A 22 year old student from Amsterdam, changing the lives of India’s lowest caste

The summer that changed my life

One year ago, I never imagined my life to be like this. I lived a student life in Amsterdam and grew up in an environment strongly contrasting with India, where 67% of the population is living below the poverty line.

 

In my 22 year old life, I travelled to many places, but I never experienced such extreme poverty until I arrived in India. In the summer of 2016, I travelled through India with my mother. In Pushkar (Rajasthan), we encountered two boys begging on the streets. After buying them some ‘chapati flower’, the boys invited us over to their home to eat food with their family. Arriving at their home, I witnessed their living situation and it affected me. I never came this close to extreme poverty before. Over 200 families are living in self-made tents on the Camel Fair ground in the center of Pushkar. The tents are made of sari’s, fabrics and wooden sticks. The families are lacking of basic life needs, proper shelter, employment, sanitary facilities and income.

Can you imagine having to sleep outside in the rain? Having an open desert as your toilet? Wearing the same dirty clothes for weeks because it is the only outfit you have? Having to beg on the streets in order to get enough food for your family? I couldn’t and that’s why I decided to make a change.

I went back to Pushkar one month later, because I became very close with the five families I met the first day, and they started to feel like my family. Due to external and internal factors, the universe had led me to Pushkar with a mission. I spent all of my days at the camp, spending time with the kids and their families. I decided to spend a night at their “camp”, because it didn’t feel right to go back to my hotel while the kids, who I spent all of my days with, were sleeping outside. I wanted to know what it was like to live like them. That night changed my life. Sleeping outside on the cold, sandy ground, among the cows, dogs, mice and insects, makes you very grateful for the kind of life we have here in Europe. After that night, I decided to do something to make a change. All of these children on this camp are born in inhumane conditions to remain in this intergenerational cycle of poverty. I decided to fully commit myself to try to make a change. As a 22 year old Law student from Amsterdam without money, sources or power, I wouldn’t dare to dream that one year later, the lives of five former homeless families would have be completely changed.

Starting the Sona Pushkar Project

I started by selling silver and handicrafts from Pushkar in Holland in order to raise money. Setting up a website, the product-sale, and promoting my project required a lot of time and energy. The project took over a big part of my life since I was doing it by myself, so it wasn’t easy to combine that with my Law studies. I took a semester off and fully committed myself to the project.

Together with my mother I came up with a project plan and I started the Sona Pushkar Project. I wanted to make a fundamental change focussing on three key outcomes: residence, education and employment. These key factors will create a ripple effect that lasts for generations and end the intergenerational cycle of poverty among these families. My aim was to make these families educated, empowered and employed, to achieve the big goal: helping to break the cycle of poverty.

Moving from a tent into the Blue House

After raising money, I went back to Pushkar in November 2016 and started with changing the living situation of the five families I met the first day I came to Pushkar. These families, who were previously living on the camp, moved into a rent house: the Blue House. The Blue House was built for the project and consists of five rooms.

 

There are not many realtors that allow this low caste to rent their house, so we were lucky to have found someone who did. The moving process was easy, since the families hardly had any possessions. We placed everything they had in a tuktuk and moved into the house from one day to another. These 28 people had never slept under a roof before. They were so excited to set up and furnish their own house. I had to teach them all the basics, such as using a bathroom, folding up their clothes and brushing teeth. I provided them with all necessary utensils and lived among them in the Blue House every two months I went back to Pushkar. The families adjusted to their new lifestyle surprisingly fast.

Education: the key to a different future

All children in the Blue House are enrolled in school. Some of the children are sent to the local school through my project, others were already lucky to be sponsored by other tourists. Education is the key to change a child’s life. Through my website and social media, people who like to help can sign up for sponsorship. Sponsoring a child’s education costs €150 euro per year, this includes school fee, uniform and schoolbooks. None of the prior generation had gone to school and not a single person of this underprivileged community has a proper job. Being born in this excluded community isn’t easy but these children will have the chance to end this intergenerational cycle of poverty. The ultimate goal is to send all children on the camp to school, in order to give them a chance in this world.

 

None of the prior generation had gone to school and not a single person of this underprivileged community has a proper job. Being born in this excluded community isn’t easy but these children will have the chance to end this intergenerational cycle of poverty. The ultimate goal is to send all children on the camp to school, in order to give them a chance in the world.

Employment: making the families self-sufficient

Besides residence and education, the families are employed by my project. The women are sewing silk bags which I sell in shops in Holland. The men are driving “the Blue Tuktuk”. This electric tuktuk is donated to the project by Join The Pipe, a company that is providing water-connections worldwide. Before this project, all men and boys of this caste were drumming for a living. Drumming is still something they enjoy and they are really talented musicians. The drum-season is just a couple of months per year and this was their only form of income. That is why many families sent their kids to go begging. This was a way of survival, whereas most of the time they didn’t have enough money for food. The five families don’t need to worry about having enough food anymore.

 

My project is providing monthly food packages for all five families. These food packages are filled with enough chapati flower, oil, rice, washing powder and herbs and spices for the whole month. The food program are partly sponsored by individual sponsors who signed up through my website. Part of the sale of the handmade products made by the Blue House women is also funding these food packages. This is to make them aware of the fact that they need to work in order to get something. By employing the adults I hope to make them self-sufficient and independent.

Future plans and goals

There are some conditions prior to being enrolled in my project: the children have to go to school regularly and the adults have to be employed. I hope to create a ripple effect of education and employment. The five “Blue House families” have a completely transformed life after helping them for merely one year. The new generation will have a life so different from their parents. They will be the first generation to finish school and maybe even attend college. They will live their lives in a house, with a job and fair income. When these families eventually become more self-sufficient, I hope to help more families who are still living on the camp.

In July 2017, the NGO has invested in buying land in Pushkar. On this land the families will work in order to save money to build their own house. Each family will have their own house, through their own effort and work. The future plan is that the project will build a building where the children’s development will be accelerated by teaching them English and other underdeveloped subjects, and to also let them explore their creativity, sports and other skills.

Combatting India’s biggest problem: Child Marriage

Rajasthan, the province of Pushkar, has the highest rate of of child marriage. 60 percent of the women are married before the age of 18. Child marriage is a violation of children’s rights. It limits choices, freedom and the chance of a different future. Children shouldn’t be tied down against their will. In the community concerned in Pushkar, child marriage is very common. Most of the boys and girls get married at the age of 15. Besides the negative effects on children, marrying out children also increases the family’s debt. According to Indian traditions, marriage is of big importance and a lot of money is used for it.

Among my project’s families, I strive to prevent child marriages. I set the condition that no child in the Blue House can marry before the age of 18 for girls and 21 for boys, as the Indian law says. If they don’t comply with this condition, they are not allowed to be part of my project.

The parents of one of the 15 year old boys in the Blue House were arranging a marriage. I talked to them trying to implement a different mindset. Finally, I persuaded them by telling that this boy’s life has so much potential. I put him in school 4 months ago, and he is doing great. If he would be married at the age of 15, he would stop school without a chance of a proper job, caring for his family without any money before the age of 18. His older brother helped me with persuading their parents. He got married out at the age of 13. He was forced to quit school. His dream was to finish school and attend college. He told me that his life was finished when he got married and that his life would have been so different if he wasn’t married at the age of 13. He is now 25 and has to take care of his family with 4 kids, lacking of a proper job and income. This is how the intergenerational cycle of poverty keeps on existing. I am relieved that his brother will have a different, free life, filled with opportunities. Now everything is possible: “sab kuch melega”.

Help needs to come from your heart

The problem will not be solved by just offering practical help; it is also of great significance to make a fundamental difference to have a profound effect on making a change. In my opinion, the best help will come from your heart and it needs to be unconditional. A small contribution for us Europeans can have a big impact on the lives of poor families. I learned that it doesn’t require a lot of money to make change. But it is not just money that will change lives. Being involved personally and a 100% wanting to invest a lot of your time and effort, is of most importance and requires the most of you.

Most people go on in their privileged lives without being grateful and aware of the fact that life is very easy for us compared to a lot of people in the world. Why are we overloaded and spoiled while so many children are born with nothing. Why do so few of us take the energy, time and effort to make a change. A small contribution for us can have a life changing impact. I never expected that I would be able to make a real difference, but it is possible for a 22 year old student to change lives. I believe that when you really want something, the universe always conspires in your favor. These children have aspirations like you and me, expectations of what life could be. Giving them a chance in this world is the most beautiful, selfless thing to do.

