Episode #
007

Living the Location Independent Lifestyle with Rowena Hennigan

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Episode Summary

When you think of remote work, you can almost always relate it to having a drink with a tiny umbrella on a beach somewhere exotic while tapping on your laptop or having a Zoom meeting in a cozy mountain lodge in front of a roaring fire. That is not always the case. For some, they work remotely just because they can. But for some, it is a necessity for the health of their child, family, and even theirs.

In this The New Nomad episode, Rowena Hennigan joins Andrew Jernigan and Allen Koski in entertaining and educating listeners about the laptop lifestyle. Becoming a mother at 40, Rowena regales the audience with her experience as a digital nomad and tips on how to balance work and family life. Currently based in Spain, she talks about the importance of reset and mental health - why it should be a priority for remote workers everywhere. Our three experienced nomads openly discuss how working remotely while travelling with a child is a whole new level of challenges and rewards - and not always pina coladas.



From the episode

What You'll Learn

Timestamps

[5:42] Remote work makes career-family balance possible

[9:43] Kids and remote work - how do you deal with both?

[15:06] Your family, your team

[15:55] Take stock and count your blessings

[16:40] You are your best investment

[28:38] The power of visualization

Show Transcript

Allen  

Welcome to The New Nomad. We have a great guest today, Rowena Hannigan will talk to us today about the location independent lifestyle. I think it's a really interesting not only term but a way of living. And I know Andrew, you've been to many different countries. This is something we're passionate about - giving people the flexibility to explore etc, work life balance, etc. It's kind of there's a lot of different terms out there. But I think this is the one that really might even summarise the best, especially if you have a family.

Andrew  

Yeah, you know, I've done this with my kids, my wife, and we took off some 20 something years ago, decided that this was going to be our way of life as a family. So I'm glad to have Rowena on because she is bringing this to the forefront of so many when others are talking about remote work for your career for your, for yourself, and it's all me focused. And you know, for me, it's it's balance in this is tough. When you love what you do. And you want to do it from anywhere means you do it from everywhere sometimes means you do it all the time, non stop sometimes, and drawing those lines stopping to breathe, slow down, and live life. So it's going to be interesting, as we touch on some of these topics today. That breathing, you know, even even grounding.

Allen  

Yeah

Andrew  

take your shoes off stepping in the grass, when you land in a new place. You know, I hope we get to some of these practical things, as well as some of these personal things of vulnerability and authenticity, as a family as a couple as an individual with your friends, those you leave behind.

Allen  

Yeah, I mean, there's so much about, I mean, we concentrate so much on work. But that work life balance is so important about grounding and recharging. You know, for me, Andrew, you know, I may have shared with you, when it's a really difficult day, you work really hard. And you say you know what, I just need to get on my bike, whether it's a mountain bike or a road bike, and you just float along and you just let your mind wander, you tend to come back with some solutions to those difficult problems, but also you feel better. So why don't we bring Rowena into the conversation because I say I'm really excited today to hear and and Row where are you located today? I understand you might be in Spain?

Rowena  

Yes. So I'm based in Zaragoza in Spain. So in the north of Spain, it's near the French, two hours from the French border. And yeah, I've got my family here with me. We moved here four years ago. Zaragoza is our fixed base. But we are location independent, as you referenced. And the way I understand that I find that is we on purpose and since I met my partner, and before we had our daughter decided not to have a mortgage, because we're both from a working when we matched 10 years ago. And we had both together, we travelled over 100 countries. Spain is the 14th country I've lived in for more than three months. So quite a lot of life experience.

And my family in particular is very international. I have a brother in France, I have a family in Bali. I've spent intensive time long periods of time in Indonesia, and in Southeast Asia. And when we met and we were in those throes of romance we spoke about we spoke about travelling together and nomading together because we are both nomads in some way before we met myself and my partner we met in Dublin.

And life had a different plan for us. We got pregnant quite quick. And unexpectedly at 40 I became a mother. And it's the most wonderful thing in the world of a feature common parents or parents say that, but it's also the most challenging thing.

