The Story of a Digital Nomad: Thriving as a Jill of All Trades
My name is Lauri Li and I am a digital nomad and a Proud Peri10k member.
Every day I have to pinch myself to make sure my life is real. I am a digital nomad. I live everywhere. A Chrysler Town and Country minivan is my “home” and “home” is wherever I park it. As a photographer, I get to see the most breath-taking views. As a snack innovator, I get to find the finest ingredients from reputable farms. Travel and adventure are always on my daily agenda. My life has never been more exciting. But things weren’t always this way.
In 2008, I was a senior in college, finishing up my Bachelor’s Degree in Photography.
I had landed myself an internship with great pay. I got involved with many things, including marketing, design, wall decor, products photography.
It was fun but also exhausting as we got nearer and nearer to one of the biggest interior design trade shows. My company was in dire straights at the low point in the economy. Management was so demanding and stressful. Their work requirements were crazy and nerve wracking. The management issues drove my only co-workers to quit their jobs without notice. I stuck around long enough to hire and train a few new employees and to get my internship credit.
But after that, I too jumped ship.
It was the worst time during the recession and an unusual time to quit my job, but it was what it was. Around that time, someone I admired asked me: “How do you want to spend your days?”. This question has been reverberating between my ears ever since.
After 3 months of unemployment I ended up running away with the circus for a while. Then I went to Massage Therapy School, and Personal Training School. I also worked in fitness centers and spas. I worked in shipping and quality control.
In 2012, I was working on a shipping dock. My job was of complete mediocricity and demanded no special skills.
At that time, I started my first Etsy shop.
I needed to do something more stimulating than packing photos into boxes! The store was full of vintage and antique wares and I had a blast running the shop part-time with my mom. I saw the possibilities that Etsy’s platform created for the vintage sellers. It was exciting.
In 2011, I ended up in a soul-sucking corpo-government job.
I only intended to work there for 6 months and only part-time. I started another Etsy shop filled with handbags, but they weren’t a hot item. My dream of becoming a fabulous Etsy fashion designer fell flat on its face. 6 months in the job turned into 2 years. I became a full-time manager, despite knowing in my heart that it wasn’t for me. My career advanced quickly but I knew deep down it wasn’t for me.
During my final months at this job, I felt really sick, depressed and lost in the world. I developed a chronic illness with symptoms like Lyme disease. I used to see 3 doctors on a regular basis. I wasn’t sure if it was biological or if the job made me sick. I think it was both.
I decided to dust off a copy of “The 4 Hour Work Week” that I bought in 2010. When I reopened the book, I read it like it was the voice of my savior from the painful and unfulfilling job.
I racked my brain over what I should do, what I should sell or offer. I wanted to create a lifestyle which required travel and not a 9-5 commute. At first, no ideas came to me or perhaps I didn’t think the ideas that I did have were good enough.
But yet, I knew that there was a way to do something fun with Etsy.
After several months, I considered art as a possibility. Art was the one thing I always connected with since I was a child. Maybe it was something I could do from anywhere in the World. My digital design tool kit was relatively compact and all I needed was a laptop and internet to create art.
That’s why I was so happy when I had the opportunity to use Adobe Creative cloud at work. It was the perfect opportunity for me to begin creating posters like I had done in 2008. I wanted to live on my terms and create in my own style. That’s when I created a “We All Shine On” poster and that planted the seed. I didn’t have a goal or a project but it felt good to create something and share it with the World. That small dose of fulfillment was something I desperately needed.
It felt good to create something that mattered.
I started to see the real me. My creative nature was coming to life. And one day I had a glimpse of the lying culture and corruption happening in the government. That was the moment I realised this job was not aligned with my values and I could not continue to work there.
I quit. Again!
I had no stable income, no direction and I didn’t know what to do. But I had to quit. I spent months focusing on my health. I meditated, I did yoga, gardening and I put myself through the strictest diet ever.
I wasn’t creating art but I finally found myself in a healthy space. I felt good enough to open a massage practice in my apartment. For my massage room, I created an anatomy poster in a style like the art I used to create years ago. It matched the colours of my massage room and it looked amazing. I decided to add it to my fledging poster store, where my handbags once lived.
That was an instant hit!
And that motivated me to create more and offer colour customisations. I started fulfilling custom requests and going with the flow! I was getting more business from posters than I was for my massage services.
Shortly after, I had to move to a different house in a different town. Moving my printing system was such a hassle. But then I remembered that one of my old co-workers started a printing company.
That was when it hit me. Why I am a doing everything on my own? I was picking the posters up, packaging them, shipping them. I was doing everything in my business. Why? The 4 Hour Week talked about putting your business on autopilot and that’s when I realised that I could do that.
I started working with my ex co-worker. We set up a system that completely automated the whole printing process. I am now his number one customer and our businesses are doing great.
Right now, I am working on my Masters Degree in Nutrition. I am traveling the United States photographing beautiful places. I even source ingredients from farms for my superfood cookies (did I tell you I was an inventor?) . Travel has become a crucial and necessary part of my work life.
And of course, I create art whenever I get the chance. My current work in progress is a photography project that will appear in my shop soon. I realised the potential of Etsy years ago and I am still working my way through the possibilities.
Here’s the thing. I am 29 years old and have done many things.
I breezed in and out of so many industries searching for fulfilment. My resume is a total hodge podge!
What was the lesson of my journey as a digital nomad?
What I learnt as a digital nomad is that every experience and every skill can be used again at a later time. Everything has value. I called on skills I mastered during my internship years ago. I now have the freedom to live on the road while still being able to pay my bills and enjoy my days.
I can pick up all sorts of work along the way as a digital nomad. Today, I shot photos of vintage dolls for my friends in Key West for their Etsy and eBay stores. None of this happened overnight. There were times where I was ready to give up. There were times when I freaked out so bad that I ran into the safe arms of part-time jobs. I did whatever else I had to do to keep my head above the water.
It has been over a year since I left my last part-time job and terminated the lease at my last rental house. It has been the most magical year of my life. I am growing all my seedling projects from over the years into endless abundant fruits.
What relics of your past can you call upon to reintegrate into your life now? Maybe a skill or a lesson learnt? A place? An old friend or a mentor.
What’s in your tool box? What seeds have you planted?
Everything can be relevant and everything is possible.
If you want to have a glimpse of my art and creativity as a digital nomaad, check out my Etsy store. As I am so grateful that you read my story, I am giving you 10% off if you use the shop coupon code Peri10k10.
LauriLi is a digital nomad: an artist / professional photographer discovering the most breathtaking views, a snack food innovator sourcing the finest quality ingredients and an inspirational speaker on Periscope as @gogetblissed.
Artwork available at ChartSmart.etsy.com and RelicsRemixt.etsy.com (use Peri10k10 for 10% off my art)