Through Europe, Hollywood and Now the Netherlands – Lisette Sutherland and Her Life on Tour

Lisette has travelled the world. Living out of a van whilst on tour Lisette has travelled through Europe and Hollywood as a remote worker and now lives in the lovely small town of Nijmegen in the Netherlands.

1. Where are you from originally?

I lived the first 10 years in Germany, the next 10 in Colorado, and the following 15 in California.

2. Where do you live now?

I live in Nijmegen, The Netherlands. It’s a small town near the German border in the Gelderland province.

3. What first attracted you to your new home? Did you try anywhere else on the way? Did you move for work or for lifestyle?

I wasn’t planning on ending up in Nijmegen. In 2008, I was living in Hollywood managing some local bands, and working to help build an online project management tool (Qtask, now called Prolific). Since I had the ability to live anywhere, I was saving up to move to Paris (there was no particular reason to choose Paris other than it seemed beautiful and exotic – I’d never been).

Around this time, one of my favorite bands asked me to go on tour with them as their merchandiser. We toured all over the US, where I simultaneously worked for Prolific from the van (testing the concept of remote working to the limit!). When the band invited me to join them on the European tour, I used the opportunity to leap across the ocean. The plan was to use Nijmegen (the band’s home town) as a base while I figured out where to go next. I had just driven through most of Europe, and Paris suddenly seemed less exotic :).

Shortly after moving, tragedy struck at Prolific (long story) and the company essentially went out of business overnight… and I was suddenly stuck in Nijmegen until I could find another source of income. I eventually found new clients, but then decided to use Nijmegen’s low cost of living to my advantage: as a home base while traveling as much as I could.

4. What kind of property do you live in now? Will you stay here? What’s your ideal place to live in within your new country?

I live in a small apartment with a secluded garden. And while I sometimes crave a bigger place, it’s ideal in many other ways: inexpensive, quiet, close to the center of town and the train station, and my neighbors are wonderful people.

The city is also next to a nature reserve – which is ideal for running and biking. Some days, it’s so beautiful that it feels like the sky will rip open to reveal a lighting and camera crew shouting “Another light beam on the left! Can we get some more birds, please!”

5. Are you speaking a new language? If so, how did you learn?

I can have simple conversations and understand a lot of what is going on, but the language is still a challenge. I have lots of good excuses for not learning it more quickly… but I simply need to just do it.

6. What do you do for a living? Where do you physically work from? Do you work with clients/customers back in your home country or your new one?

I currently help businesses set up and manage virtual communities. I also give a number of presentations on private online communities and the benefits and challenges of remote working. My clients are located throughout the US, the UK, and the Netherlands, and I physically work from my home office, the stage, or the train.

7. Do you work online? If so, what is the internet connectivity like? What software do you commonly use on day to day basis? What would be your top tip for online working from your new country?

I work almost entirely online. I have excellent, high-speed internet connectivity and a USB dongle for when I travel.

I use Skype with colleagues and clients daily. I use Toodledo to manage my tasks. I use Google Docs to collaborate on writing projects with remote colleagues. I still use Prolific to manage my calendar/time tracking, invoicing, files, wikis, and almost everything else.

My top tip: It’s harder than you think to find a fast, stable internet connection while traveling. If you rely on internet, have reasonable expectations for what you can get done and have a back-up plan.

8. Are you paid in your new home currency or in pounds/dollars/euros? Do you exchange money often? If so, what service do you use?

Depending on my client, I’m paid in pounds, dollars, or euros.

9. Do you have children? If so, how did they adapt to the move? How are their schools? Are they bi-lingual? Are their good future career opportunities within your new country?

I do not have children.

10. Did you bring any pets with you? Or leave any behind? How did this work out?

I brought 2 cats with me when I moved. The paperwork for their transportation was more than for my visa application, but it all worked out.

11. Is your life better than it was before? If so, how?

My life is definitely better than it was before – but also scarier. Working for myself is entirely rewarding, but the trade-offs are all the additional responsibilities: new clients, accounting, time management, etc.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to travel and see so much of the world. I like learning about all the different ways to live. And I like trying new foods!

12. What are the best things about living in your new country? Has the move been good for the whole family?

First on my list is the bicycle culture! After living in Hollywood for 5 years (without a car!), there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t appreciate the bicycle culture. On top of that, the Netherlands is a highly civilized and gorgeous country. The food is good. And the coffee is better!

13. What are the most challenging things about moving to and living in your new country?

The Netherlands is a relatively easy place to settle into… and everyone speaks English. For me, the challenge was being patient with figuring out all the little things: new ways of checking out groceries, the recycling and trash rules, restaurant behavior, driving rules, complimenting people, greeting people, wedding traditions, holidays, funerals, party customs… Some days, I desperately craved familiarity and there just wasn’t any.

14. Are you here for good? If so, why? If no , why not?

I don’t plan on living in the US again… But I don’t exactly know where I’m heading next.

15. Any partings word to people thinking of moving to your country?

Have some savings before you move! There are enough little stresses (and random fees) that come up. Having a savings just makes life easier.

Also, try minimalism. When you move internationally, you have the opportunity to leave a lot behind. Living without a lot of stuff can be so relaxing.

Lisette SutherlandAbout Lisette Sutherland

Lisette is an online collaboration enthusiast with over 10 years experience with web-based collaboration tools and online community management. Her goal is to get the best people working together to solve problems regardless of location. From strategy design to setup to ongoing maintenance, Lisette ensures that organizations and businesses involve, engage, and enchant their customers with thriving virtual networks.

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