In our brand new Member’s Spotlight series we feature interviews with our lovely DNG Inner Circle members! This month we talked to Monisha, Content Marketing Strategist & Social Entrepreneur!
Hi Monisha – please tell us a bit about yourself!
My location independent life started when I turned a setback into an opportunity.
I’m originally from Bangkok, Thailand. I spent part of my childhood in Japan and I’m Thai-Indian. (Hello, any TCKs reading this!)
Eventually, I moved to the US to study at the University of Southern California. I got a degree in Communications, a certificate in Cybersecurity, and a minor in Music Industry.
After graduating, I landed a wonderful job as a digital media producer at a content marketing agency in Orange County. I enjoyed my work. I got to create content for companies like LinkedIn, the Knight Foundation, SAP, Course Hero, Honeywell and more. And, I experimented with all sorts of digital mediums. From infographics to interactive websites and 360 videos.
For me to continue to work in the US, my agency needed to apply for a new work visa. Unfortunately, the randomized lottery system didn’t play out in our favor. I had to go home.
When that happened, it hit me: this was my chance.
I decided not to apply to any jobs back home. Instead, I challenged myself to realize my vision of working remotely. Ever since then, August 2016, I’ve been working online and traveling.
What is your location independent job?
I have two jobs! I describe my career as creating social change and content that matters. As a freelance content marketing strategist, I help growing purpose-driven businesses, technology brands, and social enterprises. I plan, organize, and create digital content for their websites, blogs, or online platforms.
I’m also founder and managing director of a non-profit organization based in Bangkok called Ruam Chuay. Our vision is to contribute to creating a safer world. I design and run interpersonal and gender-based violence prevention programs. We deliver workshops at schools, universities, and workplaces in Thailand. This job is part-time remote (since I’m on the ground running programs a few months at a time).
And, if that wasn’t enough work for me already, I’m about to complete a certificate in Restorative Justice from Simon Fraser University as well. I’m expanding our non-profit to include restorative programs. Soon, I hope to be able to share this approach to social change with my freelance clients who are focused on creating a positive impact in the world too.
How did you get into this line of work? How can others do the same?
To get into content marketing, I think it’s all about skill building and learning by doing. Part of my job as a producer was to become an “overnight expert” on topics I had to write about. Whether that was learning how specific types of hardware worked for Honeywell to complex software systems for SAP or investment funds for BlackRock.
In this line of work, you teach yourself and do a lot of research. I continually work on keeping my core skill sets sharp. Crafting messaging, content design, strategic thinking frameworks. This way, I’m ready to apply them to new subjects. I now have some systems to help get me up to speed quickly without skipping over the details!
To work in interpersonal and gender-based violence prevention takes a different type of preparation. I recommend training in some form of counseling/psychology or crisis response and trauma-informed care. It prepares you to hear stories and safely discuss incidents of this nature. And, most importantly, ensure you don’t perpetuate any harm when working with people.
What motivated you to pursue a life as a digital nomad?
I wanted to craft a life around my values and live consciously. For me, this means being able to spend time with the people I care about and doing meaningful work. Also, I always loved going on adventures and exploring so DNG life lets me do all of this.
I’m so grateful for this experience. It’s given me a chance to connect with many people from around the world (especially in the DNG Inner circle!) and to choose projects I am excited to work on.
Also, without the flexibility of working remotely and as a freelancer, I probably wouldn’t have been able to launch a non-profit organization.
Did your friends/family/colleagues think you’ve gone crazy? Were they supportive?
Ha, I got mixed responses. From “that’s so awesome!” to “are you sure you’ll be safe?”
My closest friends and family are supportive now, even though they were really worried about my safety for a long time. Like many of us in the DNG community, I challenge a cultural and social norm by traveling as a woman for extended periods of time. This has been a little hard for some of my relatives and people in my community. I keep them updated on where I am by sending funny selfies to let them know I’m okay.
Oh, and some people just don’t get what I’m doing. I still get asked, “you’re still on vacation?” or “when are you going back to work?” Haha!
What challenges have you faced as a digital nomad and how did you overcome them?
There was definitely a learning curve for me. Initially, I had a hard time balancing work and travel. I used to take on way too much work. In the beginning, there were so many times where I had my laptop out at airports, on planes, and trains. Even, buses. It was too stressful.
Now, I don’t schedule any work on travel days because it’s too exhausting and unexpected delays are bound to happen.
After experimenting, I’ve found a way to structure my work day so I get a bit done in the morning, go out in the afternoon and then come back and work again in the evening. Splitting it up makes me feel productive in the morning so I don’t feel guilty exploring for most of the day.
You’re a member of the DNG Inner Circle, yay! Why did you decide to join?
I joined on a whim. And I’m so glad I did! At some point last year I found the Digital Nomad Girls Community Facebook group. As Jenny would say, I was a “lurker” for quite some time.
When the Inner Circle doors opened, I thought I should try it. I had just decided to commit to the DN lifestyle. None of my friends were doing this, and I knew I had a lot to learn. I felt that the Inner circle would be a nice way to connect with like-minded women who were also working on the road.
What is your favorite part of the Inner Circle? What makes it special?
My favorite part are the people in the inner circle! I love the sense of community and I enjoy all the different ways we interact. From coworking sessions to expert packs and Q&As. I especially appreciate our monthly goal setting, it gives me structure and routine I may not have had otherwise.
Also it’s just nice to get to connect with people who have common interests, share a passion for creating a life they love living, and in general are just such genuinely great people.
Who do you think would benefit from joining the DNG Inner Circle?
Anyone looking for some accountability and to chat with like-minded women who are motivated, and supportive!
If you’re into learning and personal development, this is a great platform with so many resources and people that will challenge you to grow.
// Do you sometimes feel lonely as a digital nomad too? Join the DNG Inner Circle to connect with other nomad girls, virtually cowork together and make new friends! //
What advice would you give a girlfriend who wanted to start out as a digital nomad?
Make sure to plan ahead and save up before jumping in. Stressing out about money on the road makes it hard to enjoy yourself. Build up a buffer for at least a few months so you can get your bearings without worrying.
Because I’m a little cautious, I did short “test run” trips nearby when I first started. I wanted to see what it would be like taking my work with me for a week at a time in my region. Once I figured out I could do it, I saved up for my first 3-4 months and then dove right in!
Now, my colleagues joke that I’m an expert timezone juggler 🙂
Quick Fire Round:
The coolest thing I’ve been able to do thanks to being location-independent is… Volcano boarding, go to lots of music festivals, and arts galleries in different cities
When I feel lonely, I… Call a friend, read something, or watch a Ted Talk!
My favourite digital nomad location is … Too many to choose from! But, I think Nicaragua
The one item I always pack is… A little pouch with tiny sunscreen, hand sanitizer, and eye-drops
My favourite digital nomad tool/app/resource is… Downloading google maps offline
In 5 years time I want to … Be established as a social entrepreneur and still traveling
My all-time favourite quote is … From Jack Kerouac’s On The Road:
“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!””
Thank you SO much Monisha for sharing your story with us! If you want to find out more about Monisha you can connect with her on Website or Instagram!