addition to these, find a podcast in your niche to get inspiration from the type of leaders you want to become!
What is one of your favorite travel stories/experiences?
I was in Cape Town, South Africa, and I met another solo female traveler who was planning to go to Zanzibar, a place I had really wanted to go but didn’t have anyone to go with. After getting together with her a few times, getting to know her a little bit better, I decided to join her on the trip to Zanzibar for eight days over Thanksgiving.
On one of the days there, we decided to take a boat trip out to a deserted island, with the hotel we were staying at setting it up. As we pull up to the boat, we could see off in the distance a giant thunderstorm. The guys who are in charge of the boat only speak Swahili, which we do not speak, and they keep motioning us for us to get in their little motorboat despite the storm. We get in, and they take off in this rickety little boat into the eye of the storm. We end up completely drenched and freezing for the hour-long ride.
Once we’ve passed the storm, the captain stops the boat, throws snorkels at us, and points to the water. We try to protest – we just want to get to the island and relax. But before we know it, he’s jumped in, so our only choice is to go in after him—fun fact: the snorkels had holes in them.
Finally, we arrive at the island, and it’s so bright it’s almost like the storm never happened. A total stark contrast to the storm, the island was completely sunny, not a single cloud in the sky, and also not a single tree on the island. While we were happy to be in better weather, we quickly realized that we just went from a thunderstorm to having no shade at all!
They set up a little table for us to have lunch, and we were supposed to enjoy the island for a few hours, swimming, eating, and tanning. After probably an hour of being in the sun, we ended up huddling under the table to get away from the strong rays before the captain finally agreed to take us back to our hotel. As we’re on our way back, relieved to get out of the elements and enjoying the surrounding mangroves (they took us back via a different route), the boat starts stalling.
Over the course of the day, we went through a thunderstorm, had a failed snorkeling attempt, got burnt to a crisp, and now our boat is not working. We were close enough to the shore that we could see it, yet far enough that we couldn’t easily swim there. After many attempts, they did end up getting the boat to work, so we did make it back safely, and everything was ok. But it’s one of those days where every single possible thing that could have gone wrong did go wrong. And we still had the most amazing time. It will forever be one of my favorite travel stories.
Since launching, what has been most effective to acquire/retain customers and scale your business?
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Definitely word of mouth! The people who enjoy First Cup Morning Series really do love it. They continuously tell their friends and their family about it, becoming both advocates and a wonderful support system in helping us grow the business.
What digital tools do you use for your work/business?
As a completely remote team, we use project management tools like Slack and Notion to make sure everyone in the team knows where everything is at and at what stage of each project we are at… all the time! For our weekly meetings, we use Zoom, and Google Drive is our best ally for all things file sharing.
If you only had a few minutes to live, what are the most important life lessons you would share with the world?
I’d probably spend those last few minutes telling my family and friends that I love and appreciate them!
What do you travel with that you couldn’t imagine traveling without?
- I have a Stutterheim raincoat that is like a fisherman-quality raincoat and can keep you dry in any storm; I’ve even walked through waterfalls with it and come out dry! Having a good raincoat while traveling can be the difference between going out to explore regardless of weather versus getting stuck in your accommodation all day.
- I also think that investing in nice luggage is important when you travel full time. If you buy cheap luggage that falls apart and needs to be replaced constantly, you still end up spending a lot, plus all of the headaches it can cause. Getting a nice suitcase so that your belongings are safe is super important.
- I travel with a Skyroam, and it’s nice just to have that hot spot as a backup in case the Wi-Fi somewhere that I’m staying isn’t sufficient.
- Sea Star Beachwear makes incredible water shoes that are super cute if you want to wear them on land, but also really helpful if you’re on rocky beaches (think Greece or Italy) and you want to keep your feet protected.
- I travel with a reusable S’well water bottle and reusable plastic bags that’ll help with everything from keeping your toiletries organized to even helping you store leftover food.
- I love packing cubes! I’ve packed every single article of clothing into packing cubes. They keep me super organized when moving from place to place.
What small change has made a big difference in your life?
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Prioritizing myself and my own health! Developing a meditation practice and developing a morning routine was key, as was making sure to exercise consistently. All of these can feel tricky when you’re traveling around the world, but developing health practices that keep you grounded is really, really essential.
How can people learn more about you and your work?
- My personal Instagram account.
- My business (First Cup Morning Series) website and Instagram account.