Yes

there's days where you wonder if you can do is put a we got a bit of an extra challenge strung along because we were based in Dublin at the time. And those of you who know Irish geography and weather will know that it's not the driest place in the world. So at about 10 months old, my daughter developed very serious childhood asthma. And the following two years were some of the toughest of my life maybe up until the pandemic To be honest, because she was extremely ill at night choking a lot and coughing, a lot of inhalers steroids, very disturbed sleep for a long period of time.

So what were my story of location independence and the way I live my life is that at that point, I don't I don't even know what it's a blur those. Those kind of two years are a blur 18 months because she was so sick. And suddenly my remote working that I was doing my the two organisations university I was working with another contract. It became a necessity so when those two organisations said you can work from home, I literally cried with joy because if you haven't slept continuously for months properly, trying to turn up at work and adding commuting, it's so much more stressful. If you can work from home flexibly, you suddenly find you can grab a nap. If a neighbour minds your daughter for an hour if the child minder comes in, your husband comes home early, you can grab a nap.

And so remote work became a necessity for me. And then as we investigated our health care options in Ireland and the options to support our daughter, we realised we were running out of options, and climate change, climate change to heat Yes, suddenly became a lifeline. So this is why I'm so passionate about the Nomad way of life. And the way remote work supports it because I kept a career as a woman. And that's nothing to be sniffed at. I kept in my career. In fact, I started my own business because I felt I owed so much to remote work in the way of life. But we up sticks, we came to Zaragosa, we're on a low income-ish type rental. And we move around three, four to four times a year. So even within the pandemic, and we've been able to move because we mean our daughter goes to school here, but we now realise that we having mobility is something you cannot put a price on. And when life throws in challenges, like a sick child, believe me, I am grateful for this way of working and living because it actually it saved our lives as a family and I'm honestly not, I'm honestly not underestimating its impact for us.

Andrew  

Wow, you know, the the freedom to go, the boldness to continue on when faced with adversity, it's how you land when you fall. And but also how you get up, be a stay down, or do you get up and you you were faced with a challenge. And you bounced back up and said, okay, we can keep going, we can keep going stronger than ever supporting the kids keeping our careers going. relaunching. Now, what are some of the keys that you think is as you did that?

Rowena  

I do think lived experience. Actually Andrew, so we'd both no matter, as I said, so we knew we could figure it out, right? We knew we could go somewhere new. We both had lived in different countries. But also, I tell you what, when we did the pros and cons list, and obviously we were forced into a corner with a very young child, so our our blinkers are on all we wanted was for her to stop choking at night. And a parent with a very sick child will move mountains, right to try and figure that out. So we kept saying, and we visited Zaragoza, we just did a few other places in Spain, we knew it was really dry. And we thought if we just do it, she her health will improve. It's obvious.

So I have to be straight and say that that was the biggest motivator because at the point of moving, I was exhausted, exhausted, I was like probably a bit depressed as well from lack of sleep for a long period of time. But it was just being brave knowing that where we were wasn't working for her health. And then when you start saying why not if that makes sense, we start looking at the pros and cons start to go with nothing to lose, it cannot it has to be better for her. And isn't it like I mean, we're the three of us, if we've nomaded, we may be live in privilege, we live in luxury. But also we were so desperate, we said it just stops her coughing for a few months a year, we will survive as a family because you're a breaking point when you're both so exhausted.

Part of the story is we would have to take turns sitting up at night and holding her upright during the night. And my husband could sleep through that, but I couldn't. And my sleep was just so I was you know, I was having moments to be to be very honest with you where I was crying going on never going to have a career for another five years now because I cannot work I actually would cry in the mornings at the thought work. On a Sunday I would cry because I was so exhausted, so exhausted. And also with the extra responsibility of parenting. Not only you don't even know if you can physically work, you're also going am I even able to be a good parent? Because I can't even put one foot in front of the other.

Allen  

Yeah.

Rowena  

So be very vulnerable. It wasn't just like work was nearly the last thing on my list. I was just there going please Can I get some sleep, please? Can I function? So yeah, so that gives you an idea of the state of mind we were in when we actually moved the state we were in. We actually it wasn't pretty. It wasn't pretty.

Andrew  

Remote working with kids. The world has faced it. You were in this before the pandemic but now many are facing it for the first time. They're joining an environment where you know prior to starting I yelled Okay, kids. We have some When arriving soon you got to get up. Here I am in the office yelling to the kids, the teenagers. You go. And they're in my office. They're not but they're right next door to it. Yeah. But that's an aspect that isn't really getting a lot of press.

