Intro: Welcome to the #JustAddGratitude podcast. Here you’ll discover inspiring stories of personal and professional growth, level three fun, marketing tips, business development and travel adventures from entrepreneurs, digital nomads and creatives alike. Now sit back, grab a drink and take a 30 minute gratitude break with your host, Shannon Kuykendall.
Shannon: Hi everyone. Welcome to episode five of #JustAddGratitude. On today’s episode, we have Janice Ferrante from Oblique Design out of Boulder, Colorado. When Janice is not standing at her computer, you can probably find her on her motorcycle, a yoga mat, or feeding her die-hard fixation with fashion. She’s also a lifelong learner who loves to explore the latest industry trends and an ardent traveler who daily integrates international influence into her daring designs. Welcome Janice, thank you for joining us today.
Janice: Yeah, pleasure. Thank you so much for having me.
Shannon: So right now you are in Lisbon, Portugal. A little bit of background about Janice that I know of, so I traveled with Janice like I did with Jordan for the first four months of this year. We did Peru, drawing a blank on … Medellin.
Janice: Oh yes, so we did Medellin, Santiago, Chile, and then Mexico City.
Shannon: And then Mexico City and now the Bourdain Group. You guys are in the last bit of your program so you’re-
Janice: We are, yeah.
Janice: Yep. We just went to Split, Croatia and we’re currently in Lisbon, Portugal. Then we go to Valencia, Spain and then our last month is Cape Town, South Africa.
Shannon: Oh, such an amazing itinerary. Really, really excited for you. And you guys just got to Lisbon and how are you liking Lisbon so far?
Janice: Oh, I love it. I absolutely love it. There’s a lot of flavor here, a lot of spirit, a lot of culture and it’s the perfect place for a digital nomad for sure, for sure. So it’s very comforting coming from Southeast Asia and the fast pace there, so we’re being a little bit spoiled by the European lifestyle here.
Shannon: Oh yes. Well I just … I mean Portugal, gosh. We went wine tasting in the Alentejo wine region, me and my friend’s son, when we were there last year and we had an amazing time. We stayed at these really beautiful, they were like monasteries that had been converted into high-end luxury hotels and it was so cool. It was just really, really cool. The whole area was beautiful.
Janice: Yeah, absolutely.
Shannon: So one of my favorite questions to ask when I meet people who are doing Remote Year and you and I are very close in age and we are surrounded by millennials and there’s nothing wrong with millennials, so that’s not a dig. It’s just when we’re older, we just kind of have a different mindset. So what was going in your life when Remote Year appeared in your life and you decided to join?
Janice: Yeah, that’s such a great question. So I was in a huge state of transition at that point in my life. I am the owner and creative director of Oblique Design. And throughout the history of my company I’ve had … starting with two to three employees all the way up to 10 at one point. And I started to scale back down and I’ve had an office that entire time, almost 15 years plus of having the overhead, employees, healthcare, workman’s comp. It was a lot.
Janice: Yeah. And in the last year or so, it was the first time in my life that I didn’t have any true employees and everyone was a 1099 and a contractor. And a pivotal moment was for me to give up my office and it was a huge decision and I just wanted to simplify my life. I really did. I still love design and branding and web design and packaging, but I just wanted to simplify as far as what I wanted to do for the next stage of my life. So I decided to simplify my life and downsize and go into a co-share working space in Downtown Boulder.
Janice: And that’s where a collective group of individuals, there was about 40 of us and we all had different skill sets to offer to each other. And that’s really what I was out for, to connect with the brand strategists and media buyers and copywriters and designers where we all work together, but there was no commitment of hiring anyone full-time so that overhead stress and pressure was eliminated. So that was a big shift with my company after having an office for over 15 years.
Janice: So I decided to take one of my employees as my account manager and we went to a co-share location. And ironically enough, how Remote Year came into my life is that I couldn’t sleep one night, it was 3:00 in the morning and I literally went on Instagram and the ad said to me three things, it said, “Are you in transition?” And I said, “Yeah, I am.” And then it said, “Do you love to travel?” And I said, “Yeah, I do actually.” And then it said, “Do you work in a coworking office?” And I said, “I do.” And then it said-
Shannon: You hit all the marks.
