digital-nomad-andrea-featherstone-projectself

Andrea Featherstone from Project Self for Nomad Week

This post is part of our second ever Nomad Week series, where we interview interesting Nomad Capitalists all across the globe, revealing their adventures, knowledge and travel tips. I had the pleasure to chat with Digital Nomad Freedom Summit guests of which Andrew was a speaker, as well as the pioneers of industry on their perspectives on living and doing business overseas. You can read the entire series here.  

Originally from New Zealand, Andrea is a digital nomad, entrepreneur and founder of Project Self. She teaches indecisive overachievers how to tame their mind and get clear on their decisions via radically honest stories and unconventional mindfulness programs, AKA Bloody Good Life 101: mindfulness for people who raise an eyebrow at mindfulness.
Where are you living now?

Melbourne, Australia

How long have you been there?

3.5 years (though traveling up to 6 months each year)

What’s your favorite thing about the city?

There are so many things I love about Melbourne, but my most favorite thing are the people here! It is the friendliest city I’ve been to by a long shot (I’ve travelled to 32 countries and lived in 7), the people are cultured, down to earth, diverse, humble and kind. They’ve very community oriented and welcome anyone and everyone. I’ve never felt so at home in a city!

What’s your LEAST favorite thing about the city?

There’s a bit too many cold wintery months in Melbourne for my liking, but my theory is that culture, a strong sense of community and real depth develop much more readily in cities with adverse weather conditions that force people to do other things than look beautiful on the beach (e.g. London, New York vs LA, Paris vs South of France, Melbourne vs Sydney, etc). So while I love summer and often leave Melbourne for a few months in the depths of winter here, I choose people over weather!

Is there a little known fact about the city people might find interesting?

Nendaz, a tiny ski village in Les Quatre Vallées, Switzerland was my favourite place to live ever aside from Melbourne, because I lived half way up a ski field, walked to work with my snowboard, and in my breaks, snowboarded down the mountain from the door of the skibar I was working in. Switzerland is such a beautiful, safe and friendly country and I love the French speaking cantons where you get the diversity of the laid back French culture and the on-time-as-all-hell Swiss-German culture all in one! The people I met in Switzerland were so progressive and so down to earth.

Where is your favorite place you’ve ever lived and why?

Nendaz, a tiny ski village in Les Quatre Vallées, Switzerland was my favourite place to live ever aside from Melbourne, because I lived half way up a ski field, walked to work with my snowboard, and in my breaks, snowboarded down the mountain from the door of the skibar I was working in. Switzerland is such a beautiful, safe and friendly country and I love the French speaking cantons where you get the diversity of the laid back French culture and the on-time-as-all-hell Swiss-German culture all in one! The people I met in Switzerland were so progressive and so down to earth.

What is your LEAST favorite place you’ve ever lived and why?

If I didn’t like a place I just moved somewhere else, so I can’t say I ever lived somewhere I didn’t enjoy… Least favorite I would probably say Auckland, New Zealand, where I grew up, though I do have many good memories there, I was quite unhappy and hadn’t learnt much about myself for most of my time there, so I saw the city through a less-than-rose-tinted lens, however it’s a beautiful place and I still have good friends who love it there so I think it was more my attitude at the time that was the issue, not the city!

What was the EASIEST country you’ve ever visited (i.e. easiest immigration, easiest to open a local bank account, etc)?

Switzerland I remember being a very easy process, no issues setting up a bank account etc, but I have a British/EU passport, I imagine it would not be so easy without. Most of the other places I’ve lived I lived while using an offshore bank account that I set up while working on superyachts in France and the mediterranean, which was also a very easy process with the help of superyacht financial agents, and since I was living on a yacht (in international waters) there were no issues travelling around with my passport.

Have you ever had any problems in a country? (i.e. immigration issues, getting robbed, etc.)

I’ve been robbed in a small superyacht port called Ancona in Italy, where I definitely don’t recommend that you walk home alone through the industrial areas after a few too many mojitos in the middle of the night! Luckily I only had my bag stolen from a bar and sadly lost all my photos of the Maldives, but no harm came to me so I was very lucky considering my ridiculous behaviour!

Do you prefer one region of the world over another, and why?

I love it all! I love central America a lot lately for the amazing food (especially Mexico where I went for a month moth recently, and Nicaragua), but I also love Europe and Southeast Asia for everything.

Is there anything that would make you settle down and stop traveling as much?