If you would like to get involved in changing lives of street children and their families: subscribe at: www.sonapushkarproject.com

Jaira Sona
I’m a 22 year old student born and raised in Amsterdam. I’m finishing my Law bachelor at the University of Amsterdam, besides studying International Studies at the Leiden University. With International Studies I specialize in South Asia and mainly India.
I strive to eventually being able to make a change in the field of Human Rights and Children Rights in India.
I’m a mix of different origins: Indian, Dutch, Surinamese, Chinese, Portuguese. I tend to travel and explore a lot and I live life to the fullest. I love snowboarding, surfing and going on road trips chasing new horizons. I believe the joy of life comes from encounters with new experiences. As a globetrotter I’ve been to many places, but India captured my heart.

My Exhibition

I broke bones because I can’t do it. I went to the hospital because I can’t do it. I got fired because I can’t do it. I jump bridges because I can’t do it.

It sounds like it’s awful but I will argue the contrary. It is inhibition. If you open up a dictionary, you will find the following definitions of inhibition:

“a nervous feeling that prevents you from expressing your thoughts, emotions, or desires”

“the act of preventing or slowing the activity or occurrence of something”

Inhibition is in the way when you’re going out, it’s in the way when you want to say what you think and it’s in between you and your dreams. Inhibition is what keeps your from achieving what you really want and thus what keeps you from being truly happy. Inhibiting less will make your life (and the lives around you) better. When you’re among your friends you usually inhibit less, you speak your mind and do things you wouldn’t have done alone (like swimming at -2 degrees with your Danish friends or ending up alone in a dark Brazilian favela at 5 in the morning having spent all your money and no way to get home (spoiler: begging a cab driver to take you)). As you might already imagine, my level of inhibition is below 99% of the normal population. That leaves me in the 1% that does things on the fly, I don’t stop to think. I believe it’s a valuable one percent to be in, just like the other one percent you should be in. Just do the following yourself; recollect the 10 best stories of your life and if you’re like me, at least 9 of them are because you or someone else didn’t inhibit. Like that time you were hanging upside down from a chandelier chugging a beer (it’s called a “hangende aap adt” or in English: “hanging monkey chug”) or when your friend took a shit out of your apartment on the fourth floor. Those are the great stories, but there are two sides of it. I remember and regret that one time I woke up without a shoe, a broken toe and no recollection of what happened last night. And that’s just one of my many embarrassing stories. The great thing about these not so great experiences is that they are the real school called life, this is where you learn. Sure, you break some bones and hurt some feelings along the way. You’ll feel guilty because of it and you’ll regret some of it. You will fail and fall hard more than once, but these experiences teach you valuable life lessons that would leave you normal inhibitors untouched yet unsatisfied. If you do decide to battle through some short-term regrets, you will reap the rewards. The downsides are necessary investments that will pay large dividends in the future, if you’re willing to take that risk.

We think people that inhibit are boring; I’ll call them inhibitors from now on. We think they’re normal, and we rightfully associate normal with boring. I wouldn’t want to be insulted with “normal”. Politicians are notorious inhibitors, that’s why we think they are fake and boring. Inhibitors stand against the wall with their drink whilst the exhibitors are on the middle of the floor doing dance battles. The greatest companies of the past and the future aren’t built on inhibition, they are founded on exhibition and courage. The following, cheesy yet accurate, quote is a great example of the power of exhibition.

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

Exhibitions are called that for a reason, they are places that show inspiring, unconventional and talented work. Sometimes I wish I was more like this illustrious group of people described above. I wish I could just leave things behind, saying “fuck you” to the status quo and doing what I think is best, expressing zero inhibition to what I want for myself in life. Truth to told, often times I can’t. Fear for the future, inability to learn from the past and the difficulty to break with conventions are the most prominent reasons for my inhibition. With that being said, I strive to think, act and reflect differently. Being aware that you can venture from the beaten path is the first step in changing your life for the better. Acting on your inner desires is what comes next. Exhibit your thoughts and feelings and you’ll never look back with remorse about the things you didn’t do. Go work on that great idea you have, book that flight and do that one thing you always dreamed about but never dared to execute. You should see life as an exhibition, filled with your best stories. See what you can do to make your next exhibition even better. Be abnormal, regret nothing and showcase your talent. You’ll end up with an exhibition that you can be proud of, that others envy and that, if you’re crazy enough, changes the world.

Daniel
I am the Co-Founder of Fypster.
Hope you guys are having fun here! Always happy to connect ?
So a little bit about me: I love entrepreneurship, traveling, diving into different cultures and languages whilst having football as another big passion. I love to be surrounded by people who encourage me to think beyond my limits. I also like reading (non fiction) books and to enjoy culturally diverse food. A lot of it. (if I can afford it)
When I am not working on some projects I love to spend quality time with my loved friends and family.
Fun fact: I am German/Brazilian which means I have to deal with two very opposing forces in me.
Before you ask: Even though I grew up in Germany, I always supported the brazilian national team a lot. So I witnessed the 7:1 in a Brazilian Restaurant having to drink many caipirinhas to be able to deal with the game.

Becoming Location Independent – 10 things I wish I knew beforehand

Building a work-from-anywhere lifestyle, better known as ‘being location independent,’ is not a task for the faint of heart. Whether you choose to find remote work, forge your own path as a freelancer, or build your very own online business, the challenges you’ll face will be new and often overwhelming.

In the very same breath, there aren’t many things more satisfying than building a lifestyle in which you feel 100% in control—of your time, of your resources, and of your successes. The Internet has brought with it a world of possibilities for those willing to think outside the box. No longer do young people feel obligated to choose the common career path which inevitably involves a cubicle, a commute, and a corporate slog.

More people are choosing to work for themselves, leveraging an online presence in order to create something uniquely their own, work on their own terms, and travel the world at will. Location independence offers a new kind of freedom that didn’t even exist just a few decades ago.

When I graduated from college in 2009, I had just finished up a degree that I thought I was passionate about. I studied nutrition, and had a one-year unpaid internship still ahead of me before I would enter the professional world. Yet, somewhere deep in my heart, the desire to travel still lurked, and I would eventually realize this desire simply wouldn’t be outgrown.

The internship came and went and I moved to New York City, still dreaming of something different, something bigger. By that time, I’d given up on the idea of continuing on as a dietitian, and much to my mother’s dismay, refused to even take my registration exam. Instead, I plotted my first foray into international life, a year of teaching English in Southeast Asia.

That period of my life came and went just as quickly, and I itched to continue exploring. I found my way to South America only to realize I now had a strong aversion to staying put in any one place. It wasn’t a commitment issue; in fact, if anything, I was extremely committed to my dream of seeing the world, and I didn’t want it to come to an end just because of a drying up bank account.

fuerteventura-dunes-11Becoming location independent was the natural next step for me, although it certainly didn’t happen overnight. I’ve been at it three years now, and I still have so much to learn. Thankfully, I no longer have that lingering fear of sulking back to a 9-5 job; I’m in a stable place that I never truly thought was possible until I started to put in the work.

Having built a location independent lifestyle for myself over the last few years through a combination of blogging and freelancing, I could go on singing its praises. There are many good reasons to defy society’s expectations by choosing this path. It’s anything but the easy route, though, and I’ve made many missteps along the way.

So now I’d like to share some of the wisdom I’ve gained through the trials and triumphs of my formative years as a location independent entrepreneur in the hopes that others can avoid the same mistakes and heartache I experienced.

 

 

Here are the 10 things I wish I knew before becoming location independent:

Some people will never understand your lifestyle choice.

Being Location independent is a lifestyle choice that most people cannot even begin to fathom. Either they have no similar desire to see the world, or they are enough of a cynic to believe building a viable business from the road simply can’t be done. Rest assured that despite how quickly this lifestyle choice is gaining attention and notoriety, location independents are still a minority worldwide. We are anything but mainstream. This shouldn’t be seen as a disadvantage, however; it is simply a fact that it’s best to reconcile with early on.

But that doesn’t mean they don’t support it.

It’s worth noting that most people you encounter, even though they may not fully understand or empathize with your desire to forge your own unconventional path, will still support your decision wholeheartedly. My closest family and friends are some of my biggest advocates, despite how rarely we are in the same area code and despite how utterly confused they are about what it is I actually do. I don’t blame them for their confusion—I wear a lot of hats and even I sometimes lose track of it all. But I explain what I can and they enthusiastically nod along, and will even brag about me to people they know, even if they still don’t get it quite right.

Seek a community of peers and mentors early on.

Because this lifestyle is so unusual and there are an infinite number of ways to go about it, having a community of other people going through similar struggles will be one of your greatest assets. When I first decided to become a travel blogger, it helped me immensely to have a close friend who’d been at it for a few years and could act as a mentor to me in those early stages. When I realized I needed to bolster my business acumen, I sought out online entrepreneurs who were absolutely killing the game and followed them closely—I signed up for their newsletters, I bought their courses, I attended their webinars and joined their Facebook groups. The worst thing you could do in the beginning is assume you’ll just “figure it all out” on your own. It’s okay to ask for help—you’ll get much farther that way.

