One of the hardest parts of becoming a digital nomad or shifting to a self-employed work-from-home lifestyle is actually taking the leap. Change is scary, though it’s important to remember that those who have succeeded at the lifestyle also started from a place of anxiety (typically mixed with excitement).
Just ask Tracy Kaler, the blogger behind Tracy’s New York Life, who picked up her life in Georgia to move to NYC in 2007. While a major change, she never looked back. In fact, she’s looked forward and prospered from it.
Here’s her story, with advice to inspire your own major transitions into living your best life.
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1. What pushed you to leave Georgia and move to New York?
In a nutshell, we moved for work. My husband had gotten laid off from his job, and there were few if any opportunities in home construction in Atlanta at the time. New York had more opportunities than we could count, however. So he practically had his pick of companies, and I was fortunate to land a job here before moving, too.
2. What was your biggest moment of fear when planning for the move, and how did you overcome it?
I wouldn’t say that I had a fear, but I was overcome with excitement and a bit of anxiety. I had dreamed of living in New York City for most of my life, and finally, that dream was about to come true. I wanted the move to happen, and to work. I didn’t want to give up everything I had accomplished during my 12 years in Atlanta to come to a place I had fantasized about and then be disappointed.
I wanted to love living here as much as I had imagined I would. I hoped that I’d adjust to the different lifestyle, but I didn’t have too much time to think about any of it. I had about six weeks to sell or store more than half of my belongings, pack up the house, move to New York, get settled and start my job. My husband had arrived before I did because he needed to start his job a week after he was hired. Everything happened too fast.
3. What was your biggest moment of culture shock when arriving in NYC?
I had been coming to NYC for many years, so I had spent a lot of time in the city. But believe it or not, I did not ride the subway very often when I was a tourist. So when I began living here, I had to ride the subway every day. I learned the ropes pretty quickly, though. I was apprehensive at first, but then taking the train became a daily routine.
4. Since moving here, you’ve become an expert on the city through your blog, Tracy’s New York Life. What inspired you to start the website?
After we had moved to NYC I began writing updates to friends and family. Email was an easy way for me to let everyone know how and what we were doing. Some of our friends liked the stories I wrote, and a few people said I should put them together and publish a book.
Fast forward a few years, a coworker told me how she had started a blog.
“What’s a blog?” I asked her.
She explained and said I should start one. In 2010, I did. I gave it the name “Tracy’s New York Life” and posted one of the original email stories — but edited — and then closed my laptop until almost a year later. I went back in 2011 and then started posting every story I had written, one by one. Then I started writing new posts. Most were personal anecdotes or musings, silly things, related to living in New York.
The blog kept evolving, and here I am five years later.
5. You also wrote a 48-hour travel guide in partnership with National Geographic France. What’s one thing visitors on a time crunch must experience while in NYC?
I think most tourists get so wrapped up in the hoopla when they visit New York. Yes, they should do one or two touristy activities, like go to Central Park, for instance. But I think what’s most important, when traveling anywhere, is to experience the destination. Pick a neighborhood or two –– such as Brooklyn Heights and Cobble Hill or the East Village and NoHo (in NYC, neighborhoods run into each other), and stroll, shop, eat, drink, observe. Talk to people. Take pictures. Stop for a minute and take it all in.
Rushing from the Statue of Liberty to Macy’s to the Met to the Carnegie Deli and then a Broadway show won’t get you much of the real New York experience. You’ll be able to cross a few items off your list, but will you have come to understand what this city is all about? I doubt it.
6. What is one major misconception people have about New York?
That the city isn’t a practical or comfortable place to live. Don’t get me wrong; New York is expensive, but that’s obvious. And certain aspects of life here are more challenging. But, not all of New York is Times Square or Fifth Avenue or a Yankees game. There’s so much more that lies in the nooks and crannies of the five boroughs. And like any place you choose to live New York can become very comfortable, like your favorite pair of shoes. Once you break this city in, you can’t part with it.
When I tell people I live in New York, they usually say the same thing, “I love New York, but I could never live there.” And my response is always the same. “Well, yes you could. If you saw the quiet pocket where I live on the Upper West Side, where sometimes only two or three people walk on a block at the same time, you’d understand, and you’d be able to live there.”
7. I loved your post spotlighting the Brooklyn neighborhood of Clinton Hill. Any other underrated NYC neighborhoods you’d recommend visitors check out?
I love Battery Park and I think a lot of people travel here to visit the 9-11 Memorial but neglect to walk over to the promenade. That area of town is a hidden gem and worth the trip even if you’re not going to the World Trade Center. The views are breathtaking!
Little Italy in the Bronx is a fantastic day trip or afternoon, particularly for tourists who do Airbnb and have access to a kitchen. The food is unbelievable! Pick up fresh mozzarella, some stuffed pasta, cannoli, and wine, take it back to your rental for a real New York experience!
8. What’s one place or experience that helped make NYC feel like a true home for you?
I’m lucky because New York has always felt like home to me. From the moment I landed at the age of 12, I loved this city. I haven’t had to associate any one place in NYC with feeling at home, but the areas of town that are the most familiar to me –– places I spent a lot of time in as a teen –– would be the most comfortable. Those are Chelsea, the Theater District, and the Upper West Side. I guess that’s why I’m a real West Sider!
9. Working for yourself can be a dream, but it can also be a challenge. What’s one pro and one con to those wanting to do this should take into consideration?
Pro: Working from anywhere at any time. Con: No salary and keeping yourself motivated to do the work.
10. For those wanting to create their own online businesses, defining the brand is often the biggest challenge. Any tips?
I’m still learning myself, but know who you are, what you love and what you want to do, and build your brand from there. Stay true to yourself, and re-branding every so often or re-aligning a brand is just as important as establishing your brand to begin with. Living and learning will encourage you to adjust as needed.
11. What advice would you give to someone else looking to redefine themselves or make a major life change?
Prepare. Think long and hard before you do it. Don’t quit your day job until you’re emotionally and financially ready. Don’t get wrapped up in the stress of change. Change is good, so try your best to enjoy the ride. If what you do doesn’t work, go to Plan B. Always have a Plan B. And when it all gets to be too much, have some wine.
Have you made a move to NYC or another big life transition? Has it helped or hurt you in discovering your passion? Please share in the comments below!
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