In our monthly Digital Nomad Girls interview series we will feature interviews with Digital Nomad Girls from around the world with interesting location independent jobs.
This week we talked to Lani, an English teacher and founder of Gynopedia.
Introduce yourself! Where are you from, how old are you (if we may ask 🙂 and where are you currently living?
My name is Lani Fried and I’m originally from San Francisco, CA. I’m currently based in Hanoi, Vietnam and I’m 31 years old.
What is your location independent job (or what are you working towards)?
At the moment, I have two part-time jobs, one of which is online. These jobs involve teaching English, SAT prep, etc. In the past, I have also worked as a writer/editor and software product manager.
You started a website called Gynopedia, tell us a bit about it!
Gynopedia is a free resource for sexual, reproductive and women’s health care. It’s a wiki, so anyone can contribute or edit information. Here’s how it works: You search for a city — for example, “Bangkok” or “New York City” — and Gynopedia provides information related to birth control, emergency contraception, STI tests, gynecologists, abortion clinics and more. Think of as like WikiTravel, but for your ladybits. This information comes from real people who have shared their experiences, or from careful research (after scouring the web!), also conducted by real people. Overall, the goal is to provide practical, non-judgmental information so that users can feel empowered and make informed decisions.
How did you come up with this idea?
From 2010-13, I lived in Istanbul, Turkey. During those years, I constantly struggled to find high-quality and affordable women’s health care. For example, I was slut-shamed by a gynecologist for not being a virgin (and unmarried). I tried to get STI tests at two separate facilities, both of which didn’t conduct the tests that I asked for. I could only find tampons at select stores in my neighborhood. Then, I moved back to the States, where I supposedly had more health care resources. But I was unemployed and uninsured, so I dealt with the American type of difficulty that accompanies women’s health care. The same cycle kept on repeating itself: lack of information, lack of resources.
So, when I began planning a year-long trip through Asia, I realized: This was going to happen again. I wouldn’t know where to get birth control. I wouldn’t know what to do if I got pregnant. And I probably wouldn’t even know where to buy tampons in some places. This lead to an “aha” moment — and it just seemed so obvious: There should be a comprehensive resource for sexual, reproductive and women’s health care. That way, we could all share our recommendations (and warnings), and women could finally get the information they need.
What made you pursue a life as a Digital Nomad?
Personally, I don’t use the term “digital nomad” to describe myself. But I do feel a connection with other people who work online (which I have done on and off since my early 20s), people who love travel and people who have relocated often. As for my own story, I guess that moving around always seemed natural. Growing up, many of family members were immigrants, so I grew up around people who had lived in different countries. And, like many people, I wanted to see the world. Also, economics played a big role. The recession came after my college graduation — and, realizing that I had potentially bleak prospects for the next few years, I decided to look for opportunities outside the States, which brought me to Turkey. This turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life, but I didn’t realize it at the time.
Did your friends/family/colleagues think you’ve gone crazy or were they supportive?
There are always supporters and there are always people who doubt you. There is something incredibly inspiring or threatening (depending on how you look at it!) about leaving your old life or old city behind. But I find that most people are supportive. Last year, I was living and working in New York. When I told my coworkers that I was planning to travel around Asia for an extended period of time, I got a really positive response.
Of course I get a lot of questions: How will you get medical care? How will you make money? How can you leave your apartment/career behind? There is a lot of privilege that is a part of travel, and that shouldn’t be ignored. Unfortunately, it is way too often. But there’s also a lot of practical, not so glamorous stuff that people don’t always consider like: You can find jobs in different towns. Medical care is usually cheaper when you leave the States. But, all in all, most people are rather supportive (just slightly baffled by the whole thing).
What is your favourite city/country/beach/mountain destination to work?
Oh man, I wish I could answer this question! I’m too indecisive for favorites — I always like way too many books and movies and everything to pick one favorite. But I guess some places that I have visited in the last few years and loved were Japan, Indonesia and Colombia.
What do you struggle with most when you travel and work?
Lately, bad Internet has been a huge pest.
How do you connect with and meet new people while travelling?
I love CouchSurfing. And awkward situations. When you’re cramped in a van with a lot of people, or when you find yourself sharing a table with strangers at a bar, you’re forced to interact, and that’s when you meet some of the greatest people.
What item should every Digital Nomad Girl pack?
This is just me (and I spend way too much time researching women’s health products online). But I wish I had menstrual underwear or a menstrual cup in my travels. So far, I have been in some jams when I really needed a tampon but couldn’t find it (like in the Philippines, where there are so many amazing beaches… and yet so few tampons). So, pack a backup for times and places when you need a tampon!
What advice would you give a girl friend who wanted to start out as a digital nomad?
Focus on the basics. There is a wonderful online world of people who encourage you to move abroad, backpack around the world, work online, or be any sort of wandering type, and that’s great. But I think we sometimes forget the fundamentals because the inspirational stuff is so much more fun. But, if you plan to drastically change your life, you also need to focus on basics like: How will I work? For example, you may want to get a TEFL/CELTA if you plan to teach English, or you may want to build up your portfolio if you plan to do freelance work in translation, writing, design, etc. How will I get medical care? How will I find a home that works for me? There are many answers to these questions, and they vary from person to person. But take the time to really think through and take action on the basics. You’ll discover a lot along the way, and not all of your plans will work out like you expected, but think through what you can. It will help you in ways you don’t yet imagine.
What are you up to next travel and business wise?
Travel-wise, I am planning to visit Myanmar, Nepal and India next. Business-wise, I guess I’m still figuring things out!
What is your favourite business/travel/lifestyle book (or novel) you’d recommend to other digital nomad girls?
In terms of travel books, I love writers like Paul Theroux and Jan Morris. I think there’s also some great coverage being done by new publications like Roads & Kingdoms. Oh, and Migrationology is great.
And last: Do you have a favourite inspirational (cheesy optional) quote you’d like to share?
I guess I’ll share my favourite quote from my high school days, which I found through Anais Nin — but it’s originally from the Talmud:
“We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are.”
You can check out Gynopedia here and please contribute if you have experiences or information to share!
Did you ever have to visit a doctor abroad? Please share in the comments!