Following a career in the fast-paced London tech scene, Vicky Hunter decided she needed a change. She left her job organising events with Silicon Drinkabout and decided to go travelling. She embraced the digital nomad life with the skills learned from her job in London.
Soon she was travelling the world, working with digital marketing and community engagement clients. This new lifestyle took her to Bali, India, China, Japan and, this year, Peru.
To share the digital nomad lifestyle with others and provide a much-needed get away for business people, Vicky set up MiPodere – a week-long Tuscan retreat focusing on fun and balance.
Was there one particular trigger that made you decide to step away from the startup scene and go travelling?
No I think it was a combination of things. I had worked hard, played hard in the London tech scene for nearly four years so I was tired and needed a change of scene. I wanted to travel and I needed some head space to work out exactly what I loved about my job and where to go, what to do next. I also wanted to prove to myself, and to others, that being a digital nomad didn’t just mean being a developer or having a lifestyle blog. I could see the move towards flexible working and wanted to catch the wave early enough that I could learn which aspects appealed, and also which did not.
What appealed to you about the digital nomad lifestyle?
I wanted to see the world and I didn’t want to stop working as it makes getting back on the career ladder (or jungle gym) a lot harder further down the road. I also had seen a lot of male friends successfully leave London to work and travel – I wanted to hush the little voice of insecurity in my voice and prove to myself that it’s not a gender-biased lifestyle, you just have to be brave (and organised) and take the leap.
What would you say to anyone else who is considering quitting their job to travel and work?
Definitely be organised. Take time to think about how your skill set can work digitally. I’m an events manager by trade which is a little harder to set up 100% remotely, immediately. I had done a lot of digital marketing and community building for 3beards and Silicon Drinkabout, so I started to put feelers out within the community and my immediate network, to see who would be interested in hiring me as a freelancer. I put together a nice newsletter about what I was planning and sent it out to my LinkedIn network. I got lots of warm leads and eventually my first clients. It took a few months though so I’m glad I started long before leaving for my travels.
Your Tuscan retreat looks like the perfect getaway for busy people, what made you set it up?
One of the downsides of travelling and working remotely is you don’t get to work with people in the same way as you would working in a fixed location. I missed face-to-face contact and the personal benefits you get from being surrounded by an amazing community.
My friend and fellow London startup community gal, Claudia, was thinking of ways to help her friend with his family business, a holiday villa in Tuscany and I jumped at the chance to be involved. Together we came up with the concept of MiPodere, a one week Italian retreat for people to Unwind, Reflect & Reconnect. Both Claudia and I had witnessed startups working unbelievably hard and losing all sense of balance and perspective – we wanted to nurture those people with Tuscan country air, good food and wine, and the amazingly restorative properties of a supportive and friendly community.
Why did you choose balance over action-packed or health-focussed?
Because we’re too lazy! No, really, it’s the vibe that Tuscany has. It’s relaxed. You take long walks there, eat healthy homemade food, you enjoy local wine but at a steady pace not like the knock it back London drinking scene, and you sleep so so well, away from noise, bright lights and impending deadlines.
Adrenaline junkie or zen wellbeing retreats are absolutely great but it’s back to the real world with a bump once it’s over. We want to give people a break to restore them ready for Monday morning when hopefully a full inbox or busy schedule won’t seem overwhelming, because they will be feel balanced and in control.
More and more people are opting for a flexible, nomadic approach to work, might this cause problems in some industries?
No. Well maybe in the short term but only if employers try to resist it. Flexible working puts a strong importance on the delivery of work, not on the delivery of hours. It also reduces the cost in terms of time, money and environmental impact, spent on commutes. Flexible working allows parents to better balance work with looking after children, for both Mums and Dads.
There are of course a lot of challenges for people working while they travel, most notably access to wifi, however communicating to clients when you will / won’t be online, and ensuring you can reliably meet expectations, is all part of the job.
Some jobs can’t be done remotely and some can only be partially done remotely (events management is a great example) however the technology exists and is developing daily to ensure a far more flexible, empowered workforce for the future.
How do you think the world of work is set to change in coming years?
That’s a question best posed to a group of people, of varying ages and industries as I’m sure it would generate many different opinions. As I’ve said, tech is enabling remote working. I think older generations see this flexibility as positive progress whilst the younger workforce see it as a right; they’ve grown up with technology at their fingertips and understandably don’t see the point in commuting to work to sit in an office full of people ignoring each other whilst they work from computers. However, knowing the people you’re working with and engaging face-to-face is so important for building community, a sense of belonging, company loyalty etc, that I really hope this isn’t lost and that the workplace finds a balance between on and offline.