Rowena  

No, no. But

Andrew  

our kids into our workplace where before it's, you're fired. You brought your kids to work three times.

Rowena  

Yeah, but yeah, but true remote work. And I mean, I'm in a co working today. You know what, previously before COVID I was going to libraries. We wouldn't always be with our kids. Kids would be in physical school, they would be in childcare. But I think you bring in an interesting point even before that, Andrew, if I get you to even step back before that, right? is are you fit to work at all, for any type of work, right? Remote work, present, you know, in the physical office, whatever.

And I think in our always on culture, or hustler culture, that we're in our modern world. I mean, that's why it brings it back to work-life balance as well. Because what happened was, then we got to Spain, yes, things improve, you know, fortune favours the brave, all that good stuff. But believe me, it took me six months, and I took nearly a year Andrew, before I went, I'm ready to work properly. I had a couple of little small contracts, but I needed to recuperate me, in particular, because of the lack of sleep. I was very stressed by a child choking at night. You know, I really struggled. And I lived with a lot of fear for about a year afterwards. So I we we had some savings, we puttered along, and I started Spanish classes. So did my husband, my husband kept working, and then I slowly came back into the workforce.

So I think there's something there as well, to acknowledge that, you know, in our modern world, are you actually physically and mentally and holistically ready to work. And certainly, I can look back and go, I got to Spain, the weather was good, she stopped coughing so much, and I could find myself and recuperate, to be ready to work and do what I do in the world of now. What I needed that year of recovery as well. So like, being a parent, there's so many facets, if that makes sense, caring for anyone being a carer being responsible, coming out of COVID will some of us need to maybe take a month off to recharge and recuperate? How many people will actually do it? And how many people will have the luxury of doing it? So, you know, like, there's a there's a wider angle there or why we work?

Allen  

Yeah. Well, it's it's, it brings up so maybe I'm just thinking about, you know, obviously mental health is so important. You know, there's Are you able to focus and of course, people have eldercare issues, child issues, stress of the job, etc. you you've come out of this, you struggled, but you came out of it. So I've got some tips for some of the folks out there that really helped you. I mean, obviously getting to a better location is a huge help. That's what I that's, that's pretty basic, but you know, was it was it walks? Was it just saying I'm going to meditate or take a few minutes? Obviously, what are some of the better habits that did really helpful to you?

Rowena  

So so contextualising to back in that period, obviously, we were coming out and suddenly sleeping, she was stopping coughing. But there's some simple tips I'd like to share with people, myself and my husband, once a week at least we kind of added like as a weekend thing, we would reflect on what we loved about where we'd moved to. And the benefits we gained. And we do a little right. And sometimes we would actually we still reflect on that now.

For years, it's become a habit, what we love about the bad things about Ireland, but we also have a massive gratitude to Spain because they welcomed us with open arms. You know, again, because we're a travelling family, and we can come on to this, you have really lots of opportunities to integrate, more so than often gets talked about, like you said under there's like, people don't often focus on that with families or kids. Like when you go on holidays with kids, people come over and talk to you, the kids start playing you get you know, kids play with other kids, you know, and you suddenly have these much more opportunities to integrate than often a single traveller would have. It can be much more spontaneous, natural. But also we we also were really easy on ourselves about integrating.

So we had very honest conversations because we knew we were recuperating, and maybe that's why I can verbalise and talk about it, you know so easily because we always knew that the first year we have to be gentle with ourselves. Because and this is one of the tips as a family, you're settling in as a family and Andrew will get this as well. You're not settling in as young Rowena who you know, can just kind of figure it out, right. You're all gonna like my husband might move at a different pace, my daughter might move at a different pace. You're a dynamic, you're little team that has to realise that that integration that settling in needs to happen at the pace that suits all of you together.

Andrew  

Alan, you've worked remotely many years and it's a with whether you have pets, you are Jr. underwriter may be barking and running out that door behind you momentarily. Yes, thing of balancing all the dynamics, my dog luckily isn't here yet. He arrives in from Brazil on Saturday, with there's so many things that we have to keep in, in check in balance. And one of those things is, of course, ourselves, our head, and you've made reference several times, Rowena of all that we have to know, when we're ready to do things. We have to be self aware.

