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a number-one best-selling author, success and book coach, and speaker on a mission to help leaders use the power of writing to uncover their unique stories so they can scale their impact.

I'm Stacy Ennis,

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Episode 111 | How to create the freedom to travel, with Debbie Arcangeles

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I'm a number-one best-selling author, success and book coach, and speaker on a mission to help leaders use the power of writing to uncover their unique stories so they can scale their impact.

Hi, I'm Stacy

In this week’s episode, we talk about Debbie’s journey to reach where she is today as the founder of The Offbeat Life, a podcast and website that highlights the journeys of remote workers and digital nomads. We also talk about how she makes money, both in her day-to-day work and from her travel content. Today, she has accumulated over half-a-million downloads and shares what is possible when you work outside a cubicle and live life before retirement, while also creating sustainable income.

We even discuss celebrating failures because we learn the most important lessons and recognize all we have to be grateful for. This is a thoughtful conversation—and one that I hope will leave you feeling inspired and encouraged as you embark on the next great journey of your own life.

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Transcripts for Episode 111

These transcripts were generated by robots, not writers.

Debbie: Embrace all of these little mishaps, these little roads that you’re going to go into, the journey that you may not even have thought of, that you’re it’s. It’s definitely gonna lead you into so many different places, which I think it’s the beauty of it, right? Because if you are stuck in one place, it’s gonna be the same thing. Every single day is gonna be the same. But if you choose something different weren’t, it’s going to be new, it’s going to be exciting, it’s going to be a lot of fear and it’s going to be a lot of failure, but it makes it so much more interesting that way.

Stacy: Welcome. I am really excited this week to get to talk about a topic that is near and dear to my heart, which is travel. If you have been listening to my podcast or in my community for any amount of time, you know that this has been my life since I was in my mid 20s. We’ve lived in four countries now outside of the United States, we have traveled all over the world. And interestingly, my guest today is doing what I kind of set out to do in the beginning and failed miserably at, which was I wanted to be a travel writer, travel content creator, and I ended up pivoting my business into books, which is what I do now. But I think it’s so cool that this guest has been able to really craft a life of her design and make money while she’s traveling.

Stacy: So I’m really excited to tell you about this week’s guest. Debbie Archangelos is a writer and the founder of The Offbeat Life, a podcast and website that highlights the journeys of remote workers and digital nomads she started her show in 2017, when digital nomadism and remote work was still a mystery, interviewing individuals who were able to answer questions that weren’t readily available at the time. Today, she has accumulated over half a million downloads and shares what is possible when you work outside a cubicle and live life before retirement while also creating sustainable income. Welcome, Debbie. I’m so glad to have you here today.

Debbie: Thanks so much for having me, Stacy. I’m really excited to be here.

Stacy: When I read your bio and you talked about just this fact that when you started your content, the digital nomadism was not really a thing that really resonated with me because when I started my business, I was a teacher at the time. I started it like a part time in 2009, and it was completely remote and I think everybody thought I was completely crazy to think I could build this online business. I’m curious, what led you to this place of starting an online business, of really being a content creator when that wasn’t really a thing back then. Tell me a little bit about your story that got you to that point.

Debbie: Yeah, throughout my whole twenty s, I definitely traveled a lot and of course I had my nine to five and I went through the whole thing. I got my degree and my master’s, and I was doing what I was supposed to do, what everyone tells you to do, but I was still really unhappy. And at the time when I finally took the chance to start my podcast, I had traveled quite a lot already and I was actually talking to people who were digital nomads, and I would talk to them and I would hear their stories and I would get ideas from them and encouragement. And during that time, I was really feeling unfulfilled. I was having panic attacks every four months and I just didn’t like where my life was leading me. And that’s where I started the podcast. Not necessarily to do it full time or lead me in a different direction, but I was just like, I need to talk to more people like I was meeting when I was traveling, and it’ll inspire me to actually do something with my life that I actually want, and maybe it’ll inspire other people too.

