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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!
Angela has a wonderful story of how she became a nomad that we think will resonant with many of you. Hated your job? Got fired? Avoided the office by chillin’ in the bathroom? Yeah, us too. But also like us, Angela changed her life by becoming a digital nomad. Her quality of life has significantly increased since then.
Thanks for hanging out with us, Angela!
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Introduce yourself! 🙂 Who are you? What do you do for work? And what is your nomadic story?
Hi! I’m Angela, currently living in Boston, MA, but I’ve called cities like Toronto, San Francisco, Nashville, Austin, and southern California home. I’ve also spent time in Venice (where my fiancé Jack and I got engaged!) Iceland (those glaciers! Those waterfalls!) and Helsinki (fun fact: I can speak a tiny bit of Finnish) and can’t wait until it’s safe to travel to go back to all these places and more!
I started my nomadic journey pretty unintentionally about a decade ago. In college, I’d started a music blog as a passion project, and after graduating and getting laid off from several different jobs, I decided that the only way to truly live my passion each day and not get laid off again was to start my own business.
So I did! It’s a public relations company that works with musicians and within the music industry. From there, my career has pivoted over the years to include business coaching and lifestyle PR, but it all started with my first company, Muddy Paw PR, which still exists today. I also just launched a full-service agency for lifestyle + food and beverage, Blossom Creative Agency.
Honestly, location independence was never something I thought about. It was only when I decided to do a road trip around North America in an effort to expand my business that I realized what an incredible lifestyle I’d created. And then I was hooked—I could never go back.
What inspired you to start nomading? And how has nomading changed your perspective on life?
This has been one of the most incredible parts of my nomad experience, is simply getting to observe how others live. I’ve always been fascinated with human behavior and why people do the things they do—one of the most interesting things to me was how differently people behaved and lived even within the same country.
For instance, growing up on the East Coast, there’s a level of hustle you get used to. You talk fast, you walk fast, you’re always sort of in a hurry, even if there’s nowhere to go. Living in California, I quickly learned that wasn’t the case. People literally walked slower. They were never in any rush (even when they probably should have been).
But of course, it goes deeper than that. I loved the community I felt in places like San Francisco and Nashville. I had never felt that level of camaraderie and care for others, and I missed it terribly when I’d left. Discovering the paradox of how similar and yet how different we all can be, was such a fascinating part of the experience that I’m grateful for.
Also, the aesthetics. I was surprised how much I missed all the old buildings and brick when I left Boston and how much I missed the seasons. I longed for summer weather when I was in San Francisco, and I craved Fall when I spent a 90-degree day in Austin in October.
It’s the little things.
Please tell us the detailed story of how you started your business.
I started my business 100% out of necessity. I kept getting laid off from different 9-5 jobs, plus I was terribly bored—I would literally go into the company bathroom every day and cry because I was so frustrated with how unfulfilled I felt. On my lunch breaks, I would grab my computer and sit in the McDonalds parking lot, using their WiFi to brainstorm and build out my idea for a business. Eventually, I started just bringing my laptop into the single-person bathroom at work and using it to work for 10-minutes at a time on my business (terrible employee, I know).
When I got laid off from that job, too, I decided I’d had enough. I tried to brainstorm what I could do with the skills and experience I had and having built a blog in the music industry, along with my connections there for the last five years, I thought, “what can I do in this space to earn money?” And although I’d never done any PR or had any formal training, I felt like between being on the journalism end and receiving pitches, working with publicists and musicians, I could make it work. And so, my company, Muddy Paw PR was born.
My first clients were beta clients—friends with bands that I either didn’t charge or charged an insanely small fee just to see if I could do it and if I liked it. I quickly learned that not only did I like it, but I was actually pretty good at it. From there, I raised my rates, started reaching out to potential clients, and the rest is history!
What are the 2-3 favorite places where you’ve lived/traveled to and why?
I absolutely love Toronto. I know this isn’t an exciting answer, but I feel like it’s my soulmate city. I fell in love with the streetcars, and while it’s very American feeling in a lot of ways, there’s just something about it that truly felt like home. When I left that city, it felt like a breakup.
I also fell in love with San Diego, which surprised me because I wouldn’t consider myself a West Coast gal. I don’t even really like the beach. And yet, when I walked Coronado Beach, or wandered Balboa Park, or stopped at Pedro’s Tacos (my favorite!) I felt truly happy and fully connected to myself and the environment. I dare say it made me love the West Coast.