Rowena  

So Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. And like, I think the taking stock idea, which will be one certain tip, because if you don't stop and take stock and be grateful, you can build that self awareness in to what you because sometimes we're a little bit overstimulated for want of a better way of describing it in a new place. So unless you regularly take stock, you can't realise what you've attained

Andrew  

it. But yeah, that you can be self aware and be so aware of your problems that you need to get outside help to move past the things you're now aware of getting the professional therapy, getting counselling to take you out of the ruts that you're not aware of.

Rowena  

Yeah, I'm

Andrew  

When you're self-aware of your your challenges, but investing in yourself enough to pay for the psychologist, psychiatrist, the necessary medication if needed?

Rowena  

Yeah, whatever it might be

Andrew  

a life coach, something to take us beyond awareness into improvement.

Rowena  

Exactly, exactly. And that that really, really relates to me in terms of the way we learned our Spanish, the way we learnt on friends, when we were here if we needed to, and to to help us with different applications, because the bureaucracy can be a bit complicated here, you know, and asking for help. I mean, this, I mean, you can, apart from professional help, if you need it, you can also apply to everyday situations. I mean, some of the first Spanish I learned was, you know, can you help me find the toilet for my daughter, really obvious things, but that attitude of knowing you need something. And asking for help is also that around you, there are people who are willing to welcome you and provide you with help, but you also need to be proactive, to ask for it and reach out for it and whatever way.

And that's something. I mean, the Spanish are even more direct than the Irish. So it's interesting because that, you know, they laugh straight away when they want something without a pleaser. Thank you. It's in their culture put in Yeah. Like all of what you said, that self awareness, then put moment to moment what I need, what do I need? What does my child need? What does my situation need, asked for help.

And actually to share my husband, he won't mind me sharing this. He said, He's over reflecting on the four years a few weeks ago, he said, I'm much better for being proactive to ask for help. Now, since we've integrated because I'm generalising a little bit, but some men may feel a little bit like I don't want to be asking that I can figure it out on my phone, I can look it up on Google. So I think, yeah, I think from a family perspective, there's something interesting there, that if I could give another tip it would be to acknowledge you will need help. No matter where you're going, or how you're doing it. I'm being open to acknowledging that and asking for help.

Allen  

You know, it's kind of interesting in this new location-independent lifestyle, is the help that you go to might be someone now, who is also living that location-independent lifestyle, for instance, on some of the programmes that Andrew and I work at, the the mental health professionals now are online, you know, the old days, you'd go into an office, sit on a couch and have a conversation. And now that person you're talking to post pandemic, is now at their home, having an a video consult with you, and understanding the same issues.

So I actually think there's a greater understanding of the issues that support people that are location independent or remote working. And I think there's going to be a greater understanding going forward because what you discuss is so important. I mean, you It sounds like you had a matrix of friends, family support, you know, professional support. And then the fact that, you know, you pull those together, and it helps, you know, people heal and I think, what would it be your kind of comments on the how this location-independent lifestyle altos is having people have a greater understanding of the needs to support these folks and the different tools that are out there.

Rowena  

Well, yeah, that's a really good point, actually. Because now because what the pandemic has done as well, as you know, we can go, we can have a counselling session online, we can have a session with the lawyer, agent, Doctor, whatever, but and I think that the location, the thing about location independence Is that you, I mean, it's like any community, you know, I've, I've encountered now all these other people who are location community, I've connected with people on LinkedIn, I've connected with people through bumping into them, like we went to Tarragona last summer, we relocated there for three months, when the restrictions relaxed. We went to a local co-working, we put our daughter in our local summer camp.

And in the building, we were renting the apartment in, we just got to know everyone at the pool. And she got to know a couple of friends at summer camp. And we got introduced to a couple of people through the co-working. And even in that three months, we had this network. And the guy who runs the co-working to give you a practical example, he was walked out thing awesome. The first week, if you need any help with anything, you know, once we'd gone in, in Spanish.

