• Magnette Coetzer

Digitally Speaking....Adapt we Must

Updated: Dec 11, 2020

Well, it's been quite a year! 2020 will go down as a year to remember. For many, for all the wrong reasons.

For me, it's been mixed. Mostly good, actually. And I feel almost guilty saying this, but it's because I changed the way I work.

I decided to radically change my career and entire way of working in 2016 when I returned to Cape Town from Germany. Given South Africa's disastrous economy and political incompetence, I knew I needed to do something radical if I wanted to live in Cape Town for part of the year and travel extensively, while still earning a decent living. I really really wanted to get out of Germany! I certainly didn't have the funds to retire, so work I must!

I had no mentors, or other people I knew who could help me, so I researched like a crazy woman and found out as much about remote work as possible. Thankfully my former career as a producer and researcher in media TV and film laid the groundwork, and these skills are a part of me. Very handy for translation work, of course. I had always loved language and linguistics, so after 5 years in Germany, I felt ready to embark on a career as a linguist and a writer.

I am so grateful that I made that decision and went thrugh the birth pangs of building an entirely new career path before the COVID pandemic hit. Since I was rentng ou tmy home in Cape Town, I rented a place on my own, near the West coast, where I completed most of my research. I then moved in with a friend, at her invitation, (now an ex-friend), who had lost all her clients as a successful writer for women's magazines in South Africa, mostly due to digitalization. She had built a successful career, had won awards, but, like so many other successful South African feature writers, the work had just stopped coming in. Sadly, like so many writers before her, alcoholism had also taken hold, and her mind was simply not agile enough to re-invent herself and find new sources of income. Very sad. Additionally, she had never left her home town and had specialized in a very specific market. Arrogance and over-confidence in her own abilities, together with a lack of flexibility and international experienced also played a major role. Most tellingly, she had completely miscalculated the digital revolution. She thought, in her own words, "Digitalization was simply a passing fad..." My jaw dropped when she told me. I think I shouted "WHAT?". I had been researching digitalization, its impact, its future, and the monetization of digital models for over 10 years by then.

I tell this story because I think it illustrates the reality of a changing world and the reality of what happens when we don't face facts. If we don't change, if we're not willing to be flexible, we will not be able to keep up. Some people simply haven't taken on board that the world has changed irrevocably. COVID has accelerated that change, the stark reality of ever-increasing digital and remote working models.

So, digitally speaking, I am incredibly grateful that my urge to not live in Germany permanently, and my love of travel, was the springboard for making some radical changes to my career and approach to working. I hardly felt an impact when the virus hit. In fact, at one point I was super busy translating COVID rules and guidelines.

I am now a truly happy Digital Nomad. I am delighted with my life. At 51, I've never been more fulfilled in my career and with my work-life balance. I've always embraced the New, the Other, the Path Less Taken. I have never been conventional.

I've decided to write regular blogs on my life in the digital domain, my travels ad experiences, and my life as an "older" member of the tribe "Bedouin Digital". My love of beautiful coastlines and mild weather has taken me to many beautiful places in Spain, Portugal, France and Italy. Often where countless retirees have also decided to go. Expat communities abound. I'm generally between 10-25 years younger than they are. It underlines my elation at having made this decision early on. I live the same lifestyle. I'm not tied down. I'm felxible and free

I've traveled extensively to amazing locations and sights in the last few years, I've had incredible experiences, both alone and with my husband, while everybody else was stuck "at home" in conventional place-specific jobs.

I like to experience places like a local. I often stay a few months, to really take in the culture, the place, and the people and travel from my base, which is usually an Airbnb rental. I've had amazing experiences and made some good connections...long-term friendships are being formed and old friendships were rekindled.

So 2020, a year where many lost jobs, where many businesses went bust, many people went stir-crazy from cabin fever, while so many experienced a huge demotion in their lifestyle, was infinitely better for me. Had I not been working digitally, I would not have had these opportunities. Priceless. Like the VISA ads. I almost feel guilty. I hid out in beautiful coastal towns, moving away from the virus hot-spots, staying put when travel restrictions were in place. I had a great year. I ate delicious, food, saw beautiful places, had many new and incredible experiences. Most of this year I was able to spend with my husband as he was working online due to COVID. I am so grateful. It's largely been due to the fact that I embraced the new way of working early on. Most haven't, especially the "older generations". If this year has taught us anything, its that "Adapt we must". I can only say that if you ever considered "going digital", chances are you'll be very glad you did.

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