There is never a right time to start. Don’t wait for the perfect moment, because that doesn’t exist. I may have started in one of the worse conditions, starting a business during a Pandemic, but you have to grab the opportunity whenever it comes to you. Whether there is a Pandemic or not.
The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.
As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Veerle Beelen.
Veerle Beelen is a former Immigration & Global Mobility Consultant turned Travel Coach. As a Travel & Life Abroad Coach she empowers travellers to work on their personal and career goals, improve their mindset and to feel energized and at home wherever they are during their time living abroad.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I was born and raised in the Netherlands. Given this country is in such a central position in Europe, travelling through its many borders has always been a constant and familiar thing I would do with my family, so I guess it is safe to say, travelling has always been an important part of my life. As I grew, I decided to expand more and therefore at the age of 20, I moved to Barcelona, Spain as an international exchange student and learned the Spanish language. After I graduated for my Masters degree in International & European Law, I did an internship in Cambodia with the United Nations. In 2015 I started my career in the corporate world as an Immigration and Global Mobility Consultant, assisting expats, business travelers and their families with their moves around the world. Inspired by my clients and their global perspectives on life and work, I started looking for a new adventure abroad myself. I decided to move to Australia where I have worked for the past 3 years in both Sydney and Melbourne. Unfortunately, as a result of the Pandemic I had to move back to the Netherlands, where I’m currently residing.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
There are far too many quotes that I love, but one I made up that resonates for myself and my business is “Don’t limit yourself to the world you know…” This is significant to me because it is a reflection of the importance of looking further than what you’re familiar with. It is so vital not only to be open minded to environments around us, but also to expand our horizons and explore what would otherwise be oblivious and undiscovered. This quote became a life lesson to me and one of the lessons I want to share as a Travel Coach. I work to inspire people to step out of their comfort zones without fear of the unknown and without fear of getting held back due to limiting beliefs.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
One of my favorite books is The Alchemist from Paulo Coelho. This book describes a beautiful journey of a young boy who leaves everything behind and travels to a foreign country to find his purpose in life. The book is full of life lessons which the boy discovers during his journey and spiritual messages, sometimes hidden between the lines. You can read this book many times and discover new lessons every time, depending on what you need to receive and learn at each particular moment. The book resonates with me because it shows that you can overcome any obstacles in life and chase your dreams as long as you follow your heart and learn from your struggles during your journey.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?
Before the Pandemic I worked in the corporate consulting industry as an Immigration and Global Mobility Consultant for over 5 years, in both the Netherlands and Australia. I supported expats, business travelers and their families with their immigration and mobility needs for their global moves. For example, this included advising them on the specific visas they need and the processes and paperwork required before leaving one country and after arrival in a new country. Besides that, I assisted global companies with their relocation policies and the coordination of their employees’ travels around the world. It was a fast-paced job in which every day was different while working with people with a variety of nationalities and with colleagues based in offices everywhere around the world. When the Pandemic hit and many countries closed their borders and people started working from home, the industry of global expatriate travelling slowed down and as a result I lost my job. My visa and my fiancé’s were linked to my job and that meant that we had to leave Australia.
What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?
A few months ago, my whole life turned upside down as a result of the Pandemic when I unexpectedly lost my job and visa in Australia and had to move back to the Netherlands. I was in a reverse culture shock and very sad that the life my fiancé and I built over the past 3 years had ended so abruptly. One of the things that hurt the most was that due to the lockdown restrictions we didn’t even have a chance to say goodbye to our friends, who became our family away from home.
Being unemployed during this Pandemic and unsure about my next steps in life, I knew I had to do something to take back control over my life and change the tides. I didn’t want to passively wait at home and hope for a new opportunity to show up. I felt that I had to learn the lessons from this life changing experience and turn them into something positive. I had to take action and steer in the direction I wanted my life to unfold into.
