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Why How We See Ourselves Outside Matters, Plus How to Work From Anywhere (Esther Inman)

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Do you think of yourself as “outdoorsy?” Nature lovers and “outdoorsy” people aren’t just folks who scale mountains or go on long runs — despite what the outdoor industry and even this podcast might (accidentally) have you believe. Instead, outdoor users come from all perspectives, backgrounds, sizes, shapes and interests. Like plants? Enjoy listening to birds? Appreciate coffee on the porch? Make going outside a part of your life? You’re a nature-lover. It’s as simple as that.

But getting to the point where you see yourself that way is a journey — even for people who have mastered building their lives around making more time for what they enjoy. In this week’s episode digital nomad Esther Inman talks about the power of learning to see yourself as outdoorsy, how she built her life to give her more time for what she wants to do and how she helps other people do the same.

Some of the good stuff:

[3:01] Esther’s favorite outdoor space

[3:40] Esther’s outdoor story

[8:07] How she looks at herself in the outdoors

[14:02] Why Esther changed what she was doing as a job

[22:03] How it’s possible to live off being a Virtual Assistant (VA)

[24:49] Why Bali

[30:00] Why being a VA is not the same as being a remote employee

[33:00] Why being a VA is not the same as selling stuff from home

[38:00] Esther’s favorite outdoor gear

[42:08] Esther’s most essential outdoor gear

[44:55] Esther’s favorite outdoor moment

Connect with this episode:

Find full show notes at humansoutside.com

Register for our newsletter to win a decal: https://humansoutside.com/newsletter

Follow us on Instagram and share your outdoor life with the hashtag #humansoutside365.

Here’s an edited transcript of our conversation on The Humans Outside Podcast. Listen to the episode on iTunes, Google Podcasts, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.

Amy Bushatz

For many of us, having the outdoor focused or even outdoor minded life we want is hampered by a thing called our job. It often seems like you can’t live with one and of course, you can’t live without one. When my family and I decided to move to Alaska, it was largely possible because my full time job as the executive editor of Military.com allows me to move wherever I want. Really, it was a big scary decision, but it was the decision backed by the safety net of that employment. Not everyone is so privileged.

Another roadblock, how we see the outside, how we fit into it, and whether it’s a welcoming place, many, many people don’t fit the mold of quote unquote outdoorsy that is so often presented. It’s so easy to let that be a block to getting out and to forget that the outdoors is for everyone, whether you’re scaling peaks or watching birds from your hot tub. But there are people who are just brave enough to look at what they have and want right in the face and go from there. That describes today’s guest, Esther Inman, who in 2015 left a job in corporate America in pursuit of better life balance for her family. After working as a successful internet based assistant known as a virtual assistant, she founded her own company focused on teaching others how to do the same thing. Virtual Assistant Internship and her 90 Day VA has since helped about 4000 folks train to be virtual assistants and start their own small businesses working from home, focused on helping digital entrepreneurs. In fact, I am the benefactor of one of her students, Laura Troxel, who helps me put together the Humans Outside Podcast and keep my life in order, is a graduate of Esther’s program and was personally recommended to me for the job. I am so excited to have Esther here today to talk to us about the nuts and bolts of refocusing work life on what matters to you. Esther, welcome to the Humans Outside Podcast.

Esther Inamn

I am so excited to be here and listening to that made me a little bit emotional because of my relationship with the outdoors and just how it’s grown and changed. So I’m really excited to chat about it.

AB

Oh, great. That’s, that’s what we like to hear. Okay, so we like to start all of these episodes, imagining ourselves in our guest’s favorite outdoor space, just kind of hanging out and chatting. Alright, so with that in mind, where are we with you today?

EI

My favorite place is this restaurant in Bali. I lived for three years and just recently moved back to America. And it’s this little beach side town and the restaurant is on a rice field. And you sit at these little huts along the rice field and these cute little Balinese people are bringing you delicious food. And if you’re really really quiet, you can hear and you can see the wind move through the rice fields. And it makes this shhhhhh noise. It’s just the most peaceful and soothing thing and there’s even a pool there. So if you want to sit in the pool and eat and enjoy the rice fields you can do that.

AB

I want to go there.

EI

I know. It’s not only one restaurant like that, too. That’s just the one that came to mind.

AB

Oh my word, that sounds so magical. All right, tell us your outdoor story. What does spending time outside mean to you?

