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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!
Ruby has designed a lifestyle that incorporates travel with her other passions in life: food, words, and money. She has a fantastic story of finding a life of freedom on the road. Be sure to check out her website and print magazine all about chocolate!
Thank you for hanging out with Freedom Is Everything, Ruby!
Key takeaways from Ruby’s interview:
“The freedom remote work gives me makes me grateful every day, and I feel like that gratitude makes me not just the happiest I’ve ever been but also work the hardest too.”
“I’ve always wanted to see the world, but I wasn’t prepared to sacrifice money or my career development to do so. As amazing as it would be to spend months simply adventuring, I didn’t like the idea of eventually having to return to a normality that I didn’t necessarily want when the money dried up. Instead, I wanted to create a life that is an adventure and that I wouldn’t have to come home from.”
“Don’t wait for the perfect time to travel; I promise it will never come.”
“Whatever your financial position, travel is an option for you. If you don’t have any strings to the country you’re living in, there is no reason why you cannot live and work somewhere else where the cost of living is cheaper and use the extra to cover your travel costs and insurance. People see travel as a luxury, and in so many ways, it is, but not necessarily financially.”
“Always be someone you can be proud of, whatever that means for you. As long as you can close your eyes at night proud of the person you are, then nothing else matters.”
Introduce yourself! 🙂 Who are you? What do you do for work? And what is your nomadic story?
I’m Ruby Willow, an entrepreneur, writer, and brand manager from a small village in the north of England. I didn’t get the chance to do much traveling growing up, but I always dreamed of visiting every country in the world. I haven’t reached that by any means (although I’m only 24, so there’s still time, right?), but I have created a life for myself where freedom and travel is a priority, and I’ve been able to see parts of the world I previously could only dream of.
I have always had three major passions in life; food, words, and money. I spent time exploring and eating my way through the food industry after I left school and eventually became a chocolatier. After both falling into the chocolate industry and knowing we wanted the freedom to travel, my partner and I created a chocolate magazine alongside working remotely full-time. This was around three years ago, and since then, I’ve lived and worked in Berlin, London, Yorkshire, Thailand, Malaysia, and Vietnam.
I instantly fell in love with the idea that you can work from anywhere in the world and need nothing but a laptop. There are no limits to what you can learn, when or how you can work, who for or for how much. Whether you’re curled up on your sofa, sitting in a cafe, working on a night train, or in an Airbnb, you can be making money and improving your life. The freedom remote work gives me makes me grateful every day, and I feel like that gratitude makes me not just the happiest I’ve ever been but also work the hardest too.
As I mentioned, two of my biggest passions in life have always been words, especially writing and money. Two things I’ve always been fascinated by and now get to revolve my day around as the Global Country Manager for Financer.com. I write about everything from personal finance to global financial news. Within my role, I also do social media and brand management and collaborate with other brands within the finance and entrepreneurship niche. Every day is different, and I’m constantly learning something new.
What inspired you to start nomading? And how has nomading changed your perspective on life?
I’ve always wanted to see the world, but I wasn’t prepared to sacrifice money or my career development to do so. As amazing as it would be to spend months simply adventuring, I didn’t like the idea of eventually having to return to a normality that I didn’t necessarily want when the money dried up. Instead, I wanted to create a life that is an adventure and that I wouldn’t have to come home from.
So that means choosing where in the world I want to spend my time, what I want to do, and living life on my own terms. I see it similarly to how some people live their whole lives looking forward to the weekend, only for that Sunday night feeling to approach and remind you of the life you don’t really want to be living. My goal is to never have that feeling again.
Please tell us your detailed story of how you got into your line of work and how you turned it into a remote career.
By starting my own business, I was given a baptism of fire and had to quickly learn lots of new skills and wear many hats. This was a great way for me to learn what I enjoyed doing. I realised I took very naturally to certain tasks such as writing, editing, social media, and community management.
I used Upwork to find clients who were outsourcing these tasks and took on jobs as small as half an hour per day to begin with. I said yes to every opportunity that came my way and did everything from consulting work to ghostwriting a cookbook. But because I always gave every job my all and was consistent, I quickly got a 100% job success score, and within two months of my remote career, I had built up a full-time income that paid for me to travel around Asia.