Never pass up an opportunity to network.

cantimplora-travel-leah_215_1_25-resized-2This goes along with my previous point. Networking is absolutely essential to your success, both for the purpose of finding mentors and guidance and for building friendships that have the capacity to become strong alliances. The people I’ve met through networking events like the TBEX Conference, for example, are the ones most willing to go to bat for me, to refer me a client, to send me opportunities and to share my work. And I do the same for them in return, not just because they do so much for me but because I genuinely want to see them succeed.

Teach everything you know, even when you feel like you know nothing.

The best way to test your understanding of a new concept is to try explaining it to someone else. Knowledge is the true currency of this world, and the more of it you give, the more will come back to you in return. No matter where you are in your journey, there is someone who’s a few steps behind you who will really appreciate your insights. This is why many digital nomads publish their income reports publicly—they are not bragging, but rather showing others the exact steps they’ve taken to achieve their success. Withholding what you learn from others will leave you in a “scarcity mindset,” where you believe there is not enough success to go around. However, once you realize that there IS in fact enough room for everyone and stop thinking of everyone else as your competition, you will have arrived to the “abundance mindset,” which will in turn serve to create more abundance in your life and career.

Nobody actually works on the beach.

The undying cliché of the digital nomad is that we all spend our days lounging on the beach with a laptop and a fruity cocktail in hand. But let me tell you something—in reality, the people who actually achieve success are the ones busting their butts behind closed doors, grinding through work day in and day out and not flaunting visions of “the dream” on social media before they’ve even achieved it. Sure, many people choose to set up shop in low-cost countries where they can get by on far less than we would in our home countries, but very rarely does that mean the hustle grinds to a halt. To succeed as a freelancer, a remote worker, or an entrepreneur requires discipline and dedication to the cause. If the beach is your priority from the beginning, you’ve already lost.

It’s okay to slow down or stop traveling altogether.

Travel has always been my greatest passion. It’s what lead me to become location independent in the first place and the reason I knew early on that this lifestyle choice was right for me. I wanted to keep seeing the world at my own pace, and on my own terms. But when I really started digging deeper into building a business, the traveling started to feel like a burden. My goals shifted and traveling full-time was no longer a priority. It took away too much of my mental stamina, creative energy, and physical energy from what was most important to me. When I first stopped traveling regularly, I almost felt like a fraud. But as it turned out, the expectation to continue traveling just because I thought of myself as location independent was entirely self-imposed. Slowly but surely, I’ve come to understand that whether I’m traveling or not has nothing to do with my ability to be location independent. Even if I’m not traveling to a new country every couple of months, the fact remains that I could if I wanted to. I’ve finally realized that it’s not just about the travel, but about having the freedom to do what I please. Travel or don’t travel—the choice is up to me.

leahdavis-3_25-resized-2Celebrate every small victory.

The road to a successful online business venture is long and winding. You will rarely have a clear picture of what lies ahead or when certain milestones will be achieved. That’s why it’s so important to celebrate small victories along the way rather than focusing on the distance you have yet to travel. When I started a blog, it was impossible to imagine the amount of traffic I have now, so instead, I celebrated my first 100 visitors. I celebrated my first piece of sponsored content, my first sponsored tour, and my first freelance gig that paid $10/hour. Had I started comparing my progress to those around me or those much further along than me, I likely would have been so discouraged that I’d have thrown in the towel right then and there. Compare yourself only to yesterday and celebrate small wins as they come, and you will find the motivation to keep going.

There is no such thing as failure.

Of course, there will be plenty of missteps in your journey to becoming location independent, but this is not only par for the course, it’s a necessary component of the growth process. Rather than thinking of setbacks as failures, however, try to reframe them as opportunities to learn. We learn far more from what goes wrong than what goes right, after all, so don’t dwell on the mistakes—think of them as lessons, apply what you learn, and move on.

You will want to give up—often. Don’t.

My final piece of advice to anyone who’s interested in going the unconventional route is to keep on keepin’ on even when you most want to quit. If this is, in fact, what you feel will bring you the greatest happiness, it’s a battle worth fighting. Every time I stop to question why I’m walking through this particular fire, I think back to the moments and decisions that led me here in the first place. I think of my distaste for corporations, my aversion to rigid schedules, my desire to let my creative freak flag fly. I know the alternative—I’ve been there and done that—and the idea of giving up all I’ve been working for (here’s another moment when it helps to remember how far you’ve come) seems like a disservice to my heart’s true desire and a victory for my fear. And I simply cannot let fear win this war.

 


If you would like to learn more about Leah, be sure to check out her interview with Women Digital Nomads or simply visit her website here.

Leah
Hey, I’m Leah! Originally from Washington state, but intent on traveling the whole world slowly and thoroughly. I blog about my travels and share my best business advice on my blog, thesweetestway.com 🙂

How to wake up stoked every day by living your passion

Miriam Tymiec is a freelance graphic designer/art director/kite-surfer and professional fun-haver. We had an awesome interview and she is someone who, in my eyes, perfectly embodies the spirit of being a digital nomad. You can check out all of her design work here and if you’re into kite surfing check out her kite surf blog Wake Up Stoked.

In this interview we focused on topics such as:

1) How to connect with like-minded people

2) The essentials of being a traveling freelancer

3) The impact of traveling on one’s personality

4) How to get over your fears and get out of your shell

Enjoy!

S: Tell me a little bit about your journey. How did it all begin?

M: At first I worked at an agency as a graphic designer, but my goal was to become a freelancer and location independent. My ultimate dream was to kite-surf more. So I decided that I was going to adjust my job to my kite-surf life. Pretty much what I do now is look up different destinations where the wind is the best and where I will be able to work as well.

S: Awesome. At what point in life did you figure out that you didn’t want to work in an agency, but chase that kite surf dream and still focus on your work in the process?

M: I studied abroad in Italy and I always loved traveling. So after my studies, I went on a kite-surf holiday to the Dominican Republic, where I learned kite surfing. That’s when I was around 24 years old. It was during that holiday I decided that I didn’t want to get a job right away. I needed something in between and I wanted to travel and explore various things. At this point, I decided to book a one-way ticket back to the Dominican Republic and stay there for a few months, which turned out to be a year. I started working as a kite surf teacher and also started to freelance as a graphic designer. However I didn’t make enough money from that, so after a year I was very broke. That was the point where I decided to get a proper job that I can make a living of.

In spite of having no money, that year really changed my perspective on life and I can safely say that it was THE best year of my life. I can only recommend either after school or university to just go out there explore, travel and see the different lifestyles there are in this world.

So I started to work at an agency. I enjoyed that but I felt that I was not as happy as I could have been. It felt like there was always something missing. I think that idea was born because of my travels to the Dominican Republic and my passion for kite surfing, so it took me a long time to figure that out. Finally, after 3 years I realized that this lifestyle wasn’t for me and that I needed a change.

 

S: It must have taken a lot of courage to leave everything behind to go to the Dominican Republic because that’s where you felt your heart is. What impressions or reactions did you get from your friends and family once you told them that this is what you wanted to do?

M: The great thing in my case was that I got a lot of support and encouragement from my brother. It actually was his idea to go and he really wanted me to go with him. I was very scared at the time. Statements like “I have to get a job now”, “What will my CV look like if I just go travel for a year or for however long it will be” were constantly running through my mind.  I would have never made that decision myself and it was my brother who pushed me to do this.

My friends back then thought it was a little weird, they didn’t say too much but I felt that they thought it could take me a step back career wise. My parents are very easy going and were very supportive. They even told me that if they had the opportunity to go, they would do it too.

I think it was more of a passive thing, that people or society in general, will think I’m some sort of a failure if I do that now, so that was the bigger fear behind it.

S: It’s very common that people are afraid to fail and that they are afraid of what other people might think. For example there’s always that fear of judgment by people in your environment, that when you have an idea, which you want to realize but fail to do so.

In this case it’s always good to see the upside, which is that you actually did it! You don’t have to constantly ask yourself “What if?” And this can be a pretty huge deal, even if it doesn’t work out the way you want it to be. There’s always some kind of lesson, which you learn in the process that will bring you one step further in some way.

Would you consider yourself to be a Digital Nomad? If so, can you describe from your point of view the most important characteristics of a Digital Nomad?

M: Yeah, I would consider myself a digital nomad, but that’s because it is a really broad term. It’s simply defined as a person who

  1. Works wherever they want to

  2. Need internet to work

It’s a nice word to describe my lifestyle since it is easy to understand without going into any further detail. However it’s not a job description. You can’t go around saying your job is being a digital nomad. It’s more about a way of describing yourself as a person. Generally I feel like it’s a hard term to define simply because there are so many different ways people live life on the road.