EI

So I never really considered myself to be an outdoorsy type of person. In fact, when I told my husband I was going to be on this show he was like, “okay?” and that’s because – I mean, multiple different reasons. I’m very extroverted but my idea of fun is going dancing and having drinks. I used to joke like — oh yeah, I like to be outside as in sitting outdoors drinking on patios. Haha, that was me. Part of it was because of, you know, I just never really thought of it. That’s for other people. The other actually big part is because of my size. I am not small, and in American size. And I’m probably 16 or 18. And so to me, I never saw women who looked like me going and doing outdoors activities. It’s actually really difficult. At least it was up until very recently, and even now it’s still difficult to even find outdoor clothing and things that will fit me to be able to go and do those things. So I never really felt like any of that was for me. I’m not going to be out of breath. It’s going to be embarrassing. I am going to look weird and ‘m going to be so hot, sweaty and everybody else won’t be. And so it felt very limiting. And it wasn’t until like probably, I think maybe we moved from Bali we moved to a little mountain town about six months ago. And I started to realize, like we’re going on hikes all the time. I’m gonna get a kayak, I’m about to buy a bike, I like started getting all this stuff. And I was like — you’re kind of an outdoorsy person. Now, who are you?

And then I started realizing I posted this on my Instagram and I had people say — What are you talking about? You’ve always been outdoors, you traveled the world. So I’ve been traveling the world for like 10 years, I go all different kinds of places all the time. And I’m always doing walking tours of the city riding my scooter around Bali. I’m not surfing on the beach. That’s not enough, like there were these levels. And so spending time outside to me, it just means like doing something that you like outdoors. It could be frickin walking, sitting on a bench and not being afraid to try new things for fear of looking stupid for fear looking fat and sweaty and out of breath, for not having the cutest outfit like the other girls do from Lululemon. Not being not girly enough and be I mean, not for fear of being too girly. That was another thing. I’m quite feminine. And I’m not as into, like, you know, I don’t know, I don’t even know the word for them. But clothes that I wouldn’t normally necessarily wear and that seemed — Okay, well that’s not for me. So anyway, just getting rid of all of that and making what it means to you, because we all need to be outside. So figuring out how that best works for you. Right?

AB

So okay, so it’s so funny that they were talking about this because I’ve been like sorting through this myself. Um, you know, I, my background would be that I was not at all outdoorsy, but I am a person of dramatic swings. And so I go from being like — a hotel sounds great, to — Let’s camp every weekend for the rest of our lives to let’s go to Alaska now, right? Let’s spend all of our money at REI. Okay, so then I have hip surgery in this fall in September, and all the sudden all the things that I’ve relied on the outdoors to do running and hiking and all this stuff, completely off the table. Right? Who am I now? Who am I now? Total crisis. Okay. So all of my outdoor time is now spent, you know, I might go on a mile walk in the woods, right? So just like easy, low key situation. Or I’m sitting on my porch in my hot tub. Right. And first of all, hot tub for the win.

EI

Yeah.

AB

Super good decision. That’s my pandemic purchase, is this hot tub.

EI

Well, is it really good for your hip, too?

AB

I keep telling myself that.

That’s debatable. My PT keeps telling me — Well, you know, it’s really good, as long as you’re not in there too long. My bad.

Okay, so, uh, so I have been doing that a lot. And that’s, um, it doesn’t seem like that dramatic of a thing, but I’m still outside. But it’s different in how I look at the outdoors and how I look at myself in the outdoors. And I think that the way we present the definition of heading outside, just as a culture, is really limiting. And it’s limiting, not just to me and you, but to a lot of people – do you think that’s true?

EI

Absolutely. Absolutely. Like I just was saying, can’t even find clothes, if I want to be outside, that aren’t going to show my bum because they’re going to be see through. I can’t, like you don’t see people of color and different kinds of people in pictures on those websites. Because that’s not something that they do. It’s very sad.

AB

Yeah. Okay, so how do you get past that? So you have, like, you described a situation in which you just sort of discovered yourself outside, right? Like we woke up one day and said — holy crap, I go outside now. Right? And everyone said to you — you’ve been doing this for a long time. It’s just not how you thought about it. So now, is there a process, looking back, in which you got past that, that you just didn’t know you were in and how do you overcome those limiting definitions?

EI

Yeah, so I think for me, I had to get over the fear of what other people are going to think and the fear of looking stupid. Because when we try new things, and I’ve worked on this in other parts of my life. So starting to be a virtual assistant, for example, working from home, starting to launch my own course trying to be an entrepreneur, those were all I had the same fears, looking stupid, what are people gonna think, what happens if it goes wrong? All the stuff. And so I think I’ve had to work through all of that. And so now I’ve learned how to work through it in this piece of my life. Yep, I don’t know how to use an electric bike, and it’s probably gonna look dumb the first few times I do it. But you know what? Like, you know what, we’re just gonna try it, we’re gonna get over it. And then what’s the worst is going to happen? So it’s like those kinds of mindset adjustments that I had worked on in those pieces of my life, I didn’t even realize had spilled over into this part of my life.of all of those things. I just thought so that’s why, oh, we guys want to go and do a hike to do this thing. Cool. I’ll try it, you know, instead of –oh no! All that stuff I don’t do anymore.