Janice: I did. And it said, “Then Remote Year’s for you.” And I never even heard of Remote Year. This was exactly one year ago.
Shannon: Oh wow.
Janice: And so yeah, it was a quick decision and I just felt in my gut it was the right thing to do because all those things aligned personally, professionally and the travel journey part of my life was just missing at that point. I knew I had … There was something bigger out there. And I asked my account manager if she would like to join me on this trip and she said yes. And so it was ever since then, that’s when it all started. And we started January 1st of this year in Lima, Peru.
Shannon: Fantastic and-
Janice: Yeah, yeah.
Shannon: How have you seen your business? I mean because when you travel there’s a lot of logistics.
Shannon: Always the number one concern, is there going to be Wi-fi in our apartments?
Shannon: [crosstalk 00:06:09] coworking space so we have to count on Wi-fi there as well.
Shannon: [inaudible 00:06:14] speed internet especially. So what kinds of adjustments did you have to make to kind of overcome … because it can be anxiety-ridden. You get into some of these different countries and cell service is different, everything’s just different.
Shannon: So how did you overcome that? And-
Janice: Yeah. I would love to address that on two levels. One is the professional level and the other is personal because they’re very, very different and I had different experiences with both. So professionally, the Wi-fi wasn’t an issue for me because at the workspaces, if you were willing to walk the 10 or 15 minutes, the Wi-fi was solid. But at home, which is a luxury to work at home which I did a lot in Boulder, it was sketchy. So I would rather not take the risk if it was a serious client call and just go to the workspace, not a big deal. But what I personally miss was the interaction and personal connection with my clients and team members on a weekly basis. That was hard.
Janice: I’m a people person. I love my clients. We go out to dinner, we go to lunch, we do happy hour. We collaborate face-to-face. So some parts of the business suffered for that period and I lost some business opportunities for not being in Colorado while at other times I got business and they didn’t mind it. So it really depended on the culture of that individual company that was looking to hire Oblique. So the more conservative, large Fortune 500 pharmaceutical companies, I lost.
Janice: I didn’t win the bid because they were just so honest and said we need our trusted partner right here, 24/7. And I understood that and I couldn’t deliver that, but the other clients said, “We don’t care where you are. Your work speaks for itself. It is so solid, that I love the way you communicate with us. We see your process and it’s okay.” So the way we overcame a lot of this was that we scheduled fixed standing weekly Zoom video meetings with our clients to ensure consistency that we didn’t miss anything and that’s what helped.
Janice: I urge anyone who is doing something like I am with an agency who have clients, just say every Tuesday 9:00 AM, you got me. I don’t care where I am. If I’m in Southeast Asia, I’ll be up at 3:00 in the morning for you because what they’re looking for is that dedication and trust. And that’s what we we’re able to provide to our clients. So I can say it was a bit of a risk. I didn’t get some of the business, but that’s okay because I’m traveling the world, so for me it was a risk worth taking.
Shannon: When it came … When you were doing your sales calls were you up-front with people letting them know, “Hey, I work remotely and right now this is where I’m located.”
Janice: Absolutely. So we would … Our SEO is very strong for Oblique Design and so we would get a lot of emails saying, “Well we’re looking for an agency for a new logo or a brand refresher, a web design.” And the first thing I would say to them is, “We are taking this year and working remotely. If this is an issue for you, it’s okay. We’re just not a fit. We can revisit this if you’re still looking for an agency in a year.” So I always said up-front, I’m fully transparent and honest with everyone we deal with.
Janice: So I didn’t want to go down a road so far and then say, oh, drop the bomb on them and say, “We’re not in Boulder anymore.” No. So that really was … They appreciated that. They would either say, “Oh, it’s okay, no problem.” Or they would say, “No, thank you. We’d rather someone that we can meet face-to-face with.” So I appreciated both sides of the story there and what the clients were looking for specifically.
