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Digital Nomad at 48: It’s Scary & Exciting

I don’t want to wake up one day and regret not taking this chance so the security of my parachute aside, I won’t let fear stop me from living life as an adventure.

Who says Gypsies didn’t it right when they embraced a culture of constant change and uncertainty?  I’m at a crossroads, not unlike those in my past when I found myself in a relationship that didn’t bring out the best in me or in 2011 when the economy tanked and I was a single mom living in Spain and could no longer find work. 

Yet today I’m living in a wonderful city, I’m single, and my nest is empty.  In fact, I’m living in my favourite city since leaving Barcelona, and since then I’ve lived in Bangalore (with my daughter), Beijing, and Hong Kong.  But I’m not thriving here.  I exist here but I’m not truly living.  I’ve cocooned myself (or embraced a hermit crab lifestyle?) and I’ve been relatively anti-social and uninterested in forming real attachments, which was the biggest red flag that I wasn’t long for this city.

Then there were KL’s signs that it didn’t love me:

  1. I moved here for a chief marketing officer role that ended – for the first time in my career – having to take litigation steps to ensure I wasn’t screwed over by the company that wanted to do just that. 
  2. Next were my attempts to find a new job.  I was offered several roles but the salaries are so low in Malaysia it would have been impossible to take care of both myself and my daughter, who at the time was attending university in the UK (and I footed that bill).
  3. Then I attempted to secure an MTEP (entrepreneur) visa to start up my own digital marketing agency in Kuala Lumpur.  It’s all I’ve done since 1996, even working for musicians like Guns N’ Roses and G.E.M., and loads of tech startups over the years.  But because I had closed my Hong Kong bank account before moving to KL and the CMO job didn’t work out so I couldn’t legally open a bank account in Malaysia without an employment visa … well, I couldn’t tic the “show us 3 months of bank statements” box.  And that was it.  I requested to present my situation to the board in person but that was denied and so was my MTEP visa.

So as much as I love KL and Malaysians, it’s time to move on.

Where To Next?

I’m packing up and heading … well, I don’t quite know where yet.  My desire is to move to Indonesia and live – at least at the start – on Batam.  But truth be told I have no real plan, no idea where I’ll end up calling my next home base, and I find that exciting as HELL!

It’s also insanely scary.

It’s the first time in my life that I won’t be leaving one country for a job awaiting me in another country.  It’s just me, setting off to be a digital nomad, which I’ve done once before but it was short-term for three months and had an expiry date.  This time, who knows when it will end?

Risk vs. Benefit

The way I see it, I’m 48 years old and not getting any younger.  Or better said, I’m 48 and want to go live each day as a celebration.  I’m single, my nest is empty, and I can work from anywhere.  So what’s the damn point in sitting still in a world that begs to be explored.  Especially this part of the world I’ve called home since 2011, Asia. 

So Were Gypsies Right?

Who decided that being responsible meant having life planned out, staying put in one place, and being tethered to a mortgage?  I see friends back home so excited to move into their first home as owners and I’m happy for their dream coming true but to me, I just see handcuffs and a life where they’ll be living to work.  I think about my native homeland – the USA – and am always thankful I moved away at 22 and learned early on that vacation time is supposed to be 1 month a year because back home employees start with 1 week a year when starting a new job.  It’s coo coo. 

Please don’t get me wrong.  I know good and well there are pitfalls that surely lie ahead on my adventure.  For starters, I really need to sort out expat healthcare.  And this bank account issue has followed me for three years now and I’m sick of living on cash and PayPal.

But I see more sunshine and rainbows in my future now then grey clouds and I’m excited!

#IslandLife Here I Come

My first adventure in this new life begins tomorrow morning.  I’m flying down to Johor Bahru in Malaysia – which I’ve never explored – for a video I’m shooting with Firefly Airline and three 5-star hotels, so that will be fun.  I’m even trying to squeeze in a visit to Hello Kitty Town while I’m there so stay tuned to my Instagram Stories for that fun!  Then I’m headed to Singapore for a friend’s birthday party, then on down to Batam for 20 days.  After that I’ll be back to Malaysia to shoot a travel video at an elephant sanctuary, then I’ll head back to Batam again, then who knows!

What I’ll Miss About Expat Life in KL

I’m going to miss the parachute I’ve been wearing these past few years in KL, with friends just a phone call away in case of emergency.  I wouldn’t have made it through my broken leg and dislocated knee last year without the support of friends.  Other than that, there isn’t much I’ll miss specifically about expat life.  Although I’m going to miss Malaysia in general, and of course Malaysian food.

I don’t want to wake up one day and regret not taking this chance so the security of my parachute aside, I won’t let fear stop me from living life as an adventure.

Now, how to make it truly special?

I have a few fun ideas.  I’d really love to explore local life more, including visiting very remote islands.  I hope to convince village elders to let me stay in a few of them for a few days to fully understand the beauty and challenges of living a simpler life.  Or maybe I’ll start a series of videos like “The prettiest mosques of Southeast Asia”.

Whichever way things go, I can already tell you that I’m jumping out of bed at 6:30am as if I’m holiday.  I’m passionate about my days again.  And that’s generally a feeling reserved for when I’m travelling so this feels pretty damn good already.  Fingers crossed this carries on to the next months of my life.

Angela Carson

At 21 I left uni, jumped into my Jeep Wrangler, and drove from my native California to live an adventure in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I've explored 37 countries on 4 continents, residing in 8 of them (currently Indonesia's Riau Islands is my home). I even have a private pilot's license and was shot at once by bandits!