Lastly, Helsinki was a dream. It was my very first international trip, and I went alone—I’d learned Finnish for about a year prior and was so excited to use it (which I did, albeit poorly). I went in January, and while Finland is COLD that time of year, I also believe it’s at its most beautiful. It’s meant to be viewed in the snow.
That trip will always be one of my favorites, not only for the environment but because it was my first international trip. I experienced it solo, which, truthfully, is one of my favorite ways to travel.
Also, I just love their streetcars. (do we see a theme here?)
And I know this is four, but! I can’t go without mentioning seeing the Bison at Custer State Park. That was a life-changing experience, and I got to share it with my mom, whose lifelong dream was to see the wild Bison. Not sure I can top that!
What advice would you give to someone who’s thinking about nomading?
My first piece of advice is to know what kind of traveler you are. There’s this idea that you have to be someone who is very carefree, spontaneous, and laid back to be a successful nomad, and that really held me back from traveling for a long time because I am truly not any of those things. I really couldn’t be more Type-A.
However, once I embraced travel in a way that worked for me—which meant planning and booking everything in advance, researching the restaurants I wanted to try, the activities I wanted to do, the budget I’d need for the timeframe I was traveling, etc.—it was an incredible experience. Just know that there is no one personality type for nomading—you can do it however you like and make it work for YOU.
The other thing that made the difference for me was the people I met. I’m not a very social person, but I was surprised how much I missed being around people when my core community from home (like my parents or grandparents). So finding a community that I belonged to to fill that need was crucial.
I tried a few different things, including CouchSurfers meetups, which was a really fun way to meet travelers from all over the world, and the occasional MeetUp.com groups, but what really changed things for me was founding my own groups.
I mentioned before that I began traveling as a way to build my business, and for me, this was through founding communities filled with the people I wanted to work with and collaborate with. (Being that I ran a music public relations company meant I was seeking out musicians and music industry professionals).
This changed everything for me because it allowed me to grow my business and connect with others who understood me on every level. I called them in through posting about the meetup (usually held at a coffee shop) in relevant Facebook groups, asking friends and acquaintances to invite their friends, and so on. This was a game-changer for me!
What is unique about the way you travel, and what advice do you have for someone that wants to travel with a similar style?
I traveled with my dog Sawyer, and honestly, it made the trip. Not only did it make everything less lonely, but it just added more fun and opportunity for adventure. There are so many quirky rest stops I may not have stopped at or parks I wouldn’t have explored, and having him was the only way I could have imagined doing this.
As a woman, what should other women (who haven’t traveled much) know about traveling/nomading?
Find a community of people you trust, be aware of your surroundings, and always carry mace. I didn’t go anywhere without my mace, and I had to really learn to be familiar with my surroundings, especially going out at night. Don’t live in fear but, be smart about it.
Since launching, what has been most effective to acquire/retain customers and scale your business?
I am the queen of pivoting. I love a good pivot. I truly don’t believe we’re meant to do the same thing forever, and so knowing how and when to pivot in my business has been the key to scaling. Sometimes that’s meant switching niches, and sometimes it’s meant changing our services to fit what our clients want and need. It also keeps things interesting for me! Another key to scaling? Hire team members. Before you’re ready. You can do this even if you’re barely making any money by bringing them on as contractors and requiring them to bring in clients as well so that when they get paid, you get paid.
As for when I first started, it was a lot of outreach. I literally just would find the band’s emails on their Facebook and email them a pitch introducing myself and the company and asking if I could help them gain press and visibility. I emailed hundreds of people per week when I first started.
That’s it. That’s the secret. When you’re new, it’s a numbers game. I see too many new entrepreneurs reaching out to 10 people per week and wondering why they’re not getting hits back. It’s because you need to up the volume.
What digital tools do you use for your work/business?
I am pretty bare-bones and scrappy with my business. I prefer a paper journal to list out my to-dos, but some of the digital tools I use are Google Drive/G-Suite, Zoom, and at times, Slack and Planoly for IG scheduling. I’m learning Airtable and use it intermittently, but honestly, for me, the more digital tools I have, the more I end up focusing on learning them and perfecting them and taking time away from actually building my business. So I have to be careful about it!
What scale is your business at today, and what are your future goals?