So so the thing is that when you are location independent, then you go as a remote worker or remote family, with the family with kids, again, you'll know they're going to need entertainment, they're going to need activities, they're going to need school, they might need the local doctor, you know, all these things that kids might need. And you you plug in, and those people if you're honest with them, saying I'm new in the area, we're here for the summer, people, you and you make that intentional effort to reach out, people come back to you with anything you need, let me know kind of give you this piece of advice. So I think it's about having your little things you know, are important. Like our daughter is very, very sociable. She loves meeting people, and only planning that we do to give another tip. I'm before I'm picking a location, I'm going what is easy access, who do I know my network who might know about summer camps, like even in Spain, we did that summer camp booking in Catalan. Right? Using a translator into The Messy Mobile Life.

Andrew  

You're talking about this. Those who are resonating with what we're talking about, pick up this book. And follow this author also on on social media. This is this The Messy Mobile Life who for those who are looking, listening versus watching on our YouTube channel, but Mariam Ottimofire

Rowena  

wonderful

Andrew  

She is currently in Portugal, she was in Ghana, she is married to an Italian and but originally from India, no Pakistan. Apologies. And this this, like where we're living is taking kids around. I would love to take pictures.

Rowena  

Yeah, we must take pictures.

Andrew  

I think back to my kids, I remember Thailand, but they remember it because they my five year old son was standing next to this beautiful array of flowers. And he, he recalls Oh, that reminds me of the flowers in in Thailand. Well, he remembers the flowers in Thailand because of the picture. Not because of the experience. But he's relived it, looking at those pictures over and over. And we need to watch the emotional effect of living in the in so many locations on our kids. It is not necessarily the easy and best thing to keep moving with your kid.

As they develop, we've got to keep the thermostat step we've got to keep looking at how it really is on them. Is it the best thing for them? Because they're a higher priority in our life then then our career? And yes, we have to provide for them. But knowing whether or not they can keep going. Now whether or not they need a counsellor in this season. Nothing they need someone to guide them for career advice when they get into high school because they're not sure who they are because they've lived all around everywhere. We're facing so many side effects of showing them the other side, let's travel the world. It's it's an interesting result, though, that we do have to measure

Rowena  

that that's really interesting. And just actually to share that kind of why we're well of course we're restricted with the pandemic. We kind of stay safe-ish in terms of at the moment we've I mean, we have been Southeast Asia to the family in Bali. We did stop in Vietnam. We have done things like that, but we're not we're The school of thought like I'm you know, some location independent families on yachts in the middle of the Pacific. My god, you're just a faker Rowena your light, right? But what I mean is that we don't have the mortgage we have attached her to a school we're not homeschooling worth. So we're not often the extreme.

But we are very much about moving around when we can and as often as we can. We are very much about her having second and third languages. Okay, so that was the whole point of the Spain, and now she's learning French. But I want to share a story about the emotional regulation and the impact on her if that's okay, because it really resonates to what you're saying. She's bilingual now, Andrew, and her maternally language is Spanish, or English, sorry, but Spanish was pushing through and around the age of four. We were here about eight months or something. She started having little emotional moments at school. Okay. And the teacher was a foreign was foreign and said, I think she's trying to formulate her emotions in and communicate them, but she doesn't have the words in either Spanish or English.

And for a tip for any one thing. Yeah, in two countries with two country, multilingual children, we then got the solution, we could have gone down the therapists route, I would have no problem with that. We use singing, she went to a singing teacher who specialises also, in expressing emotions through song. We sing as a family loss, the Irish thing, because we were already singing, and someone recommended this particular teacher. Yeah, and magic happens. And alongside that, if you don't know the book, there's a book called The Monster of Many Colours. And I recommend it to adults, as well as children. I use it regularly. And it's about expressing emotion through different colours of monsters. We use that in English and Spanish to help her connect the two different worlds in the two different language formation. And we adjusted through that thing, Andrew to share because she was struggling and we could see it in her emotions. Again, through my network, I reached out the teacher had spoken to us at the Montessori, all of that. And we said to ourselves, okay, we need to help her here because, again, we need to adjust. You said you need to adjust and work with your child in the moment in this situation.

Andrew  

It's with the broad flashback. So it's not that they don't know it's an apple, it's of how to say it at that particular moment. So they may not say it at all on the season, they may wait. And that's okay, too. We should wait more often if we don't know how to say something right? We should probably wait and not say it at all.

