I cradled my face in my hands as I sat in my hotel room in India. I attempted to curb my anxiety by forcing myself to meditate and take deep, long breaths. The constant horn-honking, traffic, and general chaos outside my window seemed to mirror my inner emotions. My mind was in turmoil. I was questioning whether to give up my dream of being a digital nomad and a solopreneur.
Let’s rewind the tape a bit (you remember those right?) and I’ll tell you about how I got to this point. Back in 2015, I was a corporate drone. I was working for a company where I was just another identification number and encouraged to work more than the “recommended” 40 hour work week. I traveled each week to Small Town USA working with clients and managing large technical implementations. This lifestyle had me wanting more. I remember looking on Pinterest and seeing all the amazing articles of people who live a location independent lifestyle, where they can travel wherever and whenever they want!
Park Guell in Barcelona
As I was driving to their airport to see another client in a podunk town, I decided that it was time I pursue my dream to start a business and be a digital nomad. After that moment, I got to work. I spent the next eight months teaching myself how to build websites and do affiliate marketing. When I wasn’t working my full-time job, or learning my new skill, I was selling off all my belongings. My goal was to only own what I could fit into my 40L backpack. On March 21st, 2016, I quit my job and boarded a one-way flight.
I was hopping from one city to the next and having an amazing time. I met so many cool people and learned a lot about myself in the process. Each of the 20 countries I went to taught me something different. I learned tricks for assimilating into different cultures and how to quickly make friends. While I was globetrotting, I picked up a few website consulting gigs with my new business. I wasn’t making the comfortable salary I was before, but it was enough to keep me going.
Now, let’s fast forward to me being a nervous wreck in India. You may be thinking, “Colleen, how can you be unhappy? You’ve built an amazing life filled with travel and adventure, while pursuing your passions. What’s wrong with you?” The problem was that the road was starting to wear on me.
I had created a crazy travel schedule, while trying to keep a business afloat. To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t doing a great job of it. It’s almost impossible to answer client emails when the Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi is beckoning you to turn off your computer and explore.
Exploring Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi
My breaking point was when I learned that my grandmother had passed away. When I heard the news, I was close to a nervous breakdown. I finally decided that it was time to go home. One side of me felt like I was giving in, but I knew to keep my sanity I needed to find stability in my life. I hoped that returning to the grassroots of Iowa would help me find my focus.
When I boarded the plane in New Delhi, I didn’t arrive in Iowa until 26 hours later. This gave me just enough time to shower, put on a black dress, and get in the car for my grandmother’s visitation. I’m not sure if it was my state of mind, the jet lag, or the grief, but the entire situation felt surreal.
When I solemnly greeted my friends and family, I was barraged with questions about my travel and what my next plans were. I felt a catch in my throat each time someone asked me, “Where do you go next?” I thought to myself – What the hell WAS I going to do next?
I could easily embrace stability and go back to the corporate world. It would be nice to have a steady paycheck, an apartment to decorate, and benefits. But, I wasn’t happy before when I was living this life, how could I be happy now, especially after everything I had experienced.
On the other hand, I could continue down this road of uncertainty and see what happens. I loved the freedom of being a digital nomad, but I felt tired and dejected. I had spent so much time and effort trying to make this lifestyle work, but really it wasn’t working. I questioned if I wanted to continue.
Volunteering in the slums of Jaipur, India
This uncertainty took me to dark places of my depression. For the first time in my life, I was forced to ask myself – “Colleen, what the *bleep* do you want to do with your life?” Every time I asked myself these questions (usually with more profanities) something deep inside me said, “Don’t give up.” I kept thinking that maybe this was the low point when most entrepreneurs give up. Perhaps if I keep pushing, for just a little bit longer, that’s when I find success.
I was listening to an entrepreneurial Ted Talk and realized that I had no direction with my business. All I was doing was freelancing and picking up odd jobs. I wasn’t focusing on what set me apart from the rest of the competition. This realization made me feel like a phoenix rising from the ashes. What I had been missing was a purpose.
That day, I got to work. I listed out all the parts of my business that I really enjoyed and the parts that I really hated. The stuff that I loved I looked into ways to do more of it. The rest, I either cut or outsourced. As I started honing my craft, I grew more and more passionate with what I was doing and my clients saw this.
This refocus of my business also created stability. I realized that I needed to establish a home base in order to maintain my productivity. This didn’t mean I had to give up traveling, but I needed to be more selective. Before I would book a flight the minute I got bored, or jump at the chance when time I saw a cheap flight. Now, my goals were to travel based on where I could find more business opportunities.
I didn’t have to give up my dream, but I needed to calibrate it to align with my goals. This determination and focus allowed my business to grow. I found the feeling that I was missing before – a sense of accomplishment. The path of a fempreneur can be a long and lonely hike, but just remember – there is a summit in your future as well.
Guest Post by Colleen Kinsey
Colleen is the CEO of Kinseyco and creator of Travel Meets Happy. She continues to build her business while empowering other women to pursue solo travels around the world. Follow her adventure on Instagram – @TravelMeetsHappy