Meet Digital Nomad Girl Heidi
In our brand new Member’s Spotlight series we feature interviews with our lovely DNG Inner Circle members! This month we talked to Heidi a wellness coach who lives on a sailboat.
Hi Heidi! Please tell us a bit about yourself
After 25+ years as a graphic designer and web designer in Seattle, I was losing my creative spark and needed a change. I didn’t feel like graphic design was fulfilling my Dharma (life’s purpose.) LOL, I’m still searching! 🙂 My mom instilled in me an interest in holistic health and wellness. So six years ago I earned a certificate in Holistic Health & Nutrition.
I was shocked to learn how many toxins are in our food, environment, and health and beauty products, and how sick they are making us. Why don’t people know this?! I had to share what I was learning. So I started blogging and using social media to help educate others. And I’ve been blogging at happywelllifestyle.com, and health coaching since then.
My husband “Captain Kirk” and I have lived aboard our sailboat for 16-years planning our “world cruise.” Three years ago we sailed south from Seattle to get WARM, and I’ve been working location independent ever since. We are currently living in Mexico with our two cats, Tosh & Tikka, and hope to continue sailing south to Panama and beyond next winter.
What is your location independent job?
I wear a few different hats. I still do a bit of graphic design for long-term clients. I am also a US sales consultant for Neal’s Yard Remedies, organic health and beauty products from the UK. I can run that business entirely online, customers order via my website, the company ships directly to them, and I spend my time online marketing, and following up with customers.
Although I’ve been blogging about holistic health and wellness for six years now, that has yet to pay the bills. As a graphic designer, the brand and look of my blog is critical to me, and don’t want it littered up with Google ads everywhere…even if that would bring more income. Sustainability is important to me, and I personally vet and share a few affiliate products. I also have personal integrity, so I won’t ever advertise anything on my blog that I don’t use myself or can’t stand behind.
And I’m currently working on creating my own online course in Holistic Health & Wellness (and possibly creating a member-site, which is one reason I was intrigued to join DNG’s Inner Circle, and see what it’s like on the inside!)
How did you get into this line of work? How can others do the same?
Blogging: In my passion to help people get toxins OUT of their lives, I originally posted on Facebook. But that soon turned into blog writing as my posts were getting very long. There are several free blog platforms out there to help you get started. But don’t expect to get rich from blogging, it’s a lot of hard work and paying it forward. I pay attention to SEO, Google Analytics, etc. Lots to learn, know, and keep up on.
Independent Consultant: When I ditched my main-stream, toxic health and beauty products, I had to find something else. I discovered Neal’s Yard Remedies and immediately fell in love with this amazing UK-based company and their products. Being an independent consultant is a great way to create a location independent income.
Online Courses: In an effort to create my own online wellness course, I’ve taken many other online courses to learn what I need to know. My background in graphic design and technology has definitely helped. These days there are online courses available for just about anything you want to learn. And creating your own course is a great way to share your knowledge with others while creating a passive income stream.
What motivated you to pursue a life as a digital nomad?
SAILING… I LOVE Sailing. I met my husband sailboat racing 28 years ago. And we’ve always had the dream to sail the Seven Seas. We bought our sailboat 2-years later and got married aboard a year after that. We raced her from Seattle to Maui a few years later and worked and saved for many years to head out cruising. My husband is a few years older than I am and has retired, but I need to keep working and saving for my retirement. So I knew I had to have a mobile career.
I also knew that trying to send large graphic design files using third-world-internet would never work. So I looked for a new career I could easily take on the road (or the high-seas!) I initially got certified as an ESL instructor. Then with my passion for holistic health and wellness, I earned a holistic health coaching certificate from IIN and started blogging and health coaching. I’m certified Reiki Level III and am also a 200 RYT certified yoga teacher. So I have several tools in my back pocket for the nomadic lifestyle we live. And I’m always looking to add more modalities in the holistic-wellness realm.
Did your friends/family/colleagues think you’ve gone crazy? Were they supportive?
Sailing has always been a big part of our lives. And our sailing friends “get” our lifestyle. Our close sailing friends were instrumental in helping us cast off the lines, and sail away. A few of them have sailed passages with us or visited us. And most of our family is supportive.
But some of our friends think we’re crazy for living in 250 square feet of space, on the water. And many assume we’re just “living the dream” drinking margaritas all day long. (Aside from being a digital nomad, there is a lot of WORK to living aboard.) Some may be jealous that we managed to escape the cold, rat-race and for the warm tropics, for many, it’s “out of sight, out of mind.” If we’re not there doing things with them, they forget about us.
However, our sailing blog has a good readership. Our blog post e-news has a 50% open rate which is amazing for any mailing list. So some people are living vicariously through us and don’t think we’re completely nuts. My parents were sailors, so I think they somewhat understand. But missing family and friends is the hardest part of this lifestyle for us.
What challenges have you faced as a digital nomad and how did you overcome them?