S: There are so many people who dream of a more independent lifestyle, to not be bound to any specific location or to work while traveling and adventuring. What advice can you give digital professionals who want to achieve that lifestyle? Can you share a few points or life lessons that you learned while being on your journey?

M: I think the most important point is to have a vision and to know why you are working towards achieving this lifestyle. You really have to have a goal and to “feel the dream”. What I haven’t done at the time, and what I recommend everyone who still has the chance to do so should do, is to start building it next to your day job. It takes time to build that foundation. So start slowly and when the time comes when you can actually make a living off of it, then go quit your day job and 100% focus on your independence.

Another advice I can give is to generally save money. Just to have something to live off in the beginning, in case it’s not going so well. But basically, I would really recommend to everyone to work on it on a long-term basis and to really go for it, because like I said, for me, it was the best decision I ever made.

S: How have your travels and the whole digital nomad lifestyle affected you as a human being in terms of personality and mindsets?

M: I think my first travels were the ones, which affected my personality the most. Traveling makes you more open-minded. The more you see, the more you can think of, the more you can dream of. I’m also a bit of a shy person so it makes me more open towards others and to meet new people. And I think the most important thing is it really keeps you in the moment. You always experience new things and by changing places and working that way you’re always grateful and happy for what you have. For example, when I came back to Germany from South America I started appreciating the little things, and if you’re in another country like Dominican Republic, you just appreciate nature so much, so you’re really in the moment and very grateful for that. So I think I became more present personally and concerning my work life I think I’m way more focused and productive because I know what I am working towards. I’m living my dream and my motivation is way higher to work productively in an effective way so that I can enjoy the rest of the day at the place where I currently am.

 

S: That sounds so cool. Coming back to the freelance graphic design work you do, how hard is it to establish a client base? Do you think it’s easier or harder to find clients while traveling?

M: I think it’s way harder to get clients on the road. On that note, another important advice I can give is to get your clients before you travel. I had zero clients, completely started from scratch. My first clients were actually my family and friends and since some of my friends were graphic designers too I got some jobs from them. Even today it’s still hard for me to get clients since there’s always a certain distrust about the fact that I’m traveling constantly. So the best thing to do is establish a connection with your clients from your home base and show them that you do good work and later let them know that you’re traveling but still can accomplish all the work that you get from them. I also know some people who don’t tell their clients that they’re traveling and they don’t even notice that they’re gone. It’s just important that your travels do not interfere with the quality of your work.

S: You hear a lot about people who love traveling on social media and other platforms but are still to afraid or hesitant to make that final step. How can you give them that push which takes them over the edge and to get started? What would you say to them?

M: For my first ‘push’ when I traveled to the Dominican Republic I had my brother, but for my second push I actually went to a conference for digital nomads. For anyone looking for additional motivation, I would highly recommend that. The one I went to is called DNX, they have a national event in Germany and also an international one in 2017 in Lisbon. I am sure they are tons of other events and conferences, but for me, this was the one which was really mind-blowing. 

I think the most important point is to have a vision and to know why you are working towards achieving this lifestyle. You really have to have a goal and to “feel the dream”. What I haven’t done at the time, and what I recommend everyone who still has the chance to do so should do, is to start building it next to your day job. It takes time to build that foundation.

I would really recommend to go there and to just talk to people, feel the vibe and explore the many ways you can live this lifestyle. It’s such a big community and people are so helpful and open-minded. What you can also do is simply join Facebook groups for digital nomads and talk to people through there. They are very active groups and you get so much advice from people. Those two different communities really helped me a lot and made my vision bigger and constantly provided me with new ideas. Get to the beginning of the path and with the help of these communities see how many possibilities there actually are, and you’ll find your way on your own just by listening and taking it all in.

S: That’s very true. If you have a goal or a dream, doesn’t matter what it is you always have to get together with like-minded people and support each other, give advice and get motivation from one another. That probably also makes the whole experience a lot easier, especially at the beginning when you’re trying to figure it all out.

 M: Yes exactly. There’s this one saying “You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with”. So even if you don’t have these like-minded people in your friends or family, look for them online or on conferences, watch YouTube videos, read quotes. The more you surround yourself with these things and see them constantly the more natural it gets for you. 

Daniel
I am the Co-Founder of Fypster.
Hope you guys are having fun here! Always happy to connect ?
So a little bit about me: I love entrepreneurship, traveling, diving into different cultures and languages whilst having football as another big passion. I love to be surrounded by people who encourage me to think beyond my limits. I also like reading (non fiction) books and to enjoy culturally diverse food. A lot of it. (if I can afford it)
When I am not working on some projects I love to spend quality time with my loved friends and family.
Fun fact: I am German/Brazilian which means I have to deal with two very opposing forces in me.
Before you ask: Even though I grew up in Germany, I always supported the brazilian national team a lot. So I witnessed the 7:1 in a Brazilian Restaurant having to drink many caipirinhas to be able to deal with the game.

All you need is a start

I live on a houseboat in the center of Amsterdam. Recently, I was standing by the living room window, watching the rain and admiring how tranquil the city looks from the water.

Thinking of that, I started to remember something: When I was a child, my best friend always had stories of vacations to tell, that sounded incredible to me. Spain, Greece, Tunisia. Surfing, Snorkeling, the hotels, the markets…. In addition, he also seemed to go to the Netherlands all the time! That might have been one of the more ordinary destinations but for some reason the typical Dutch canals he told me about, really struck a chord with me. If my family went on vacations, it would be within Germany. It made me quite jealous of my friend and left me picturing the fun times I’d be having in Holland, if my family would regularly go there too.

About 15 years later, I was living on those canals, was part of a great company and had worked on 4 continents before my 25th birthday. It occurred to me, that getting to that point was all thanks to an opportunity I took about 5 years earlier, just one shot.

ams-boat

Various friends of mine live a similar life, have lived in multiple countries, speak various languages, go to renowned and inspiring universities or travel for their work. A great many of them started this path from a young age on, their parents being entrepreneurs or seasoned travelers themselves. It is no secret that even here in Western Europe, where equality is prioritized and everybody has access to education, some have the resources to fulfill their dreams and live up to their potential while others don’t. When I was growing up, the resource I was lacking in was money. Many young, outstanding people I’ve met attended high ranking international schools, went for studies abroad or did low paying internships in expensive global cities. For my family, financing projects like these was no option. And yet, nowadays I have the same opportunities as they do and I’m here to tell you that you will too.

See, all you need is a start.

My personal start was being accepted to Weltwärts, the voluntary service run by the German federal ministry of development and economic cooperation. A popular program enabling high school graduates to do a year of different types of voluntary work in developing or threshold countries, while receiving education on intercultural collaboration and communication. All expenses such as flights, accommodation, language courses, insurance and food are paid. I wouldn’t have been able to do it otherwise. I went to rural China where I taught English and set up afternoon activities for my students aimed at informal learning and cultural exchange.

chhina-teach-2

What I learned during my time there, made it possible for me to be accepted to a one semester university program in Beijing and continue to work there on the side. That experience was relevant to a job I took in Amsterdam later on. There, I gathered the experience needed to work in a tech startup, after I decided that was a better fit for me than corporate life. A personality that blends in with startup culture I developed in that international environment I lived and thrived in in China.  Then ultimately, my skillset and personality became valuable to one of Silicon Valley’s most interesting companies.

Now what could be that stepping stone for you?

I know from experience that it can be frustrating seeing your goal in unreachable distance. Try to take it one step at a time however and it becomes much more realistic.  If you want to travel but you can’t afford it, maybe there’s an internship you can apply for. Maybe you know someone with ties to the destination of your choice. If you want to live abroad but don’t have the funds, why not strive for academic excellence to qualify for a scholarship or work on skills that the workforce of the country you want to go to is short of. If your grades aren’t good enough to be accepted to a particular study, you might be able to do an apprenticeship, teaching you more practical knowledge and thus giving you the edge over other applicants to the study in the long run. If you want to be an athlete, run one block further every day, do one more push up, then find yourself a coach.     If you want to become part of a tech startup but have studied something entirely different, use free online resources to learn to code or use analytics tools.

Whatever it is you want to do: All you need is a start. Just one opening that will enable you to get closer to your goal, step by step.

kungfu-man

There’s millions of driven, young people like yourself and it can be very valuable to get some inspiration and read the stories of your peers. For that reason, Fypster was created. A platform where young people share their learnings and experiences in travel, entrepreneurship and personal development.

You can get advice and hands on experience from the community and who knows, Fypster might just pave the way to your personal skipping stone. We’d love to see you drop by!

Have a great start and stay focused!