Debbie: And that’s really where it began. And I started talking to more people and I made friends. And it gave me the courage to do something else, to do something more, to do something that I really wanted to do, which was content creation. And I didn’t know it was going to lead me here, but this is where I am right now. So in a way, it was where I wanted to be, but it was kind of like just a journey, trying to figure it out on the way as well.

Stacy: I mean, it’s not like entrepreneurship defined, right? You’re just figuring it out along the way. I’d love to hear a little bit from you about those experiences in your 20s. Traveling. I know for me, when we moved to the Dominican Republic, when I was I think I was trying to remember if I was 23 or 24, but anyway, I was in my early twenty s, and I know we have different backgrounds. In my case, I came from a very homogeneous place, so I’m from Idaho. My community is very wealthy, very white. I had not been around many other cultures outside of my own, and my life was very, I would say very limited. When I started traveling and I started being out in the world, I was like, wow, this is amazing to get to immerse in different places, get to know different people. And I really changed drastically as a person, even in my first year of being out in the world.

Stacy: And I changed my mind about a lot of things that I held really close and dear. I grew so much. I’m curious to know for you, what led you into travel? Mine was a boyfriend turn fiance turn husband. That led me into this life, what led you into it, and then what have you learned about yourself and how have you grown through the experience of traveling?

Debbie: Yeah, so I come from a family where we don’t travel for fun or mean, aside from going back to the Philippines, where I’m from, because I was born there and part of my childhood was there, I really didn’t go anywhere with my parents. I think the only time we ever went overseas aside from going back to see family in the Philippines, was like going to Canada and I’m in New York city, so it was just crossing the border, and were there for like, two days. I don’t have a rich family. They really came from nothing. My childhood in the Philippines was pretty poor. But one of the things that I do have to say about my family is they do very well now because they really educated themselves, their children, and it know, like the typical immigrant coming to America type of dream where it’s like you came from literally nothing, and then you make something out of yourself.

Debbie: But I do have a father who was in the merchant marines throughout my entire life, so I didn’t see him quite often because he would travel a lot for work, and I would see him two or three months out of the year. He’d come back and he’d show me pictures of all of the places that he traveled to. And that kind of started me thinking, okay, what can I do to do this? And no one in my family really traveled, and I was actually one of the first in my family to do this. And I just had this curiosity, and I think it stems from my dad’s experiences with his own travel. And it was very foreign to me because I’ve never seen anyone in my family travel unless it was for work, to get a better life. And that’s really where it came from.

Debbie: And I was in college, I worked two to three jobs to save all of the money that I would have. And then the first time I ever traveled on my own was to Europe. And then that’s where it all began. Yeah, so that’s really where it all started. I didn’t see family, even friends, doing this, but I did go when I was in high school for the first time overseas, aside from the Philippines to Paris, and that’s where it started. And then when I went to college, I started just saving everything on my own and then went backpacking and did all of that stuff.

Stacy: It’s interesting when you mentioned going to Canada, I mean, that was kind of my childhood, too. We went to Canada one time. We went to you know, it’s not really like going into Mexico. We were on a cruise, and then we made driving trips to the Oregon coast from Idaho, which is like 8 hours. Right. And there is a very different kind of way of being in the world when you start traveling internationally. One of the things that I noticed that was really surprising to me is just how normal it is, especially just living in Europe now. I’m always interested how normal it is for people also to just move to new countries or to travel for a couple of months, to just relocate for the summer. And I think now it’s just such a normal part of my life. But kind of like you, I didn’t have an example of what it means to travel, be a part of the world, like be a global citizen, be somebody that’s comfortable going across borders and being out in the world.

Stacy: So, I don’t know, I find that is, for me, anyway, it was kind of scary at first when I started doing that. And then pretty soon I was like, oh, this isn’t actually that big of a deal. It seemed like this huge thing. I’m curious if you could offer some thoughts on that, Debbie, because especially for our American listeners, I think that mindset is one that a lot of people hold, that these trips that you and I take, the travels that you do and that you post about and you share on the offbeat life, on your podcast, on your website, they seem big. But in my view, the truth is it’s very normal and it’s very accessible to live a life that is global. What are your thoughts on that?