My biggest challenge by far has been finding reliable, high-speed Internet. Mexico has pretty slow wifi, and it’s expensive. I currently have three different data plans with different companies because you can only get about 10GB of data a month on plans here. And that’s just not enough for me.
I’m taking a lot of online courses to learn how to create my own online course, which eats a ton of data. So I end up spending a lot of my time in Starbucks using their free wifi. It’s pretty fast (NOT T3!), but you still see a noticeable drop in speed when everyone gets home from work, or on the weekends. Luckily this summer, we’re condo-sitting with high-speed wifi and I plan to work 24-7 and take advantage! 🙂
We’ve been stationary in Puerto Vallarta for the past 18-months due to some health issues my husband had. But the 18-months before that we were always on the move, and there would be 3-5 days at sea with no wifi. So I’d plan my work around our passages and when we’d have wifi. I’d work a lot for a few days before we’d sail off again.
You’re a member of the DNG Inner Circle, yay! Why did you decide to join?
I really love people and connecting with people wherever I go. I have a minor in anthropology, so people have always fascinated me. And it’s one of the things I miss most being a digital nomad. So connecting online with others in a similar lifestyle is a huge plus for me.
As I mentioned, I’m also working on creating my own course, and there is a lot I don’t know! So it’s great to connect with people who have different business backgrounds, to share ideas with. I will likely need a VA soon, and I think this group will have good recommendations for that. And because I’m thinking about creating my own membership site for holistic health and wellness, I also wanted to see the inner workings of how a membership site could work.
What is your favourite part of the Inner Circle? What makes it special?
So far the 30-day challenge has been one of my favourite things, making me draw and colour every day! YAY!! Already looking forward to the next one. Having that accountability to do something on a daily basis is great.
And I LOVED the social mixer that I attended, looking forward to another one soon. I can’t wait to get into the Expert Pack courses. I need to make time for those as I’m sure there is a lot of great info there that could help me with my online course creation. And having a place to ask questions and get answers is also fantastic.
Who do you think would benefit from joining the DNG Inner Circle?
Any digital nomad GURL who wants to meet people online (or in person!); anyone who needs accountability, or a little extra nudge to move their business along or boost their own self-care. I think Inner Circle has a LOT to offer those of us who are location independent.
How do you connect with and meet people when travelling?
Taking daily yoga and Pilates classes is a great way to meet people. My husband is very outgoing and chatty, so he’s always meeting people and getting us invited to events and dinners too.
I occasionally host organic skincare workshops or holistic health workshops on my boat, or elsewhere if I can find someone or a location to host them. These are free, and a way to give back and pay it forward. Sometimes I ask for a donation and donate it to a local charity like an animal shelter or kids club. I always have Neal’s Yard Remedies products available to purchase if people want to. So it’s a good way to help supplement my income and meet people at the same time while giving back locally.
As travellers, we really enjoy meeting and making friends with locals where ever we are. We shop locally, buy what and where locals do, eat where locals eat and meet many locals chatting that way. We are a part of a large sailing community, but many of them are retired (including my husband) so I’m often the odd one out going to work while they are all playing!
What advice would you give a girlfriend who wanted to start out as a digital nomad?
As a freelance graphic designer for 15+ years before I became a digital nomad, I was used to the roller-coaster ride of a freelancer. You need to be comfortable with the “feast-or-famine” of freelancing if that’s what you’re doing, and not panic every time you don’t have a job lined up. Tide comes in, tide goes out. Rinse and repeat.
If you’re not comfortable with the roller-coaster ride of freelancing, then consider a more permanent gig that lets you work from afar or set your own hours. Getting paid in US dollars or Euros and living in a developing country is also a bonus as your money goes much further.
And make time for self-care. This can be hard when you have deadlines or are on a tight budget. But I firmly believe you either pay for your health now or later. I’m a big proponent of regular massages, acupuncture or other bodywork, as well as treating yourself to things like pedicures that make you FEEL good. I also practice daily yoga and meditation. You have to put on your own oxygen mask first so that you have the health and energy to get your work done and play!
Quick Fire Round:
The coolest thing I’ve been able to do thanks to being location-independent is….
Live on my sailboat and sail from Seattle to Mexico, explore the Sea of Cortez, Baja, and northern Pacific Mexico. Swim with whale sharks, hear humpback whale songs through the hull of my boat and see those humpback whales up CLOSE. Snorkel, kayak, swim in the ocean, hike, and play with my cats. Meet amazing people and experience new cultures, food, and languages. I have to set a WORK schedule otherwise I would just play the days away!
When I feel lonely, I … Text or call my friends and family back home.
My favourite digital nomad location is … Mexico… for now.
The one item I always pack is … Organic Defence Hand Spray!
My favourite digital nomad tool/app/resource is … Hubspot CRM
In 5 years tim,e I want to be … Living in the Caribbean, on passive income.
My all-time favourite quote is … “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” — Oscar Wilde