In recent times, the concept of remote work has gained immense popularity. Thanks to the advancements in technology, individuals from all walks of life now have the flexibility to work from anywhere in the world. In this blog, we will be discussing the power of remote work with Estefania, an experienced expat and digital nomad. Estefania's unique perspective on remote work will inspire and empower you to take charge of your work-life balance and unleash your potential. Get ready to explore the world of remote work with Estefania!
1. Share your journey from living and working abroad...
I landed in the digital nomad lifestyle in 2019, without really planning it, and out of challenging circumstances as a Colombian ex-pat in Denmark. Looking back, I would say that it actually started in 2016 when I was granted an Erasmus Mundus Scholarship for a two-year joint Master’s Degree in Journalism, Media and Globalisation – Business and Financial Journalism at Aarhus University, Denmark and City University of London, UK. After all, and as we say within the Erasmus Mundus community: “Once a Mundusian, Always a Mundusian!”. Back in Denmark, six months after I finished my postgraduate studies in London, I realised that the traditional job hunt was not going to work out for me, due to very specific migration compliance requirements. Therefore, I shifted my focus from what I called the “pushing strategy” of sending CVs like arrows towards several directions, to
the “pulling strategy” of attracting relevant potential employers and clients towards me. I invested the first months of 2019 building up and tailoring my website while strongly networking on LinkedIn. I set myself a goal of 2,000 connections on this professional platform to launch a video CV (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mBQIgSj_zTA) that ultimately led to consulting requests from Danish companies and a couple of filming gigs later that summer. In the meanwhile, my economic resources had drained, and I found myself homeless in Denmark. I started covering my accommodation and food by attending events fully funded by the European Commission, as part of my volunteering roles: remotely with the Erasmus Mundus Association – EMA, and at the European Community Centre for Diversity and Intercultural Dialogue – EUCMC, in Aarhus. I went to Austria, Vienna for my first EMA General Assembly in February 2019. Later in May, I spent a couple of weeks in Thessaloniki, Greece as part of the “Media: Key Tools for Social Inclusion”. In September, I went to Braga, Portugal for a two-week training on “Methods and Techniques Combating Hate Speech” and immediately after that, I travelled for one month in Egypt where I visited Cairo, Alexandria, Mansoura and Luxor. While in Luxor, I received the news that I had been granted funding from the Danish
Ministry of Foreign Affairs to carry out a one-month journalistic research trip to Colombia with a colleague, so we did that in October. Between my trips, I was returning to Denmark where I stayed with friends. By then, I had been travelling almost all year with a single 23kg backpack while the rest of my belongings were at a friend’s place. Even though I had experienced amazing places, I was going through a heavy digital burnout keeping up with my LinkedIn networking, and a deep emotional storm due to the uncertainty of my unstable situation. I decided to stay in Colombia, volunteering as a hostess in a hostel on the Caribbean coast from December 2019 until February 2020. It was then that I fully realised I wanted my working-while-travelling lifestyle to be sustainable. In the first week of March 2020, I returned to Denmark where one of my clients came forward with a full-time job offer. I arrived in Aarhus one more time, two weeks prior to the worldwide lockdowns so it worked out well for me to take a job in Denmark. As we were working remotely anyhow, I spent January and February 2021 in Colombia and ended my contract with the Danish company a month later. It was very clear to me that the flexibility of a 100% remote job was exactly what I was looking for! Also, how madly in love I am with Colombia, and so I wanted my home country to be my touch base. While I was finalising the details of my decisive move out of Denmark in September 2021, I got recruited by the global conference organiser company I currently work for. During the recruitment process, the HR Manager said something to me that clicked: “I’m not willing to pass on a great talent because of where they are based”. A year and a half later, I hold a position of high responsibility that involves a certain degree of travelling and allows me to fully be in control of my time and location. During the summer of 2022 and thanks to my global job, I visited colleagues in Germany, Israel, Bulgaria, Spain, and the Netherlands (https://www.facebook.com/ZarAngaritaJournalist/videos/971264220225437), and my partner in Denmark. Actually, I’m about to go on my seasonal trip to Europe in two
weeks from now this year too!
2. As a digital nomad, how do you manage to balance work and travel?
At this point, I travel seasonally. I have a more structured manner of “nomading” than
when I was doing it for survival, in 2019. I would say it’s not all that beach and yoga as it
seems on the Instagram campaigns for digital nomads that I have recently encountered.
If I want to do yoga on the beach, I’d rather not bring my laptop! So, for that, I just take
days off from work. To balance working and travelling, there must be a great degree of discipline, planning and preparation at several levels: psychological, physical, emotional, and even spiritual.
A lot of people say they would love to travel more and even when they have the means
to do so (time, energy and money), they don’t do it because they lack the above-
mentioned. And it’s okay because those are abilities that most of us were not brought
into and that can only be mastered through practice.