Debbie: In a way, I don’t think it is as accessible as we do make it seem, especially now. In this type of economy, it’s a huge expense, right. Even a train or a bus ticket. It really depends on your situation now. And for me, when I was younger, it definitely wasn’t accessible because there was so much expenses. And sometimes there’s like a sense of guilt, right? It’s like, okay, what do I do? Do I spend it on this or on this? Sometimes you have to choose. And if you have to choose between food or going to school or traveling, obviously you have to choose something that’s much more like you have to live or it’s going to make certain things better for your life. But what I do know is that you can make it happen. You can make it a reality for yourself if you just make certain sacrifices, right?

Debbie: So I had mentioned, like, I was already in college and I would work two to three jobs at a time. And those are the types of things that you have to do in order to do that for yourself. Now, unless you have a lot of savings or somebody’s going to give you the money to do it, you have to do it for yourself. And I didn’t have that. So you really have to do these things. You have to make the sacrifices if you want to make it happen, like with anything else. And you have to make it accessible for yourself. And I know when you see people like us, me and Stacy, when we do this, it does seem like it’s a huge thing. And it is. It is a really big thing, and it’s a privilege to do it. Right. But if you are living in the western country and you don’t have a lot of ridiculous responsibilities, you can definitely do that for yourself.

Debbie: And also, this is why I really emphasize being able to work remotely. If you can do it because you’re not sacrificing anything, like you’re not choosing between putting food on your table, paying for an apartment, et cetera, because you can travel while you’re making income at the same time. You can live in certain places that you’ve always wanted to live, maybe for a short period of time or for a longer period of time, but you’re still creating income and money. Because I do remember when I was in my 20s, my boyfriend, now my husband at the time, whenever we would travel, he would always be so stressed out because he would be like, oh my gosh, if I don’t work, we don’t make money. And that’s really stressing me out. And that would also make our trips so much more stressful because we would be worried about money.

Debbie: It’s like every time you spent money on your trip, it’s more expense that you had to either pay for with your credit card or your bank account is going down. But when we started working remotely, we didn’t have to worry about that. And I think being able to work remote and travel at the same time is what really makes that more accessible for more people, because it’s less of a sacrifice, if that makes sense.

Stacy: Yeah, I really appreciate that perspective. And I agree with you. And I do want to just clarify. When I mentioned the area that I lived in, being wealthy, I was not talking about myself. I also worked full time and two part time jobs during college. So I really feel that piece of it. For me, this is why I say when I moved abroad for a job, it felt so big, it felt like impossible to be able to do that. And so when I was a teacher, I moved abroad and I got a job as a teacher in the Dominican Republic. I think what changed for me and I think for me, the privilege of it, I 100% agree with you, and I don’t think we talk about that enough. But I think for me, what changed from an accessibility mindset standpoint was just like, if you want to do this, there are different ways that you can do it.

Stacy: To your point, when I was moving for a job and I was tied to location in different countries, what a different experience that is than when you have a remote. We have something that you can carry with you right as you go around the world. And I think that’s such an important piece. Can you talk a little bit more about this remote work world? And I know with the content that you produce and what you share on your website, you put out on your podcast, you talk a lot about just living an offbeat life. Tell us a little bit more about what you do, what you offer through your content, how you help people live offbeat life.

Debbie: Yeah, so it really was all about doing something that maybe you haven’t seen anybody around you do yet. Because for me, having an offbeat life, this is from my own perspective, it’s like, I never saw anybody in my family travel unless it was for work, it was never for leisure. I never saw anybody do anything artistic. It was always about like, hey, what’s the career that’s going to create income for you so that you can live a better life? Because we don’t want to go back to where were. So for me, it was like an offbeat life because it was something so out of realm in my own circle with my family and friends that it was a really big step for me. And once I started really going into this niche and this world, I saw more and more people craving the same thing, like, hey, I never saw anybody do the same thing.

