Round the World in 19 Refreshes
This post was supposed to be finished a few months ago, but I kept delaying it as I had a funny feeling that I had another refresh coming up. I started to write the story nonetheless and out of me flowed 5000 words and 18 refreshes, that had taken me all over the world. Writing that story down for She Hit Refresh, was the first time I’d ever written it all down in one go. Putting pen to paper and writing my story with all its changes, countries and ups and downs, gave me the courage to hit refresh again.
I’m Zoe Langman, 41, divorced, British, no kids and living in Bali for the moment. I hope this post inspires you to get out and hit your refresh.
My first Refresh at 18
My story starts at 18 however, when I hit my first refresh. I’d failed my German A-Level, so I was supposed to spend another year studying and resitting. I told my mum that I was not going to do that, I was going to find a better way. I knew I needed, to be in country and learn from native speakers. My halfwit German teacher (who was English), whose teaching tactics ranged from annoyance, to sarcasm to screaming, was not going to help get me the lingo level I wanted, so off I went to Dusseldorf for a year.
Realising I loved solo travel
We’d travelled a lot as a family, but that trip cemented my solo travel bug and my love of living and working abroad. Over the next couple of years, I spent a lot of time in Germany and a lot of other European countries as part of my degree and just for fun. One summer I spent in Amsterdam working in the red-light district (serving in a youth hostel FYI), another I was a cocktail waitress in my hometown, using the money to flit off to Europe for holidays.
Choosing a degree that gave me travel opportunities
I studied European Business, as well as German and Spanish, as I wanted to guarantee a life of travel. After I graduated I went back to Germany to work for Siemens, who I’d worked with on my gap year. It was great, they treated you well, I loved my colleagues, I got paid very well and I was a marketing manager for a huge department at 22. I was made for life, so my colleagues used to tell me, but I got bored, very quickly.
Quitting corporate life after 1.5 years
So I quit, after graduating only 1.5 years earlier, shocked at how boring work was and how easy it seemed back then to climb the corporate ladder. I decided I’ll come back to that later, when I felt like being bored
Living all over the world
I spent the next 5 years living all over the world. I was in Ecuador (teaching English), then Vietnam (volunteering for Saigon Children’s Charity), then Spain (trying to do a complicated job for the British Standards Industry). I travelled to many other countries in that time too, to exorcize my wanderlust, distaste for settling down and apparent lack of interest in corporate life.
Back to corporate life
After about 5 years I was 28 and strangely enough I had decided that I really wanted to get back into corporate life and learn some serious business skills. (I feel like it was my idea, but more than likely my mum was telepathically sending me those messages across the seas). I landed back in Cardiff, having ended a long-term relationship (yes, I had a 5 year relationship in that time long distance & it worked, until it didn’t), that took me years to get over. So penniless & jobless and very heartbroken, I moved in with my parents and set about trying to restart my career.
I had a degree, about 2.5 years work experience in Germany in marketing, a couple of years of volunteer work (as I did loads in University too) German, Spanish, international experience, living on your own in many countries experience, but I could not get in job in marketing. I won’t bore you with the crap jobs I had to do to get by, but I eventually ended up with a marketing role after 6 months, with a pay cut and a less role than I had in Germany.
From 28 until 41 I worked my ass off and then some. I did a lot of European marketing roles in that time. Then I got headhunted to work for an American Consulting company in the UK, so I did that for a couple of years (it was as hardcore as you think it would be. More than once I had to get sick leave from exhaustion and stress. I have often been told I can do the jobs of 2 or 3 people, but these guys wanted my every last energy, or my last pound of flesh, so my dad used to say).
Started my own company
After that I started my own company TigerLeap which helped American brands to launch their products into retail across Europe and the Middle East.
All those years, I worked in the masculine and macho consumer electronics industry and as you probably know if you start in one industry at least in the UK, it’s hard to move out of it into something else. So, I stayed there. Some parts I liked (cool tech products, meeting people, a few nice colleagues), some parts I hated; ridiculous pressure, working virtually nonstop, constant rejection from buyers (I sold and negotiated with major retailers), a hell of a lot of sexist, chauvinist, mansplaining behaviour and so on. A lot of toxicity.
In all honesty I probably should have left that world a very long time ago, but I got sucked into the world of “success”; high earnings, living in Central London and all the hedonistic fun that came with that. I pacified myself with expensive handbags, eating and drinking in fancy restaurants and told myself it was fun. I think I did love it for a while, but there was something quite dark about it all.
The big turning point
Then my Dad got very sick, and then died in July 2016. I was so incredibly close to my Dad. We used to talk on the phone every day. He really was my support system, while I was living alone in London and battling this career and trying to cope with all the admin of having a company. If it wasn’t for him I probably would have had a nervous breakdown. But then he passed away and I had to leave to cope alone. His death changed everything for me.
Deciding to become a Digital Nomad
In December 2017 I decided to pack everything up and leave London. I’d already moved from central London to Belsize Park (north London) as I needed peace and quiet, but somehow that was not enough, so in 60 days I packed it all up, stuck it in a garage, left London and became nomadic. Here’s an article on how I did it here.
I went to Gran Canaria first, while I found it bitterly disappointing. I met some incredibly nice digital nomads there, but the location Las Palmas and the coliving, was not quite what I’d hoped for. I wrote another post on how to survive your first month digital nomading from the lessons I learned.
Off to Bali
To cut another long story short a friend of mine’s daughter decided she was going to Bali on holiday and had planned it all out. I asked her how much and when she was going. I said, “I’m coming” and we left two weeks after.
I packed my bags for two months and was going to “wing it” working remote with my clients after I’d had the holiday with my friend. In all honesty it worked out fine, I just switched my hours around, but my heart was not in it at all. I really just could not summon up again desire to be pitching buyers for products. I wanted to go out exploring, taking photos, making 360 videos and just enjoying myself. I’d worked 13 years straight like a crazy person since my last sabbatical.
So, I quit. I phoned my clients and said I can’t do it anymore. We’d worked together for 8 years, they were like family, but I’d had enough. I decided that I needed to have time to play around with some more creative stuff, writing, 360 videos making, podcasting and whatever else comes up. So as of one week I’m now on a creative sabbatical in Bali. I don’t know how long it will last, or what’s next, but for now I’m mainly writing and doing a lot of yoga, learning tarot and trying to get my zest for life back. Here’s a video I made to announce it.
I’ve pulled back from social media for my sabbatical, but I’m writing for my blog The Tigers Journey, and I started doing a weekly tarot reading called Self Belief tarot, which uses the tarot to work on self-esteem / self-love, confidence and courage and I have a weekly newsletter which I’d love you to sign up for.
To read her full 5000-word post click here.
2 thoughts on “Member Spotlight – Zoe”
Thank you so much for featuring my story. I feel really honoured to be placed alongside all the other amazing women who’ve hit refresh.
Thanks so much for sharing your journey with our community!