Discipline: I say that professionals underestimate our capacity to “self-domesticate”. We
are seeing it even more now in the younger generations entering the corporate world. To
have a job, people need to be willing to commit to the agreement “I do this for you, and
you pay me money”. It’s apparently very simple. Nonetheless, committing becomes a lot
harder when there’s no boss looking over your shoulder, checking whether you’re doing
the thing you said you would do. So how to keep up with the workload, and remotely? Discipline is key. Discipline to get the thing done, even when your bed is a meter away from your desk, even when the sun is shining outside, even when there are so many open possibilities to do something else.
If you’re also travelling, discipline becomes fundamental, beyond key. It requires not only doing the thing but also sometimes doing the thing in advance, for example. So that you can honour the commitment in due time and be able to pack, take your flights or whatever other transportation, and do other activities at the destination, which you would of course want to do. This leads me to the planning: to travel, there is a series of steps to take before the actual journey that takes a whole lot of time, more than we usually expect them to – I have learnt. Doing the research, booking the transportation, the accommodation, laying down the itinerary, perhaps contacting friends or colleagues to meet, getting the finances in order… Furthermore, plan to travel with purpose, not just because you can. Why go there? When? What is going on there during this specific time that personally interests me? Can I combine interests? What kind of tasks do I have during this time? Can I do them from this place at this time? Finally, the preparation: travelling for a weekend, maybe not so much. Now, if you’re travelling for a whole season then getting yourself fit for it is equally important. You might need to take things into account such as cancelling your mobile and gym
subscriptions, buying stuff that is critical to your routine that you might not find in the
destination, and finding out which outfits to bring to suit your activities. That is from a physical point of view. From a psychological and emotional standpoint, considering that you will not see your family and friends for a while, for example. Perhaps getting recharged of their company a few weeks before travelling. Getting into the mindset that you will be in a different time zone, you will have a different personal space, and feel a sort of separation. In my case, how it looks now is that I spent most of the year in Colombia, mainly in Bogotá, where I work from home and have a co-working office subscription, so I combine the two depending on what I’m doing. For instance, if I’m editing videos or
podcasts, I would rather work from home where I have a full set-up with proper microphones, an extra monitor, and my super comfy gamer chair. Occasionally, I spent a week or two elsewhere. This could be, for example, a family house, three hours away from Bogotá, where it’s warmer and calmer (which is a nice rest from the big city) but where the internet is a bit more unreliable. So, I usually go
there when I know I won’t have too many, or important meetings. It has also happened that I help foreign friends arrange a trip to Colombia, and then I join them. While they travel around, I work from the hotels. This way, I can make sure that I host them up to my own standards and keep up with my work duties. Then, I spent the summer in Europe. My partner is in Denmark and since I lived there for
five years, I also have friends and projects there. Because I work in such a global
environment, I have in-person meetings to attend every year in other European cities, so
I make it all work in one trip. Last but not least, I made it a priority to book myself at least two weeks a year completely off the screens. That’s when the yoga on the beach comes in! I learnt my
lesson about digital burnout and understood that to make the digital nomad lifestyle
truly sustainable, I also had to get off the grid once in a while.
3. Can you share an example of a particularly impactful message you've conveyed
in your work?
Oh wow, I have worked in such a wide gap of sectors! In my journalistic work, I have
conveyed strong messages about sexual rights and gender diversity that had profound
effects on Colombian policies. Also, the environmental impact of our current
consumption habits and economic activities, which was the focus of our research
“Draining Colombia” funded by the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. A particular story
that resonates across Danish society was about the plantations of avocado hass for
exporting to Europe that are destroying the coffee region ecosystems.
I’ve also worked together with young workers across Europe, teaching about media as a
tool for social inclusion and no-hate speech. In some of the podcasts I hosted in Denmark, I conveyed a strong message about the importance of interpersonal skills in the corporate world. My favourite episode is called “The magic and science of motivation”. Currently, I think that the strongest message is the one that I convey by example, living authentically and being true to myself in every context. Showing with actions rather than words that transparency and trust are core to human and professional relationships, and… one that I like a lot: rest, rest, rest! People go around working so much with such a dysregulated nervous system, constantly in survival mode, experiencing fight or flight response to an email or a call that’s far from healthy for individuals and companies.
4. How do you stay up to date on the latest trends in marketing and communication?
Communication is my vocation. I breathe, eat, sleep, talk, walk communication. Communicating is the most human thing we do, I would say, and we do it all the time, consciously, subconsciously, verbally, bodily, mentally.. I am fascinated by every communication process, from a cellular level to a cosmic level! So, it comes very naturally for me to be on an endless cycle of studying communication
phenomena. I do so through reading, listening to audiobooks, and engaging in workshops and courses. For instance, I just finished one about Positive Intelligence Quotient that took six weeks! Never-ending, as I said. And about marketing, I keep up to date in what I deem to be the best possible way: by doing it myself! Experimenting, exploring, putting content out there and analysing the
response, and obviously by consuming it, being the response myself. A constant conversation with colleagues in the field is very nourishing as well.