Probably only a boxer puppy. Which is why I haven’t got one yet, because I love travel and freedom just a tiny bit more than I want a boxer. My partner is also travel-obsessed, so he’s no reason to settle down, travel-wise! But I’ve definitely stopped travelling quite so much this year because I’ve finally set down some roots in Melbourne with amazing friends and a home and I’m loving having a base for once in my life!

Who has been the most influential person on your travels (someone that encouraged you to start, or someone who has influenced you along the way)?

Cliff, an English Osteopath that I worked for during the year I lived in Sydney… he was such a bubbly, positive force in my life, and saw my insecure, moody behaviour and encouraged me to look into mindfulness. I didn’t listen at the time, I wasn’t ready to change and it sounded too airy-fairy to me, but a couple of years later I finally had enough of the suffering and opened the book he’d given me. In the end, he was right, mindfulness transformed every aspect of my cynical, pessimistic life, and I quit my potential career as an architect to create a life as a digital entrepreneur teaching others mindfulness in a much more practical way than I learnt it.

If you were coaching a new nomad, what would you recommend they do to get started?

Get a business coach asap! You can waste your hours flailing and getting overwhelmed, or you can invest money now and skip over all the mistakes and hold ups. If you’re anything like me (a control freak perfectionist), there was no way I would have succeeded in business had I left myself to my own devices to get my business out in the world. I was trying to make everything perfect before I started, which never happens, so hiring a business coach was the best decision I ever made.

What country would you recommend a new nomad go to FIRST?

Indonesia- Ubud, Bali. Such an awesome, supportive, friendly community, and so much fun!

What is one country that you have not been to but is high on your list, and why?

I’ve been thinking a lot about Africa lately. I don’t know which countries I’ll start with, and I’ve yet to really research Africa as a destination, but it’s so different to anywhere I’ve been and I know the people there have new wisdom that I’ve not come across yet. I met the most beautiful Somalian woman at my coworking space a few weeks ago, I’ve never met anyone like her, and her story of African and Muslim culture and tradition has really inspired me.

What was the most unexpected surprise you ever encountered as a nomad?

These are such great questions! The first thing that springs to mind is that I’d always thought I was a person who loved to be alone and didn’t need the company of others for my happiness, then I went backpacking solo around Europe in my early 20s, and I was shocked to find how unhappy I became when I was travelling the road less travelled around the outskirts of North-Western France alone. There were almost no people in the hostels and though I spoke French, I felt very, very alone. I’ve always tried to go a bit against the grain and was refusing to just go to the major tourist centres in my travels, but after a few weeks alone I realised I needed to get myself to somewhere where I’d be around other travellers. It really surprised me how much happier I was as soon as I was back around lots of people in hostels in Bordeaux and San Sebastian. It was my first inkling of how much people matter to me, I’ve come a long way since those insecure days! It’s probably very obvious to most people, but I was genuinely so shocked to learn that being around other humans mattered to me!

What was the biggest mistake you made that other nomads can learn from?

Booking too many things in too little time on my first few months of travel. I tried to see everything in every country and every city, moving every 2-3 days, I turned my travel into a Type-A check list, and as a result, I missed a lot of the culture and the enjoyment that you get when you stay in just a few places for longer than a few days. Now I don’t move around so rapidly and make sure to leave my travels flexible so I can stay longer in places that I love. From a digital nomad perspective – recently I had to lose a few flights and accomodation in Mexico because I hadn’t researched the wifi quality of the place we were travelling to and I had a big group conference call for one of my Bloody Good Life programs with 60 people while we were there – only the night before we were due to fly I found that the wifi in Puerto Escondido is still copper, (patchy/ slow as hell at best). Because of my lack of research we had to skip that part of the trip altogether which was such a shame. We flew to Mexico City instead where I discovered a buzzing entrepreneur and cafe culture and great co-working spaces, so it was a cool detour, but I do regret not planning my wifi needs ahead and missing one of the parts of our trip I was most looking forward to!

How do you meet new people while living the nomad lifestyle? Do you ever get lonely?

Usually through coworking spaces. I did feel lonely on my recent trip to Ubud, but it was self imposed, I felt like time and space to myself so I stayed quite far from Ubud and worked from the coworking spaces, but then I became quite lonely and ventured back to Hubud, the much more social coworking space. When I was younger I found hostels amazing for meeting others, now I’m a bit past the wish to stay in hostels, coworking spaces have been a god send, they often provide a ready made community of likeminded travellers!

If you are interested in finding out more about mindfulness and Andrea, visit her website Project Self.

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Marija Kovacevic

Marija Kovacevic

Marija is in charge of media relations at Nomad Capitalist. As part of the Remote Team, she travels to a new country every three months with journal and old-school camera in hand.
Marija Kovacevic
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