I am a freelance marketing and business development consultant (working alongside the owner and CEO) for Fleewinter, a boutique tour operator. Fleewinter is an ‘online travel company’ and as such we don’t have any traditional office space. Instead, we are comprised of a ‘virtual’ team of destination specialists (and a couple of marketing/business people) dotted all over the world, from Cape Town to Bali. As a matter of fact, I am currently living and working in New Zealand, and you can’t get much further away than that! As long as we have our phones and laptops, we are able to do our jobs. If anything, being digital nomads enables us to fuel our shared passion for travel and maintain a happy (and no longer elusive!) work/life balance. Whilst some of our team work in very exotic locations, others enjoy the simple pleasures of working from home; a non-existent commute, spending time with the kids (or the dog…) and having the freedom to create their own work space. Some even have other part-time jobs or run their own small businesses on the side. It definitely promotes an entrepreneurial mentality, as the people who work for us, do so because they like the idea of running a franchise-style mini business, being their own boss and having FREEDOM. With us, you’ll find ex-accountants, lawyers, journalists and other former ‘serious’ professionals who became disillusioned with the system (and water-cooler moments). Whilst they have undoubtedly taken a salary cut, they are, without question, richer through experience.
In addition to working on the marketing side of things, I was responsible for setting-up and now running the Italy Food & Wine business for Fleewinter, with my childhood friend Francesca. We both share a passion for this delicious country, so it seemed like a perfect meeting of minds (and stomachs)! Not to mention that we get to take fabulous research trips together, where we sample all the local delicacies and beautiful properties on offer; of which there are no shortages! I do feel incredibly lucky to have a job that enables me to have this kind of freedom, both physically and creatively.
Before arriving at Fleewinter, I trained and worked for nearly 10-years in London in various PR, sales and marketing roles. I think I always knew that the typical 9 to 5 office job probably wasn’t for me; not least because I have the attention span of a 4-year old and get bored really easily, but because I was craving more autonomy in my professional life. In a turn of fate, I met up with Fleewinter’s owner for an informal chat about my future career path, and ended up taking a bit of risk and jumping ship – to the Fleewinter Ship (and its new and uncharted waters). Two years later, I am currently working and travelling around New Zealand with my fiancé John, and our dog Alba. We are doing our best at this ‘digital nomad’ thing. John also now works remotely for a start-up company, so we are able to live, work and explore. Our adventure won’t go on forever, we will be returning to the UK in September, to our lovely little flat in Twickenham, our two fluffy cats and of course all our friends and family who make the UK home for us. The one thing I’m sure about all of this is, that we’ll never regret taking a year out of our ‘normal’ lives to fulfil our fantasy of living and work abroad. And, to have been able to do it in such a beautiful country, which takes my breath away every day, I know that our lives have changed for the better. And who knows, just maybe we have too.
For me, I’ve found that the most important thing to aid my mental and physical wellbeing is exercise. I think this is particularly important in the work place, as all too often we are guilty of being stooped over our laptops for hours on end, without relent. I ended up giving myself some nasty back pains because of this bad habit, so I learnt the hard way. I know it’s often the last thing we want to do after a long and busy day, or we simply feel that we don’t have time. But I think it is crucial to carve time out, because I find I work 100x more productively after a morning jog, or lunchtime yoga class. My other wellness ritual has got to be my dog. This probably only applies for those of you who work from home (or who are able to bring your dogs into the office). Having to take the dog out for a walk (come rain or shine) every morning and evening – instils some discipline into my daily routine. You have to leave the house and that can only be a good thing. It also helps that my pup loves the coffee club culture, and is happiest when lying by my feet in a bustling café. We find all sorts of interesting work spaces, which keeps things varied, plus her big cavalier doe-eyes tends to spread the joy to other café co-workers too! At the end of the day, if you’re thinking about getting a dog and you’ve figured out the practicalities, then do it. There is reams of evidence that our four-legged friends are the best therapy money can buy. And after a crappy day of thankless work (which let’s face it, it happens from time to time), nothing lifts your spirits quite like the wagging tail and unconditional love of man’s (or this woman’s) best friend.
What are your tips for incorporating Wellness in to a busy schedule?
Take a ‘lunch break’, even if it’s just 10-minutes; it’s not healthy to eat lunch in front of your screen. It can lead to bad food habits too, and at the end of the day, if we are honest, we procrastinate for at least 10-minutes a day anyway, so you might as well do it during lunch and hit the afternoon feeling a little more restored. Another tip would be dabbling with meditation. I never thought I’d be the kind of person who would get into it or make the time for it, but since the Headspace app, I think it’s become much more accessible (and for want of a better word: mainstream?). I try and do 3-minutes per day of meditation, just to block out some of the noise and centre myself. On days when I’m feeling a little out of control, stressed or anxious, I find that these 3 minutes provide a welcome refuge and I then re-join the world in a better place. You can decide how long you want your meditative sessions to be, and that’s the great thing. They are designed for people with busy lives, and can cater to your needs. You can even do them at your desk, if you’re in need of a ‘quick 5-minutes’. As long as you’ve got good headphones and a reasonably comfortable chair, mediation is there for you.
This is a weird one, but apparently one that needs saying from time to time – take your annual leave people!! Surprisingly not everyone does use up their annual holiday allowance, a trend that is particularly common among American workers. This has always seemed bonkers to me, but I’ve had colleagues complain that they’ve got the odd day here and there and wouldn’t know what to do with it. Plus, their inbox tray is overflowing, so they could use the extra day to shift some admin. This is not the attitude – holiday days are as important as salary, plus you’re getting paid to take them. It doesn’t matter if you can’t go away or do something monumental with your days off. Take them regardless, enjoy a day at home – do your personal admin, cook nice food, take a long walk, curl up on the sofa and binge watch Gilmore Girls – I don’t care, just make sure that you take these days off to be kind to yourself.
Finally, don’t be afraid to go retro and get yourself a lovely paper diary. I know it’s not the tech-savvy route, in a world of tablets and app related organisers. But if you’re like me, there is nothing more satisfying than leafing through handwritten plans. My diary also gives me shiny stickers to mark certain occasions – oh the small pleasures in life! My little book of life plans helps me to feel in control of things. I like ticking things off and crossing things out. I find some satisfaction in that. And I’ve now started keeping my old annual planners; almost like an archive of things I’ve done, people I saw and dinners I ate. I appreciate it’s not for everyone and some people look at me like I’m mental when I whip out my 2018 planner, but I derive some sort of catharsis from the process, and that’s enough. Side tip – really important stuff – back it up on your digital calendar, just in case your beloved diary goes *gasp*, walkabouts.
You can find more about Fleewinter here