5. What challenges have you faced along the way as a successful career-driven
Successful, career-driven… Thanks for that! I have faced tons of challenges. Obviously (it’s unfortunate and by now ridiculous how obvious it is), male chauvinism in the form of harassment, mansplaining and being so very underpaid. That’s the main challenge. Even with a decade of professional experience, I still get a patronising tone here and there and an evident lack of trust in my criteria, especially from older men and when talking about business, economics, strategic approaches, finances, social shifts, and other male-dominated topics.
6. Tell us about being a Podcast hostess… What did you talk about? What advice do
you have for women looking to start a podcast?
I have hosted three podcasts, one in Spanish and two in English. I also hosted my own
Online TV Series called “The Digital Transformation Show” with CEOs of digital
companies in Denmark and we talked about artificial intelligence, blockchain, Fintech,
innovation and business disruption.
(Teaser: https://www.instagram.com/reel/B1RxsD2n-k9/ )
The first podcast was called “Confesiones a Capela”. It was a mix of interviews based
on the Proust Questionnaire and live music in the studio with emerging artists in
Colombia. It was so much fun!
The second one was in Denmark and I co-hosted it for a few episodes, it was called
“You’ve Got Five Options”. I went there first as a guest for an episode called “Humans At
The Centre: How To Bring The Basics Back To The New Era Of Journalism” and later I
co-hosted episodes about interpersonal skills, conscious consumption and slow
fashion, healthy living, motivation and storytelling.
I currently host a podcast called “Voices of Kenes” as part of my current role. We had a
first season last year, a collection of interviews about what we do as a Professional
Conference Organiser and Association Management Company.
This year, we are bringing in our external partners as guests to talk about the meetings
sector as a whole. The latest episode was precisely about The Future of Meetings!
My advice for women who are looking into starting a podcast is: don’t get stuck in
technicalities! It can be done with a phone, with a headset, during a digital call. You
don’t even need guests, really. Just find out something you’re very natural at talking
about and go at it! Ah, and one more thing… if you can do it in one take, so you don’t
have to edit it, much better.
7. As a public speaker, what topics do you most enjoy discussing with audiences?
I love talking about Colombia! I think that the talks I have enjoyed the most have been
“The Colombian Roundabout”, showing a short documentary we made with my partner
about how backpackers impact local economies in the country.
More recently, I have had the chance to participate in panels about the Future of Work,
which I also enjoyed and would like to further explore as a speaker.
8. How do you approach creating a digital content strategy for a new project?
I spent most of my time listening to the needs of people involved and interested in the
project and finding out what is the higher purpose behind even having a digital
campaign. Then, my approach is mainly experimenting and not being attached to results,
willingness to play and explore new ways and pay attention to the response.
9. What is life like in Bogota?
Bogotá is a massive Latin American metropolis with 12 million inhabitants, therefore
there are countless Sub-Bogotas. It is not a secret that Latin America has great social
gaps and being the capital of the country, Bogotá has it all. Here, extreme poverty and
wealth co-exist in a huge valley surrounded by impotent mountains at around 3,000
meters above sea level. I can tell you more about the Bogotá I live in and my own life as a global citizen, local in my city. I don’t drive a car, because I don’t need to in my daily life, so the hectic traffic
rarely affects me – except for the smog. Yet, it is a big issue for sure, long traffic jams
and increasing pollution. I walk everywhere, or if it’s a longer distance, I take a taxi which is quite an inexpensive service compared to other regions of the world. So, I live very comfortably. I wouldn’t
live anywhere I would need to take public transport on a daily basis, anymore. Bogotá is
a very green city, with many parks, so I like walking around. Bogotá also has a remarkably renowned gastronomical offer in the whole continent, as well as nightlife! So life here involves a lot of eating outside, trying out new restaurants and cafes and dancing. It is a very international city, there are planes taking off at all times and every time more and more foreigners choose to live here. It is an evolving city as well so there’s a lot of construction going on these days. It's actually a funny question for me, born and raise a “rola” or “cachaca”, as people from Bogotá are called here in Colombia. I guess living in Bogotá is a very individual experience.
10. What is your favourite travel destination and how has it inspired your work?
Of course, Colombia! I mean, I get inspired here every single day. We have every possible climate, so many delicious fruits! So many different realities, such a diversity of views, people, ethnicities, music, landscapes, animals. We have the Pacific and the Caribbean beaches, snowy peaks, volcanos, deserts, jungles! We have indigenous peoples whom I learn so much from all the time, we have
foreigners from all corners of the world. Gemstones, rivers, mysticism, hidden archaeological sites… I mean! And the best part, kindness! I miss it so much when I am abroad, is that open attitude of just doing something nice for each other for the sake of a smile, complementing each other just because we are focused on finding the beauty in the present moment. Colombia has inspired my work from its darkness and its light in all possible ways and I’m sure it will do so until the last of my days. It even came out as a rhyme, you see? Inspiring!
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