Unconventional Path to Success as a Digital Nomad

Em McCabe is the founder of the digital marketing web design and branding agency Eb + Flo Digital. Em has been an entrepreneur for four years now, most of which she spent outside of Australia, where she was born. After living in London for a bit, she decided to devote herself to traveling, choosing the digital nomad lifestyle. During 2023, she resided in 23 countries, simultaneously advancing her business. In this interview for Follow the Founder, Em talks about her decision to go nomading and reveals how it changed her life. 

Before we delve into talking about the nomadic life, we ask Em how she got inspired to try it.

“I used to live with a friend in Sydney. She was English, a content writer, who worked and traveled all around the world and came to Australia for six months. Even within these six months, she went all around Asia, New Zealand, and the Polynesian Islands. After she moved out, she continued traveling around South America, Portugal etc. I remember saying to people, ‘Look at my friend who’s on the other side of the planet, traveling, and doing this and that! I want to do that.’ I probably should have just asked her how she did it eight years ago. But I just thought it was so unattainable, unachievable. I saw that as the perfect life, which is kind of funny because that’s exactly what I’m doing now. I’ve never told her this actually, but my drive was looking at her story, maybe a bit of healthy jealousy, coming from a good place. I was very happy for her. I just wanted the same.”

After founding Eb + Flo in 2020, Em moved to London, planning to stay. But somewhat unintentionally, she ended up doing something entirely different: going on the road. 

“I thought London was my dream life. But it wasn’t. I bought a one-way ticket to Malta, bringing just a suitcase and a backpack. I was only meant to go for two to three weeks, but I spent three months there. I got to Malta and went to local meetups I found on Facebook. I met some wonderful humans. I guess the Internet is a great place to make friends if you have a little bit in common. During the day, I could go out, go for walks, or do other things, and work in the evening. I remember this moment when I was sitting on the rocks by the beach, in mid-January, and I realized I was doing my dream job, living my perfect life. So I just sat there and had a little happy cry.”

Traveling opened Em’s perspective to the world and herself. Visiting 23 countries in 2023 got her out of her shell and forced her to go out more, immerse herself in new cultures, and make new friends.

“I’m the biggest introvert and traveling truly gets me out of my comfort zone. I would be sitting alone in my Airbnb watching anime if I didn’t have to go out and meet people. It’s making me more extroverted which I’m enjoying.”

In terms of digital nomading and the challenges it presented to her as a Founder, outside of meeting scheduling difficulties due to the various time zones she and her clients were in, Em reports people struggled with understanding that she is not on holiday even though she is traveling. Her organizational skills and love of list-making have been a pillar through all that.

“I’ve always been quite organized. If it wasn’t for that, I would have struggled a lot. When you’re nomading, you’re either stressed about getting to the airport on time, packing everything properly, or being over the luggage limit. You have to block out your calendar on certain days and adjust deadlines considering all that.”

Being a digital nomad helped Em develop professionally. Outside of having the opportunity to build an extensive network, she became more inspired and creative. The change of scenery and contact with so many cultures permeated into her work, completely changing her portfolio in 12 months.

“Being in different cultures, around different people and seeing new things has helped me. I picked up some of that creativity that the corporate world had taken from me. I remember walking around Northern Africa and looking at these beautiful tiles, which inspired me to put similar patterns into a logo I had to design the next week. It’s definitely reinvigorated a part of my brain I thought had disappeared. It’s brought back the sense of fun at work. If you go through my portfolio, you’ll see it’s filled with bright colors now. It was all dark when I started the business. Digital nomadism changed me and reflected who I am better, in my personal life and work.”

We can find ourselves and discover our success in unexpected ways. Whether it’s through opening a business, going traveling, or changing our day-to-day habits, the key is: follow that gut feeling, that little inkling showing us the way. And don’t be afraid to dream. There’s nothing unachievable.

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