Hi guys, While Travelling Blog is back with some amazing articles to be published each week that will put some light on the brave, the generous, the carers and lady bosses who moved abroad alone and started their businesses from scratch.
In this first article, we welcome Laura McMahon. She is from Ireland and started a location independent business callled My Travel Tribe. I asked her the things I wanted to know and she answered sincerely. If you have any questions you would like to ask her, please leave your questions in the comments below. So let’s get started.
Can you tell us three positive words that describe you?
Passionate, Curious, Loving.
How was your life before stepping into the unknown?
My life was pretty good but I feel like everything was about to change if I didn’t move away from Ireland. I graduated from university in May of 2016 and then I went to the States for three months with ten friends. When I got back in September a lot of my friends were starting new jobs in corporate firms. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do but I knew what I didn’t want! My friend Roz suggested we go and teach English in Vietnam and I jumped at the chance. So for three months I did my TEFL course and got some babysitting work to tide me over moneywise. After Christmas we both set off for Vietnam!
What were the three main feelings that you felt constantly before making the decision to go abroad?
Restless. Guilty. Confused. I was very restless for a couple of months before I decided that I wanted to go abroad. It was tiring not knowing what I wanted to do with my life. I knew I wasn’t supposed to just go and work for someone else. I felt guilty for not getting a “real” job, especially when my friends would have to wake up early and go into work. I suppose I felt guilty for not using my degree to get a highly accredited and prestigious job that would please my parents (not that they minded at all). I was confused. I had just gone back to living with my parents after three months with my friends in America. College was finished and everything was changing. Everyone was starting out on new paths and I had no clue what I wanted to do!
Why did you choose to live abroad instead of travelling for a long term?
Originally I chose to live abroad because I went to teach English in Vietnam. But I am also so curious about other cultures and countries. I wanted to experience them properly and I think that can only be done by living somewhere. I want to travel forever and in order to do that I need to work while travelling. Working makes it more like real life rather than an extended holiday.
Where were you and how were you feeling when you made this big decision to go abroad?
My friend Roz had been saying for a couple of weeks about moving to Vietnam and I was slightly hesitant. Finally one day it just clicked. Why not? It seemed so obvious to me then. The thing that was making me sad was not travelling. I had nothing holding me in Ireland. I knew you could earn good money teaching English in Vietnam so that made it less scary. I was nervous, but the good kind. I was so excited and as soon as I made the decision to move, it made my two months at home much more enjoyable. I had a plan, a goal, something to save for and something to look forward to! I also had work to do too such as getting my teaching qualification and applying for jobs.
How were your friends and family’s reaction to your decision?
I feel like my mum and dad didn’t believe me when I first said it. They thought I was just thinking about it until I showed them my flights and told them how I was getting a teaching qualification. They were very supportive though. My brothers and sisters were too. My dad always says that he brought us up to be independent. The fact that I have five other siblings, who have all lived abroad at some stage, meant they had less reason for concern. They’re used to it. My friends were great too. I think they expected it to be honest. I have always loved living abroad and they could see that I didn’t want to get a job in Ireland. I told them I was going until May but they know me too well. It’s September and I’m still in Asia.
How were the last days in the country before jumping onto the flight?
I left right after Christmas so I had such a nice couple last days surrounded by all my friends and family. I actually went to Paris in December for a week with some friends before heading to Vietnam so it was pretty awesome! It wasn’t until I was on the plane that I realised I knew nothing about Vietnam, didn’t speak any of the language and didn’t have a job or accommodation there! I panicked for about 5 minutes but in general I’m a very laid-back person.
How were the first couple of days when you finally arrived in your destination?
I think I slept for the majority of the first two days. I was very jetlagged. When I finally woke up it was great though. I was staying in a very social hostel in Hanoi so the first couple of days were spent meeting so many new people, exploring the city and partying a bit too much. After three or four days it dawned on me that I didn’t have a job. I took out my laptop and sent out hundreds of applications for language schools and centres. I found one that I liked within a week. The first week in Nam Dinh I cried myself to sleep almost every night. For the first time in my life I felt homesick. Nobody spoke English where I was. The city was different to anywhere I had ever lived. I had never taught before in my life and suddenly had to control a class of 50+ Vietnamese kids. I absolutely hated it and I wanted to go home. How things have changed since.
