8. Digital Nomad in Ecuador

About this episode:

Note from Leah: This is the season one finale of Wander By Proxy! Thank you so much for listening and sharing the podcast with your loved ones. The stories will return in August! 

Stephanie James, a poet and singer, shares how working remotely has given her the freedom to share her poetry around the world. 

Follow her adventures on Instagram at @justavessel22 and visit her website justavesselpoetry.com

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For more information on Wander By Proxy, read a transcription of this interview, or contact Leah Falyn, visit the website at wanderbyproxy.com.

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Transcription of this episode:

Stephanie: When you’re able to appreciate the differences in religion and culture in love in life and every aspect of life, It opens you up and widens your horizons, right? That’s why, when people say like travel was the only thing that you can spend money on, that makes you richer.

Leah: Welcome to the season finale of Wander By Proxy, a podcast featuring women’s travel stories that connect them more to themselves and the world around them. I’m Leah Falyn, and today we have Stephanie, who’s a full-time digital nomad, but it’s her poetry that has taken her around the world. Here’s Stephanie. 

Stephanie: I was working for a fortune 50 company and I started to travel and I went to Greece and I went to Italy and I just started to have like this instinctual desire to travel.

So I was like, I have to do something different.  so I started looking up please like wait jobs that you can travel with. Ways that I could travel full time.  so I was, Accepted into this group and the group was going to 12 countries and in 12 months, and I was accepted into it. I was super excited.

I was trying to get my company to allow me to work remotely.  but they couldn’t at the time. It just wasn’t progressive enough at the time for that. So I ended up quitting my job and. Going with the group, in the first place that we stopped at was Quito Ecuador. So that was like the very first country on my, my travels on my journey.

So in 2017 I visited 18 countries.  and to date, I’ve been to 38 countries and counting.

 Leah:  What kind of things did you see in Ecuador and what was like the most memorable thing?

Stephanie:  Yeah, for sure. I mean, Ecuador is a really interesting, country, just because the people are very, very suspicious. So you have to build rapport, but relationships with them before they kind of like open up and let you in.

So that was a fun challenge.  just to start and. One of the most memorable experiences was going to kill it SOA, which is a massive Lake near where the indigenous people of Ecuador live. And they typically don’t allow outsiders to come see their city or their homes.  but luckily one of our tour guides, he had a friend that was an indigenous family and they made a deal with him that.

If the tourists, if the tourists provide like, you know, a small donation, we would be able to come and visit the home.  so, you know, w once we saw Kyla SOA, which was an amazing experience, we, we stopped at the indigenous, Ecuadorian family’s home. And it was so by changing to say the least, when you walk up to the front door, there’s like 150 Guinea pigs that greet you at the door.

And, Guinea pigs are actually a cuisine. They’re a delicate delicacy in Ecuador. So they sell them, for consumption, but they also had them in their homes as a source of,  heat. So they lived in a very small shack and the Guinea pigs, like. Ran at the bottom. And they kind of lived at the bottom of the home and that was like for body heat and to keep the home very warm.

 so that was just a humbling experience in and of itself. And it, it was interesting because a lot of us were like, wow, you know, they don’t have much. And. Almost feeling sorry, you know, for the family and the, our tour guide said, you know, they actually feel sorry for you all, because you have so many things and you don’t appreciate like the simple things in life.

So he’s like, you know, some people in the world are so poor. All they have is money. And,  that was just such a life changing experience to me. And also to note that things aren’t weird, they’re different. And I learned that early on in my travels and it really helped me to embrace every difference, every, you know, variance that I saw as unique and not weird

 you know, sometimes when you see different things or you’re in a different place, you say, Oh, that’s weird. We don’t do that.

Or this, we don’t do it that way. I, from that point I embraced like very early on that it’s not weird, it’s just different. And so when you’re able to appreciate the differences in religion and culture in love in life and every aspect of life, It opens you up and widens your horizons, right? That’s why, when people say like travel was the only thing that you can spend money on, that makes you richer.

Like, I really believed that I really resonate with that because if you’re open to learning and growth, you absolutely grow exponentially. When, you know, in your travels, undoubtedly.

I started writing poetry in 2004 so long time ago.  and I would perform like all over the country, different locations, different venues, open mics.

I was an open mic host.  I lived in the DMB for like eight years and hosted an open mic there. So I kind of just continued to, I carry that with me in my travels and I’ve actually performed in every country that I’ve visited.  I have two albums of poetry and song, And they’ve traveled around the world.

And so I love to see the different responses and reactions to my poetry, to my singing in different countries.  so whether that’s, you know, under the, an old, an old town split in Croatia, On stage in, Paquette in Thailand.  I’ve performed all over all over the world. And so that’s been, an amazing experience.

