I love the Internet, I do. And not just because of Spotify, YouTube or Grumpy Cat.

I love the Internet because it connects me with great minded folk who inspire, support and care about what I do with my time. Monika Kanokova is one of these people. We met on a social network (of course), she discovered that I was an indie author, and she asked to interview me for the company she worked for at  the time. We stayed in touch. All the while I was amazed at how this young woman based in Berlin spoke such amazing English and yet she had neither a German or English sounding name.

Some months later, Monika emailed me to say she was setting herself the challenge of doing NaNoWriMo for the first time and as part of my NaNoWriMo Inspiration series of posts, I interviewed her about her experience. At this point she was in New York and I was even more intrigued about her travelling lifestyle. Then she asked me to interview me again (which she did on Skype from London!) and it soon became clear that this interview was different and it was going to be for a very special project, one that I was honoured and thrilled to be part of. I’ll let Monika tell you more about  that very special project, This Year Will Be Different,  along with some of the reasons why she is so international and what travel really means to her.

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UPDATE: Monika’s latest book Work Trip & Road Trips: The insightful guide for the curious, the restless, and the adventurous freelancer is available now – and it’s super inspiring!

So, Monika, I’m confused! Where are you currently based and what do you do for a living?

Just until a couple of months ago I was living in Berlin but I decided to return to Vienna and start my own business. I now work as a freelance community manager and content strategist, which finally allows me to move freely between all the places that are dear to me; at the moment mostly Vienna and NYC.

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It now all sounds so easy but when I first decided to go freelance, I had millions of questions such as ‘How does a professional blogger make money?’, ‘How can a translator work from anywhere in the world?’, ‘How does one find their first clients?’ and many more, which is why I eventually decided to make a book about starting out as a freelancer. That’s what’s been keeping me busy lately.

Where in the world have you lived in the past?

I grew up in the Czech Republic and moved to Austria at the age of 14. I didn’t speak any German but I managed to learn the language within 18 months. I simply had no other choice than to communicate in the local language, which I guess sped up the process. When I then graduated from high school, I was 21 and my English wasn’t good at all. For years, it was my then-boyfriend, who wrote all my English school assignments. I decided to try to learn English the same way I learned German and it seemed to have worked out, given I now write copy in both languages.

London

After about a year of living in the English country side I moved back to Austria. After my BA, I moved again; this time to Utrecht to attend a masters program. I loved Holland and I didn’t want to leave the country but things didn’t work out as planned. I then moved back to Vienna where I took on a job at an agency. Luckily my supervisor, who I didn’t get along with, fired me after only three months.

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As these things usually go, an opportunity popped up within a week after my termination and I took on a job in Salzburg. I moved there within nine days. The new company was fantastic but I couldn’t get used to living in the city, so I ran off to Berlin and joined a young startup. For me, the experience felt like a long rollercoaster ride, which is why after I quit, it didn’t feel it could be any more insecure to run my own business than work for a business where I am not the one in charge of the finances. Also, having done all this research on freelancing for This Year Will Be Different, I feel I’m well prepared for whatever might come next.

So, yes, tell us about This Year Will Be Different?

It’s a book for and about entrepreneurial women; a practical guide filled with tips tricks, stories and interviews with women who are now making money as bloggers, designers, consultants photographers and many more great professions.

Illustrations for TYWBD

And why did you decide to write the book?

When I first started setting up my own company, I had millions of questions about how to best pull it off. I was seeking practical tips to understand what it takes to run a viable business. While asking around I figured I couldn’t possible be the only person on the planet who had all these questions so I decided to publish a book on the subject and include pragmatic tips from women who make money working in the creative industries. I wanted to make a guide that would feel like asking a good friend.

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The project’s funded from my savings but because I’d love to see it in print and also be able to send copies to the women who have been interviewed I decided to run a Kickstarter, I really hope we can reach our funding goal!

Many of the women you interviewed for This Year Will Be Different live or have lived in foreign countries and most have travelled at some point in their lives. How important do you think travel is to a person’s personal and professional development?

Leaving home, wherever home is, will change your perspective on what you consider is normal. Just because you think something’s ‘normal’ doesn’t mean someone else doesn’t think it’s absolutely ridiculous and awkward.

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I’ve learned to be more aware of cultural differences and I believe I am way more observant when people react in a strange way only because they’re not used to the way I do things. I feel like travel makes you more easygoing and tolerant to differences.

Also, why did you name your book “This Year Will Be Different”? I think it’s such a powerful name and I’d love to know the story behind it.

I guess it’s mostly because going freelance is not something one decides from one day to another. I believe that before one decides to start a business, it’s a thought in the back of one’s head and it’s there for a while.

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It’s such a big step to leave behind the security of 9 to 5 that it doesn’t really matter whether it’s the 1st of January, one’s birthday or any day really, you know that the year you go freelance will always be different than any year before; so I felt that’s a title that supports the message best and luckily, the thisyearwillbedifferent.com domain was still available 🙂

So let’s talk about your travel experiences. Which was your favourite place and why?