Shannon: Wow. Well that was one thing I didn’t do because of how much travel I’ve done over the years is I don’t tell them that I’m traveling at the time.
Janice: Oh interesting, okay,
Shannon: And that is because it shouldn’t matter where I’m located as long as I’m doing all of the other things that you were talking about.
Shannon: I’m setting weekly meetings. They can count on me. When they send me a message, I reply in a timely manner. So I just never … When I tested it out, there were … When I would tell people, “Hey, I am … This is where I’m at and I’m working remotely.” I never got the gig. Whereas when I just didn’t tell people and I delivered what I told them I could deliver, there [inaudible 00:10:34] never any issues.
Shannon: And then when I got back, if the client was still with me when I got back from travel, then I would tell them about what I did and they’d be like, “Oh my God, I had no idea.” And it’s like, well it’s because I’m keeping East Coast hours, so it doesn’t matter where I am in the world, as long as I show up on time and during the hours that I say that I’m going to be available, there was just never an issue. But I commend you on being completely and utterly transparent. There’s a lot to be said for that.
Janice: Absolutely, thank you. And a lot of our businesses is hands-on photo shoots and videos and being with the client to do branding workshops and strategy sessions and messaging so I have to be honest, but I want to as well. So there’s some that we did remotely and on video conference, but for me, I really like being with my client as I said. And luckily that in Mexico City, since it was only a two hour flight to Denver, I literally approached all my clients in Boulder and said, “Listen, I’m leaving in January but I’ll be back in April so we’ll have as much time as you want.” And I stayed there for two weeks solid to maintain and really nurture that relationship that I’ve established with them.
Shannon: Well I mean at that point in time too, which was really good that you did that, was because we were in pretty much Central Time Zone, central or mountain for four months after you left.
Janice: Yeah, exactly. Right, right.
Shannon: And then you go to Southeast Asia and you’re working from 10:00 PM until 5:00 AM.
Janice: Yeah, that was rough.
Shannon: And that’s if you’re keeping East Coast hours, oh my gosh.
Janice: That was rough, Shannon.
Shannon: The worst.
Janice: I can say that was probably one of the most challenging things to deal with while on Remote Year. Luckily as a design firm, I could work during the day and we had some meetings that were at 1:00 AM or 2:00 AM, but we were very, again, honest with our clients to say we can only work between this hour and this hour and they were receptive to that. They understood, “Listen, we don’t want you at 5:00 in the morning, so let’s just do it at midnight your time.” And that’s how we got around that as well. We committed to these hours. We sent out a mass email and that’s how we avoided the night owl work schedule. So I’d love to dive into some of the personal challenges of Remote Year, if that’s okay with you because I think it’s relevant.
Shannon: And I would love to hear what those personal challenges are because they’re definitely … there are plenty when it comes to giving up what you know at home and doing something completely different and quite honestly, incredibly brave.
Janice: Yeah, exactly. And I think I’ll just … I’m so candid with my feelings so I could say what really saved me on Remote Year is having a session with my therapist on WhatsApp just to call for an hour. And for her to literally help me through this transition of every month in a new country. But what she literally said is that, “Remote Year is an assault on my emotions.” And that stuck with me every single month to give myself and everyone else here so much credit for what we’re doing.
Janice: It is a roller coaster of emotions. One minute being so incredibly high and high intense of hiking Machu Picchu and then the next minute being so lonely and lost in a foreign country, even though you’re traveling with 40 other people in your family, in your tribe, there’s still those moments of lowness. And at any age you feel this, in my opinion. So I think she was a saving grace for me to have that communication with her on a monthly basis. So not only are we collectively dealing with a new home, but it’s a new roommate, workspace, currency, food, language, culture, gym, yoga studio, you name it. And how do you keep up with that?
Shannon: [crosstalk 00:14:29] every month.