AB

Yeah. So that I mean, I know you’re not talking about electric scooter. But I had this like flashback to my first time using one of these electric scooters to get around. And I felt like I was taking my life in my hands. Okay, like, I am a rule follower. And it very clearly states, you’re responsible for your own helmet, which no one wears, and don’t ride it on the sidewalk, which everybody does. So I’m like, cruising down the sidewalk, without a helmet, like I’m about to die.

EI

Yeah, I just did that, recently in Atlanta, about a year ago. Same kind of thing. My friend was like — this is how we get around here, so come on! And her and I had traveled in Europe together, so she knew that I was the kind of person who’d be like — okay! so literally, I’d never ridden one before, either. And we just hopped on them and started driving around Atlanta. And I was laughing. I was like — the maority of people would not do this. This just like me and her, like you have to do a lot of work on yourself to be brave enough to risk looking dumb. Maybe you’re gonna get hurt. It’s like, you just gotta go for it.

AB

Yeah, yeah. So what you’re describing is like imposter syndrome.

EI

Right? Yeah, exactly, it.

AB

So what you’re saying is that you have tackled imposter syndrome in other parts of your life. And that translated to the outdoors. And I think that’s really interesting, because on this podcast, quite a lot, we’ve talked about learning the opposite, essentially, that you do something hard outside, and that it translates into the indoors. You find that that’s true as well, now that you’ve discovered that you’ve been outdoors this whole time.

EI

Um, yes, I think that the more things that I do, it tends to continue to give me permission to do more stuff. So I had convinced myself this is like, very simple, but I convinced myself that I couldn’t take care of plants — I’m too busy, I’m going to forget about them, I’ll just get fake plants. And then for some reason, I’d gotten a few plants, I don’t know what happened. It’s a pandemic thing. I saw these pots that were really cute for sale, I was like — I gotta have those, I gotta get plants. So now I have all these freakin plants. And I actually love it. And I totally take care of them. And I know that’s not being outside, but it’s bringing the outside in as well and appreciating nature. So that kind of started and then I got really into my birds. And I’m really, so kind of just has this domino effect where it started leaking into other – it gives you permission essentially, because, okay, well, this was a positive experience. And so now I can go and do that with things too.

AB

I love that one. I am also convinced that I will kill all plants. So very much I empathize with this like — Yes, these things will die at my hand. But I have signed myself up for a seed starting class in December, where we, I guess, I don’t really even know that much about it, but sounded sort of outdoorsy and green, given the fact that it’s December, that’s a big deal for me. And I’m going to start some seeds and be farmer Amy next year.

EI

Things have come further. So just like how I thought that before, I couldn’t be outdoors because I couldn’t find the right clothes, the right shoes. It’s just overwhelming and nothing fits me and it’s a whole thing. But things have changed. So now there are companies that do have things. And then the same thing for plants like, I’m going to kill all these plants, but they have apps now that remind you to water them.

AB

What a time to be alive.

EI

Okay, like let’s reassess. Maybe you didn’t think you could do this thing. But maybe things have changed, and now you can.

AB

Yeah, all I need is a virtual assistant to remind me to not kill my plants.

EI

Yeah, there you go. A new niche for them.

AB

Yeah, put that in your course – just an idea. Okay, so I want to talk about virtual assistants because we’ve, we’ve touched on this a couple times. Now. you started your journey working as a virtual assistant. Okay, so walk us through? Why was that? What happened? What got you to that point?

EI

So the reason that you and I met was because we had a retreat for military spouses that are also entrepreneurs and are just like doing these cool things. And that is because when I first started to be a virtual assistant, it was from the need because my husband was active duty Marine Corps, and he was just gone all that time or working nights and then gone for eight months, and it was awful. And I was just all alone with a child. And this is like an epidemic among military spouses. And I had gone to college, done internships, lived abroad, worked the corporate, like I had this whole life before I married that fool. So I wasn’t about to give it all up. But it was impossible to maintain a corporate career commuting an hour all by myself with a kid, it was awful. And so I was crying all the time, I was very depressed, and my husband was just like — honey, we will figure this out. But I don’t think you can do this anymore. And, but I wasn’t satisfied being a stay at home mom, either. I needed my own thing to do. We are made for more than just changing diapers and playing dolls with our kids like, and that’s okay. Like, it’s okay that we want to do other stuff and use our brain for different things. We can love our kids and enjoy doing other stuff, too. And so I knew people working from home. Somehow, I just had to figure it out. And so I was very determined to figure it out. I applied for all kinds of jobs. I got my first job as a virtual assistant from Craigslist working 30 hours a week for $20 an hour. And I thought I was in heaven. It was flex time, I pulled my kid out of daycare, I worked around his schedule, if my husband needed to be gone, it was like, okay, like, it was amazing. And then when my husband got out, we were like, by San Diego, things are expensive. We get to move wherever we want, we’re gonna go to move to paradise. And so we moved to Bali, and we based there for the last three years. And we used it as our kind of jumping off point to travel as much as we possibly could. Through Australia and Asia, we went and did some trips all around America a few times as well. And during this time, I had all these people asking me how to be a virtual assistant, that I started mentoring some women from base and then slowly it kept growing into the 4000 students we have now.