I found Upwork amazing for working alongside setting up my business because you can scale up and down your work depending on your availability. I have learned so much from the different entrepreneurs I’ve worked for. Now I’m loving working full time for Financer.com and feeling like a valuable part of a global remote team, and working towards a shared vision and goals. Financer uses an intrapreneurship method where as well as being paid hourly, you can earn profit shares and passive income, and you have responsibility for your own market much like an entrepreneur would.
What are the 2-3 favorite places where you’ve lived/traveled to and why?
My two favourite places in the world are Iceland and Tioman, Malaysia. They both have so many differences and so many similarities, but most importantly, they both made me feel free and like I could take a deep breath. I think there is nothing more grounding than being surrounded by spectacular nature with not a person, car, or building insight, whether you’re standing in a warm ocean or the freezing snow.
What advice would you give to someone who’s thinking about nomading?
Don’t wait for the perfect time to travel; I promise it will never come. We were trying to create a print magazine in Europe at the same time as traveling in Asia, and at times we wondered if we were crazy and should postpone our plans for another year. It turns out the following year, there was a global pandemic, and all of our travel plans would have been ruined.
You truly never know what is around the corner so if it’s even remotely possible, do it!
What is unique about the way you travel, and what advice do you have for someone who wants to travel with a similar style?
Because I have always been working full time while traveling, I much prefer slow travel. If I only spent a week somewhere, then I wouldn’t have enough time to experience the culture and enjoy where I am, so I love to stay somewhere for 1-6 months at a time. This gives me the chance to get into a balanced routine as well, and the actual traveling to destinations part is spaced out enough not to impact my work output.
As a woman, what should other people who identify similarly (and who haven’t traveled much) know about traveling/nomading?
Traveling as a woman means always keeping your wits about you. However, this is no different from when I’m at home. I never felt like I was in any extra danger abroad, as I’m sadly aware of the number of incidents that happen to women in all countries globally, including my own.
Try to be open-minded and not fear the locals wherever you’re traveling to. As like anywhere you’re from, the vast majority will wish you no harm. But at the same time, never put yourself in situations where you feel unsafe or vulnerable, and if you’re ever alone, then somebody you trust needs to know your plans and location.
If you had debt/student loans when you started nomading, how did you handle or think about this, and what advice would you give to other people with a similar situation?
Whatever your financial position, travel is an option for you. If you don’t have any strings to the country you’re living in, there is no reason why you cannot live and work somewhere else where the cost of living is cheaper and use the extra to cover your travel costs and insurance. People see travel as a luxury, and in so many ways, it is, but not necessarily financially. If you’re just starting up your business, for example, and only taking a small salary, then you could actually be saving more money while traveling.
What is one of your favorite travel stories/experiences?
Working and traveling gives you a whole storybook of memories that you can just turn on in your mind and relive whenever you need motivation. I have so many wonderful memories, from snorkeling in Malaysia to drinking whisky sours in torrential rain in Vietnam and tasting craft chocolate on a Bangkok rooftop looking out at the whole city. Or the day my partner and I went to every chocolate shop in Berlin for a city guide we were creating.
What does a day in your work life look like? Paint a picture for us :).
As social media management is an important part of my job, I usually start the day by checking everything went okay overnight while I have my cup of Yorkshire tea. I always set out my daily tasks the night before, so I know everything I have to do and find that helps me stay on track and get the most out of my day.
Every day is different for me in terms of my tasks and could be anything from writing, editing, creating, and scheduling social media content or partnering with other businesses. I’m a night owl, so I find my motivation often increases as the day goes on. I often get the writing bug at night as well, so after dinner, you’ll often find me curled up with my laptop writing away, but if I do that, I try to balance it out by taking the next morning a bit slower.
One of the things I treasure most about working remotely is the flexibility to set my own schedule, so while I try to stick to a rough routine, I’m also happy to move things around and work late nights and weekends if I’ve not been as focussed during the week. I’m also pretty introverted and really value working independently. In previous customer-facing jobs I’ve worked, I’ve spent all day surrounded by people and feeling extremely drained of energy by the end of the day, so I love that a lot of my work now involves long hours of tapping away at my laptop in silence.