Debbie: Like, how can I do this? How can I live outside of what my bubble is? Right? And you talked about that too, Stacy, like, going outside of your own bubble. And that’s really what it means. It’s like to go out of your own comfort zone and do something that you may not have necessarily seen. And obviously now it’s so popular that you can see it in a lot of people’s experiences and background. It’s kind of like a normal now in a way, especially after the pandemic. So that’s really where it all started because I didn’t see anybody do this. I would see people here and there in social media, but their life just seemed so out of reach, and for me it was so out of touch. I can’t be a travel influencer and doing all these things. And also that’s not where I wanted my life to be.

Debbie: So, yeah, that’s really where it started from. And then it drove me into, hey, what about the people that are working remotely are digital? Nomads, that’s really where I wanted my life to because it wasn’t about leaving technically a job, but it was just leaving a location dependent job and being able to work from anywhere I wanted. If I wanted to stay in New York, I could do that. If I wanted to live outside of the States, I can do that. So it would just give me more freedom and option that I never had before. So, yeah, it was just about having more freedom and being location independent, not dependent.

Stacy: Yeah, I think that’s such an important piece to it and to our earlier conversation with our first jobs abroad. We were location dependent because we had to be in an office, not an office of school. We had to be at that place. If somebody’s listening today and they’re very inspired by this idea, what would you offer them as a place to start? Because I’m taken back as you were talking, I was thinking about when we lived in Vietnam, in Ho Chi Minh City, and I was really trying to make a go at this travel writer thing. And I remember I got up early one morning and I had agreed to do some photographs for exposure, as you often do in those early times of building your career. And I remember just being out, it was like 06:00 in the morning, taking these photos and feeling so present and so hopeful of this business I was going to build.

Stacy: And then that just did not work. And I ended up having to pivot and pivot and pivot until I got to where I am today, which is an absolutely beautiful place, a business I absolutely love. But I’m 14 years in now in business, and somebody might be listening to this and being in a totally different space. So what do you recommend for somebody who is very location dependent, dreaming of something more and wants to kind of take those first steps?

Debbie: I would say, look at what you’re really interested in doing, even if it’s not something that you’re currently doing right now. Maybe it’s what you’re doing, Stacy, or somebody else that you see. It could be somebody that you see online, or it could be somebody that you already know personally, which would be great because then you could talk to them personally. And I do have to say going through that journey and there’s going to be a lot of failures and pain points, you can’t really omit that from the whole process. That’s just how it is. Because even if you think you’re going to love one thing, like you had mentioned Stacy, once, you actually go into it, maybe you actually hate it or maybe it just doesn’t go the way you want it to and you have to keep pivoting. And that’s kind of like the process.

Debbie: And I do have to offer this advice like, don’t expect anything to go your way 100% because that’s usually never true. And if it does all the time for you, then you must be the luckiest person on earth, because I haven’t met a lot of people that have done that unless they’ve been doing this for a really long time and they know exactly what to do. So embrace all of these little mishaps, these little roads that you’re going to go into, the journey that you may not even have thought of, that it’s definitely going to lead you into so many different places, which I think it’s the beauty of it, right? Because if you are stuck in one place, it’s going to be the same thing. Every single day is going to be the same. But if you choose something different, it’s going to be new, it’s going to be exciting, it’s going to be a lot of fear and it’s going to be a lot of failure, but it makes it so much more interesting that way.

Debbie: I don’t really have a specific advice for you in terms of like, hey, this is where you need to go because I don’t know where you should be at. But I do know that expect the failures, expect the unexpected, especially when you’re doing something that’s out of your comfort zone and don’t see it as a failure. See it as a way for you to keep growing and embrace it. And then honestly, I fail every single day. There’s going to be moments where you’re crying and you’re like, what am I doing with my life? And that still happens to me even after all of these years. But I think in a lot of ways I kind of laugh at it more because I’m like, oh, here we go again. I guess this is what’s going to happen.

Stacy: I love that you own that word, failure. I use that word a lot in a positive way. I think that failures are our best teachers and I find a lot of resistance when I use that word. I think it’s like especially as women, we’ve been very conditioned to kind of be perfect and kind of keep all things managed at all times. And I love that you brought that up. That actually reminded me of something that I read when I was reviewing your website and learning more about you before this conversation. One of the things that you mentioned is that you had a failed business where you chased money instead of your passion. Tell us a little bit about that and what you learned from that experience.

