The Truth About Going Corporate to Digital Nomad

I’m Marie, founder of Avec Marie – Events, an event agency that helps bridesmaids plan the perfect bachelorette party for their bride-to-be. Additionally, I freelance as a graphic designer and virtual assistant. Sounds like I have life figured out, right? But my life looked a whole lot different a year ago! Here’s my story of going from corporate to digital nomad.

My curriculum was always a straight line. I had great grades in high school, even skipped a class, and got right into business school. A part of me dreamed of becoming a wedding planner, but I was convinced that was only an option for actors in Hollywood movies like “27 dresses”. So, I chose the “appropriate” career and started my international business degree, because I wanted to study something that would allow me to choose from a variety of jobs and industries. Which proved to be true!

I landed my first job at an international corporation and worked my way up until I was a fashion buyer, traveling 4 days out of 5, sometimes leaving my house at 5 am in the morning only to return from the airport at 10 pm. Please don’t tell me you still think business travel is fancy and luxurious! You eat whatever you can grab on the go, the most you will see from a city is the views from the cab and you might even end up working on your computer during dinner or order room service. I really loved it at the beginning, because I got to meet a lot of brands and vendors, got to visit production sites, but after 3 years I decided that I was too young to be working this much and that there had to be more.

The power of a letter of resignation.

That is when I quit. I wanted a break to figure out what I really wanted to do with my life, but I didn’t have the courage to just do nothing for a couple of weeks or even months. Instead, I decided to get a master’s degree. Still somewhat of a break from corporate life 🙂 I was very surprised when I got an acceptance letter from the University of Valencia. I had applied on a Saturday night after a glass of wine, not really thinking I could get in. They told me I had 3 weeks to pack up my bags, move out of my apartment and move to Spain!

That was a wonderful experience and I would recommend everyone to check out Valencia if you are ever in Spain. It has the best of everything: Nightlife like Barcelona, a city beach and is super affordable! Of course, I’ve already written a WildBum Guide on it – you can find it here.

After 18 months in Valencia, I moved to Munich to start my master’s internship at an international media company. Soon after I’d started, they offered me a full-time position, I had a great team, got my own place, loved the city, and started to feel settled.

The start of my own company.

Beginning of 2020, I finally leaped and founded my own company: Avec Marie – Events, an event agency for bachelorette parties. I worked mornings, nights, and weekends because I was planning on keeping it as a side-business next to my 40h job. Being full-time self-employed was something “I’m not ready to do yet, maybe in the future, depending on how it goes”.

Of course, I wouldn’t be writing this if that’s the end of the story. Like many other stories worldwide, mine took a turn with the first COVID lockdown. I finally had time to read, I started organizing my personal finances and thinking about investments. Once you start taking responsibility and action for yourself, in an area like finances (especially as a woman!), other internal processes and changes kick in.

Once you realize you are the creator of your life, there is no stopping you.

I started devouring business and personal development books, sometimes reading two entire books per week. They gave me insights into other entrepreneur’s minds, their career path, risks they took, the advice they got, thoughts they had. I had an epiphany: Successful entrepreneurs are just regular people that take calculated risks. They weren’t born successful. They worked hard, failed harder, and got back up. If they could do it, why not me?

Half a year of further mindset shifts go by (accompanied by lots of journaling, reading, and regular exercise) and two questions couldn’t seem to leave me alone: What is it I really want? And what the hell is holding me back from getting it?

By the end of 2020, I finally took the decision to quit my job – not because I didn’t like it, but because I knew deep down it wasn’t 100% what I really wanted to do. Believe me, I had NO idea of what I really wanted to do, I just knew I wasn’t doing it yet. Working full-time doesn’t allow you the mental capacity to be creative, brainstorm, and think about what you’d rather be doing, so I knew I needed a break to figure it out.

How taking a break turned into finding a new lifestyle and entrepreneurial freedom.

6 months later I’m sitting in a hotel room overlooking the ocean in sunny Spain and writing this article. I gave myself time to think, went on my first solo trip to Croatia. It’s the break I dreamed of when I first quit my job years ago. It was hard at first to let myself “do nothing” but traveling through Croatia was a welcome distraction: There were national parks to see, restaurants to try and people to be met.

I had heard of the digital nomad lifestyle and found it intriguing. I got to spend a couple of days with a digital nomad in Croatia, which gave me more insights into the lifestyle. A digital nomad is able to work from anywhere: The only requirement is a laptop and a stable internet connection. Some digital nomads still have a home base and return for a couple of months per year, others have given up their apartments completely. I thought: That’s what I’m going to be! Choosing freely from all the places to go, staying for a while, just long enough to know your way around, and then moving on to the next – now that’s a lifestyle that gets you ticking off items from your bucket list quickly!

My stay in Croatia was followed by a 6-weeks work-ation in the United States, building my business, doing online courses, reading, and learning new skills like web design. At first, I thought I would just wake up one day and know what I wanted to do professionally. Believe me, that will never happen. You have to trust the process, try out different things, leave the ones you dislike behind and pursue more of what you do like. But most importantly: Just because you are doing one thing now, doesn’t mean you have to be doing it forever!

I always thought I needed a one-year or five-year plan, but you don’t. Who knows what is going to happen! And isn’t that the beauty? Your life could turn around in an instant, so I’m excited to see what happens next. My 18-year-old me would be very proud: I just planned my first wedding and it went great!

Marie Utsch

Marie Utsch