I’m proud to say that Muddy Paw PR has hit 8k months and is now almost entirely run by my senior publicist while I focus on building out my business coaching and a lifestyle PR company. It’s truly a dream scenario because I get to focus on the big picture with MPPR while she does the day today. Also, my business coaching hit its first 13k in just two months of starting, which I say to encourage others that you do not have to struggle or pay your dues or any other limiting beliefs that keep you from reaching your goals.
I struggled a LOT in the early days of Muddy Paw PR. I had no idea what I was doing, and while I hit my first 1-2k/months pretty quickly, I got stuck around 3k/month for a long time. The thing that changed for me was:
- Knowing what I was doing (if you’re still learning, take that into account. It takes time to get proficient and develop systems. This can be sped up with a coach but, it still takes time)
- Gaining confidence, often through better results for myself and my clients and, with that, raising prices
- Having a product suite so I could meet my client every step of the way
- Having multiple revenue streams. Diversifying your income is important!
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?
Do it! If you have something in your heart that you’re wanting to try, just go for it. What’s the worst that happens? You decide it’s not for you, and you have a great story? That’s not so bad.
My advice is to get yourself a mentor or coach as soon as you know you’re in this for the long run. It’ll accelerate your growth drastically. Also, don’t fill your feed with too many people in the same space as you. It’s REALLY easy to get lost in the noise and fall victim to comparisonitis. It’s ok to mute people or unfollow them if it’s getting in your head (I did this recently myself)
As for podcasts, I have one all about building an online business called The Story Behind the Journey. I’m also a big fan of the Change Your Latitude Podcast and Amy Porterfield’s Online Marketing Made Easy.
And if you’re going into the music industry specifically, my advice is to build your network. Your network is THE most valuable resource in any industry but especially the entertainment industry.
Even if you don’t know how your paths will intersect in the future, build the relationship. It’s never a bad thing.
What small change has made a big difference in your life?
Saying “no.” Which could also be “putting myself first and not feeling guilty about it.” I still struggle with this some days, but learning to say no to the things that do nothing but stress me out, has been so empowering.
You don’t have to do things you don’t want to do out of guilt or obligation, or fear. Just say no. Free yourself up to opportunities you actually want by not taking on the ones you don’t.
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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?
Community is such a passion of mine! It’s at the core of everything I do—from the communities I started on that first road trip, to my podcast, to my coaching, to my Facebook group, and everything else in between. I truly believe that we are better together and that if we stopped hiding, stopped acting like someone is going to steal our success and instead, embraced one another and truly came together, the world could be a much better place.
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?
I’ve always approached student debt this way: it’s there, I will pay it off, but in the meantime, it’s not going to stop me from living my life. Because the reality is, there’s probably never going to be a better time to travel and explore this side of your life (post-pandemic, that is. I’m not traveling currently). If you’re at a point in your life where you’re thinking about being a digital nomad, then go for it. Because you’ll always be able to think of 100 reasons why you shouldn’t do it, but you have to believe that ONE reason you have for wanting to—is stronger.
If you only had a few minutes to live, what are the most important life lessons you would share with the world?
Oh gosh, that’s terrifying. I’d say do whatever you want. As long as you’re not hurting anyone, just literally do whatever you want. You’ll never win trying to fit into someone else’s shoes anyway.
What do you travel with that you couldn’t imagine traveling without?
Photos of home—I have these in frames, on my phone, on my computer background. They keep me feeling close.
Little things that remind me of home, like a ring my mom gave me or a note she or my gram wrote me. I love to have those things close.
A few great books and journals.
All the devices (laptop, phone, etc.)
What is your philosophy on being happy and/or finding meaning/purpose in life? And any recommended resources for people navigating this journey?
The older I get, the more important simply being happy is to me. I know that sounds so obvious—who doesn’t want to be happy? But when I was younger, it was much more about the way people viewed me and trying to get to the (imaginary) top. Now, while I still want those things, I value happiness—true happiness—over everything else, and I make sure it’s the #1 priority in all my decisions.
My #1 resource recommendation? Yourself. Check-in with yourself and learn to listen to your own instincts. You know if something brings joy or adds stress to your life. You just have to be willing to listen to what you already know.
How can people learn more about you and your work?
I’d love to connect with anyone starting or scaling their online business and nomad journey! This is such an exciting opportunity and time in your life, and I hope you’re enjoying every second!
Musicians, hang out with me on www.muddypawpr.com.