Debbie: It wasn’t just one, it was several. There was a lot of failed businesses. I failed businesses honestly, whether it was for money. And then when I chose things that I was passionate about, I failed that too. Because when you choose one over the other, it never works. But if you’re able to combine both, something you’re passionate about, but something that can also make you money, that’s usually what works. And I see this sometimes with people like don’t chase the money, only chase the passion. And I’m like, yeah, but you also need money to live. You also need money to survive. You need to have a certain lifestyle that you want, right? I used to see that a lot when I was younger. It’s like money is evil. And then as I grow older, I’m like, no, money is not evil. It’s what you do with it that can make it evil.

Debbie: It’s like a weapon, right? You don’t hurt anyone until you use it to hurt. So I think it’s just embracing like, hey, what am I going to be able to do that is going to create income for me? But also I can do for a very long time because it’s something I’m interested in and passionate about. Because business, even if you’re making money and I’ve seen this with myself and with other people that I’ve interviewed and with my friends too, even if you’re making a lot of money but you just hate what you’re doing, it’s not going to last. Because then it’s going to leave a bad taste in your mouth and then you’re just going to go to a different direction. And it’s the same thing if it’s just all about passion. I’m so passionate and then no money comes in and then you’re like, well, I can’t make this sustainable for myself, I have to do something else.

Debbie: And I think that’s when you start getting depressed and you’re like, what am I doing? I had the money, but it wasn’t making me happy. I had the passion, but it wasn’t making me money. So I think it’s the ability to combine that, which is not easy, it’s very hard. And that’s why it takes a lot of trial and error to do that. Yeah. So I am proud to say I failed a lot. I followed both passion and money and it didn’t work. And when I was able to combine both, then it worked.

Stacy: Yeah, that’s such great advice. I wrote down the phrase fail to win. I just feel like that’s what I heard you say is what I heard is that you were willing to try, you’re willing to take risk. And then also this conversation about money. We’re bringing up all these taboo things like failing and money, things that people often don’t talk about in my industry, because I’m in the world of writing and books like you. As a writer, I felt very conditioned by the idea that if you are a true craftsperson, like a true writer, you will never make a lot of money. There’s a lot of self sacrifice in being any kind of having any kind of artistic profession or creative profession. And when I first started my business, after I pivoted out of the travel thing and went into the world of books, I started with this mindset of replacing my teacher salary.

Stacy: That’s all I wanted to do. And I read this particular book and set a goal of making $60,000 a year. I was like, If I can make $60,000 a year, I will have made it. This is going to be amazing. And then I found, as I hit that goal and continued forward, that I had to do some inner work to welcome opportunity and abundance into my life. Because, again, as a writer, as somebody in publishing, we’re just always taught that you’re never going to make good money. You might have to have an extra job or an extra side gig. And so I love that you brought that up because there’s not only the survival piece, but also to your earlier point about traveling and feeling stressed about money. It should be a joyful life and hopefully whatever pathway you take will give you that abundance to have that joyful life.

Stacy: So I love all of the things that you said. I would love to hear a little bit about how you eventually landed into the line of work that you do and how you make money in your business, because I’m sure some listeners are so curious because they’ve heard you talk about this journey and these failures. Tell us about the kind of business structure that you have and what you do to sustain your life.

Debbie: Yeah, so when I finally left my job, I started my podcast. And for a very long time, for probably, my goodness, the four years that I had it, I was making most of my income, I think it was 80% from the podcast because I had sponsors and I got my first sponsor, I think it was within six to eight months of starting my show. And then they just kept finding me. And then I started pitching. And that’s really where a lot of me believing that I can do this started right when they first reached out to me. And then I pitched and then it all happened. So I was doing that for a very long time. I was creating income from mainly my podcast. And then I would do some income from my website because after I started my podcast, I started my website as well.

