For seven years, Stephanie Conway worked in public relations and marketing for powerhouse brands like Samsung, Audi & T-Mobile at agency level in both the US & UK. Corporate life gave her everything: financial stability, an enviable Instagram feed, Glamorous party invites, Sleepless nights.. Until eventually, the lifestyle caught up with her and at just 28, she felt burnt out. So in 2019, she quit her stable agency career to give into her wanderlust and explore the world.
Now, the Northern English girl with both UK & US passports has rebranded herself as a marketing virtual assistant and digital nomad, currently residing in beautiful Bali. Her IG handle @symphony.va, has over 5 thousand dedicated followers and a feed that shouts #travelgoals. Here, Stephanie tells us how she learned to quit her 9 to 5 and live her best life on her own terms.
I grew up in the UK, then at 18 got accepted into a university in Los Angeles. After graduation, I loved the weather and lifestyle so much that I forged a career for myself in brand marketing and events, working on global marketing campaigns for brands and celebrities.
I spent several years living and working in LA living my best life, eventually became a US-citizen. But a death in the family brought me back to the UK to support my family whilst everyone emotionally tried to get back on their feet. I had such a strong resume that I managed to secure a marketing job within the first week of coming home. But after living in constant sunshine for so long, the English winter weather really slowed me down. I woke up in darkness to go to work, then came home as the sun was setting. I felt like a vampire and my body went into shock from the lack of vitamin D.
“Why not me?”
Through my job, I worked on campaigns with top influencers, securing brand partnership deals, helping them make a ton of money to travel and be fabulous. I was constantly watching social feeds filled with beautiful digital nomads living their best lives on beaches whilst I was stuck in an office with unflattering fluorescent lighting, wasting away. “Why can’t I be where THEY are?” I constantly thought to myself.
Whenever I’d have a bad day at work, I’d fantasise about taking off to Bali, sitting on a beach and enjoying a refreshing coconut. Eventually, the living in constant darkness pushed me over the edge. I asked myself, ‘Why don’t I just bite the bullet?’ I had no dependents, my family were all doing well and I didn’t need to be in the UK. So I began to learn about how to translate my marketing skill set to working freelance for small business and entrepreneurs. This would enable me to live a laptop lifestyle and travel to whichever country I desired. I had already moved to the US by myself. I just knew I could do it again.
I knew that people would try to talk me out of it. I didn’t tell anyone I’d quit until I booked my one way ticket to Bali—only a couple of friends at the time knew. I was the most nervous to tell my mum. I worried that from the outside looking in, what I was doing seemed crazy and irrational. Tears welled-up when I told her, but she was so supportive. She always has been, and I don’t know where I’d be without my mum’s love and support. She’d witnessed the burnout happening and knew I wasn’t happy. With a mumsy, “Well, you’re still young and it’s your life” she approved.
Since setting up @symphony.va, I have made my way around different countries within South-East Asia. My personal favourite is the Indonesian archipelago for the pristine beaches and ease of access to fresh coconuts! Plus there’s such a low cost of living, which has allowed me the time and space to grow my company authentically and organically.
Travelling around South-East Asia has taught me a lot about other cultures and I’m constantly overwhelmed by the hospitality and kindness of the local people that I meet here. There’s such a beautiful sense of community that I’ve never experienced before here, and I can only hope that it has made me kinder.
As I navigate this new life, however, I’ve made some adjustments. When you leave something that’s as stable as a regular pay-check, you take a risk. It’s scary, but you have to have faith in yourself and your ability to build your brand. I’ve also had to find ways to make new friendships while maintaining the ones back in the UK & USA. I’ve even started weekly #girlboss meet-ups to help fellow digital nomads meet up and set goals to hold one another accountable and make new friends. I’ve also learned to be patient as I’ve realized that creating a brand, while trying to live off my passions of traveling and marketing, takes hard work. Plus being in Asia, you never know what’s around the corner, which is always so exciting.
Most importantly, I’ve learned that I don’t have to follow in anyone else’s footsteps to consider myself successful. It’s better to try and fail than to spend your life wondering “what if?” Our successes and failures are all part of the rich tapestry of life!
Stephanie Conway is a digital nomad who gave up her 7 year corporate career working on global marketing campaigns for powerhouse brands like Samsung, Audi & T-Mobile for world travel. She founded Symphony Virtual Assistant Studio, which provides marketing virtual assistance for small businesses and entrepreneurs. Stephanie currently resides in South East Asia, runs a goal-getter meet-up for digital nomads in Bali and was recently featured in Forbes for her journey to becoming a digital nomad. When not living the laptop lifestyle, Stephanie loves yoga, diving and surfing her current tropical home of Indonesia.