Chasing the sunshine as a digital nomad

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Yoga teacher, life coach and inspiring digital nomad Kaye Sutcliffe has turned her back on the corporate lifestyle. Firstly, she sold her possessions and moved into a van called Eileen, and, in November, she left the wintry skies of the UK behind her and went on a road trip, chasing the sunshine down to south-west Portugal.

During the summer, she teaches yoga at festivals in the UK, but currently, she practices yoga on the beach in the Algarve, running her online business, sea swimming and meditating daily. Vanessa Munnings of travel blog The Sun Lounger caught up with Kaye before she ups and heads to Morocco for the next stage in her epic adventure.

First of all, tell us a little bit about yourself

I’m Kaye, a northern lass from Manchester. I’m 46 and spent 20+ years in the corporate world, originally hopping from admin to admin job until I hit a career in digital marketing. I worked my way up the ladder, but also knew that there was something more to life for me than the 9-5 and sitting at a desk all day.

When I was 28, I set off on my first solo adventure, backpacking around the world for 12 months. I came back to the UK with confidence and a sense of self which meant that I was then able to climb the ladder at big companies across numerous sectors.

In 2016, I became a contractor for about five years, whilst I lived in London. When I turned 40, I moved back to Manchester, my contract role came to an end and I ended up waitressing to get by, going from £500 a day to minimum wage, but feeling freer and happier with no pressure.

After finding Kundalini yoga – a sacred science of technology and a powerful form of yoga which involves, chanting, breathing exercises, repetition and holding of postures – something called me to go on the Kundalini yoga teacher training. It was more for personal development not to become a teacher. However, the yoga wisdom was so profound that I felt a need to share this and started teaching.

You’re a Kundalini yoga, mantra and meditation teacher, Sekhem healer and qualified transformational life coach. How did you find yourself taking this path?

The first time I took a Kundalini yoga class was at Triyoga in London. I hadn’t experienced a yoga class like it before. I had my hands up in the air, chanting (not knowing the words) but really losing myself in the moment. When I came out, I had to bike through Battersea Park back home and I felt like I was flying! It was like my soul was remembering. I had never experienced a yoga high like it before!.

In 2018, my body was shot and I was feeling down emotionally, mentally and spiritually. So, I moved back to Manchester to ground myself. After 10 months of intense training, I wanted to share all this knowledge and started to teach a regular yoga class. I’d also had a dream a year before about me having a double decker bus, named Yoga on the Move, which was a mobile yoga studio (which I’m still pursuing), so I named my business @yogaonthemove.

Lots of chanting and meditation made me realise my initial dream about my van and after nine months of sitting on the idea, I did something about it. Within my self discovery journey, I have gone down a more spiritual route and finding all things esoteric and energy-based is very interesting to me. After all, we are all energy!

Tell us a little bit about the van which is now your home and your mode of transport?

She’s called Eileen and was actually named by the guy who I bought it from. She’s named after the Dexy’s Midnight Runners song ‘Come on Eileen’. I often sing this when we’re going up a hill!

She’s a 1994 VW T4 Transporter – Motorhome style. At first, I envisaged one of these new converted Transit vans, but she’s perfect. Being in Eileen feels like an actual home. I don’t have to put away the bed every night and there’s quite a bit of storage for everything that I had to downsize to. Everyone who stays in Eileen absolutely loves her. She has such a magical vibe – so cosy, welcoming and homely.

Did you do this in the UK, before taking off to the continent?

I usually spend April  to November in the UK. Two years ago, I had the idea to drive to Spain to follow warmer climates, then I had to come back after the 90-day rule. I put the van in storage and headed to Mexico from Feb to May in 2022, teaching yoga and embarking on a three-week yoga retreat out there too. I came back for the summer and taught yoga at numerous festivals.

That’s how I live now. I teach yoga at the festivals in the summer, hold space for my online life coaching, either distance or in person, energy healing for clients and then heading to warmer climes for winter. Now I’m a digital nomad. I really give you the freedom to work from anywhere.

What got you into yoga?

It was in my mid 20s when I tried yoga and my practice was very much more off than on – sometimes weekly, then slipping to fortnightly or very ad hoc, especially when I lived in London. After heavy alcohol-fuelled weekends, something would always pull me back to the mat to retreat. It was my safe space, my time to go inwards, I craved solace and peace as London’s noise was too loud for me at times.

What inspired you to go on a life-changing adventure like this?

I had to change. My body was screaming at me. My face had broken out in acne at the age of 40. Having flawless skin all my life, I never had to wear foundation and going from that beautiful gift to having to cover up the sore redness was just heart-breaking. It was a sign for me that I was overdoing it and not speaking to myself kindly at all. Our bodies are far more intelligent than we are!

