Carolina Correa on the digital nomad life she always dreamed of

Carolina Correa

We’re really excited to have Carolina Correa for our second digital nomad series post. I found Carolina on Twitter when her beautiful graphic designs caught my attention. I then found out that she has been travelling as a digital nomad for a while, visiting places such as Thailand and Vietnam where she was part of the digital nomad community.

Carolina also lived in a hacker house in San Francisco and has deep roots in the Portuguese culture. I felt that there’s so much more to unwrap about Carolina, so here we are today to find out a bit more about her!

Can you tell us something that perhaps not many people know about you?

Ha! Well, my deepest secrets are: I love sci-fi & superhero movies, all things related to zombies too. I also love to sleep; REALLY love to sleep.

When did you decide to be location independent and why?

A few years ago when I was living in a Hacker House in SF, I met Benjamin Evans – a lifestyle coach, who had been location independent for a few years. It blew my mind to learn about this lifestyle! When I decided to leave the project I was working on, it was evident that it was something I was going to make happen for myself.

Travel has always been an important part of my life so it felt very natural for me to move in that direction.

Where do you get inspiration for you graphic designs?

From so many places! Online I’ll probably have the usual names (behance, dribbble, pinterest…) but I like to get inspired by different forms of art too; paintings, sculptures, furniture & interior design, patterns & fabrics (…). The advantage with traveling is that you can get inspired by completely different cultures, nature, landscapes, architecture and such. I often snap pictures of good designs I encounter and categorise them in a folder for future use too.

Is there one particular project that you are especially proud of?

Well recently I’ve started a personal project that combines my 2 passions: work and travel. A few weeks back I got tired of posting only travel-related pictures, so I started to post my work. And then I asked myself why would I have to compromise one for the other? So just a few days ago, I’ve been creating illustrations about local businesses that I love. Being from Belgium, I obviously started with local beer breweries!

Craft Beer Illustration
Craft Beer Illustration

How do you go about building a client base from all over the world, including Silicon Valley startups and large companies?

It’s tricky, it requires hard work and dedication. I think most people underestimate the power of a network, and how giving back to the community can pay off in the long-run. Those two in particular have landed me contracts with UPS in Belgium and startups in San Francisco, San Diego & New-York. It’s not just about being good at what you do (well, you can’t be crap either!), it’s about a combination of so many other things too.

What do you love most about your work?

I love the process behind logo design. From client brief to research & strategy, sketching, and digital conceptualisation. I love the creativity that I can explore with each project and the challenges that make me freak out at first too. It’s always a rollercoaster of emotions for me, but I do enjoy the process.

What is one thing that you learned in your professional life that really surprised you?

Well like I mentioned a little earlier, actual design is only a small fraction of the tasks I perform as a location independent designer. It’s not only about having good work, it’s about being able to promote it, marketing yourself the right way, knowing how to negotiate and close deals, delivering on time and always going the extra-mile to keep your clients happy too.

What has the most challenging thing been for you as a digital nomad?

For me, the challenge is always to create a new routine, new habits, meet new people in each city I live in. It’s always a little hard for the first week, you’ve got to get used to a different environment, a different way of operating and so on. The first week I’m usually not productive at all, but it’s all about creating your space and setting your routines.

Ana: Let’s go back a bit. You lived in a hacker house in San Francisco. Can you tell us more about that experience?

I travelled to San Francisco for an early-stage startup I was working on with a friend. The cheapest  thing to do when you move to such an expensive city is to find accommodation in a Hacker House. It’s also a great opportunity to meet and live with like-minded people. As I look back at the turning points in my life, I know residing at Startup Basecamp was one of them.

I lived there for 3 months, and loved every second of it! I’m still in contact with many of the people I met, and of course had I not lived there, I would have probably not chosen to pursue this lifestyle.

When you travelled to Thailand you discovered a huge digital nomad community. What is fun memory you have of your time there?

A fun memory involving the digital nomad community was when a friend decided to organise a day-trip to Sticky Waterfalls. At first, I believe I was the only one who positively replied to the invite – and this was only about 10 days prior to the set date. Closer to a week, it didn’t seem like it would happen but word spread quickly and by the time the weekend came about, we were a group of over 25 people!

Thailand
Thailand

How many trips on average do you do every year?

Carolina:  I do quite a few, if I’m in Europe I’m travelling every few weeks, and being that I’m not that organised with my visa situations in Asia, I usually have to move every 2-3 months. I’ve officially been location-independent for a little over a year; I lived in Hungary, Croatia, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam so far. I won’t count the trips I make to Belgium or Portugal being that I have family in both countries!

Budapest - Hungary
Budapest – Hungary

You also travel to Portugal a lot, what is it that you love about this country?

Portugal is my home; I particularly love Lisbon and surrounding areas like Sintra, Cascais, Estoril. I find that there is a mix of ingredients that make Lisbon the perfect city: culture, architecture, food, weather, music, prices, and most of all, the people are friendly and laid-back. It’s a country you feel very comfortable in, very quickly.

Lisbon
Lisbon

Sometimes I think that the future of work is already here. We’re living in a time when work, learning, playing and relaxing can co-exist. Tell us what your view is on the future of work.

I couldn’t agree more! I think that people are starting to realise that a good work-life balance isn’t just having an ‘ok’ job, with an ‘ok’ salary – they can have the job they love, whilst having more time to do other things they love – e.g. travel! The freelancer workforce is on the rise, companies are adapting their culture to focus on ’employee happiness’ and because we live in a hyper-connected world, finding the best employee doesn’t mean local talent anymore.

Next September, Southwest Collective is running Offsite Immersive, a coworking retreat that embraces the wholeness of life and work. I’m really curious to know what you think about this concept.

I love it! I’ve come across a few similar projects and the one thing that stood out for me is the fact that you guys are also targeting company employees, not just digital nomads. Company retreats are often about team building, but sending your employees to a work-related retreat, abroad or just off-site, could do wonders to creativity, team-building, productivity and their happiness.

If you had to choose your favourite Portuguese dish, what would that be and why?

I don’t have a favourite dish, it’s more of a dessert – I could eat ‘Pasteis de Nata’ for breakfast, lunch and dinner – and I mean it.

Does being a digital nomad mean being constantly connected to technology? Do you ever find or make to unplug?

Well, let’s say that I try. I haven’t been able to really set myself limits yet – if it’s Sunday and a client needs something, I’ll get on it ASAP. Most people I’ve met force themselves to take at least 1 day off per week (yes, 1 day, not 2!). For me, it’s more of a situation where I’ll work non-stop for 10 days, then find myself taking 2 days off in the middle of the week.

Is that important to you? If so, what are the kind of things that you like to do to disconnect?

Only tourist-related stuff! I’ll go explore, eat and drink as much as I can. I’ll indulge myself in all of the things I sacrifice during the days I work. But then again sometimes I’ll just spend the whole day in bed watching tv-series and getting food delivered.

To conclude, tell us about a book that you’ve read and blew you away.

Oh that’s a tough one! Especially because I’ve slowed down on book-reading for the past few years. Ask me a movie I’ve seen and I’ll have many answers 🙂

For those who want to connect with Carolina, you can find her on twitter at @camemcoInstagram and check some of her work on her website. If you have  any questions for Carolina, feel free to comment below and Carolina will be happy to respond to them!

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