I cannot quite point to a favourite place because wherever I lived it taught me something that has shaped who I am today; growing up in the Czech Republic, I have experienced a lifestyle that up until now feels much more down to earth. My granny had a vegetable garden and I knew where the meat on the table came from. I guess I am quite conservative in many ways because of my early upbringing.

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In Austria, I have learned to respect and worship different cultures and how people can benefit from their diverse backgrounds. In England on the other hand, I realized how much we’re shaped by where we come from and how much attention one must pay to little details when communicating with people from different cultures. It’s so easy to be misunderstood and when you have washed someone else’s laundry because you just wanted to be nice, it might already be too late because you’ve just violated their privacy.

In Holland, and this might sound silly, I’ve had something happen to me that sustainably changed the way I think; I was cycling somewhere and it was -18°C. On this extremely cold bike ride, I was so way out of my comfort zone that I realized that if I could do this, I was capable of literally anything. For some reason, that afternoon really boosted my self-esteem because I am now much more confident about my capabilities. In Berlin, and probably because of the creative scene there, I have learned to reach out to absolutely anyone that crosses my path; online and offline. So now, I am also far more outgoing than I used to be.

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I might not be able to point to a favourite place but I can point to what I like the most about all the different places; so many times I had to start over, meet new people, create a community that even if everything around me was different, I learned who the person inside of me was. I guess that’s what ‘travel’ does to you; it makes you realize who you truly are.

Which cities do you think are exciting places to be for new creatives, freelancers, or anyone thinking about setting up their own business?

Having lived in so many places I’d say you can start a business literally anywhere; in a small city it might even be easier to stick out and gain traction because there won’t be as much competition as it is the case in a big city. The one place where you definitely should be is Instagram and Twitter to share what you’re working on and to show your progress to people. We live in the age of social web, no longer are there geographical boundaries to success.

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What does travel mean to you?

‘Travel’ has become my way of life; I am not big on traveling in the common sense because I either move to a place, I have a work assignment somewhere or I am visiting friends. I always make the effort to get to know a place from a local’s perspective. I think I can actually count the nights I slept in a hotel or a hostel, which of course also cuts the costs of my travel expenses.

What are your five essential travel items that you can’t travel without?

Whenever I go on trips, I mostly only bring my handbag. I bring my cosmetics in small bottles, I make sure all clothes match and I hardly ever bring anything I don’t urgently need. So no extra shoes for me! Because of all the moving in the past, I’ve bought myself a Kindle so I can bring tons of books without having to carry the tons. I don’t like to carry much stuff with me, which is why I also only take pictures with my iPhone.

Vienna

Where in the world do you dream of going?

I would love to go to Reykjavík, Cape Town and Detroit.

Where in the world would you like to return to?

I just got back to Vienna and I am super happy to be here too, but I’ve always had this dream that I’d live close to the beach and walk my (future) dog there. So, let’s see. That could be anywhere really, just the Austrian landscape doesn’t quite cater for these dreams.

You have a super successful Instagram account – how did you get so many followers? Any tips for budding Instagrammers?

I was lucky enough to be one of Instagram’s suggested users in June 2014. What I believe makes for a successful Instagram account is when you don’t just post pictures of your friends and family but somehow try to add value to people’s lives. Before my life turned upside down in recent months, I had been scouting cool places in Berlin and sharing pictures of cool new cafés in the area. Also, I organised an event and invited fellow Instagramers, so I guess my efforts to build a better community were what made Instagram put me on that highly desired list.

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And finally, do you have any trips planned for after This Year Will Be Different? You deserve a holiday!!

My yoga teacher once laughed at me and said he didn’t believe in the concept of holiday; because if you need a vacation you’re clearly working too much. That was a big learning for me because I’ve since tried to live my life the way that I don’t need holiday.

I am returning to Brooklyn the day the Kickstarter campaign’s over and will stay there for a couple of weeks to distribute the books, write thank you notes and meet my NYC based friends. I love to work and I cannot imagine to sit around and do nothing. I just always make sure to have a nice view to go with it.

Thanks so much Monika! I’ve learned so much from this interview, not least what your yoga teacher said to you – I love that!

To get your hands on a beautiful copy of This Year Will Be Different – or one of Monika’s inspiring follow up books – just head to her Amazon shop! Yes, I’m one of the people Monika interviews, so I’m a little biased, but I know personally how important this book is as it’s exactly the book I wanted to read when I was first considering going freelance – I wish it had existed then.

You can find Monika on Twitter and on her blog and website – and join her community of #smartcreatives here!

All photos by Monika.


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This post was written by Frankie Thompson who was a Travelette from 2012 – 2015. Originally from London, UK, Frankie was nomadic for several years before settling in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, where she lives with her Australian partner and baby boy. She spends her time buying vintage dresses, riding a rusty old bike around the canals and writing books inspired by her travels. Frankie blogs about travel, writing and motherhood at As the Bird flies blog.