There’s not much about 2019 that’s gone to plan.
And I’m not just talking about getting bitten by that snake in Bali in April… or the half day I “accidentally” spent in a Champagne cafe in London because when I walked past it at 11am on my way to somewhere else, I just had to go in and then never wanted to leave…
No, I’m talking about the fact that there are mince pies in the supermarket and Christmas trees popping up in shop windows which is a ridiculous but undeniable sign that 2019 is reaching its end. And I haven’t achieved half of the things I set out to do this year.
So it’s around about now I realise I’ve been so busy in my bubble doing my thing, wandering through 16 countries and getting myself into trouble, that I haven’t stopped to take a breath and connect with all you lovely people in the outside world.
Let me catch you up on my year real quick…
January: Failure to Launch
When 2019 rolls around, I resign from my regular job with its steady income so I can launch my blog and focus my energy on developing my online coaching and training business. It’s definitely a risk, but I feel ready.
I spend hundreds of hours building myself a basic website — no easy feat when you live on a remote island in the South Pacific with a wobbly 3G network — and I make the final edits on my first eBook.
I launch the blog mid-January and it receives an overwhelmingly positive response. I immediately connect with some awesome new clients and sell a bunch of books. I am stoked and can’t wait to keep riding that momentum…
Three days later, the internet is disconnected in the entire Kingdom of Tonga when a cargo ship drags its anchor across the fibre optic cable that delivers our communications via Fiji. We lose all contact with the outside world.
A peaceful chaos unfolds and for the next 2 weeks I find myself living my normal day-to-day life completely offline, something very few people will ever get to experience in the modern world. I’m surprised by how much I love my life without the internet, which is a bit confronting because I rely on it for 100% of my income.
February: Kicked out of the Country
The Ministry of Immigration calls to tell me I have to leave Tonga so they can process my new visa. I make an expensive and unplanned detour back to Australia and the Internet (or whatever you want to call the NBN in regional NSW) and I blog about my experience living offline. It gets picked up by a European media station and I’m interviewed on German radio. I don’t understand a word of it but it’s all a bit of fun.
I return to a flooded inbox and a mountain of unfinished work. It’s my last month before leaving a job I love and taking a two month holiday through Europe and Asia. I also have to prepare a huge amount of work for my other clients before I leave so there’s more work than hours in the day.
I go from internet-free bliss to being married to my computer, spending 14 hours a day clicking and tapping and panicking that I won’t get everything done.
This tips me over the technological edge and I decide that after four years working online and writing a book, I’m going to do my upcoming trip COMPUTER-FREE. I’m not even sure if that’s possible, but I’m keen to give it a crack…
March: I Fall for an Internet Scam
David meets me in Australia and we fly to France. I visit my sister in the Netherlands and spend time with David’s family around Paris. We wander along the Seine one day and David asks me why on Earth I bother taking yet another photo of Notre Dame when I’ve seen it a hundred times and have a thousand pictures to prove it. I tell him it’s so beautiful that it’s always like seeing it for the first time.
A few weeks later Notre Dame burns down.
We visit Brussels with my mother-in-law and David falls so hard in love with a shop selling beer and melted cheese that he announces he wants to move to Belgium. Then we travel to Spain with my father-in-law and his wife and I fall in love Sevilla and announce I want to live there. For now, this is all moot because we live on an island in Tonga.
Nevertheless, the whole reason we’re visiting Spain is because I’ve found a very reasonably priced Spanish house for sale on one of those British “follow the sun” property websites. We drive 400 kms to find the house in a gorgeous village with a desert moon landscape surrounded by snow-capped mountains…
The real estate agent stands us up and stops answering our calls as soon as we arrive in Spain.
It’s only when we’re standing in front of a random, boarded up house in a deserted street in the middle of nowhere that it dawns on me the whole thing was probably an internet scam. The house was so cheap they were probably banking on rich people just paying for it sight unseen.
I feel like I should be disappointed but I’m not because it was a great little adventure. We spend that afternoon sitting in the sun drinking wine, practising our Spanish and having a good laugh at my expense.
April: Bitten by a Snake in Bali
We rent an apartment in Athens so we can do all the things we can’t usually do while living life off-grid. We taverna-hop around the city exploring all the different ways the Greeks can fry cheese, and spend a week sitting around in white fluffy bathrobes binge-watching Netflix.
One night we’re sitting in our rooftop jacuzzi looking out at the Acropolis talking about how grateful we are for our life, our families, our friends, our jobs and all the privilege and opportunity the world has bestowed on us because we were lucky enough to be born on a particular patch of dirt on this big blue ball hurtling through space.
I ask David if he died tomorrow, would he have any regrets? Anything he wishes he’d done that feels really important to him? When he turns the question back on me I realise there is only one thing I would be mad at myself for not having done by now.
Finishing my book.
I’ve written the book, you see, but I haven’t finished it yet. I’ve made it through the second draft of a complete manuscript, but I’m a multipotentialite and now doing the work to get it polished and publishable just feels tedious.
But David, who is both my husband and the president of my fan club, tells me I need to suck it up, stop making excuses and just do it. Even if it’s boring.
I know he’s right but somehow I still feel furious at him for suggesting it. Doesn’t he realise that doing a repetitive task once you’ve lost interest in it is unbearably painful for a multipotentialite?
But he’s not letting me off the hook this time and while we sit in that jacuzzi, bubbling away like two whole chickens brought to the boil, he asks me to make him a promise.
“Promise me that this year you’ll prioritise your book before everything else. Before you write your blog or expand your business or post pictures on Instagram.”