Oh, wait, this has been good. Alan rowenna This has been so good. I know. Alan, you've you've got a question for a winner. We've got to thank everyone for for being here with us. We do have to put this to to a climax with some some introspective thought.

Allen  

Well, you know, it's interesting because the the singing was very was really an overlooked approach. So I'm gonna ask a question to tie into that is, you know, could you share with the group, an overlooked person, place or experience that you would like our listeners to discover that maybe it's not readily apparent to them could be a place you've you've gone to or experience or a person or a book or something that you feel that would really help our location independent folks, or just help people explore the world a little deeper.

Rowena  

So I'm a big fan of visualisation. So in my experience, day to day and when I plan and think about moving my family and taking these different moves in my life, I visualise myself in that new place, even if I've never seen it, I visualise my child on the swings with other children in that local area. I visualise My child, you know, being comfortable in whatever activity or school, I visualise us having serendipitous encounters with the locals. And being recommended that secret bar you know, for the best tapas that only the locals know. And so for me to support myself and my competence in my 48 years in the cloud visualisation has always been something I use to help me experience what I want to experience before I get there. And that would be my tip to people thinking of travelling.

Andrew  

Wonderful. Thank you for that. Where can people find you? And are you doing independent consulting for those work independent location independent lifestyle, tell us about your links and how people can connect with you

Rowena  

so they can find out and reach out to me at rowenahennigan@rowremote.com. And we can pop that into the show notes hopefully as well. And yes, I'm building a business which I get to sort of start promoting here. I have a mentoring platform in place at the moment, based on remote work skills. And I'm building another product model on the side of that that's going to support people becoming location independent, and becoming digital nomads, with very not much to what we spoken about here. Challenging those personas and cliches around it being a backpacker, going to a beach in Thailand, I want to help people who are older have families are more experienced and want a different experience.

And I believe as a remote work educator is my main piece of work. And we didn't mention that before. But that's what I do on the side most of the time, which helps supplement and support my lifestyle, I believe there's competencies and skills that people need to learn, some of which are not the intangible, interpersonal emotional intelligence, all the things we've touched on today. And I've shared so openly our resilience everything hopefully are shared is an example of resilience and of bravery and of making changes.

So that is important and you can get that through my mentoring service. But I will be also looking at building through a mentor this mentoring platform one to one support for people learning for example, how to set up their it before they go like how to have a habit tracker to help them integrate how to put into their calendars to have their weekly gratitude session with their family. How to find out, Andrew, those tips and tricks about like you said about finding the local activities or this messy things that you need to figure out by asking a Catalan lady about summer camp and her answering you in Catalan. So that messy mobile life and practice so yes, I am building a platform so if you tune in you log on to Rubina, Hannigan comm pop in your email address there, I'll keep you updated on that. And that's why that's one of my passions that I'm building out as one of my services.

Allen  

Rowena, thank you so much. Today very, very enlightening. You know, Andrew, final thoughts. I have one that I really liked on her tip on visualisation. I mean it works in so many different ways. As you know, I'm very passionate about playing tennis and when you before you serve, sometimes if you just take a second and visualise where it's going it often goes where you want it to go at a higher rate than usual, not quite to Roger Federer's level, but I really do love the power of visualisation. share with us what you've learned today, Andrew?

Andrew  

Wow, you know, this, this did get some great thoughts during and that's the good thing about podcasts, and especially the guests that you bring in the URL and is that you get some thoughts stirring in your mind that lead to other progress that leads to change. It may not even be what said during these conversations, it what you released and you're thrust to the next level of professional growth, personal growth. And one of those things that that did. Light a spark that's going to become a fire again, is you know, being self aware. But then taking that self awareness into healing and moving forward. So this has been really good and I look forward to having Rowena on again in the future because we just scratched the surface on a few topics. There's some other things that I'm sure she would like to bring to us all and we need to learn from her. Everyone go to our roremote.com. Connect with Rowena Hannigan on all your social channels. Thank you all

Allen  

and for those of you who want to join The New Nomad podcast family, please subscribe online if you want to find us off the typical podcast platforms. Please go to thenewnomad.net or insurednomads.com. We look forward to supporting your adventures down the road. Have a great rest of the day. Cheers.

Living the Location Independent Lifestyle with Rowena Hennigan

About the Guest

Rowena Hennigan