I decided that this was the moment to pursue my dream of working remotely. This was the moment to start my own business as a Travel Coach. As a former expat myself and with over 5 years of experience working with expats on a daily basis, I understand the challenges people often face when moving to other countries. It can be very overwhelming to move to another country and adjust yourself to a new job, different culture, perhaps other language, different types of food, climate etc. However, when someone overcomes these obstacles, living abroad can offer so many opportunities for growth in someone’s personal life and career. I have experienced this myself and I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I hadn’t travelled so much and lived abroad. As a Travel & Life Abroad Coach I support other people to make the most out of their time abroad by empowering and inspiring them to find new unexpected solutions or pathways to reach their goals abroad. This will not only have a positive impact on their personal life and mindset, but as well on their career and relationships.
Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?
While working in the Immigration and Global Mobility corporate industry, I have always felt that there was a gap between the services that were offered to expats, like relocation and visa support, and the support they actually need when moving countries. I too went through this as an expat. I often felt that it would have been great and accommodating to have a coach to support me during the trialing times of moving and adapting to a new country. I felt like I lacked someone to help me stay on track with both personal and professional goals. I needed that to feel grounded and energized during the journey. Since I couldn’t find that, I spent a lot of time focusing on my own self-growth. I realized that by concentrating on having the right mindset I could make my time abroad as beautiful and successful as I wanted it to be and I could attract the things I want in my life. To give you some personal examples of things I attracted when moving to Australia: I met my fiancé in Sydney, I received a job promotion, and I started doing freelance work as a model (therefore expanding my horizons to what I didn’t know) and had my first catwalk experience on a fashion show in Melbourne!
Working on my mindset and personal development helped me so much, and I believed it could help others too. I had been looking for something that could help me and couldn’t find it, so I realized I could create it myself and that’s how I became a Travel Coach.
How are things going with this new initiative?
At the moment I’m in the process of becoming an internationally certified Travel Coach. I joined the world’s first Travel Coach Certification Program, founded by Sahara Rose de Vore, which certifies travel coaches internationally and is accredited by the International Coach Federation (ICF). I want to make sure that I have the right tools and framework to assist my clients and give as much value as possible during my coaching sessions. I’m very excited to bring this into the world and expand my business in the future. Of course, it is challenging to start your first business, especially during the Pandemic, but I’m taking things step by step and know that staying positive even when times get hard is the key to success.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Absolutely! I’m very grateful for my fiancé Nilson David. NilL has been struggling with moving as well. He is a professional Actor and since we had to leave Australia, he had to leave his agency and several gigs that were on hold due to the Pandemic. He had to adjust to a new country where he doesn’t even speak the language. However, he supported me unconditionally with chasing my dreams and never pushed me into finding a new corporate job or into any direction I didn’t want to go to. It has helped me a lot to know that he has my back no matter what and believes in my business ideas and that we can work through these challenging times together. As you can imagine we also had to postpone our wedding but I’m sure we will throw a big party once the Pandemic is over!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
Once I started this journey of becoming a certified Travel Coach so many things started to fall into place. I believe that everything that happens in our life bring us a lesson. If we are open to learning from the bad things that happen to us and take them as experience, it gives us an opportunity for growth. When I lost my job and visa and had to leave Australia, I was devastated and in shock. I tried to figure out which lessons I had to learn from this. Right now, I feel that this life event happened so that a new door would open for me to pursue my dream of having my own business. Since I made the decision to follow my own path, I have met beautiful people and interesting opportunities crossed my path that I would have never thought about before, like doing this interview! I can’t wait to see what else is coming my way in the near future and meeting great people to work with.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
First of all, I wish someone would have told me that you should just start and not wait until you find the perfect idea. Once I started making plans, I got into a flow and ideas kept coming. When you are in a flow, creating is much easier than when you are waiting for an idea to come to you before you take any actions.