“What, you just want me to stop working and have no more money come in?” I freak out at him.
“For now, we live in the middle of the ocean and the nearest shop is 7kms away. What do you need money for?”
Argh, I hate it when he’s right… If there’s ever a good time to write a book it’s when you’re isolated in a remote location with no distractions. So I reluctantly agree.
Next we head off to Ubud — the first time either of us have set foot in Bali in our combined 40+ years of nomading — and on day 3, I get bitten by a snake.
It’s a little snake, but a poisonous one, so it makes me pretty sick and I slowly lose my ability to breathe. I get to experience my first ever high-speed ride in an ambulance with the sirens blaring and I desperately relay messages for David to give the people I love in case I die.
It’s all very dramatic.
I spend two days in a Balinese hospital and receive several vials of a combined anti-venom, a cocktail of Cobra, Viper and Braided Krait, because we think we know what bit me but we’re not sure sure. Physically, I recover pretty quickly but mentally, I’ve been given a big boot up the ass.
I know now it’s time for me to finish this book — even if I’m bored of the process — and not just because I promised David, but because I actually want to do it for myself.
We travel to Australia to spend much needed time with our friends and family (so I can deliver those messages in person) before returning to Tonga and the quiet island life…
May: I Write
I write. It’s hard at first and it feels boring writing and rewriting the same text over and over.
But I force myself to sit at my computer and push myself through it. One day something shifts and I start having fun playing with words again.
I’m also back working with a handful of coaching and consulting clients online so there’s some variety in my day and a small income coming in, but in between work I’m laser focused on my book.
June: I Keep Writing
I keep writing. I finish the third draft. I start working with an editor on tightening it up so I can start approaching publishers.
For the first time since I start writing the book in 2014, it feels like things are moving forward.
July: I Run Away to Borneo, Ukraine and Beyond
I travel to Borneo with my sister and dad to retrace his dad, my Pop’s, last steps in World War II. We’re on a mission to learn as much as we can about a precious sword Pop was gifted by the son of a Dayak chief. We have an amazing dad and daughter trip in a beautiful part of the world and dad tells us if he dies tomorrow, he feels like he’s done everything he could have ever dreamed of and more. No regrets.
Next stop is Latvia to visit an old friend, followed by Ukraine where I finally meet Yaro, the entrepreneur I’ve worked with since 2015 but never met in person. I’m worried it’ll be weird because we’ve spoken every week for four years and been involved in each others lives for so long, but he probably wouldn’t even recognise me if I walked past him in the street.
But it’s not weird at all and I have a great week exploring Ukraine with an eclectic group of people. Lviv is beautiful and surprising in all the best kinds of ways and I’m so happy I get to experience it before the rest of the world finds out about it. Because they will…
Then I head off to England, Scotland and Norway to spend some long overdue time with people I love. Oh and I meet a great aunt in London I never knew I had. Thank you Ancestry.com.
August: Hospital Days
My dad has a stroke and life tips upside down. He conveniently throws a blood clot into his brain stem when I’m on a three day layover in Australia so, if nothing else, I’m grateful to be home when it happens.
Even as he’s mid-stroke, he’s joking with the paramedic about pulling the sheet over his head as they wheel him to the ambulance. He wants to stick his arm up at the last minute and freak out the neighbours who are probably watching from their windows. At least we know early on that the sense of humour part of his brain is unaffected.
Dad can’t walk, use his left arm or regulate his own body temperature and it’s a scary, stressful week as we wait to understand what all of this means longterm. Long days at the hospital ensue and I eat way too many donuts. But both my parents are made up of equal parts superhero and stubbornness so Dad flaws the doctors by making a miraculous recovery.
He walks out of rehab at the end of August and I fly back to Tonga.
September: Time is Running Out
I sit down to write but now it feels hard again. It’s taking me a long time to get back into the rhythm but I know if I keep pushing through, it will become easier again. Maybe even fun.
Every now and then I find myself procrastinating wildly, like today when I wrote this blog post, even though it breaks the rule about prioritising my book before my blog and I know I’m going to get caught.
But I just wanted to say “Hi” and get all these thoughts out of my brain before I put my head back down to keep chasing my only dream that would become a regret if I don’t do it now.
And quite frankly, I just need to get this book finished so I can unleash all my backburner dreams waiting not-so-patiently for their time to shine — like building myself a tiny house in Champagne and learning to speak Esperanto.
I know how lucky I am to be in a position to do this now and I have to let you in on a little secret… Our time on the island is coming to an end soon and I have absolutely no idea where we’re going next. So for my book, it feels like now or never…
I’m still working with a handful of clients at the moment, but I’m not taking on any new clients until this book baby is birthed. Hopefully when I pop my head up next time to say hello, it’s because she’s FINISHED. And then I can’t wait to open up my Magic doors and start sharing Everything with you again.
‘Ofa lahi atu from Tonga,
P.S. If you read through this blog post and thought “But how can she afford to travel so much?”, I can tell you it’s a combination of minimalist living, flying no-frills airlines where you even have to pay for your water (hello, Scoot!), setting my life up so I earn an income online and finding jobs that cover my food and accommodation costs.
I explain how I find work like this (and how you can do it too) in my eGuide Work The World which is now free when you join the Magic of Everything mailing list.
Laura Maya is an Aussie-French nomad, writer and alternative lifestyle coach. She’s the author of Work The World and curator of the free self-coaching program GPS for the Soul
Laura has been working and travelling the world slowly since 2001 — exploring cultures, writing stories and learning languages in almost 60 countries. Now she helps other restless and curious souls design a life they love by exploring alternative ways to live, earn, explore and impact the world.