AB

And they’re not all military spouses, you’ve trained all sorts of folks.

EI

Yep, it just started with the local military spouses because I saw this need there, back then nobody even knew what a VA was. And then it also creeped into like my mom friends. And then when I moved to Bali, I met all these people that were like — I don’t want to go home. I want to keep traveling. Like how can you? So now it’s kind of helping people who want to travel or do something alternative to going to college as well.

AB

Yeah, absolutely. So just a side note, my son, who is 11 was absolutely convinced that my virtual assistant was like a robot. And he wanted to know — what’s her name? And I told him, you know — Laura. And anyway, it came out that he thought she was a robot.

EI

That’s so cute! Actually, I think people probably do think that.

AB

He started asking like — Where is she based? Right? He didn’t say “lived.” That was just very funny.

And yeah, not a robot – real human. So there you go. Okay, so anyway, that’s just, I think that’s just so funny. I mean, kids these days, man.

EI

I’m gonna ask my son what he thinks now. He’s 10. So maybe he’ll have similar ideas.

AB

I want to go back to Bali in a second. Um, but you mentioned travel, you mentioned it, you know, working this way, giving you the freedom to do that stuff. And when I introduced you, I talked about how I really felt the freedom to move wherever I wanted to go, because I work online. So talk to me a little bit about that and about what you hear from your students in terms of priorities for that kind of thing.

EI

Okay, well, this is going to make me emotional. My students are from around the world. So we do have lots of military spouses and moms from America. But we also have students from, you know, I’ve met people in Indonesia. They’ve told their friend that they met in Thailand, Malaysia, Australia, all over all over Europe all over. And we also have women who are single moms, we have women who are in bad relationships, but they can’t leave because they don’t have a source of their own income. We have women who have a very sick family member that needs care, but there’s nobody to care for them. We have people who have invisible physical ailments that they are on disability or hoping to get on disability and they can’t work a traditional job either. So yes, you can live where you want. And that is an amazing thing, because it allows you to, like what we did, we wanted to live somewhere as cheap as possible. So we moved to Bali, which was still really nice. And so that we could spend all the money on travel. And then when we moved back to America, I literally looked at a map and I said — Okay, let’s research and see where we would like to live. And we just picked somewhere, we just picked somewhere that we thought was gonna be awesome. And that I forgot that that’s not normal for people. I forgot, I had one of my students say, my job just moved me all the way to Phoenix away from everything that I know. And then due to COVID, they let me go a month later. Now I’m like — what, what am I doing? I forgot that people just have to live by where they work as if that’s in charge of our lives. And so yes, you can pick where you live. And that does mean that you can craft a lifestyle that you like, you could choose to live very small, so that then you can go and do all these fun things that you’d like to do, or like if you want to travel more, these kinds of things. But on the other hand, all those stories that I mentioned, it also empowers people to change their entire lives.

AB

Yeah. Yeah. So for, you know, for the purposes of this discussion, so often that life change that people are looking to do is simply free up their time to do stuff that they like. I mean, you don’t have to move to Bali, although, frankly, today it’s snowing. And that sounds great. And to recalibrate around something that you love, right? If you feel like you want to spend more time outside, for example, but you’re spending a bajillion hours commuting, right? Maybe it’s time to take a look at how you’ve set up your life and whether you need to free your time, you know, in a more dramatic way than just talking to your boss and saying, yo, can I work from home, please?

EI

Yes. Yes. So one of the students in my program, she’s a single mom, and her daughter goes to the ex’s house like two or three days a week. She does all of her work on those two or three days a week. And then the rest of the week, she just takes her daughter and she is a stay at home mom, and she takes her to go do fun stuff around town.

AB

Yeah. Okay, so I know people are listening to this me like, how can you possibly live off of being a virtual assistant? What kind of money are these people bringing in? So talk to us a little bit about that, like the practicalities of that.