Secondly, there is never a right time to start. Don’t wait for the perfect moment, because that doesn’t exist. I may have started in one of the worse conditions, starting a business during a Pandemic, but you have to grab the opportunity whenever it comes to you. Whether there is a Pandemic or not.
On the other hand, I believe that the Pandemic offers opportunities for the travel coaching industry. For many people this has been a time of reflection and there is an increased awareness on personal growth and wellness. People will be looking for more meaningful travel experiences when they are able to travel again. Companies may also want to provide more support to their expats and business travelers in terms of wellness and personal wellbeing. A Travel Coach can play a role in this and help companies and consumers work on personal and career goals while travelling and make sure they feel balanced and energized wherever they are.
Thirdly, you need a lot of patience and perseverance. Starting your own business takes time and you need to be focused and disciplined to be able to learn new skills. No one tells you what to do, it is all up to you. I enjoy this type of freedom to be able to create my dream job and work from wherever I want. In the future this will give me the opportunity to travel again as well. It is not for everyone but if you are passionate about something, you can make it work.
Fourthly, you don’t need to figure it out all by yourself. I’m curious and like to understand everything I need for my coaching business. For example, I like to build my own website and I love video editing. However, you don’t need to do all of this if you don’t want to. If it doesn’t give you energy it’s much better to hire someone who can do the things for you that you don’t want to do. Sahara Rose de Vore and her Travel Coach Certification Program has helped me a lot with this as well, since her program is specialized in creating a business as a Travel Coach and provides helpful frameworks and approaches to take my ideas to the next level.
Lastly, I wish someone would have told me that it is okay to follow my own path and create a business in a way that works for me. What I mean with this is that you can find many tips and tools online and in books of what are the best marketing strategies, how to create funnels, how to grow your email lists etc. However, I found out that there are many other ways to run a business in more authentic ways instead of following techniques that may not align with your vision. Not everything that works for someone else will work for you and vice versa. I think it is important to create a business that matches with your personality, vision and authenticity to obtain the best results in the long run.
So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?
My personal strategy to protect my mental wellness during this Pandemic is not watching TV and only actively search for news updates online whenever I want to. By doing this I avoid having an overload of information and negativity into my life. It is of course good to stay up to date but you can take control over when you want to consume this information so that you don’t overwhelm yourself. For example, start your day with something positive and relaxing instead of turning on the TV and filling your mind with stressful information as soon as you wake up. Also, pick one or two moments in your day in which you check the news and don’t focus on it anymore for the rest of the day to manage the information intake you receive.
Besides that, what has helped me a lot is dancing. I have been a Zumba Fitness Instructor for many years and during the Pandemic, when group classes were not allowed anymore, I moved my classes online. Dancing and working out reduces stress and makes you feel so much better instantly, not only physically but also mentally. Many of my students have told me that doing my virtual class has helped them to feel better and more energized while spending so much time at home during lockdown. It also helped me to stay motivated and keep on moving and still feel connected with people even through a computer screen. Even my mom and some of my friends started doing my virtual classes so that at least they could spend some time with me through a screen haha!
Finally, I try to write in my journal every day. This helps me to reduce stress but also helps me to cope with the challenges during this stressful period. Whatever you put down on paper is not in your mind anymore. I call this a ‘brain dump’ and recommend everyone to give this a try to clear your thoughts. It can also bring clarity on next steps and how to deal with daily struggles.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Within my expertise as a Travel Coach I want to create a ripple effect and inspire my clients to turn the lessons they learn during their time abroad into something positive, not only in their own personal life and career but also for the places they travel to. If we could all make a change in the places, we travel to by having a positive mindset, being open minded and by making meaningful connections with others, I believe that there would be more empathy and understanding in the world.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
I would love to have lunch with Michelle Obama. She is such an inspirational woman and I loved reading her memoir Becoming. It would be very interesting to talk to her and hear what are her ideas for the future.
How can our readers follow you online?
You can connect with me via my website https://www.unpackbyveer.com
Or follow me on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/unpackbyveer