I’ve had people in Ottawa buy my CD that don’t even speak English because they liked the delivery of the poetry. So I’m super grateful for that, but that’s one of my passions. Something that I will continue to do in my travels is, is seeing and share my poetry with the world. And I do inspirational poetry.

So it’s more motivating. It’s uplifting. It’s feel good poetry that I write.

Leah: Oh, that’s amazing. And can you give me example, you said that you get different reactions in different countries. Can you give me a few examples?

Stephanie:  For sure. So once I’m in Vietnam,  I did, , there’s a backpacking street in ho Chi Minh city, and I had no idea that.

This gentlemen that was leading a karaoke on the street was very famous in Vietnam. So I just walked up to him and I was like, Hey, can I, can I sing with you? And he was like, yeah, absolutely. Yeah, no problem. So I get on the mic. I also beat box and people love beatboxing right. So I beat box. I’m singing, I’m doing my poetry and little did I know this guy’s famous, like in Vietnam.

So like, We’re going. I check on YouTube. We have half a million views on our video. I’m just hanging out, having a good time. Like in Vietnam, the crowd was going crazy. It was, it was,  an amazing experience.  I’ve had people tell me my voice sounds like honey and glitter that maybe like they don’t speak English as well.

Right. So that’s how they articulate it. What they felt from it.  but yeah, I just, I love the responses and I love to see smiles on people’s face, like when,  you know, during my travels.

 Leah: That is really interesting.

Stephanie: Yep. I used to be a wedding singer for three years, actually, as well. In addition to working for the fortune 50 company, I’ve have serenaded over 80 weddings in my lifetime.  And yeah. So I do, like, I used to do a lot of cover songs from journey to Whitney Houston, to Nikki Menashe.

So that was a good time. And then,  so it’s yeah, really with my poetry, I intertwined poetry and song. So most of my poems have a song and then it goes into a poem and then it goes it back into song. So I kind of mix the two in my, in my own art  The other thing that I like to do is, is film my videos abroad. So I actually,  met videographers,  online, just would reach out to people in the different countries I went to. So I have three international videos of poetry and songs.

So the first one is in,  coming Neato. And, , when is ours Argentina? The second one was filmed in Budapest, in Hungary, and then the third one in ho Chi Minh in Vietnam. So that was really fun to like meet other videographers internationally and come up with different concepts for my poetry and bring them to life abroad, you know?

So that that’s been an amazing experience as well. I’ve recorded songs and Lisbon Portugal.

Leah:  Yeah, so it’s been fun. So then COVID hits. How has this mess impacted your plans?

Stephanie: Oh massively. I think like three days before I was headed to Peru.  and this is actually the second time that I was supposed to go to Peru and something happens. I was like, maybe I’m not supposed to go to Peru, but I just really want to go to rainbow mountain Machu Picchu and experience the food.

Like I’ve heard such wonderful things about it. My Spanish is pretty decent. It’s grown, you know, over the past three years. But, yeah, I was headed to Peru. I was planning to go to Estonia, which a lot of people don’t know about or think about, but it’s growing, from a digital nomad perspective, I want it to go to building and Lithuania, which is also growing from a nomad perspective.

 and then go to Ghana and South Africa. So those were the plans for this year.  and they were derailed just a little bit, but you know, I’m taking this time to road trip to visit family and friends and just spend more time with the people that I love. Right. And I come home often, but this year has really just been a chance to hunker down, you know, take a course online, learn something new, embrace being home, and, you know, I’ve taken it, taken it all in stride,

  but I do think that it has put people, put the simple things in life, back into perspective and made people really appreciate and value what’s most important in life.

 and even expressing gratitude, right? Like, although I wanted to go to more countries this year, I’ve been to 38 countries and I’m so grateful that I’ve had those experiences. You know,  with everything that’s going on. So I think it’s been a very humbling gear for many people and an opportunity to be grateful for the things that you have had and the things that have happened.

And then hopefully, you know, we’ll all appreciate what’s to come and when those things open back up and when we are able to go to different places again, we’ll appreciate that much more. Hopefully from this experience.

Leah: Thanks for listening to the season finale of Wander by Proxy. I’m going to take a beat, gather more stories, and Wander By Proxy will be back in August. Be sure to check out Stephanie’s poetry events and more on her website @justavessel.com and on her Instagram links are going to be in the show notes. Be sure to rate and subscribe, to Wander By Proxy and follow on Instagram for bonus travel stories. I know we’re all eager to get back on a plane, but until we meet again, 

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