Janice: Right. It is so overwhelming and only to get settled to move onto the next country. So everyone sees our pretty polished photos on Instagram and Facebook, but they don’t see the deep sadness sometimes that we carry sometimes of the longing for a routine and our friends and family. So I just want to be so clear with everyone that the grass is always greener. But there are those deep lows that I feel that almost every single person on our trip has experienced.
Shannon: That is mental health issues while traveling is a topic that has come up quite a bit over the last year and a half. [inaudible 00:15:08] personally and then for people that I traveled with, it is a topic that we will be revisiting on the podcast just because I’ve got a few friends that have come out to say, “I was bipolar but I didn’t tell anybody that I’m bipolar and I traveled the year with them.”
Shannon: But you [inaudible 00:15:28] people dealt with some really bitter depressions because of the transitions. You’re going from … Because weather is also a factor. You go from these areas of really hot and humid and then the next thing you know you’re in Buenos Aires, Argentina and it’s 40 degrees out and you’re freezing and your body has to adjust to that, your emotions, so it’s a lot.
Janice: You’re absolutely right.
Shannon: It’s a lot. And you’re right, the pictures are beautiful. The videos are beautiful and everything is totally curated. But when you sit down and you start talking to people, that’s when you get into the real nitty-gritty. This is work. This is [inaudible 00:16:08] physical and spiritual work that you’re doing [inaudible 00:16:11].
Janice: And I don’t think most people, Shannon, realize that and recognize this during the interview stage. You just look at, oh my gosh, what are the countries? And they list the countries. And how could I not do this? And you get so caught up, but then when you’re in the middle of month two or three and there’s just like this pit in your stomach of, where am I? What am I doing? It’s really confusing and I think that’s where you really have to get down to the gritty of self-love.
Janice: And for me, how I was able to overcome a lot of these lows is to live in the present and continually live in gratitude and that’s something I didn’t have in Boulder. I just didn’t, not until I lived on Remote Year did I think high level-level and big picture. Janice, where are you? You’re in Lisbon. Janice, where are you? You’re in … So soon, very quickly, I’ll be back home in Boulder, in my home, on my couch with a big screen TV.
Janice: And I won’t be in my little tiny home anymore in Japan without a couch and without a TV or even a kitchen table. So these are the things that you have to think about that are changing me. And I run into people constantly saying that, “Wow, you’re living the dream. I only wish I could do.” And so you have to really step back and say, “You’re so honored to have this gift because most people don’t have it.” The gift of learning and self-love, I think is the biggest thing at the end of the day.
Shannon: Well and that’s a huge thing that you take away with after you spend a year with [inaudible 00:17:45] people.
Janice: Yeah, exactly.
Shannon: [inaudible 00:17:47] very different. And I think the other thing that was very cool for me was there were people that I couldn’t even imagine being friends with that I was going to be spending the year with when I first started and ended up being some of my best friends when it was all said and done. So don’t ever judge a book by its cover, that’s another good one too.
Janice: You are absolutely right because that happened to me without a doubt. My friends are … They have shifted a lot and that’s okay because again, we’re all going through own personal transitions and experiences. It also depends on who you’re rooming with and there’s a lot of variables.
Shannon: So another question that I like to add as we start to close this down a little bit is the level three fun story. You are an avid outdoor [inaudible 00:18:35].
Janice: Uh-huh (affirmative).
Shannon: You ride motorcycles.
Janice: I do.
Shannon: That’s cool. I’ve seen some stuff with you and Kyle and I think there’s some other guys that go out there with you as well that ride while you’ve been on your journey. I mean, what an experience. Not that I’m thinking that that’s where a level three fun story is, but I-
Janice: It could be.
Shannon: … [crosstalk 00:18:55] something there.
Janice: Shannon, I have a lot that … Yeah, I was able to go on a motorcycle tour both in … well three places, Vietnam and Medellin, Columbia and then most recently in Split, Croatia. But yeah, there was plenty stories there, but I think one that I would much rather discuss is only because there is a little bit more of a learning process that went on here. So I actually was in Kuala Lumpur and after a week of living in this massive city, I’m not a city person, I’m a mountain girl. So I said, “I’m going to take off and go to Bali.” And so I decided to go to Uluwatu and then Gili Air.