EI

So this is the thing that’s interesting to me is like, I feel like we were all told to go to college, and then when you get done, you’re gonna make all this money. And it’s just not true. When I went to college, I went to be a teacher. And like, I knew I wasn’t going to make a ton of money. But I at least thought that I wasn’t going to be living in poverty. And that was not the case. And then I at least thought — okay, there’ll be a job for me when I’m done. Also not the case. So when you get done, you typically have to do some kind of internship or work for free, I had to teach for free for a very long time, before you can even get any kind of job. Even then it didn’t pay me enough to live where I lived, it wasn’t a living wage in San Diego. It was a joke, I would have had to live with my parents to this day. So some of this is adjusting what we think that that’s the measure of success, and it doesn’t have to be. So virtual assistants, there’s not really a limit on the income you can make. I can tell you that most of them start at a minimum, around 20 to 30 US dollars per hour, doesn’t matter where you live in the world, you can make that. So for some people, that’s an insane amount of money. For others, if you’re in a city, like New York City, then that might not be enough. So it really depends on some of those kinds of things. But the cool thing about it is that you can get started right away, you don’t have to go to four years and then do an internship for free for another year. And then maybe, just maybe, someone will pay you 20 an hour, you can get started very quickly. There’s an abundance of work and you can excel and promote yourself quickly. So the more skills you learn, like let’s say you decide that you really like management and business management, you take a little business management course, you start doing it for one business owner that you work with, well now guess what? You could charge 40 to 60 US dollars per hour very, very quickly instead of like — I really hope I get my two cents per hour promotion. It’s been one year, do I get an extra dollar? Like it’s not like that in this world. The more you can do, the more you can make.

AB

You’re making me want to, you know, do that?

EI

Quit your job?

AB

I like my job. I like my job. I love my job. Repeat after me!

EI

You do! I know you do!

AB

I do. I really do. Okay, so um let’s talk about Bali really fast. You picked Bali. Why?

EI

Can we not talk about it fast?

AB

We can talk about it slowly in the whirring of the rice fields.

EI

Okay, so Bali I picked because they actually have a huge entrepreneur and digital nomad community. Digital nomad, meaning people who work online and travel the world, or they just live in different places as like, you know, expat type people. A huge community there. So when you go there, it’s incredible because all these people, you could literally go and say, I’m going to start a fashion line, and all of them be like — Yes, okay, cool. Here’s the people to talk to about this, here’s where you go for that I can help you with this.

It’s this incredible supportive community of entrepreneurs that are just, everybody is working and hustling. It’s very cool. So you can grow very quickly. And I knew that that was there. And that was one of the reasons why I wanted to go there. I also knew that I could hire help, because I need help with my kid because I’m trying to run a business and pay them a very, very good local wage, but it wasn’t going to cost me a crazy amount. So I could live very, very well.

Also, it’s just really fun. Like, there’s just so many things to do. My other great memory from there is riding my little scooter type thing, and just driving around the rice fields and listening to music. And then the locals are so friendly, the food is so good. It was just an amazing place to be to build a business. And our family had a lot of healing to do after my husband finished his 10 years in the Marine Corps. And that was a place that we were able to do that.

AB

And it’s it you know, I hear you say that. And I, of course, think of our decision to move to Alaska for the same reason.

EI

Yes, right. Yes.

AB
And we wanted to move to a place with mountains and that kind of thing. And you picked Bali, and neither of those things are wrong. And like I said, today, Bali sounded super good.

EI

So we moved to the mountains now. That’s where we moved. We chose the opposite thing because of the same thing. We just want to choose places that are going to be reinvigorating, and give us life and breathe life into us. And we would even rather live somewhere smaller if we can live somewhere that we really love and have the light work life balance that we really love. And just so everyone knows you left Bali, mostly because of covid.

AB

Really like by extension, right?

EI

Yeah. So the story is we came to America because me and my son’s passports had run out of pages and our visas were going to expire in Bali. So we didn’t have time to stay there to get new visas. So we came to America to get new passport pages, and then COVID happened and we haven’t been able to go back. Yeah. So we were like — it’s okay, let’s pick somewhere awesome to live, we’ll buy a house and it’ll be fine. But it was hard.

AB

It was hard. Absolutely. Because change is always hard. Even change that is good. And even change, like we’ve been talking about this whole time with how you see yourself or how you see what you’re doing with your time. All of these things have this sense of loss. So like, I had been sitting outside in my hot tub quite a lot, as I mentioned, on my porch or whatever, and all and that’s like, been fantastic, right? Because I’m watching the trees, and I’m hearing the birds and all these things. But I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss the things I had before. Right, that I feel a sense of loss for the good things of the past. You know, all the cupholders in my hot tub that will – I spent like a lot of my time in my hot tub yesterday discussing with my husband how I will be drinking eggnog from my hot tub and exactly how that’s gonna go.

EI

I think that I really struggled with this, too — well, I should be thankful for what I have, thankful that I got out of Bali in time before COVID happened, I should be thankful that this happened and we picked a great place and we have this cute house. And instead of you know, it’s really, it is possible to have some complicated emotions about things. It is possible to say — I really do love where I’m living now, but I also really, really miss where I left. And it makes me like emotional, like if I talk about Bali for too long, I’ll start to cry because I really really miss it and I wasn’t ready to leave. It’s very traumatizing. But then I’m always like — but you love where you live! It’s fine. But it’s like no, no, I can have both of those feelings at the same time. It’s okay, sure.

