Insight: interview with Emelie Fagelstedt, Digital Nomad
Three years ago, along with her husband, Emelie made the courageous and inspiring decision to leave her home in Stockholm, Sweden, venturing out into the digital nomad world.
Through working remotely and the rich experiences gained during her travels, Emelie is now working within a global team towards the creation of an organisation for Swedish digital nomads.
Emelie has lived in Stockholm, Barcelona, Tokyo and now calls London her home. It is here that I was fortunate enough to meet her at a Women’s Breakfast held once monthly at Google Campus.
She inspired me and made my soul light up from the very first introduction. We were invited to share our visions and to offer up our skills in the name of the sharing economy. She offered up her company and friendship over coffee and I just knew in an instant that this was an offer I couldn’t refuse!
Despite me being here in the Sahara Desert and Emelie having returned to Stockholm to celebrate her 30th birthday, I caught up with her online (in true digital nomadic style) to ask some questions friendships often fail to touch upon…
In three words, who is Emelie Fagelstedt?
Social. Digital. Innovative.
How would you describe yourself aged 21?
I had just finished spending a semester studying Spanish in Barcelona, a trip that was made possible having saved money earned when working at 7-Eleven after finishing high school. I was back at home in Sweden and had started studying media and communications at Stockholm University, a path I knew I wanted to take from a very early age. I was filled with all this energy I’d accumulated during my time in Spain and was so eager to get my career and “adult life” going.
What’s the story behind your story?
I think I was always meant to be a freelancer as I live for the freedom and independence it brings. No single day is ever the same as the last! Through a series of coincidences during my last year at University, I started my own company, and then just decided to stick with it.
Through freelancing, I became location independent in my professional life and could combine my love for communication and writing with my personal passion: travelling. When my husband was offered a job in Japan, it was possible for me to follow him across the world without sacrificing my own ambitions and career. It was a win-win! That’s how I first encountered the digital nomad society, and somehow I knew that this would be the future of work for me.
Do you have a guiding principle or mantra? Would you share it?
Never be afraid to try something new. If you are faced with a challenge, whether professionally or personally, face it head on even if you are not quite sure how! It’s important to take action. Through challenging yourself, you will allow yourself to grow and to learn new things.
What or who inspires you?
People that choose to create their own way in this world, breaking free from conventions, norms and the accepted (yet often suffocating) ideals of how we ‘are supposed to be’.
What energises you?
Visiting new places. I want to travel all my life!
When or where are you most happy?
My ‘Happy Place’ is Barcelona! I love exploring the alleyways and stumbling across a buzzing café or bar.
I love your intrepid nature and how you encourage others to travel through the sharing of your adventures around the world on Instagram. You’ve obviously travelled A LOT but which countries do you want to visit next?
I’ve been dreaming of visiting Peru for ages. That’s the reason why I headed to Barcelona to learn Spanish some ten years ago! A very close friend of mine is from Peru, and I’ve always said that we would go exploring the country together someday. I think what’s holding me back is the lack of time! I would want to go and stay in South America for a month or two, to see both Peru and other neighboring countries on the continent. I hope to make this trip soon though.
Of the 50 or so countries that you’ve visited to date, which is your favourite?
It’s difficult to pick a favorite country, as many of them have affected me deeply in many different ways. Besides Spain, I would have to say Japan; I have spent so much time there that I now feel very at home in the country.
If I were to visit you in Japan where are the first three places you’d take me?
We’d start off in Tokyo, on a crowded yet orderly underground train in rush hour. We’d stop at Shimokitazawa, where we could sip matcha lattes and go exploring the small independent stores. After that we’d take a Shinkansen to Hakone, the mountainous region around Mt. Fuji which is famous for its serene nature and natural hot springs. We’d spend the night at a Ryokan, a traditional Japanese guest house, and eat kaiseki cuisine. Soaking up outside in the onsen, gazing out across the mountains is also a must! We’d then continue our journey South, taking a train to Kyoto, the heart of Japanese culture! Here we’d just walk around and see with our very eyes how the old and new blend together into a postcard perfect today!
LOVE AND DREAMS
Name three things (not people) that you love?
Travel. Music. Coffee.
What’s your favourite sound?
What could you not live without?
My laptop as it enables me to remain connected to those I love whilst working from anywhere in the world. It also enables me to makes a living regardless of where I am.
Where do you hope to be ten years from now? What challenges do you think you’ll face along the way?
I hope to continue my journey as a freelancer and to have maybe expanded my team so that I create more time and space within my life that I can dedicate to the pursuit of other new exciting ventures. I like to think of it as a 'Networked Agency', where I can work with different freelancers on different projects, yet still feel like we are all part of the same team.
Of course, in ten years I’ll be 40, so I hope that things will have changed on a personal level too. If we have a family, I hope to continue my versatile way of working so that I can spend more time with the people I love. It would also be nice to combine potential parenthood with traveling.
What scares you?
Of course, working as a freelancer you can sometimes doubt yourself and start worrying about what would happen if you suddenly had no clients. Making the transition from my safe and predictable routine back at home in Stockholm, to being on the other side of the world in Japan, where I forced myself to somehow piece together a new normal day-to-day life, both terrified me but also served as a welcome eye-opener.
When you are new in a foreign, unfamiliar place, there is always the challenge of finding new friends that you like being around. Before you find those right people in your new city or country, you sometimes fear that they might not show up. I guess you need to just have faith and luckily for me, I have made some amazing connections with people I love in both Tokyo and London.
What’s your most darkest moment to date?
Family is so important to me. Last year I ‘lost’ my grandmother, who was, and always will be my role model. I still don’t know quite how to cope with her being ‘gone’.
What would you like to know or understand?
Language is such an amazing thing! The ability to express yourself and to communicate with people from different countries opens many doors and enriches lives. Learning basic Japanese in Tokyo brought me so much closer to Japanese society. So, I guess it would be amazing if I could instantly know and understand more languages!
Are you learning to do anything right now? If so, what?
Each year I hope to gain or improve upon one or two new skills. Learning brings new perspective to both our personal and professional lives.
In 2016, I attended a coding course and a massage course. This year I’m planning to give the guitar a go, and to improve my photography skills by attending my first ever photography course.
This week the world celebrated books, what are you currently reading?
A Well Tempered Heart by Jan-Philipp Sendker.
What three things are fundamental to your wellbeing?
Balance. Regular exercise. Fresh air.
What is your ‘food philosophy’ in one sentence?
Fresh food with lots of flavours! Ginger, lime and coriander…Wow!
Why do you practice yoga?
Yoga, like swimming, gives me a chance to take a break from everything else and just focus on the here and now (even if only for a moment).
Do you have a favourite asana right now? Is there one that you avoid?
I’ve been doing yoga back and forth for a few years, recently having committed to it on a more regular basis again. I’d say my favourite part of yoga is not a specific asana, but rather the freedom to transition from one to another.
How does your work impact the community?
I am currently involved in the creation of a community for Swedish digital nomads (people who work independently using the world as their office) svenskanomader.se. The Gig Economy is set to be the future of work, where people take on different freelance gigs and projects that inspire and engage them, rather than working full time their whole lives for someone else.
According to the founder of nomadlist.com, there will be one billion digital nomads by the year 2035. I like the thought of being more in control of your own time, your own work and your own location. I create my own rules!
Working from different places also enables me to meet new people and to fully immerse myself within new communities and cultures. I hope that this in turn will lead to the increased tolerance and understanding within the human population rather than the current political trend, which focuses on division and country borders.
Thank you Emelie for sharing your inspiring, vulnerable and creative insights with the world!