Did you have a practice run before making the move or did you just go for it?

I just went for it. I’m a massive risk taker – that is something I pride myself on. Everything is figure-out-able. I’m very adaptable and a firm believer that if you take a risk, the universe will catch you. There was a quote in my yoga teacher’s kitchen which said: “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”

When did you start your adventure and did you time it to avoid a British winter?

This year I started my winter adventure on 7th November and totally timed it to avoid the British winter. Last year, I house sat in Trowbridge and studied. The house was cold and I didn’t know anyone in the area, so it was perfect to hermit away and get my head down. 

After travelling Spain and Mexico the year before, I swore to myself that I wouldn’t spend another winter whilst living in the van in the UK. So off I went, Portsmouth to Bilabo and travelled down through north-west Spain to Portugal. Because of the stupid Brexit rule, I’m off to Morocco at the end of January to chase the sun and extend my stay out of the UK until it gets warmer.

Is the better weather a major benefit of living in Portugal now?

Abso-bloody-lutely! It gets cold in the evening (around 10 degrees), sometimes a little rainy, but mainly sunny. I’m on the beach most mornings, doing my practice, sea swimming, hiking and living outdoors.

Was it easy to make the move, now that the UK is out of the European Union and was there any red tape you had to negotiate your way through?

I’m working within the Schengen rules. As soon as you enter any country within the Schengen area, your 90-day clock starts. I will have two weeks left of my 90 days, so moving to Morocco and if I want to travel back before the 180 days, then I have two weeks left to travel through Europe, back home without any penalties. It’s such a palaver.

Have you had any experience of the van life before this?

When I was in Australia, me and four other girls hired a van up the east coast. Now, that was an experience! My ex and I hired a wicked campervan whilst travelling Oz for around the same length of time too, so I have a little experience of van life.

Is it easy living in a small space?

Yeah, you get used to it. It gets really messy really quickly, but then it’s all tidied away within minutes.  Everything has to have its own place and is put away!

What did you do to prepare for your trip?

Everything I own is with me in the van, apart from a couple of boxes and a suitcase at my mum’s. I made sure Eileen was all good to travel, had a service done beforehand and new tyres fitted and all good to go!

How do you slim down an apartment full of belongings to what you can travel with in your van?

That was a tough job, I’d collected so much over the years that I actually found it very therapeutic getting rid of stuff. The emotional attachment that we have to possessions is amazing. Letting things go really frees up emotional space.

I originally put all my furniture from my apartment into storage for 12 months, just in case. Then, I decided to sell all of it. Luckily, I sold it as a job lot rather than bit by bit. Clothes I sold on Vinted and have the bare minimum, but still a nice selection of the beautiful clothes I’ve collected over the years, plus I have to think about all seasons too. Shoes were an issue. I think I had collected nearly 100 pairs at one point, so they all went to charity or were sold.

Were you frightened at all about taking this journey you are on?

No. I may have been a little uncertain about finding my feet initially, but I don’t bring that energy into the van. I know I’m protected. Every time I’ve broken down, people appear out of nowhere to help, plus everyone loves Eileen!

What do family and friends think about it?

I get ‘inspiring’ a lot and that I’m a nutter! I had to ask my family and this is what they’ve said:

“She’s brave, courageous, an inspiration and encouraging others to live out of their comfort zone. Fearless to travel on her own and she owns it. She’s a lot more at peace and has changed her complete outlook on life and really helps others through living a life of compassion and non-judgement. She now has more time and energy to live the life how she wants – being fluid.”

What was the journey down to Portugal like? How long did it take and where did you stop en route?

After arriving in Bilbao, northern Spain, I took the coastal route via Austurias, Galicia, which was stunning! I love the ocean and hugged the coastline as much as possible to practise on the beach and sea swim most days.

I then dropped into the national park in Portugal, down to Porto, Lisbon – loads of little towns all the way down south. I went to Nazare to try and see the big surf, but it’s not quite the season, before residing in Lagos to rest for a little while before I make my journey through Spain and on to Morocco.

Why Portugal? Is it a country that you knew before and do you speak Portuguese?

I’ve travelled on holiday as a kid and have visited Lagos three times previously, where I currently am. It’s a beautiful place to hang out and coast around south-west Portugal. I speak a tiny bit of Portuguese (‘hello’ and ‘thank you’), to be respectful.