AB

You can still work to overcome a sense of imposter syndrome when you’re doing something in that same way.

EI

Yes, I was just gonna say that. It’s the same thing when you’re trying to do outside stuff. You can still be like — I’m gonna look stupid. I’m freaked out. I’m not gonna look at what, and just do it anyway at the same time. Like you can have all of those feelings. Yeah.

AB

And none of them are wrong. Like we spent a lot of time in America saying that feelings are bad.

EI

Yeah, they just are. Like there’s no morality around them. They just exist.

AB

And maybe that just comes from like, I grew up in a very conservative culture where that was categorically not true. I mean, it’s, it’s true, but we were taught that that’s not true, um, that there is morality tied with things. In fact, everything is tied to morality somehow. And even what you choose to do outside is somehow tied to morality. And the truth of matter is that that’s not the case with a lot of the world. Some things just are.

EI

I’ve been learning that tooo about housework stuff. Like getting angry or upset or personally offended when my husband didn’t do this thing I asked him to, when there’s no moral, there’s no moral value in if he picked up his laundry or not.

AB

It’s just interesting. I think the things that we attach to at some kind of value that really don’t have any.

EI

Yeah, absolutely. Especially in a big picture situation, you know, and, and not even the big picture, like you were talking about earlier — Oh, I should be grateful. But just like the big picture of your own existence, it doesn’t have to be in the context of someone else’s existence.

AB

Yes, exactly. Okay, so back, like pivot, I still want to talk about working online. Because, you know, like you were talking about with the military spouse community, this is a very big thing. And so I see like, a lot of questions about working online. Okay. So I think that if anyone who’s listening to this is like me, and they have spent most of what you’ve talked about thinking — I should do that. Okay, they’re gonna, they’re gonna wonder like, what the gotchas are, right. So, when people talk about working online, what mistakes do they make? Like, what things do people do that you’re like — oh, not good.

EI

Um, one thing is, they don’t understand the difference, really what a remote job means versus being more of like a contractor, self employed type of thing. So there is a very big difference. The biggest being if you’re looking for flexibility, if you’re looking to move to Bali, or wherever you want to move, if you’re looking for — I just want to be able to take the afternoon off, because my kids are at school and I gotta go pick them up. Like we got a PCS, which is the military term for like moving, I’m gonna have to take some time off work. Like, if you’re looking for that type of flexibility, then remote jobs, I would say 75% of them are not going to get you that. The companies they expect, just like if you were in an office, they’re a little old school still. So they’re like letting you work from home, but they’re not quite there. So you’re still gonna have to check in with a boss, you’re going to have to be responsible to a nine to five type of schedule, you might get a lunch break. And maybe occasionally, if you have an emergency, you can say — hey, I need to be out.

But one of my friends is trying to homeschool her kids and she’s been allowed to work remotely. And it’s been a whole thing just to block off some time in her calendar a few times a week so she could homeschool her kids, like it was just this whole big production. And that is very customary.

I also think people think that a lot of the online jobs are just customer service that you can get as an entry level or teaching English like that’s all you can really do. And that’s not true either. In this day and age, you can learn skills, whether it’s on some free online class resources, whether it’s at the local community college, or whether it’s with like a bigger online course, like what mine is, you can just learn stuff. And then you can just go and get paid to do it for people. And you don’t need to be this social media manager who went to four years of school and has all this like no, like, nobody wants that. They just need help.

AB

Okay, another mistake. I mean, tell me if this is actually a mistake, this is just something I see a lot of people talking about. We call it multi level marketing or network marketing, think, you know, selling Rodan + Fields or something like that. And those are presented – not that there’s anything wrong with selling those things – but those are presented as work from home jobs. And that’s not usually what people are thinking about when they ask about work from home jobs. Do you see that?

EI

Oh, all the time. Actually, my Facebook group is called Work From Home Without Selling Anything, because I do not allow anything like that. Because it’s very deceiving. So yes, if you really want to sell products, fine, but you’re only going to make a very small commission. I could go on and on about why in this day and age, you don’t even need the company to help you with that, because you can do all that yourself for very cheaply. But I won’t.

You can work from home with flex time, making great money, doing work that you love, and get a consistent paycheck that pays you very well. So that’s not the only option that’s out there of things to do. And it’s good. If you’re going to be selling stuff, you’re going to be having to make a very small commission on products that you sell, which is very different than — Cool, I have some work to do this week, I got 20 hours of work. I’m just going to do it kind of when I can throughout my day and make sure my stuff’s done on time. And that’s it and then I get paid. Those are two very different experiences.

AB

Yeah. And I want to back up a little bit and say nothing’s wrong with Rodan + Fields. I’ve used it. I’ve purchased. It’s good stuff. If you’re selling that, you do you, boo. But that’s not what we’re talking about here.

