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From Digital Nomad to Finding Happiness in Indonesia

It’s 5:34 am and I’m awake again, perched in front of the floor-to-ceiling window that looks out onto this pretty lagoon on Batam and with my laptop at the ready (seen above at sunset).  The fading deep hues of midnight blue are just about to give way to the morning and I start thinking  …. What the hell is going on here?  I’m excited? I can’t sleep?  Nope, I slept my exact perfect six hours and woke up without an alarm.

Simply put, I am no longer trying to be happy or sort my life out, I simply AM happy.  

This notion first hit me last week and a barrage of memes and famous quotes instantly started swirling around above my head like in a cartoon. And they were all right. When you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.  

I wake up before the sun, work all day and well into late night, keep to-do lists again, and I feel grateful for it all – even the small things.  Welcome to day six of the rest of my life!

From Expat to Digital Nomad to (I think) Expat Again

It was July of 2016 when I last held a proper 9-to-5 job for a startup.  It had taken me almost 20 years to climb the ladder from a marcoms coordinator back in my 1st startup in California to a chief marketing officer and I thought that was what I wanted.  Yet when that job didn’t work out and I had to make the choice of keep my condo and my life OR pay for my daughter’s university fees, I ditched the condo and became a digital nomad, freelancing around Southeast Asia.

It was amazing!  I could live on a shoestring budget and stay in destinations that are every holiday-goers dream.  I started building up my services offering and working with brands generating content, building websites with a team of guys in Bangladesh, shooting videos for hospitality and travel businesses … and it was liberating and different and FUN.  At least for a couple of years. But it stopped being a challenge quite quickly because it was work I could do with my eyes closed and my passion for it dwindled.  

Around that time I also had an accident and broke my leg and dislocated my kneecap and had to stay home with my leg elevated for almost three months. That was the start of a bit of a self-made depression.  I stopped seeing friends, started to really pack on the kilos, and drank myself to sleep most nights. It’s not pretty to say all of that but it’s true and sadly more people can relate to that than I wish.

Then three months ago I was sat pondering life on the deck of the RONA, a vintage sailing yacht, which is an Airbnb by day and how I came to sit there.  My depression was gone and indeed I was happier but I had made ZERO significant changes in my life (and I was still gaining weight).  It was my 2nd trip this year to shoot videos for my YouTube channel WanderwithAngela on this lovely island.  I remember sitting there thinking, Why am I living in Kuala Lumpur and not here?  And I couldn’t come up with a single reason.  I had zero real ties to KL and looking back now it made no sense.

WanderwithAngela: my solo travel channel on YouTube

My week on Batam was great and I was back home in KL, I couldn’t shake the idea of starting a new adventure (as my sweet mommy puts it).  So I did one of the most impulsive things I’ve done in YEARS!  Within the span of one week, I had packed up my condo, stored my things, and set off with my gear bag and one suitcase to live as a digital nomad again.  I started in the south of Malaysia and then took the ferry once again to Batam with zero fixed plans.  I split my time between the three areas where I thought I could happily live, went with letting agents to look at apartments, and eventually settled down … just 10 days after touching down on Batam.  

Starting A New Business

Fast-forward to this morning on this pretty little island in Indonesia and I think it’s fair to say I’ve officially hung up my digital nomad sandals and it’s back to life as an expat with a solid home base.  

The best part of it all … well, it’s all great stuff but this is exciting … is that I’m on a path to having more time to write my book AND to spending my work time in a more meaningful way. 

Last week I started soft launching my new business, dedicated to helping people who want to leave their 9-to-5 job and embark on their own personal journey working abroad, which I’m really excited about.  I’m also focused on helping entrepreneurs, startups, and small businesses to grow faster by using video, storytelling, and social media smarter as an online coach and consultant.   

That WOW, my new YouTube channel: I’d love your support (please follow my channel)! For entrepreneurs, startups and small biz, I offer trainings and consulting on social media and online branding from my 23 years of experience. And for anyone trying to decide if they’d like to take the plunge as an expat or digital nomad I offer deep dive workshops from my experience living in 8 countries. 

Final thoughts…

It’s a big new world out there with unlimited potential and possibilities for anyone looking to escape the traditions of “real life” and the tethers of a 9-to-5 job. It takes time to find a niche and decide what you can offer that will hopefully 1) help others and 2) keep you motivated and financially secure. But it’s SOOOO worth it! ⠀

Cheers to everyone out there with their side hustle and online business finding their way in this new world of possibilities. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.⠀

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!