Wyin Kok, 28, is a product manager at an ecommerce startup.
Kok spent a year abroad as a digital nomad, where she primarily lived in South Korea.
She says the experience taught her to be more confident and spontaneous.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Wyin Kok, a Singaporean product manager who spent the past year as a digital nomad in South Korea. The following has been edited for length and clarity. Business Insider has verified her employment and travel history.
The COVID-19 pandemic shifted my entire perspective on work. Remote working became the norm and shattered the notion that people can only work in an office.
That was the main driving force that made me pursue the life of a digital nomad.
I was fortunate to be working in a startup whose culture was built on remote working. I didn't have to go out of my way to pitch it to my bosses since they supported it.
My parents were a little worried since I would be traveling solo. But they saw the benefits of such an experience, which could help me grow and learn to be more independent.
Moving to South Korea
I decided to try out the digital nomad lifestyle in South Korea. I also traveled to Japan and Thailand for monthlong short stints during my year abroad.
However, making South Korea the country I spent most of my time in that year felt like a natural choice. Even before the pandemic, I would visit Korea at least once a year. I loved the country's cuisine and culture.
It helped that I had started learning the Korean language during the pandemic. I thought living there would be a good opportunity for me to practice the language.
Korea's strong café culture was also a huge draw for me. People usually study and work at cafés there, so I figured the wide choice of remote working spots was convenient for a digital nomad like myself.
But even though Korea was a relatively safe and familiar country to me, the initial stages of living there were still nerve-racking.
As a solo female traveler, I had to learn how to be vigilant and protect myself. I steered clear of dangerous places, like dark back alleys and side streets.
And because I didn't know many people in Korea, the early days of my stay there felt lonely. I had to get comfortable with doing a lot of things on my own, whether having meals or going on grocery runs alone.
Life as a digital nomad made me more confident
Looking back, the time I spent as a digital nomad was one of the most enriching years of my life. I learned so much about myself.
Living alone made me a lot more confident. I realized I could be strong and rely less on others.
At the same time, I learned that I really enjoyed my own company. I no longer feel as bothered if I can't find someone to travel with.
What's more, my year abroad didn't just bolster my confidence. It altered my outlook on life as well.
Before embarking on this journey, I would plan my day and itinerary in detail. But as a digital nomad, I didn't have a set plan. I would wake up every day and focus on what I could do with pockets of free time.
Doing this for a year also taught me to become more mindful. I learned to embrace the present and to stop fixating on my past or future.
I also managed to find space for reflection, and ask myself deeper questions like, "What do I care about? What kinds of experiences will bring me the energy and memories that will matter to me many years down the road?"
This shift in mindset has given me much more clarity on what I want to pursue in life.
That said, I don't want to sugarcoat the experience. Moving to another country to work remotely is costly. Unlike in Singapore, where many youths still live with their parents, you have to fork out your own housing and living expenses.
But being able to push myself out of my comfort zone and away from my usual support system made the cost worth it. What I got back in terms of personal growth far exceeds the short-term financial costs I had to bear.
This entire journey as a digital nomad has been very empowering, and I would encourage everyone to do this just once in their lives.
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