EI

So yeah, yeah. Cool. I have a lot of students that are like former network marketing, or they still will do it alongside a virtual assistant because they really love the products and it’s just a passion thing for them. Yeah. But I find that if you’re thinking that — oh, cool, I can make really great money doing this really quickly, only working a little bit on flex time and all I gotta do is just talk to my friends. It’s not realistic.

AB

Yeah. Okay, if you had three pieces of advice for people who want to shift their lives to, you know, focus on whatever their non work priorities are, whether that’s going outside or other things we’ve been talking about, right? No shame. What would they be?

EI

Yeah. So my first one would be, this is one that I say a lot. But I feel like I can never say it enough, because it’s something I wish that I had been told more is to determine what success looks like to you. So for Amy, it’s moving to Alaska, but that might not be what it is for you. For my friend Jesse, it’s that he converts vans, and then he travels different countries in his van, but that might not be what it is for you. For me it was going to Bali. Like it looks different to everybody. But one of the coolest things about this is that once you start to kind of paint the picture of how you think your life would look like, separate from what mom and dad want you to do, what you went to college for, what this person said you should do, just release that, it will start to help you to actually set goals around things that you’ll be really, really genuinely joyful to do and experience. And it’ll allow you to create and craft a career around what that really looks like for you.

And my other one would be, as part of that, just ignore everybody else. Because you’re gonna have people, like when I’m talking about moving to Bali, thought I was totally nuts. I had some people that were quite supportive. Some people that weren’t. When I said I was gonna work from home as a virtual assistant, some people were quite supportive, some people weren’t. So it’s just kind of, you got to do you. Like once you have that clear picture of what success is going to look like to you, ignore all the rest and just kind of plow forward.

And then my last bit would be, along with all of that, be willing to take the time to learn and educate yourself where needed and to make some sacrifices. So my friend Jesse, I just interviewed him for my podcast. That’s why he’s top of mind. He’s the one who converts his van and lives in it. He worked his butt off for three months a year. And then he would get to go and live in his van. And he did that for years until he built his photography business. For me, I was a virtual assistant for four years, I turned into an agency, and I hustled and I worked really hard. And then I made my courses and now you get to see the fruits of the labor, right? But there was a whole bunch of stuff that went on. And I think that people want to skip that part. They want to skip the hard work part. They want to skip the patience, they want to skip the time. But all of those are ingredients to get to the success. And so it’s all a part of it. You can’t skip the work. You got to do the work.

AB

Yeah, no, that’s so that’s so true. I want to not gloss over your podcast, tell us about it. Because I want to make sure people can go listen to it. It’s fabulous.

EI

Oh, it’s called Help Me Work Online, Esther and I like it. I mean, I’m pretty proud of it. We do online work resources. But I’m working on a series that’s going to be released very soon, where I’m trying to interview people living just really cool alternative type lives. People living in tiny houses and their RVs. And what working remotely has been able to create for them because I just feel like the more people can see all the different ways people are living all the different ways you can work online, the more fulfilling and you can start to determine what success is going to look like for you. Once all of those like things of what I think it’s supposed to be are taken away, it gives you more clarity.

AB

Right. And I love the van thing as the proud owner of a new van. Well new to me, not new to the world, as I say. I did have it detailed to get the essence of 1997 out of there. So hopefully that worked. It’s not a looker, but it works just good. We’re gonna remove the toilet, let’s just put it like period. Like that’s all you need to know.

EI

Sounds cool.

AB

It’s not an RV. It’s a van that has a toilet that needs to be removed. Period. Okay, we call it the Vanimal, anyway. Okay.

Now, I mean, we could talk all day, we really could, but you’re great. And I think we could like put a bow on it there. So we’re going to move to the things we always talk about. And when we sent you an email before – we being my virtual assistant and I, the fabulous Laura – sent you an email before this, we warned you about these questions. You noted that these answers are going to be things that are not cookie cutter. And I told you that that’s what we like here, that there is no right answer, that your favorite things are for you only, and then hopefully help other people too. So with that in mind, tell us about your favorite piece of outdoor gear like what’s something that you just love.

EI

The reason why this is hard for me is because I’m not quote outdoorsy. Like I don’t have all the gear like people do. But the one thing that I broke down and got pretty quickly after moving to the mountains. And I never wanted to be this person, but I love it. It’s my fanny pack. I love her because the backpack hurts my back. And so I have this hiking one. And she holds my big water bottle so I could share with my son. She holds my phone and it’s like, easy access so that I could take some pictures. I can attach my keys to it, and I got room for snacks. I mean, it’s the best thing ever. And every time my husband will take pictures of me in it when we’re hiking, I’m like — oh God — I cringe because, but you know what? It’s functional. And it’s so cute. I got a pink one!

AB

What brand is this fanny pack?

