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- Meesen Brown, as told to Julianne Pepitone
- May 24, 2018
How I Became a Digital Nomad — And Launched a Business to Help Others Do the Same
Welcome to the new retirement. It’s about having the freedom to decide when and how you want to take a break from work — to rest, recharge or start a new adventure — no matter your age. In our Redefining Retirement series, you’ll learn how real people are living their lives to the fullest, and the steps they took to get there.
Here, a 25-year-old entrepreneur and digital nomad shares how a desire to work remotely around the world led to a new business venture.
In 2015, after working just under a year in corporate finance, I did something surprising: I booked a one-way ticket to Australia. The job I had looked great on a resume, but in the finance world I felt like there was too much red tape to get ahead — especially as a woman. I was ready for something more.
I had studied abroad in Sydney, so I already had a small network of friends there. My plan was to head there first and figure out the rest. And I did. I started working at a nonprofit that teaches CEOs and executives how to become better leaders. I was part of a mostly female team, which was really inspiring. But there was still a part of me that felt unsettled. It wasn’t the work — it was the 9-to-5, in-a-cubicle aspect of my job.
What I really wanted was to work remotely, to travel and connect with people all over the world. Until that point, travel had been an adventure for me, but I wanted to incorporate it into my life in a more sustainable way. I decided to go freelance, working on marketing projects for clients while I traveled. I’d always been decent at budgeting so I had a good amount of savings by the time I left Australia, but it also helped that I traveled mainly around Southeast Asia, where the cost of living was low.
I worked from a whole bunch of different places: Bangkok, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Kuala Lumpur, Siem Reap and more. It was a mix of new places I’d always wanted to visit, or cities I’d traveled to before that had strong expat communities — places where I could connect and grow my network.
Along the way, something really interesting happened: I heard from a ton of people who saw my social media updates, and they were all curious. How are you able to do this? Can you really support yourself while traveling the world? How did you find a safe place to stay?
FROM GLOBETROTTER TO GLOBAL ENTREPRENEUR
Those questions started to inspire me. What if you could remove the barriers — whether it’s logistics, or fear, or both — to working while traveling the world? So many women in particular were telling me that they’d love to do what I was doing, but the planning felt overwhelming. Plus, knowing how to find safe, comfortable accommodations in an unfamiliar city was a challenge.
Even by simply exploring what’s going on just outside your city, you’re switching up your point of view.
In 2016 I met a serial entrepreneur, Thomas Maher, who was fielding the same types of questions I was. We realized there was a real market for a service that could help women fulfill their work/travel aspirations. After about four months of planning and putting together a business model, Thomas and I raised a small amount of capital in August 2017 and officially launched our company, Behere, in September.
Behere is designed specifically to give women the opportunity and confidence to embark on a new adventure in a new place. We help set them up with private apartments, workspaces and gyms or fitness studios — plus a local city host and Behere events — in 12 cities across Asia and Europe, and counting. Not to be outdone, our whole team also works from places like New Delhi, New York, Sydney and London. Currently, I’m working from Barcelona; Thomas moves around a lot but generally splits his time between New York and Barcelona.
I couldn’t be more thrilled with the response so far. It’s been overwhelming. To be able to make a difference — well, that’s everyone’s goal, isn’t it? It means so much to me that Behere is able to facilitate so many women’s dreams. And it reflects a huge cultural shift in the way we view work, careers and how we live. People are now saving up for trips instead of houses and fancy cars. Work-life balance has become nonexistent because we’re always answering email — so in exchange, why not have the flexibility to work where you want?
I’ll continue to live this lifestyle for as long as I'm feeling inspired and enriched by it. I don’t want to live the same day for 65 years, and I know others don’t, either.
The thing is, if you don’t step out of the box you’ll never see what’s out there. Even by simply exploring what’s going on just outside your city, you’re switching up your point of view.
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