Daniel
I am the Co-Founder of Fypster.
Hope you guys are having fun here! Always happy to connect ?
So a little bit about me: I love entrepreneurship, traveling, diving into different cultures and languages whilst having football as another big passion. I love to be surrounded by people who encourage me to think beyond my limits. I also like reading (non fiction) books and to enjoy culturally diverse food. A lot of it. (if I can afford it)
When I am not working on some projects I love to spend quality time with my loved friends and family.
Fun fact: I am German/Brazilian which means I have to deal with two very opposing forces in me.
Before you ask: Even though I grew up in Germany, I always supported the brazilian national team a lot. So I witnessed the 7:1 in a Brazilian Restaurant having to drink many caipirinhas to be able to deal with the game.

How to become a digital nomad – 7 Characteristics you need

Becoming a digital nomad sounds so romantic, doesn’t it? Working from wherever you are, whenever you are. We are Anna&Matt, the girl and guy behind hostelgeeks.com, an independent travel brand putting together the world’s most stunning Hostels: the 5 Star Hostels.

Do you want to know what’s a Hostel? Then check out our definitions of what is a hostel in the first place: hostelgeeks.com/what-is-a-hostel-defintions/

We work location independent. With every day passing by, it gets harder and harder to imagine going back to a 9-5 job. We escaped the European winter, living on an island next to Africa. We can work and live at the most beautiful places in the world, schedule our own time.

We are time- and location-independent, and personally, we enjoy it.

5 Star Hostels

However: We do not claim being location independent aka. a digital nomad is the best thing in the world, and everybody should go for it. In fact, it is a lot of work and certainly not the best choice for everybody.

It takes a lot of discipline, a thick skin, and most of all the right mindset. Running an own business, whether it is location-independent or located-based, is a different way to earn a living.

In this article, we share with you 7 things that we think are important to know beforehand when planning to become a digital nomad. We do not hold back and share with you insights and our knowledge.

We hope, our experience and insight helps you.

1. Self Awareness

Hostelgeeks in Menorca

This may be the toughest, most personal thing you have to overcome: You need to know you! We mean, you really need to know you, your skills, what you want, and what you do not want.

And most of all: You need to know your weakness and what you are NOT capable of!

Make a list and write it down. If you cannot think of anything to put on the list, start nevertheless. Write down the smallest things that pop in your mind. Continue this list the next day, and so on.

It may take a few days to get the list done. Once you have it, it will be easier for you to actually narrow down your possibilities – and we think this is what you need if you want to become a digital nomad.

2. Self Confidence (NOT arrogance)

If you do not believe in yourself, you cannot expect anybody else to do so!
Now, there is a big difference between being arrogant and self-confidence, and sometimes it can get mixed up.

Digital Nomads in Barcelona

When you mastered #1 of the self-awareness, it will be easier for you to be self-confident.

Simple as that: Because you actually now what you are good at and what you are not good at. This is a crucial step.

3. A clear vision

A clear vision is key for pitching possible investors and clients. Be clear, be consistent – then your counterpart will also be able to understand you in an easy way.

This will save you lots of time, and boost your „conversion rate“.

It might be a good idea to pitch your ideas first to friends. They can ask you valuable questions from an outsiders perspective you maybe haven’t even considered.

4. A boxer’s nose

Get ready for punches…in your face…a lot! Especially when going for a competitive market (and even the non-competitive ones), get ready for people who want to take you down, and undercut your confidence.

Let us give you an example of things we had to listen to:

  • oh, cool…so you live wherever you want and never work!
  • We don’t want to work with you…because you seem to enjoy too much your life!
  • Enjoy this as long as you can, until reality comes for you…
  • And how do you ACTUALLY make money?

There are many ways of handling this negative energy, this rejection. There is a simple rule to remember always: don’t take it personally!

If you are good at what you do, there will be most likely people who appreciate your work!

And those are the people you should care about. Remember #1 and #2!

Hostelgeeks, Digital Nomads and Travel Brand

5. Acceptance to make mistakes

This one may also hurt for some people: You are not perfect. And even worse: You will never be perfect. And yes, we are also not perfect, and will never be – we know that!

Now, this sounds brutal, but it is the bloody truth. Personally, we think, perfection does not exist in the first place, and if you want to put yourself out there, stop waiting for the perfect moment „until you don’t make beginner mistakes“ anymore.

Because, guess what, you will make mistakes anyway and you HAVE to do them. As soon as possible, as many as possible! The most important thing is:

To. Learn. From. Your. Mistakes!

We Bologna Hostel

6. A strong network and friends

Now, here is good news, for a change: There is way of reducing your mistakes. One thing that helped us to get started were close friends running their own businesses.

You can learn so much from their success and their own mistakes.

Ask them for their expertise, share your ideas, and evaluate. You will get access to the knowledge you won’t find anywhere else.

Anna&Matt in Venice

7. Patience (Yoga might help!)

Whatever you do, whatever your plan may be in business, patience will be your biggest enemy. Well, at least my one is. Building up a (location independent) business takes (usually) a lot of patience.

You will hit bumps along the road, and remember the bloody nose from above. This is where you can apply all the points mentioned above.

Summary How to become a digital nomad

This is just a generic article about how to become a digital nomad. Quite brutal, right?!

Is is actually worth it to become location independent? If you really know what you are getting into, then yes.

Is it hard: Oh yes!

But it wouldn’t be fun if it would be too easy, would it?! At the end of the day, the key is your mindset. We hope these 7 small tips for becoming a digital nomad are helpful for you. Those are only our own experience and our own point of view.

5 Star Hostels in Venice

If you liked this article, please share it with your friends, and let them be part of your upcoming journey as a digital nomad.

Be unique,
Anna&Matt

You can follow us at Facebook.com/Hostelgeeks.

Digital Nomads Hostelgeeks

Evade society’s pressure and embark on a journey

Since the modern world has taken root, risk is something that is slowly being eliminated.
Instead of forging a unique path in life and discovering their authentic self in the process, many have allowed society’s
pressures to dictate the course of their life. The idea of paving your own way seems mad in today’s world.
That’s why my decision to sell off everything I own to travel the world might come as a bit of a shock to you.

My name is James and I first traveled when I was 16 across Europe on an excursion with 40 friends from high school.
The previous year I worked my first job and used the money I earned towards this grand adventure.
The trip was an unforgettable experience with all of its insane, drunken mishaps through Germany, Austria, Switzerland,
Italy, France and England.
We talked about that trip every day for the following year and even to this day it almost automatically resurfaces
in our conversation. After this trip, I was addicted to traveling and repeatedly visited Europe in college.

During my exchange program in Germany, I met a beautiful girl from South Africa who has changed my life.
This past year, she asked if I’d come visit her in South Africa for the summer.
I was working as a steam turbine mechanic at the time because I made good money and my job
allowed me a lot of freedom to travel since I worked contract to contract.
Work had started slowing down and I figured why not embrace a little risk?

When I first arrived, I landed at the Port Elizabeth airport which is about an hour from her home by car.
I was picked up from the airport by her dad in his RV-9 experimental airplane and he flew me to the town they lived in. The flight was absolutely breathtaking.

12640348_10153904556492498_4599297033121978066_o

We flew inches above the mile-long crashing waves that landed on the shore of untouched sand dunes
with great hills behind them that formed the perfect background. All this vast landscape and not a single person in sight!
Our first night we had a braai (bbq) and went out to watch the sunset on top of the dunes.
When the moon came up that night, it was so close you could almost touch it’s unforgettable blood red surface.
During the days, we spent our time: surfing, snorkeling, bungee jumping, cliff diving, kayaking, and off roading in the sand dunes.
We watched Jeremy Loops perform live and we ended a drunken night on her lawn watching the sunrise
more times than I can count.

I went from James to Jimmy (or jimbo or jimbo-slice ah!!).
One day we took a road trip out to the Addo Game Reserve which is one of the only reserves that they allow you to drive yourself.
We saw zebra, springboek, warthogs, water buffalo… but what I wanted more than anything was to encounter wild elephants.
We drove around the whole day in the sweltering heat in a car without functioning air conditioning.
The day seemed to sweep out from under us as the sun started to descend in the horizon;
we realized at that moment that there was a section of the reserve that was missed in our search. We decided to try our luck.

Instead of forging a unique path in life and discovering their authentic self in the process, many have allowed society’s
pressures to dictate the course of their life.

All we could see was bush for a while until finally the land opened up to a body of water surrounded by a herd of elephants.
We were stunned watching the baby elephants drink from the water while the adults showered themselves
or guarded the herd, watching us outsiders.
After the elephants started making a move, we decided to finally get back on the road,
but as we drove onwards, there was another herd crossing in front of us.
After the last of them finished walking off the road, we decided to move forwards slowly, to not
disturb the one that just crossed our path.
She was walking only meters away alongside our car and we cautiously inched forward to keep pace with her.
This majestic creature’s power was enhanced by our fear but we were awestruck by the beauty of this massive wild animal.