EI

Girl, I don’t know. I just got it on Amazon. Okay, that’s me.

AB

Here’s the thing. You are not the first person to tell us about a fanny pack. No. In fact, the person who last told us about a fanny pack is Adrian Haslett, and she is a Boston Marathon bombing survivor. Okay, wow, who runs marathons. Like legit, really fast. Okay, as an amputee PS, wow. Like, this chick is amazing. And she wears a fanny pack. So not that you need validation, because you don’t. But there you go. You and Adrian.

EI

It’s really great, especially when you have back issues. And you just have everything handy. Am I gonna wear it to the store or even to Disneyland or something? No, well, but it’s great for outdoors activities. And again, it’s just releasing that — I’m going to look stupid. Who cares? You got to have your phone handy for pictures of your cute kid and you got to have water handy because he’s gonna whine about wanting to drink, so just go with it.

AB

That’s great. I think you should take it to Disney World, I think.

Okay, so what’s something you can’t live without?I mean, it could be your fanny pack too. It’s just something you like to take out with you that if you did not have it, you would die. Some people, by the way, say snacks for their kids, which you’ve also just mentioned, right? Like, just please be quiet now.

EI

Seriously, kids have a really hard time being uncomfortable. Like that’s one of the things I noticed is, adults, like we’re hungry and thirsty too, but we’re not going to complain about it for two hours on the hike.

Okay, so my favorite thing is, I’m actually really into my Yeti water bottle. I have like a Yeti cup that I carry around the house. I love it because I don’t use so many glasses and cups, you know, and it keeps it super cold with my ice in it. And then I have this big one that I take with me on hikes, again, because my kid’s gonna whine the whole time about wanting a drink. And so I don’t have to carry two water bottles. We can just share this giant one. And it keeps it cold. It’s so refreshing. And it’s cute. I’m gonna put some stickers on it. It’s like my baby.

AB

I know. Right? Yeah. So I had a water bottle – a Nalgene, may it rest in peace. It was too soon. And it was like my security blanket. On my wedding day, like there’s somebody in charge of gathering my stuff from the rental car and that did not happen. And I felt like this tremendous sense of — oh my gosh, who am I?

EI

I saw this meme that was like — so people who don’t take water with you places, are you just not concerned about when you’re gonna ever drink again? Like I don’t get it. I’m always stressed. I bring water with me everywhere. Maybe because it was dry where I grew up. I don’t know. But it’s like totally a security blanket.

AB

And you’re not wrong about kids. Mine goes for being like — everything’s fine. I’m good for the rest of my life, to — I’m dying of thirst right now. Like the Sahara.

EI

It’s so dramatic. And it ruins the hike. So like literally half your fanny pack is just full of crap for them.

\AB

That’s true. Did he not see thirst coming? That’s always my question. Like, we knew this was gonna happen ,that eventually you would get thirsty.

So anyway, all right. Final thing. Ah, take us to your favorite outdoor moment. Describe it for us. Where are we with you?

EI

I have so, so so many because I’m a traveler. So I am just constantly in a different city doing a walking tour and going somewhere and doing something. So but one that I can think of that was quite recent was we moved here. We’re in the mountains of North Carolina. We love it. It’s beautiful. And we went for one of our first hikes. I will be open and honest, I was still kind of recovering from a miscarriage. I bring it up though, because my health wasn’t great. So this was the first time that I was like — because it would have been first trimester you feel like crap, so you’re in bed, then you have a miscarriage feel like crap pretty much in bed. And so I mean, it’d been six months before I had really done anything. And we went on one of our first hikes here to go see these waterfalls. And it said it was like good for kids and families. It was hard, okay.

And it was really hard and the boys were very patient and very supportive. And we took breaks. And then I made it to the end. And it was beautiful. But it was more so that I just felt very accomplished. And that was like the first of many hikes like we went almost every single weekend for months, we started to get busy with school and dogs and things. So we have taken a break for a few months, but we just started going all the time. So I feel like it kind of broke that barrier for me of — you can do this, it might take you a little bit longer, you might have to take some breaks and bring lots of water, but you can do it. And then, you know, every week got a little bit easier.

And we didn’t do that hike again. It was too hard. But I have since challenged myself to do things and I will surprise myself of how long I can go. My husband will be like == you’re not ready to turn around yet? Are you sure? He’s in amazing shape. You know, Marine Corps guy. And I’m always like — No, I’m good. He’s like — we were walking for two hours. See, I got it.

So I think that it just gave me a lot of confidence and made me feel like — okay, you can do this, you can be an outdoorsy girl, so to say.

AB

Yeah, that’s amazing. Thanks so much for sharing with us. And thanks for being on the Humans Outside Podcast Today. I really appreciate it.

EI

Thanks for having me. It was really fun to talk about a topic that I wouldn’t ever normally talk about.

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