I GOT THE JOB!!
After three years of juggling remote freelance work with violin practice, performances, a cycling nomadic life, job interviews, and helping my mom care for my two grandparents who have dementia, I finally have achieved my biggest goal.
I am now a full-time remote employee for a super cool software company! I am so excited to do what I do best — interact with people and help them achieve business success through online tools for their customers.
HOW DID I GET HERE?
“You are the poster child for making your dreams come true!” Vikki exclaimed. I had sent her a message of the good news. In February 2019, I had lived for almost a month in a tiny house in her backyard, prepping for a solo violin opportunity with the South Bay Philharmonic.
All the while, I applied for numerous remote jobs, completed projects for my clients, and of course, cared for my best friend – Fiji. My generous hosts took the journey with me; fingers crossed for success.
In 2013, I met Vikki and Mark. After cycling most of the way to California from New York, I stayed at their home in a rush to get to San Diego for a job interview. I was on an accomplishment high from living on the road for six months with Fiji.
I survived. Now, I was ready to conquer — not THE world, but MY world. It was only several months prior that my world seemed stalled with no progression and purpose.
In 2013, when Fiji and I traveled across the U.S. via bicycle (with some occasional hitchhiking thrown in), I only had $50.00 in my pocket and no cycling or camping experience. I remember the tough days with fondness.
Through the kindness of strangers, I camped a total of three nights. Friendly faces would stop their cars, and chat with me on the side of the road. “Hey, we have an extra room you could stay in for the night. You just have another 10 miles to ride before you get to our house.”
Every other night, a nice person offered to let me stay in a spare or living room. In exchange, it was not unusual for me to do volunteer work, chores, or even some freelance writing to pay my way.
In hindsight, it was these little odd jobs born from the random and minimalistic necessity that began my experience in freelance and remote work.
In addition, I busked at farmers’ markets and received wonderful contributions from the people following my journey, including a food angel sponsor for Fiji! I raised about $1,000 for the Missouri Lions Eye Research Foundation and received about $1,000 in contributions for myself.
When I made it to San Diego, I did not get the job. (That is a story in and of itself.) So, after meeting with family members in Los Angeles, I hitchhiked back to Indianapolis, and I began applying for jobs right away. I worked full-time graveyard shift in a Comfort Inn in Carmel, Indiana. I also interned in Donor Relations for the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and worked in customer service in their ticketing office. I commuted over an hour each day on my bicycle and on the bus to the bustling and vibrant downtown circle!
A wonderful woman, who I met through the Warmshowers network while riding my bike through Indianapolis on my cross country trek, let me stay with her for a cheap monthly rental fee. I lived with her for five months until finding my own apartment after landing a job at another anatomical procurement and donation organization.
I went from eye and tissue donation at Missouri Lions Eye Research to organ, tissue and eye donation at Indiana Donor Network.
SADNESS WITH MOMENTS OF HAPPINESS
Working insane hours for two years, I realized how unhappy I was. Once again, violin practice had taken a back burner. I went from work to bed. I gained weight even though I bicycled to work every day and refused to get a car, but nothing could match the hours upon hours of exercise I got while on the road.
When I was on the road, I was happy most of the time with some days of sadness. It was not easy cycling day in and day out with the insecurity of no income and not knowing where I was going to sleep each night or what I was going to eat. Nonetheless, life on the road was happiness.
When settled in Indianapolis, I was sad most of the time with some days of happiness. While I loved the important work we did in organ and tissue donation, it wasn’t my dream or long-term career goal. Violin was and is the passion of my life; I wanted to speak to people through it. But I hadn’t touched it or put in any serious practice for years. What was I doing?
A NEW DIRECTION
I decided to set off again with my dog, Fiji. But this time, I’d live my life with no regrets and try to accomplish my goals and dreams in the most fulfilling way — cycling and traveling. I was going to turn the road into my school of music. I’d use the violin to make money. I’d collaborate with and learn from other musicians, and on the side, I’d freelance and do odd jobs, making my way to becoming a full-time, self-sufficient adventure cyclist, digital nomad, and musician.
If at the end of the day I failed, at least I’d still have some awesome stories to tell!
In 2016, I left Indianapolis, cycling and hitchhiking around North America, including Canada. I rode from Indianapolis to Austin, TX. Then shared a Craiglist ride with two young women to Northern California. I once again stayed with my friends from my first tour — Vikki and Mark.
From there, I hitched a ride up to Seattle and began my ride across Canada. For the first time, Fiji and I rode on large ferry ships and showed our passports for entrance to another country!
BICYCLING MY WAY TO A REMOTE CAREER
From sponsorships through awesome companies like ICE Trikes to freelance writing for musical clients like Fiddlershop to busking at farmers’ markets, house concerts for pleasant hosts, and competing at a random fiddle competition, I was determined to work my way to being a self-sufficient nomadic cyclist and musician.
I spent a whole year continuously on the road. Once again, kind strangers and new friends took Fiji and me into their homes and hearts. But this time, there was a new dynamic I had to get around — branding, booking gigs, blogging, vlogging, writing, busking, and cycling. Sometimes people let me stay for several days or more, so I could catch up on violin practice and freelance projects or other jobs. I did Workaways (housing in exchange for work) as well and sometimes took on temporary three-day or one-week jobs.
Needless to say, I’ve built up my resume of remote work and freelance clients.
In 2018, while helping my mom care for my grandparents in Texas and taking on freelance projects from E|Tab, I realized I wanted to move in a slightly different direction. Instead of taking on a slew of different clients and trying to land odd jobs, I was going to have two staple careers — a performing musician (at some point) and a full-time career at a SaaS company (a full-time digital nomad and musician).
However, I had a condition. If I was going to work full-time again, I’d 1) be paid a salary reflective of my experience and worth, and 2) get to still travel and cycle and eventually open up my community music school.
So, I began applying to companies, being transparent about my experiences, skills, and long-term goals. It’s important for them to know my dreams, but also assure them I am in it for the long haul. I intend to build a successful, long-lasting remote career with their company because it would not only benefit my professional development, but also my personal passions.
Between traveling, applying for software jobs, editing videos and collaborating with musicians, and caring for my grandparents in Texas, I also practiced two to three hours a day and posted to my group on Facebook daily — 100 Days of Practice Challenge.
It’s been a long and busy road, but I did it!
GOOD NEWS AND NEW HORIZONS
On May 1, 2019, I finally achieved my ultimate goal. I received an offer for full-time remote work!
NOT MUCH CHANGING, THOUGH! STAY TUNED!
FiJaPAW will continue, however! My priorities are my career and music, but nomadism is a lifestyle and a mindset. I am going to continue the adventure, but the structure, mode, and frequency will change.
I look forward to sharing my future, past, and present with you all as I learn how to navigate this new path. Articles on landing remote gigs, violin and community music, digital nomadism, and adventure cycling to come.
I just want to give a wholehearted thank you to everyone who helped Fiji and me to come this far!
If you see any typos in the article above, please let me know in the comments!