This is not a success story of a freelance solo backpacker who became a digital entrepreneur. Not a story of someone who went from nobody to become somebody.

This is a story of someone who used to live life passively, without a purpose other than to make it through the day okay, until finally realizing a dream, then realizing she can fulfill that dream, and eventually going after it.

This is a story of how I finally came to understand a lesson I’ve heard many times over – That there is nothing in this world we cannot accomplish if we really put our heart’s desire into it.

And it all started in Africa.

Erika shares how she became a digital entrepreneur and founded @whileinafrica by moving from the Philippines to backpack and volunteer through Africa. Read more... Click To Tweet

First, the Travel Bug…

I had a typical life with an 8-5 job and everything about my life was “okay”. It’s not bad at all. I was fortunate but I was definitely not living life on the edge.

But after being able to travel to a foreign country alone for the first time,  I had an epiphany that I wanted to see the world. Since that trip, it was just never the same for me. That night, I finally understood what passion meant. And mine was to see the world.

And so after 2 yrs of over-planning and some modest savings that were definitely not enough, off I went. I left despite the doubts because if I waited for the “right time”, I was afraid it wouldn’t come.

Buying my 1st and only backpack

Why Africa?…

I was choosing between South America and Africa and somewhere along my research, I found cheaper flights to Tanzania. And that was really the main reason why Africa ended up becoming my first solo backpacking destination.

Also, I thought it was exotic and I wanted to prove to myself that I can pull it off. Indeed, I was able to visit other African countries as well for the next few months.

Budget Problem. No Problem…

A few months before my flight, I looked for volunteering opportunities and ways to travel cheaply. I searched workaway for hosts but there’s really nothing in there that I found interesting.

Couch surfing community in the cities I wanted to visit seemed dodgy and everywhere else, there was only voluntourism.  A little deeper into my research and I had an “AHA” moment. I learned that safari tourism is big in Tanzania. In fact, all over East and Southern Africa.

I did marketing in my previous job so I’m familiar with the whole concept of “Ex-Deal”. Hence, I emailed every one of them in a personalized manner, introduced myself like a pro, and offered to help in their marketing in exchange for food and accommodation.

A few days later, I received another milestone in my backpacking career, someone actually replied and took me in.

And so, with my heart full, I went to Tanzania and for the next few weeks, I was staying at their office helping them out with marketing while combining it with tours here and there.

It was the perfect way to get to know the culture and experience the local life, just my kind of travel! I worked with Gosheni Safaris in Tanzania and experienced the local life

From Freelancer to a business owner…

After I left, my “boss” kept emailing and texting me about the things I have started while working for him. I carried on to politely help them and after some time of consistent demands, I had another “AHA” moment.

I presented the best opportunity they can ever imagine… that I work for them remotely.

They were thrilled with the idea and we came up with a fair price that later on increased to a modest amount that funded most of my travels. This idea fired me up and I basically traveled for the next 2 months in Africa, either looking for volunteering opportunities or trading off my skills.  

I continued to travel for a couple of years more doing the same thing until I finally decided to slow down a bit. As I had a lot of free time now that I wasn’t all over everywhere, I decided to take it up a notch and find a few more clients by emailing them and advertising myself.

Eventually, in 2018, I took another major step and built my own website, made everything official, and registered my humble digital marketing service.  

It’s worth mentioning that until this time, the same company in Africa where I first volunteered is still a client and they have passed on a lot of referrals to me ever since.

Looking back, I think the thing that made all the difference is that I always did my best while serving my volunteering time.

Even though I was not getting paid, even though I know I wasn’t going to work-volunteer for that company for long, I gave it my best shot and I always try to have fun. And it paid off in better ways I can imagine.

So always, always do your best. This is how you make impressions and build connections. A lot of opportunities can open by simply putting your best foot forward at all times.

Good times and shots with friends in Nairobi, Kenya.

Here are some lessons you can learn from my experience…

1. There’s no one right way to do things

You don’t need to have a big capital to start your own business. Especially in this day and age, even a kid can become an entrepreneur, all you need is creativity and courage.

In my case, the right dose of luck and creativity allowed me to build a modest lifestyle of being able to work from anywhere in the world and where I was able to combine my skills and passion.

But there is no one way right way to do things.

The first things to ask yourself are:

  • What am I passionate about?
  • What am I good at?
  • What are my potentials?

Then try to think if there is a way where you can combine the two. The possibilities are endless!

If like me, you’re a born traveler but stuck at a job you semi-hate, set aside some time to find clients through Upwork or another online network, and save up until such time that you can quit your job and plan a life of travel around it.

If you travel first and then just find anything to earn money from, not capitalizing on your skills… It will be really difficult for you to sustain it.

Doing what you love will allow you to meet new friends and make your life even more colorful.

There’s no such thing as bad luck, only excuses - @whileinafrica Click To Tweet

2. Don’t be greedy, but know your Value

If you follow your passion and build skill around it, income will follow naturally. When I volunteered, it didn’t matter that I was not getting paid at all.

Had I been greedy and negotiated for compensation on top of the free meal and accommodation, the turn out of things may have been different.

After seeing how I worked, they understood my worth and that gave me more than enough leverage to negotiate for what I thought I deserved.

At the same time, they trusted me even more, which added to their confidence in trusting my business not only in terms of skills but attitude as well.

If you follow your passion and build skill around it, income will follow naturally - Erika @whileinafrica Click To Tweet

3. Just go for it and the universe will conspire to help you

I first came across this statement in Paulo Coelho’s book, “The Alchemist”, years ago, and it stuck with me since. It sounds so cheesy but even after evolving as a person and having a change of perspective many times. I have always believed this because IT IS SO TRUE.

If you put your energy and focus into something you are passionate about, you can indeed move mountains.

4. There will always be doubts. Welcome them with open arms

No one is born a master of anything. Sometimes we doubt ourselves and fail so we can stand up and learn new things every day. That is simply the nature of life.

Without those, there is no life to live.  I still get insecure if I’m fit to deliver the service I’m selling and then I talk to potential clients who have no clue what to do with their marketing and I realize that I actually have a lot of things to share and they find it very helpful.

We were born in a society where success is defined in comparison to others, an unfortunate recipe of society. But it shouldn’t be that way.

Don’t let it be that way. We are successful if we achieve peace, content, and happiness in the things we love to do. Even more successful if we can feel the same joy for others too, regardless of gender, race, or religion.

Me and my husband, Martin, on a weekend trip while living in our previous home in Cyprus, with our friends from Russia, and our favorite all-purpose cloth (shuka) from Kenya

 I’m Asian and I’m married to a European, yet we put up a business for African tourism and blog about our travels because we fell in love with this continent and now consider it as our 3rd home.

Who knows how long I can carry on being a digital entrepreneur, maybe in a few years time I’ll decide to become a musician, perhaps a painter, or maybe I’d prefer to settle down as a housewife, and that is okay.

But for now, I’m still a backpacker, I still travel cheap, and definitely not rich (financially). But I found my purpose and I’m living my dream. And that’s more than I can ever ask for.

So ladies, do yourself a favor and get out of the box and let the world see what you’re capable of.

Find and live your passion and tell us your story.


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