12471660_10153862500882498_1455321116314456232_o

The trip was the happiest time in my life. I was so hesitant to leave South Africa because I felt right at home there.
Once I landed back in the states, I was simply unsatisfied. Yes! I came home to beautiful Miami.
Yes! I came home to my good friends in our huge house that we always dreamed of getting after college.
But I still felt so unsatisfied…
That’s why after being home two weeks, it was so easy for me to sell everything I owned
and use the money to backpack Asia and Australia.
I felt constricted back home.
Constricted by this 9-5 culture that has, for some reason unknown to me, become a requirement after you graduate college.
Constricted by all the useless things I owned that, at the end of the day, I didn’t need!

These are the typical stepping stones of the standard path for western society: 9-5, marriage, dog, cat, kids, minivan, suburban lifestyle e.t.c. That’s okay if it’s something that you truly want.
Right now, I’m the type who wants the risk.
I want to have that feeling that reminds me, I’m alive!
That leaves my hands shaking from a drop of fear because I’m doing something I’ve never done before.
That gives me the little voice inside my head playing devil’s advocate telling me you’re crazy!
Now is there some truth to that?

Constricted by this 9-5 culture that has, for some reason unknown to me, become a requirement after you graduate college.
Constricted by all the useless things I owned that, at the end of the day, I didn’t need!

Oh yeah, especially given the fact my first stop is in India where their cuisine
and my inability to eat spicy food or dairy, due to an absolutely crippling digestive disorder, won’t mix well.
But as I’m writing you now, I’ve made it and I know my choices were right.
I refused to let anything stop me whether it be my stomach issue or money.
Did I have difficulty with having to poop a lot? Yes! That’s why I packed some extra toilet paper.
Has my budget been tight? Yes! That’s why I work for accommodation and sell my body on the street for food (only kidding!)
because I didn’t let these miniscule problems discourage me, I survived India and have learned to appreciate the little things in life.

I’ve raced scooters through a tiny village on roads with craters like the moon in Thailand. Flying down a hill at 110 km/h on a road covered with gravel and holding on for dear life.

Has my budget been tight? Yes! That’s why I work for accommodation
and sell my body on the street for food (only kidding!)

I can tell you how exhilarating it is to rock climb up the side of a mountain in Australia during a wicked storm.
To end up in a country with a cure for your disabling stomach disorder that’s caused you suffering for the past ten years.

These are the gifts that life grants you to let you know, making your own path was the right choice
and to never let anything discourage you from achieving your dreams.

If you don’t get this feeling, this reassurance, that what you’re doing is essential to your very existence, then take some risks!
Let the unknown consume you and allow the outcome to be random/unexpected/unintended…

Because at the end of the day, no one who follows the same path as everyone else has ever had much of a story to tell.

If you have any questions regarding how I did this trip or have any feedback, feel free to comment in the section below or message me whenever through the community!

James
I sold off all my posessions back home and used the money to travel the world. If it doesn’t fit in my bag, i don’t take it. Life is about your experiences and the people you meet, not the posessions you own.

How to run a revolutionary start up with your dad while studying

Interview with Diane Levy, who is Co-Founder of Woollip and runs the business together with her dad next to her studies. We talked with her about what it means to run a family business and how to create a skyrocketing crowdfunding campaign. We also discuss how to be a real problem solver and about why conviction and courage will bring you wherever you want to be. Let´s dive into it!

So Diane, what is Woollip and how did you come up with it?

 

Woollip is a unique travel pillow that allows you to find multiple comfortable positions for your head so you can rest and sleep during flights and journeys.

During my first exchange semester in China my Dad came to visit me in and we travelled together through China for some days. We travelled with low cost airlines –and whoever travelled with low costs airlines in China before, knows that the standards are not comparable to European low cost airlines- so we had a incredibly hard time to get even a little bit of sleep.

This was due to two things: Firstly, the condition of the seats and secondly because we could not manage to find a comfortable position to sleep for our head so we could rest or sleep.

Woollip Crowdfunding 2

Later during our travels my dad saw a girl sleeping in a very rare position, kneeing on the ground with her hands folded over the chair and her head put in the small gap between her arms. My dad told me “Look at how this girl is sleeping” and after some brainstorm we realized it would actually be great to enable people to sleep in this position.

We got our first inspiration from massage chairs where people lean with their face downwards on this bench. Prior to our trip my dad, who had worked for an international media company his entire life, had quit his job to find a new challenge in life. Inspired by our talk and the idea he told me: “Diane, I want to be an entrepreneur, build something great and turn this idea into a business!”

As I had gained some experience in pitching and communications during my entrepreneurship course and my internships we decided to do this project together using his network and experience and my skills to develop a revolutionary travel pillow. Woollip was born! 🙂

Wow, so you started a company with your dad. How did the next months go?

 

While I was still in China my Dad started evaluating the idea in Paris, considering engineering and production and he created the first prototype. I came back and started an internship in Paris and we started working fully together. We met people who could help us and push our idea forward. 9 months later I moved to Washington for my second exchange semester and we coordinated our work via Skype from two continents. Communicating from the distance wasn´t easy. Also my dad and me a lot of temperament (must run in the family ;-)) , which causes some conflicts now and then.

But we managed it well and actually I have to say we never worked as efficiently as we did at that time. I guess this was because of the fact that we that we didn´t need to work at the same table in the living room anymore…

 

Speaking of which, please give our readers an impression of what it means to run a start up with your dad. How did Woollip change Family Levy?

 

Once you start your own start up, this becomes your main focus in life. As my mother says: You wake up Woollip, you breath Woollip, you eat Woollip, you live Woollip. (Please do not eat Woollips…it´s not good for you!) So Woollip was everything we did, and that´s why it became an issue sometimes. Consequently we were actually more efficient when I had my own separate private and business life in Washington.

 

Diane and her dad

Diane and her dad Franck

 

How much time did you allocate to Woollip during your exchange semesters and how did you manage to still get the most out of them?

 

I worked on Woollip on a daily basis. In China I travelled a lot in the beginning when classes had not started yet. Generally people and students work a lot there so I could work while others were working as well. Also in the States students do a lot of internships while studying. So while my friends where doing their internships I worked on Woollip and mostly at nights and weekends we went out for dinner and to have fun.

Once you start your own start up, this becomes your main focus in life. As my mother says: You wake up Woollip, you breath Woollip, you eat Woollip, you live Woollip.

 

And then you decided to launch a Crowdfunding Campaign. How did you go about that and how did you get all the support?

 

Once we decided to launch a crowdfunding campaign we contacted a small communication agency to help us. I did a lot of the marketing but when it came to design we had no skills at all. All people in our network gave us a hand in this adventure, from my mother to the University and even the CEO of the New York company I did my internship at.

He managed to get an article for us in TechCrunch, one of US’s most highly regarded start up blogs. Through the mum of a friend who moderated a TV Show we even got promoted on French TV. It was a lot of work and not everything worked out as we had planned but in the end I learned that if you are passionate about your idea and don´t keep it secret, people will help you and support you, no matter what.

If you have an idea, share it with the world. Nobody will put the time and effort in stealing your idea. In fact, the more people you tell about your idea, the better. People will either like it, you´ll get positive feedback. If they don’t like it you will probably get important improvement feedback and if people love it as much as you do, then they will spend money on it.

 

 

Note: When we conducted the Interview Woollip  had just raised 75.000€. The initial goal was 55.000$. In the end Woollip reached a total funding of 250.000$ through the online crowdfunding campaigns. Check out their crowdfunding campaign on kickstarter here.

 

What is your advice for other people in our age, who think “yes actually I have this idea, BUT…”

 

First of all, trust your ideas! Secondly once you have an idea, see every problem as a challenge. Be a problem solver! See what is every obstacle to achieve your goal as something that will be a great experience and as an opportunity to learn new competences.

For example we knew how the form of the pillow should be but we could not figure out how to connect the pieces. So we had to find another technology and it took us many emails and talks with suppliers all over France until we found and convinced the right one. In the beginning I though it was impossible to do it and we got a lot of NOs. But in the end I developed my ability to pitch.

Trust in your ideas! Secondly, once you have an idea, see every problem as a challenge. Be a problem solver! See what is every obstacle to achieve your goal as something that will be a great experience and as an opportunity to learn new competences.

It doesn´t matter how old you are you always need to know how to pitch your product or idea. This is something you don´t learn in school. In the beginning you need to convince people to trust in your idea without being sure that it is going to work. So pitching is everything.

It is important to always have a positive mindset and being a problem solver. You simply can´t see a problem as: O fuck, I am giving up. Instead think: Oh yes! I am gonna solve that!

If it all ends up being a failure, it will be a great experience anyways and you will no matter what draw important conclusions from it.

You don´t succeed in a start up until you have failed seven times before.
Having that in mind you can never lose. If it works out the first time, perfect! If not go on and you will learn more every time.