Janice: So I went to Gili Air and on the way from Gili Air back to to a Uluwatu, I was in a shuttle and there was a lot of people in this shuttle. It was an hour drive and the shuttle just stops at a McDonald’s and just lets people out. It was a mad rush. And I’m talking to this Canadian guy and we’re just talking and talking and all of a sudden his Uber comes and my Uber comes and I didn’t realize that I left my backpack in the shuttle. The shuttle just took off. I have no idea where it is. Everything was in there. The backpack was … a lot of important things except my laptop.
Janice: So I’m sitting in McDonald’s in a bit of a panic and luckily, there was a guy from Gili, he was 25 years old. His name’s Ivan. And I had his WhatsApp number only because he arranged my shuttle from a snorkeling trip the day before. So I text Ivan and I said, “Ivan, I’m in a bit of a bind but my backpack is in that shuttle.” And he said, “Janice trust me, I will help you. I just don’t know when, how or where.” And I said, “I’m sorry, what?” I’m from Jersey. That’s not acceptable. I’m like, “No, no, no, no, no. Ivan, I need this backpack now because I have to check into my hotel at six o’clock.” This is my mentality.
Janice: So I text him in an hour sitting there in McDonald’s, kids screaming, French fries are thrown around and I just didn’t know what to do. So I texted him, I said, “Ivan, where’s my backpack?” He said, “I don’t know. Be patient, Janice.” So what do I do, Shannon? I’m starving. I go and order a Big Mac, fries, shake and then I … This is not something I normally do because I’m this crazy Boulder freak, all we do is eat healthy food. I’m a tree hugger. So I ask them for the Wi-fi and I sit down and I start working. And I start working and I start just literally enjoying the moment of being in this McDonald’s in the middle of Bali.
Janice: And I said, “When in Rome.” How could I not just cherish this moment right now, even though I didn’t even know when I would see my backpack, whether it’s two minutes, 20 minutes or five hours later. So it was just such a beautiful lesson for me to stop and trust. And so literally four hours later, Ivan says to me, he sent me a WhatsApp and he said, “Madam, your backpack is a half hour at this location.” So I go to pick up my backpack, everything’s okay. I go drive an hour later to my hotel. It’s now 8:30 at night and I sit down and I go to check in and the gentleman says, “Janice, passport please.” My heart sunk.
Janice: My passport was in the hotel in Gili, which was a five hour ferry ride and a one hour shuttle away. So this was one of the most trying days of my whole Remote Year experience. So what do I do is I text Ivan again and I said, “Ivan, you’re not going to believe this, but I didn’t leave … I’ve got my backpack, but my passport is in the hotel
Gili Air. What do I do? [inaudible 00:22:53] will hand-deliver it to you tomorrow. So I didn’t know what to take of that. I said, “You’re going to handle-deliver me my passport, five hour ferry, one hour shuttle.” He said, “I’ll do that for you. Yes.” And I said, “How much?” And he said, “Nothing.” And I said, “No Ivan, I have to pay you.”
Janice: And he said, “No, you owe me nothing.” And so I had to trust that, okay? But what happened was, he came the next day, but he wanted something from me, Shannon. He wanted me to sleep with him. So here’s a 25 year old man who has me hostage because he has my passport. I was in such a panic because I had to go to Thailand the next day for work. I’m doing some nonprofit work. So I said to the hotel, he was at my hotel, I was in town in Uluwatu. I called the hotel and I said, “There is a man from Gili who has my passport. He’s at the hotel. He wants to sleep with me. He wants to stay in my room.” I said, “Please get that passport from him immediately because I didn’t know he was tricking me.”