Tell us about your average day

I wake up, meditate, do my journal, head to the beach to practice yoga and sea swim. I go to a local cafe, work on my business, do my social media, email marketing etc. I take client calls in the afternoon, hike and watch the sunset. I catch up with friends and family on the phone or meet up with new friends in Lagos. Every day is slightly different and 90% of the time, I say yes to everything that comes my way, to really adventure into the unknown.

What have been the highs (and lows) of your Portuguese adventure?

The most significant highlight has been staying in Lagos. I’ve connected with so many beautiful people here. I’ve felt such a beautiful connection with the landscape too. It’s just incredible.

The lowlight was trying to figure out which way to take my business in and seeing my savings deplete. Having to budget and get thrifty was humbling and a little scary. I had to really surrender into the unknown, let go of so many old ways of thinking, to be hit with inspiration and be catapulted into sharing my journey and showing up online to help others. 

Are you happier for embarking on such a life-changing adventure?

For sure. I was never one for routine and I always bent the rules, so this life suits me perfectly. I didn’t realise how much of a connection I would establish with nature. After living full-time in nature for nearly three years, I sleep much better, I live an outdoor lifestyle, I feel a lot more in sync with the cycles of life, hibernating in winter and living fully in summer etc

Do you miss your life in the UK at all?

There is something really special about the UK: the sense of humour we have, the music scene and fashion. These qualities are slightly different when you’re travelling but I get to meet so many different people from many countries that I wouldn’t have met if I didn’t travel. Plus, I live in the UK throughout the summer, so I get the best of both worlds.

How easy was it to move your work life from the UK to Portugal?

The majority of my work is online, so you can pretty much work from anywhere. When I stay in places long enough to integrate more with the community, I’ll host an event. This is what I’m doing here in Lagos next week. 

Did you know anyone there, before you set off?

No. I knew that a few other friends who have vans were also setting off, escaping the UK winter, so I have met up with them and travelled a couple of destinations together.  Plus, a friend of mine wanted to visit Porto. She came over for the weekend, which was so much fun, and another celebrated Christmas with me in Lagos. It’s been great to have my mates come and stay with me and Eileen.

How easy has it been to meet new people?

It’s pretty easy on the road to hermit yourself away, so I often park near other van-lifers and we get chatting, or, here in Lagos, there’s a big digital nomad scene. I’ve been to a couple of the meet-ups which is a great opportunity to meet like-minded people. There is a huge digital nomad community all over the world now, so I tap into this throughout my journey.

Are the people friendly and welcoming in Lagos?

The Portuguese are really friendly that I’ve met. I park where other vans park and everyone I’ve met travelling in vans are so open and lovely.  It’s a real community on the road of like-minded free spirits.

Where next for @yogaonthemove?

I’ve never been to Morocco and a lot of people try and put the fear in me, asking if it’s it safe there for a woman travelling on her own. I feel safety is all about your own perception of how safe you feel within yourself.  Eileen and I feel totally safe. Yes, I will probably have to be a little more vigilant, but I’m pretty streetwise now. My intuition is fierce and I don’t bring that energy of fear, as you really do attract what you put out there.

I’m taking the ferry from Algeciras to Tangier. Other than that, I haven’t done much research as yet, but what I find, is that like-minded people you chat to will always give you advices about places that they like. I love taking recommendations. So far, on my list, I have Essaouira, Marrakesh (the obvious one) and Chefchauren (the blue town). I’ll probably head down the coast to the little surf towns, plus I have a friend to visit too, who’ll no doubt give me some advice and recommendations.

Is it the van life for you now, or do you think you’ll move back into bricks and mortar one day?

I’m feeling the call to be a little more stable during the summer, when I’m in the UK, to stay in one place rather than travel so much. I’d like to find a community van campsite or maybe some kind of house-sit situation, where you look after someone’s house whilst they’re away this year. Let’s see what arises, I’m pretty much open to whatever comes my way.

Do you have any tips for anyone thinking of doing something similar?

Just do it! I live by the mantra of: “I’d rather regret the things I have done, rather than regret the things I haven’t done”. We can take life far too seriously sometimes. To me, it’s just a massive game. Learn to play the game of freedom, be more childlike and have lots of fun and adventures, life shoots by so quickly, not to have done so.

Anything else you’d like to tell us?

I turned my whole life around in my 40s. It’s never too late to make that change, take the risk, try something new. Life is short and you’re the star of your own movie – make it a movie that you would love to sit down and watch with a big bowl of popcorn in your later years. I’m the lead actress walking down the red carpet!

You can follow Kaye’s adventure on social media:

The post Chasing the sunshine as a digital nomad appeared first on Wellbeing Magazine.

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