I don´t regret any minute of work that I have put into Woollip so far. Even if it won´t become a great success, I have learned everything to define my own path in the future. It also made me aware of my strengths and weaknesses, which is very important. Also, if you want to launch a business, don´t choose for your bff…or even worse: Your dad! ;-). Instead, look for a Co-Founder who has a similar mind set but different core competences (actually this was the case with me and my dad).

In the US people see failure as a success. This is why there is the saying: You don´t succeed in a start up until you have failed seven times before.

Having that in mind you can never lose. If it works out the first time, perfect! If not go on and you will learn more every time.

For you personally, what are the most important takeaways of the experience of starting your own thing?

 

I learned that I can do much more than I thought I could do. I am not a superwoman, but close to being one. 😉
And everybody can be a superwoman/superman! If you have the will and the conviction to do it, you will make things happen. This doesn´t mean that you alone can do everything yourself, but you can engage others, and if they like your idea they will help you happily. So never be ashamed of asking for help! Lastly, start small and don´t think you have to do too much at once.

I for example contacted big US bloggers at the beginning of our campaign, but after not getting any responses I realized I had to contact blogger with a smaller reach but who would be enthusiast about the product.

 

I learned that I can do much more than I thought I could do. I am not a superwoman, but close to being one 😉 And everybody can be a superwoman/superman! If you have the will and the conviction to do it, you will make things happen.

 

To wrap it up, please give us an outlook on Woollips and Diane Levy´s near future.

 

Soon we will launch the production with the money that we have raised during our campaign. The Woollips might be sold in shops and in airports by the end of 2016. From that point on we hope to conquer the world and to make the travels of all people less painful.

Personally I am about to finish my studies and I am aiming to do a Masters abroad in a few years. In between I will work on Woollip and try to find an exciting job as well. In my dream I will do my masters at Berkley University. I also want move to the US west coast on the long term, to dive into the innovative tech scene over there. Let´s see if these dreams will come true.

 

Daniel: We thank you so much for this interview Diane and wish you all the best for Woollip and for you personally. May all your dreams come true!

Diane: It was a big pleasure. I would like to invite everybody to add his or her remarks or questions in the comment section below. You can always message me directly through the community for all other questions you may have. I will be happy hearing from you. 🙂 

 

 

Diane
Be proactive

From Amsterdam to Marrakech, Shanghai and back

As our bus reached Marrakech, the first thing I noticed was the heat that hit me when I stepped out. It was cool on the bus and I had spent the previous days in the coastal town of Taghazout, a real surfers paradise where there´s always a nice sea breeze around

It was dark too. Marrakech’s old town is a labyrinth of little streets that are full of vendors seling colorful spices during the day but can be pretty intimidating at night.

Balcony around Jemma el-Fnaa, Marrakech´s main square

Balcony around Jemma el-Fnaa, Marrakech´s main square

While I stood there and tried to figure out where to go next, a local in traditional Berber clothing approached me and asked where I was headed. In poor French, I gave him the address of the hostel I picked and he offered to show me the way. Why not, I figured and followed my guide through narrow red walls where every turn we took looked exactly like the one before.

Had I really just decided to spend at least 2 months in this city without knowing anybody?

I walked ahead and started thinking about what got me into this adventure.

The journey after Uni

While I am not actually a student now, my story begins at a business school in Amsterdam were strict guidance of lecturers gave me a feeling of being back in Highschool.

That and thinking that I was learning more from the books I was reading myself made me feel quite depressed at school. I wondered how I was going to pull off a successful 4 years there with that mindset. Transitioning to university would have meant starting all over again and so I decided to drop out to see if I would be able to do what I wanted without having finished the study.

What I wanted was working and learning in a real company, outside of a safe school environment.

I don´t know about you but I find that real success generally comes from happiness and loving what you do. That really became true for me after leaving that school and things fell into place fast. I soon found a job in a big international company and to compensate not being in school any longer, I self studied with entrepreneurship and startup related books that really intrigued me.

I find that real success generally comes from happiness and loving what you do

Working in a large company on the other hand was a little like sitting in lecture halls: Quite stagnant. I didn’t renew my contract to join a startup, but instead of picking up my new working life right away I wanted to do an internship abroad. The prospect of joining a cool young company got me in that state where anything seems possible. Have you ever had that? When you have that feeling and go with it, anything really is.

Since I had lived in China for 1.5 years after high school, it seemed like a perfect idea to go back there to work on my Chinese and my network. Maybe I would even find a China related company once back home!

To not miss out on an event in Germany mid summer, I decided to look for a project in Europe for a few weeks so I could easily return to Germany and take off to Asia from there.

I looked for tourism jobs in southern Europe but nothing was working out.

Frustrated, I focussed on China instead until it occurred to me that Morocco was just as reachable as Spain too! Friends gave me advice on destinations and messaged hostels and hotels on facebook, asking if they needed help throughout summer. Within one day, I got two positive replies. I couldn´t believe it, I was going to work in a surfer hotel in Tagazhout, Morocco!

When you´re about to give up, just hold on for another day. That can change it all.

Morocco – Nothing like I expected

Once I had finished my contract, I went to Germany to grab some French books and catch my flight to Agadir, finally on the road again.

After a major culture shock about how rough morocco seemed outside of the neat airport, I was excited by the different surroundings and a familiar traveller’s high made me instantly happy.

When you’re in a new and exciting country, even things likes bus rides or visiting the local supermarket are a thrill.

Taghazout. The place where you can ride your camel to the beach

Taghazout. The place where you can ride your camel to the beach

When I arrived in Taghazout though, the next shock was waiting for me. The guesthouse I was supposed to work at, was absolutely run down and nobody actually knew I was coming. Though I was offered to stay I just left to meet fellow travellers to get an idea what to do next. I was stranded on Morocco’s coast.

When you’re in a bad situation, all you can do is stay calm and try to make the most of it. For 2 days, I went surfing and approached other guesthouses but it became clear that I wouldn’t find anything that paid my stay. The town was just too small. When you feel your location is limiting you, I´d suggest to do everything you can to move to the nearest major city.
The biggest opportunities usually lie in the biggest cities and so I took off to Marrakech too, just a few hours east.

I had nothing to lose and and always appreciate an adventure. ¨In movement, there is blessing¨ is a moroccan proverb after all and following that has never let me down.

Discovering Marrakech, jewel of the desert

In Marrakech I immediately tried learning everything I could about foreigners in town and arranged interviews with hotels. Since foreign interns are not common, this got disappointing fast. I didn’t want to give up anyways. When you have a vision, you’ll always get there as long as you don’t stop.

Through a cafe where expats and tourists mingle I met a British entrepreneur running boutique hotels in town who took me under his wings. The beauty about life in other countries is that people with a similar background that have already succeeded there are often happy to share their knowledge.

My new mentor hired me to work on a German version of his Marrakech app and so I began exploring marrakech like a travel journalist and writing about it.

If you want to work abroad, you can often just utilize your language skills! I should´ve thought of it earlier.

Not only exploring the city was fascinating, the cafe also allowed me to meet and talk to locals from all ages and background who came there to improve their English and French which was incredibly interesting and rewarding. I also became friends with the cafes staff who introduced me to the Marrakech of students. Among them, I experienced the Moroccan culture of companionship and felt right at home.

School kids in the souks.

School kids in the souks.

I was glad that I had just come to Marrakech without any plan. Sometimes you have to just go with your gut and push through to find something that you never would have thought of.

The quest for China

The first part of my mission was complete, I had found an exciting project in Morocco. Now I just had to find an internship in China and a startup to join once I was back in Amsterdam. When you need to work on something, you also need something to keep you motivated For me, that was Marrakech. The motivation I got from this magical place was amazing..

In China, most jobs are landed though ¨Guanxi¨ which means utilising your network, a principle I found to be working great in the rest of the world too! No matter where you want to go, if you really think, you´ll find that you often have some connections already, right?

Since I couldn´t find a short internship through my friends in China I sometimes spent hours in my Riad to cold call companies

In the end, I found a an agency that had great internship opportunities on offer. I suggested I would work on their website for free if they connected me with an internship. Outside of Europe, informal deals like that are usually possible

After finishing my project in Marrakech and a short stay in Germany just long enough to get my visa done, I took off to Guilin China, the area where I lived after high school. The great thing about staying abroad for a while is that you create a second home for yourself. I had just been in Morocco a week earlier and suddenly, there I was on the bus that I had taken quiet some time before, chatting with the local sitting next to me. Even my Chinese got back!

I felt incredibly blessed for this.

Yangshuo´s karst mountains, famous scenery and a rockclimber´s paradise

Yangshuo´s karst mountains, famous scenery and a rockclimber´s paradise

Shanghai life between hotels and startups

2 weeks of travelling later, I took off to Shanghai where I was going to be a trainee in an international hotel to learn about hotel operations and be a point of contact for European guests.