What do you think about living abroad?
Moving abroad was the best decision I have ever made. It has changed my perspective on life. I have met so many amazing people from all over, whom I love and will be friends with for life. Living abroad has taught me more than any textbook, course or degree ever will. The best thing is you get to experience these crazy new things every single day. Sometimes I have a moment when I think, “damn people don’t know what this is like”. These moments can occur when communicating through mime with old Vietnamese ladies, riding a motorbike through rice patties in Indonesia or when kids in Myanmar show you how to wear Thanaka.
How did you start your own business?
We always had the idea that we wanted to work and travel the world. We also wanted to encourage other women to do so too. Only 2.7% of all business owners are women. We also found that not that many women work remotely, so we wanted to change that.
We decided to set up working retreats for women where we organize everything. Accommodation, a co-working space, airport pick up, sim-cards as well as activities such as yoga, community dinners, weekend trips, meditation, skill shares and masterminds to make it as easy as possible to move to a country and work there too. Travelling solo can be lonely so we wanted to create a small community of likeminded women.
After my teaching-contract in Vietnam ended, I moved to Bali with Roz. In June we attended a startup weekend in Dojo Co-working Space. This is one intense but fun weekend, where you work on a business idea for 54 hours and then present a MVP (a website for us) to a panel of judges. After that we just kept working on it.
What was your mindset when dealing with difficulties abroad and the challenges of starting your own business?
There have times when I have wished I were at home. You miss out on important things when you are living abroad. I haven’t seen my friends in nine months. I get pictures of family events from my mum but it’s not the same as being there. I craved Irish food and home comforts so badly when I was living in Vietnam. But the pros of living abroad are too great to ignore. I’ve lived in Ireland all my life. I know what it’s like. I know I’d go home for two days and I would be bored. I’d need to leave again. Living abroad is liberating. It’s exciting. Every day is different. And you get to go on some pretty awesome adventures too!
What would you do differently when you look back at your journey?
I would invest in Bitcoin when I got my first paycheck last January and now be much wealthier. No, but seriously I don’t think I would do anything differently. Everything I have done has led me to where I am now and for that I am grateful. I have learned so much from my mistakes too. Although maybe I would go back and put my passport number in correctly on my Burmese visa application and save myself a lot of time, hassle and dollar!!
How do you combine a lifestyle of travelling, living abroad and starting a business?
I work about eight hours a day just like I would at home but I get to do what I love from beautiful locations. I try to stay in places for two months and then I’ll move somewhere new. I don’t usually do too much sightseeing but living in a place for a couple of months means I get to know more about what life is really like there. It’s as easy to have an online business abroad as it is at home, as long as you’ve got good Wifi. Co-working spaces are great for that. You also get to meet some pretty cool people there.
Which country or area has a special place in your heart?
Canggu, Bali. There was such a great community in the co-working space where I worked and in the accommodation where I lived. I met some of my best friends here. The local people are so friendly. There are amazing surfing beaches. The food is so tasty, healthy and fresh. The weather is great and the landscape is breathtakingly beautiful. What more could you ask for? We will be running a retreat here in April and I can’t wait to go back.
Tell us about one time when you met an opportunity that opened an amazing door for you while travelling?
The startup weekend in Bali helped us to make our business idea a reality. We got some invaluable advice and mentorship from the coaches, judging panel and other attendees who we worked with. We also got access to tools and resources, which helped us to build our website.
How would you explain the mindset of a person to be able to spread their wings and fly?
I heard recently the expression “Fear doesn’t prevent death, it prevents life”. People who “spread their wings and fly” are probably aware of this. They are curious. They know there is more out there to discover. They are passionate about enjoying their life. They don’t settle for unhappiness.
If you are interested in becoming location independent and travelling the world while you work, why not join one of our women’s co-working retreats? You can check them out at www.mytraveltribe.co also follow her on instagram.
Thank you Laura for being brave and being an inspiration.