For someone interested in getting into your field of work, what’s the best advice that you would give? And what books, podcasts, thought leaders, or other learning resources do you recommend?
It’s a cliche, but if you want to get good at writing, you need to do a lot of reading. Not many people know this about me, but I’m actually dyslexic. Even though I have always written for myself, I struggled to believe in myself doing it professionally because my dyslexia had really affected my self-confidence.
But I believe the thing which has helped me exponentially is that I have always been a huge reader. I could never have given up on words because I enjoyed reading so much ever since I was tiny, so I had to push myself harder to learn what most people found natural. After many, many years of not giving up, I am so proud to have a job today where I write every day and to be the editor in chief of a print magazine.
I’m sharing this story as my advice is to never give up on what you want to do because there is always a way to make it happen. If you want something enough, then the drive you have inside will get you there. And if you want to be a writer, you need to be a reader.
What digital tools do you use for your work?
I use Slack, Trello, Ahrefs, Grammarly, Agorapulse, and Google sheets every single day. I also use Dreamstime, Pitchbox, Xero, Later, Canva, Visme, Notion, Google Maps (when traveling), and my notes app as I always have ideas late at night that I need to write down.
Tell us about a deep passion of yours! What has your journey been like, and what advice/resources would you recommend for someone interested in learning more about this topic?
Food is my absolute world. If that’s you, then the only advice I would give is to go out and taste as much of life as possible. Whether you love to create or to taste food, there is always something new to explore, and every country and culture offers its own food experiences, so say yes as much as possible.
What is your philosophy on being happy and/or finding meaning/purpose in life? And any recommended resources for people navigating this journey?
I personally believe we’re happiest when the people around us are, so if there’s any way you can bring joy to other people’s lives, then you’ll always receive that back and then some.
If you’re a content creator (podcaster, YouTuber, blogger, etc.), tell us about your content creation journey and share some of your favorite content that people should check out!
I love creating content that can help educate and inform. I really enjoyed writing The State of Finance 2021 report recently and predicting the financial trends of the year ahead.
If you only had a few minutes to live, what are the most important life lessons you would share with the world?
Always be someone you can be proud of, whatever that means for you. As long as you can close your eyes at night proud of the person you are, then nothing else matters.
What do you travel with that you couldn’t imagine traveling without?
Is it cheesy to say, my partner? He makes everywhere we travel that much brighter, and I cannot imagine it without him. Other than that, I don’t need much. As long as I have my laptop, sunglasses, and kindle, then I’m set.
What’s your favorite book and why?
I love stories, and I believe you can learn just as much from fiction as any business book out there because you learn about life, empathy, and the human experience, and that affects every career in the world.
Some of my favourite books are Wild Swans, Where the Crawdads Sing, and The Other Half of Augusta Hope.
What small change has made a big difference in your life?
I used to be terrible at drinking water, so as small as it sounds, getting a time-marked water bottle that shows me how much I’ve drunk throughout the day has made an enormous difference to my life. It turns out that so often, when I was losing concentration or feeling tired or hungry, I was actually just dehydrated. Never underestimate the power of water!
If you’re passionate about FIRE (Financial Independence Early Retirement), please share how this has impacted your life, what your journey has been like, and what other people should know about FIRE!
I was lucky to discover the FIRE movement quite young and have a very clear vision of where I would like my finances to reach so that I can live a life of true freedom. I’ve seen firsthand how much impact your finances can have on your life and how not having enough takes away so much of your freedom.
I think people often think of the FIRE movement as people putting the life they want now on hold so that they can retire young, but that’s not what it’s about (for me) at all. I love working, and I’m sure I will always be working hard at something, but I believe there is an ultimate privilege in being able to choose exactly what work that is and not having to make decisions based on finances for the rest of your life. However, I don’t believe in postponing happiness, so it’s important to me to be living the life I want to today while pursuing my ultimate goal.
How can people learn more about you and your work?
To learn about personal finance and global financial news: Financer.com
To learn more about good chocolate: Readcacao.com
Or connect with me on LinkedIn here.