Like I had learned in Marrakech, I first reached out to other foreigners and a friend connected me to Shanghai´s startup scene.

Presentation by Shanghai´s startup community at The Node event and coworking space

Presentation by Shanghai´s startup community at The Node event and coworking space

Where ever you go, there is something you will take with you. Be it Moroccan comradeship or Chinese business hussle. In Shanghai, besides talking to the business travellers in our hotel, I learned a lot from networking events and presentations I attended at various startup spaces and business spots in town. I had no intentions of finding a long term job in Shanghai but simply having a conversations with people from all over China and all over the world that had come to this vibrant city was just inspiring. If you try to be around inspirational people a lot, I think you´ll find thy´ll shape you too.

Smoggy morning view of Jing An business district from my window, Pudong skyline in the distance

Smoggy morning view of Jing An business district from my window, Pudong skyline in the distance

It also turned out that an internship would have been easier to find right here instead of trying beforehand from Morocco. To find something, just arrive and take it from there if you can!

3 months of living and learning between skyscrapers and tea houses later my internship was already over and I took the night train to Beijing. Beijing was the first big city I ever lived in and I had been looking forward to returning for a very long time. The feeling of coming home when meeting old friends and seeing my old apartment building again was overwhelming me.

From Beijing, I returned home, calm and optimistic about the future in Amsterdam. That is the kind of energy that you get from China’s bustling financial cities. When ever I get back from there, I feel motivated. I also felt I had grown up a bit more. After every struggle, especially in different countries, you’ll come out smarter.

From Beijing to Amsterdam and my conclusions from the experience

Back in Amsterdam I did exactly what I learned in Shanghai. Join presentations at startup hotspots and ask friends to connect me with founders.

It took a few weeks of looking around but eventually, I had a handful of interesting startups to speak to.

Since going with my impulses led me to great experiences the past months in Shanghai and Marrakech, I immediately joined a company with a great vision that seemed like a perfect cultural fit from the start.

Marrakesh Sunset

Marrakesh Sunset

What I took home from my time abroad: Whatever makes you happy and excites you, Go for it. Passion gives you the determination to overcome everything in your way and eventually, you’ll make it!

….

Thank you for reading my story! If you´d like to add something, have questions or feedback or if you have travelled to Morocco or China too, I´d love to read about it in the comments! You can also talk to me through the Student Generation community anytime (:

Daniel
I am the Co-Founder of Fypster.
Hope you guys are having fun here! Always happy to connect ?
So a little bit about me: I love entrepreneurship, traveling, diving into different cultures and languages whilst having football as another big passion. I love to be surrounded by people who encourage me to think beyond my limits. I also like reading (non fiction) books and to enjoy culturally diverse food. A lot of it. (if I can afford it)
When I am not working on some projects I love to spend quality time with my loved friends and family.
Fun fact: I am German/Brazilian which means I have to deal with two very opposing forces in me.
Before you ask: Even though I grew up in Germany, I always supported the brazilian national team a lot. So I witnessed the 7:1 in a Brazilian Restaurant having to drink many caipirinhas to be able to deal with the game.

The meaning of Travel – Volunteering and Backpacking in Central America

“So I’m really doing this. I’m actually going to Central America! That’s literally what I thought to myself as I was waiting at my gate at the airport.

It started out as an impulse. The impulse of wanting to escape my daily routine and throw myself into the world, into the unknown.

Representatives from GIVE volunteers, the organization I ended up volunteering for, came to my university to look for new recruits.

Acting impulsively once more I signed up that same evening to commit myself to it, without having the opportunity to back out later. This was just the stepping-stone. Once I signed up I thought that 2 weeks of volunteering would not be enough to get really get out of my comfort zone and that is why I decided to travel another 5 weeks through Central America.

I started fundraising with a platform called GoFundMe, where I described my intentions and motivations behind this trip. I wanted people to know that it’s not a holiday but rather part of a journey for self-discovery. I didn’t expect much to be honest, but I ended up raising more money than I initially thought I could. I was quite overwhelmed by the positive feedback and support I had gotten, which made my motivation grow even more. I’d like to think that the reason for this support is the genuine human consideration and empathy for another persons dreams and goals. We live in a society where it is very much common to bring another person down in order to feel better about yourself, but through this initiative I learned that not everyone has been infected by this particular toxic mindset, which made me quite content and all the more confirmed that this is something that I needed to do.

I started fundraising with a platform called GoFundMe…I was quite overwhelmed by the positive feedback and support I had gotten, which made my motivation grow even more. I’d like to think that the reason for this support is the genuine human consideration and empathy for another persons dreams and goals.

Fast forward 5 months and the time finally arrived to leave for Nicaragua. My flight was supposed to be 18 hours long, with two transits but that didn’t happen. I missed flights, flights got delayed and cancelled and after 33 hours I had finally arrived in Managua, which was without the additional 4-hour bus ride to the small village of Jiquillio from the airport. Obviously not just I, but all 30+ volunteers were beyond tired arriving at 4am, but I honestly didn’t care. “It’s part of the experience,” I thought. All I could think about was that I was in a country, even a continent I have never been before and I want to take in and absorb every second of it.

When volunteering, you meet people who share the same values and mindset like yourself and you call came here for one purpose. For me it was to explore the countries, cultures and different way of lives, while getting to know myself better and helping others in the process. 

Working hard! :-)

Working hard! 🙂

I instantly connected with my peers there, because the environment enables you to open up much quicker as you would back home. Everyone is eager to get to know one another and everyone just kind of skips the unnecessary and frankly, superficial small talk.

The locals were very welcoming. They instantly recognized us from the green T-shirts we were wearing, since GIVE has been in this area for quite some time working on sustainable projects. Seeing how children, with very little means, can still be this happy makes you think about your own life and the western society as a whole. The more you have, the happier you are. That is the common narrative in developed countries. It’s very much a lie, and many people know that, but only a few do something about that.

Thumb wrestling with one of the students of the primary school at jiquillilo

Thumb wrestling with one of the students of the primary school at jiquillilo

Happiness comes from within; it comes from how you feel about yourself the actions you take in your life. It comes from your surroundings and the people who influence you the most.

Anyway, what I noticed though is that it doesn’t really matter what you do but what attitude you have while doing it and with what mindset you approach it.

The more you have, the happier you are. That is the common narrative in developed countries. It’s very much a lie, and many people know that, but only a few do something about that.

Sure you can go developing countries and work for a few weeks and go home, but that is not the point. My motivation to specifically go to Nicaragua was because it was furthest away from home. I don’t speak Spanish, unless it’s something like “hola” or “como se dice”. And even then, the locals didn’t know what the hell I was saying since my pronunciation is very “modest”.

Some people thought I was crazy, other’s thought it was a really cool thing to do. For me it was something that I had to do. Before the trip I sort of felt lost. I felt like I wasn’t quite living the life I wanted to live. There was too much routine and too much certainty. My intention was to escape the known and jump into the unknown. Not knowing what is going to happen was something I desperately needed for the development of myself as well as for the enhancement of my happiness.

Traveling, meeting new people in hostels, on hikes, everywhere really, and hearing their stories opens your mind to great extents. You always read inspirational stories on social media or anywhere else for that matter, but experiencing and meeting people who have gone through extraordinary things on this planet first hand, is just the truest inspiration there is.
It made me want to be one of them.

Sunset on the beach of Jiquillilo

Sunset on the beach of Jiquillilo

I wanted to share my stories and experiences just like they did, and have an impact on these humans just like they had an impact on me.

Traveling, Backpacking, exploring, adventuring, …these aren’t just words.

They are mindsets and values. Only if your intentions are right and you embrace the world with an open-mind, and I mean as open as it can possibly get, only then you can understand the true value on exploring, only then can these experiences influence you on a personal as well as a psychological level and further your development as a human being.

So if anyone of you reading this has an inspiring story to share or you want to leave a comment or get in touch, please do so. That’s what this community is all about.
And if you are looking for further inspiration please visit my personal blog www.sidneytrompell.com
I look very much forward to hear from you 🙂

Sid

Daniel
I am the Co-Founder of Fypster.
Hope you guys are having fun here! Always happy to connect ?
So a little bit about me: I love entrepreneurship, traveling, diving into different cultures and languages whilst having football as another big passion. I love to be surrounded by people who encourage me to think beyond my limits. I also like reading (non fiction) books and to enjoy culturally diverse food. A lot of it. (if I can afford it)
When I am not working on some projects I love to spend quality time with my loved friends and family.
Fun fact: I am German/Brazilian which means I have to deal with two very opposing forces in me.
Before you ask: Even though I grew up in Germany, I always supported the brazilian national team a lot. So I witnessed the 7:1 in a Brazilian Restaurant having to drink many caipirinhas to be able to deal with the game.