Debbie: And then I was also creating income from traveling because then they would host me and then I would write about the. Destination or like hotels and et cetera, and I would put it on my website. So that was pre pandemic. Now after the pandemic started, all of that halted. And it was really interesting because I actually just came back from two back to back trips. It was in February, and then March came in 2020, and that’s when everything shut down. So I was kind of at a loss at that point. Obviously, I still had my podcast, but then it was like a totally different scene. But also it was really great because now more people were like, oh, remote work. And then my podcast was all about remote work and location independence. But in terms of the income that I was making, in terms of traveling and writer writing about that, it was at a halt.

Debbie: And that was definitely a big pivot. And then I think during that time, during the pandemic, I kind of lost interest in making income in my podcast. And this is where when I talked about, okay, well, this is creating income, but then I kind of lost passion over it, right? And then I was really more into the writing. And that’s why I think I was really bummed out when the writing, the travel writing kind of halted because I was like, well, this is really what I kind of wanted to go into because I was at that point really figuring out where I needed to be. And I was trying all these things, I was coaching people, I was doing all these things, but it just didn’t stick. And then what ended up happening was I started to freelance write, and then I worked with this agency and I worked with a few clients, and that’s where it really clicked for me.

Debbie: And I realized, hey, writing doesn’t just have to be about travel. It could be so many other things. And then I learned SEO, and that’s where it led me to becoming an SEO writer. Yeah, so that’s really what I do now. I do writing mainly about SEO, not about SEO, but as an SEO writer for companies, for agencies. And that’s really where my happy spot is, because I can still be creative, I’m location independent, I make my own time, and I can work from anywhere, and I have the freedom that I’ve always wanted. So I thought my direction was going to be like, hey, my podcast was going to be my main thing. And it was, and it was pretty interesting because that was actually my bread and butter. And then I just lost interest in it in a lot of ways because it was more about trying to get income for the podcast and sponsorships, and no longer about like, hey, how can I help people?

Debbie: And when I actually stopped doing that, I became more interested in helping people in a lot of ways and focused more on the podcast and not just about the income so that’s really where it led me. And now I help people try to do the same thing. Like, okay, what can you do? What’s your interest? What’s going to allow you to have more freedom? Whether it’s a full time remote job, whether it’s to become a freelancer and do this, because there’s different avenues to all of this. You just have to figure out what works for you.

Stacy: One thing that I noticed about your story, and it resonates a lot for me, is just a willingness to self reflect and reinvent. And I’ve always looked at A-J-O-B that’s kind of consistent for 20 years as just to me, that’s so boring. I love being in a space in life where you can like you said, you look to something that at one point was kind of all encompassing the thing, and then you self reflected and said, like, I still care about this thing, but this is not going to be all of the thing. And now I can do this other thing and lean into I also I just think that’s also so cool about doing your own thing because it gives you that space and freedom to shift, to change, to reinvent. So all of this has been so great. Debbie, I have loved our conversation.

Stacy: I’m sure that our listeners are curious to learn more about you, click into your community. Can you tell us what you’re most excited about right now and where people can find out more about you?

Debbie: Yeah, I think for me, I’m most excited. I don’t know, I think every day I try to find something because there’s really no projects that I’m doing right now. And it’s kind of interesting. I’m less on social media since I stopped doing that stuff, and I’m so much happier that way. So I’m just excited about living life and just being closer to my family and friends right now because I think that’s where I need to be. And that’s one thing that I love about this, is when I want to be close to people like my friends and family, I can do that. And when I want to be far away from them, I can do that too. So I think I’m just really excited about that, just being surrounded by the people I love right now. And if you want to find me, you can find me on Instagram at the offbeat life.

Debbie: You can also find resources if you want to start working remotely on my website, The Offbeat Life as well.

Stacy: Debbie, thank you so much for joining me today. This was a lot of fun.

Debbie: Thanks so much, Stacy, for having me.

Stacy: And thank you for joining us. I’m grateful for your time and energy today. Thanks, as always, to Rita Domingues for producing this fine podcast and to Catherine Fishman for project support. If you’re still listening, if you love the podcast, would you just take a moment to rate and review. It makes a huge difference in our ability to reach more listeners with the message of beyond Better. We will be back with you before you know it.

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