Janice: Do you see what happened? And so they put the whole hotel on alert. The security guards came out and they called me and they said, “Ivan is here Janice. We highly suggest you sit down at the bar with him and you talk to him and we’ll do our best to get the passport.” And at the end of the day, he did end up giving the passport to the hotel security guards. And I just communicated with him and because he told me he was going to sleep at friends. He lied to me. He said, “I have plenty of friends I could sleep with in your area.” And then when I told him I didn’t want to sleep with him, he threatened to not give me my passport back.
Janice: So the biggest lesson, it was a very scary situation, but my lesson was learning to not always be in control of some of the situations. I’m so used to organizing and constructing and telling people what to do in business. However, losing my … forgetting my backpack, staying in McDonald’s. Then the entire situation with Ivan and my passport, I had to literally breathe in to all that and step back and say, “Janice, what can you control and what can’t you? So it was just a crazy, crazy story and I think that was my level three fun because I had kind of fun, but I also … It was a hard lesson to learn about, always keep your eyes on your things, your passport. Put your passport in your underwear. I don’t care what you do because you never know what’s going to happen. So that hotel in Gili-
Janice: Yeah, they ended up keeping it because it’s the only hotel that I checked in with a passport and they kept it and I forgot to take it with me when I checked out. That’s what happened and the hotel actually took responsibility. They said it was their fault and they’d try to get it to me, but the FedEx wouldn’t arrive in time and that’s where Ivan said, “I’ll bring it to you.”
Shannon: And then he took advantage of the situation.
Janice: Yes. Yes, he did. He did. And it was very scary.
Shannon: That’s really scary.
Janice: And I just want to tell all the travelers out there, you just can’t trust anyone. He’s 25, so no way did I ever think that this man wanted to have any sort of encounter like that with me, but just never make assumptions ever. Yeah, so that was one of my scary but interesting situations here on the trip so far. That was a day.
Shannon: It does happen. It does … There are
that will take advantage of a situation like that. And it’s just really unfortunate because I did not see that coming in this story. I’m thinking, Ivan’s a really good guy and to find out Ivan’s [inaudible 00:26:34] is a douche, that’s not, yeah.
Janice: No. And I even called the hotel manager of where the passport was and I said, “What do you think I should do? Should I pay for a room for him to stay in my hotel?” I said, “I need your professional advice here. I don’t know your culture. Would that be wise of me?” And she said, “Walk away.” She said, “Tell him to leave the hotel. Don’t offer him any money.”
Janice: And I paid for his Uber to get to his friend’s house. I mean he was clearly … he knew the neighborhood and that was it. So I did go to her for a recommendation because I felt so bad because he did at the end of the day Shannon, saved me, in the fact that he brought me the passport in time for my trip to Thailand. So there was some gratitude there from my point of view, but little did I know he had ulterior motives.
Janice: Yep, yeah.
Shannon: Good lesson from that.
Janice: Yeah, so there you go.
Shannon: So we’re going to go ahead and start to wrap things up here. So tell our audience where they can find you.
Janice: Absolutely. So my website is obliquedesign.com, so you could just go to the contact form there. Also in LinkedIn, two places on Instagram. One is Oblique Design and my personal Instagram is @janice, J-A-N-I-C-E, one, seven, so @janice17.
Shannon: Perfect. Well thank you Janice, for taking the time today to be here and your experience of traveling with Bourdain this year in Remote Year.
Janice: Yeah, it was a pleasure, Shannon. It was a pleasure. Thank you.
Shannon: And I look forward to catching up with you once you’re done. I love Colorado, so I’d love to make a trip out and come and hang out.
Janice: Same and I love Portland, so right back at you.
Shannon: Well you got a place to stay. Anytime, you’re more than welcome. You’d love the area that we’re in here, so I’d love to have you.
Janice: Perfect, perfect. Thank you so much.
Shannon: Well that’s the wrap for episode five of #JustAddGratitude. Thank you for joining us today. Please visit justaddgratitude.com for podcast transcripts, show notes and resources. You can find #JustAddGratitude on Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Spotify and Stitcher. Please share, subscribe and leave a review. And remember, if you want to make positive changes in your life, just add gratitude.