This month’s Fearless Fridays is with Kyrie Melnyck, co-founder of the 7in7 conference for digital nomads – which is where I met her, while speaking at their second-year event in Barcelona in October. (In fact, there will be a few more interviews coming up with other co-founders and speakers in the coming weeks…) Her story is a perfect fit for this month, given our focus on freelancing at One Step Outside these past weeks. Kyrie left a job in events at a tech company in Vancouver to become a digital nomad, freelancing and now running this conference as well.
Kyrie discovered the idea of being a ‘digital nomad’ through a chance encounter while working as an events planner for a technology company in Vancouver. Fast-forward to today and she is the co-founder of 7in7, a conference for experienced digital nomads taking place across 7 years on 7 continents. In our interview, Kyrie explores her reasons for choosing a nomadic life and how she builds communities to tackle some of the biggest challenges that location-independent freelancers face.
Watch the full interview or read on for the highlights below!
Leaving a corporate job behind to follow your passion: From nomad newbie to conference co-founder
Kyrie is an ocean-loving digital nomad and co-founder of 7in7, a conference for experienced digital nomads that’s taking place on 7 continents over 7 years (yes, even Antarctica!). She has 7+ years of event experience and is the owner and founder of Catalyst Events Co., which supports people with event strategy and auditing. When she’s not eating, sleeping and breathing events, you can find her on the beach, tracking down the best coffee in town or plotting her next adventure!
1. At what moment did you decide it was time for a change?
I was in Playa Del Carmen in Mexico and I met two nomads, Shane and Cassie, and they dropped the term ‘digital nomad’. This was about three years ago, and I asked, “Oh, what is that? That sounds like something I could do.”
Then I ended up researching like a crazy person, trying to find anything and everything. I couldn’t find a lot of information for women or people in this space who had been digital nomads, but I did come across Kit Whelan, who is actually the co-founder of 7in7 now [note from Anna: Kit’s interview is coming up next month!], and just randomly reached out to her for coffee, because she happened to be in Vancouver where I was.
She was leaving two days later and I appreciated that she took the time. It just snowballed from there! I had this seed planted and I thought, “I need to get out of here, I need to do this, I need to be a digital nomad.”
So I transitioned from my role as an event coordinator at the company I was with, into their customer support team – I had been with them for a few years and I knew the product so could slide into that role quite easily – and I then took that remotely to Cambodia. That’s where it all started, and it went on from there.
2. What was the biggest challenge you faced in making the change?
I think everyone probably faces their own set of challenges moving into this sort of lifestyle, where there are not any rules set for you, so you’re creating your own.
Buying the ticket and going to Cambodia was great. I had the ability to use my previous job to help me figure out what was going on there – like training wheels, I suppose! I didn’t jump right into it. I had remote work, I was getting paid in Canadian dollars and living in Cambodia, which helped me find the time and space to figure out what I wanted to do with it. I really appreciated that.
One of the biggest challenges was jumping from the standard hours and knowing that I had that consistent paycheck, into something more client based, and trying to figure out how to adjust finances and budgeting whilst travelling. Managing clients, and when they would pay you, was also a real learning curve; I’m awful with numbers. So most of the challenges were around budgeting, figuring out the systems for dealing with clients, and how that can become consistent, so I didn’t have to stress every month about money coming in.
Then the second thing was community. Having co-created 7in7, I created one of my own! I guess that’s the extreme, I don’t think everyone’s going to jump up and plan a conference to try to find their people…
It just so happened that I fell into that, and it’s been a truly magical journey, because I’ve had all of these amazing people come into my life. Loneliness can be a huge factor when you’re jumping into a remote work lifestyle or digital space.
3. Where did you get the support you needed to make it happen?
Creating the community of 7in7 has been more of a passion project than a job, because it’s just so great and fun to do. I think that’s played a huge part in creating a community and having that remote team to bounce ideas off of was a huge support; having them to combat loneliness was big for me. Previously working in a company where I was the only person that was remote was quite a challenge.
As for budgeting and finances, I’m still working my way through those ones, but it’s getting a lot easier. It’s becoming more consistent. I think it’s just a matter of diligence and really paying attention to what you’re doing. It’s easy to lose track when currencies change all the time.
4. What’s the best part of your lifestyle today?
I think the flexibility is probably the best part. I’m currently travelling with my partner and I think it’s been fun to experience the world with someone else, which is new to me, being able to go out and explore in different ways. Actually having someone to ask, “Hey, remember that awesome sunset we saw?” instead of being alone and saying “Hey, look at these pictures.”
I think that’s probably the best part of my lifestyle right now; plus 7in7 is great. It’s nice to have a big thing that I’m working towards for another five years. It’s directed to the travel path, and my life, which feels good, and it’s exciting to see the growth of that over the next few years.
5. What one piece of advice would you give to someone who is considering making a big career or lifestyle change?
I think the number one piece of advice is that there’s no right way to do it, so do what feels better. I think the whole time you’ll be teetering on this level of fear, thinking, “Am I doing this right?” and having to push yourself.
There are all these little points of fear; but then you also need to find financial stability, and a place that you feel comfortable – don’t just go to Chiang Mai because everyone’s going to Chiang Mai. If you don’t like Chiang Mai, go somewhere else.
Trying to find your own path is the tricky part. I’m still doing it! But I think the number one piece of advice would be to just create your own path. Don’t follow other nomad paths – but definitely reach out if you need any sort of support. Ask people about it, because everyone’s excited to share.