2020 was a year of immense shifts in terms of how we collaborate and connect with others, both as professionals and as people who call this earth our home.
As we prepare for what’s next in travel and wellness work, it helps to reflect on the changes that have moved us forward to the point where we are today.
As Co-Founder and Creative Director of Yoga Trade, Erica Hartnick is well-versed in finding new and inspiring ways for yoga and wellness professionals to work, travel, and trade, no matter their location. So, we were thrilled to have a conversation and get her thoughts on the future of wellness work and regenerative economy over the next decade.
The Future Of Wellness Work and The Regenerative Economy In The Decade Ahead
Specific Strategies For Navigating Current Uncertainties
Jen: During the pandemic, a lot of wellness professionals have shifted their offerings online.
What do you see as the major benefits and challenges of virtual wellness offerings, and do you see this movement online as a lasting trend in the industry?
Erica: I’d say one of the biggest benefits is the affordability and accessibility of online offerings.
As a student, there are so many new things to explore, and it can feel less intimidating to try new things when you have the option to participate on your own terms.
You can also access classes pretty much any time, anywhere. And it’s easy to connect with your favorite teachers, no matter where they are in the world.
As a facilitator, you have more freedom to experiment with new offerings and formats with less hassle and less risk. Your overhead is a lot lower, and you’re able to connect with a wider audience across different geographies and time zones.
For the challenges: number one, it’s not just not the same, right? Teaching in person, you have a face-to-face connection, human touch, and more of a community feeling.
Also, and I know this from personal experience, it’s a little bit harder to stay motivated and focused when everything is virtual. That goes for both students and teachers! There’s so much else competing for our attention at home: it can be easy to get distracted.
In terms of these recent shifts becoming a lasting trend, I definitely think online offerings are here to stay, and we’ll continue to see a lot of big changes over the next decade.
Only now are people learning how to facilitate a good online experience. There’s still a lot of room for us to grow and blossom in this way; it’s just the beginning.
How To Think About Remote/Virtual Work and Location Independence
Jen: We’re in a unique moment, where we’ve been forced to operate online in almost every way possible. At the same time, it’s providing this organic opportunity to link back up with students we may have previously crossed paths with while traveling and leading retreats, trainings, and workshops in other places.
Going forward, my hope is that we’ll be able to incorporate the best of both of these approaches, connecting online and in-person; they can actually be very synergistic approaches. So, I agree that there’s reason for optimism and not just overwhelm around transition in the industry.
My question is this: the pandemic has made a lot of people more geographically agnostic. I know you have quite a bit of experience as a digital nomad. What practical advice would you give anyone out there who is considering a move abroad?
Erica: The first thing is to get really clear with your intentions. Why do you want to do this? Where do you want to be? What do you want to do?
Practically speaking, it’s also important to reduce your expenses as much as possible and slim down your material possessions to only what you really need. Both will create a lot of freedom in your experience as a digital nomad.
Figure out your options for remote and/or on-location work and how much income you can expect to earn. Look into the destinations you’re interested in, in terms of cost of living as well as visas, insurance, and taxes.
Right now is an exciting time to be a digital nomad. It’s a lifestyle that really emerged in the last 10 years or so and is going to explode in the next decade. There are more and more digital nomad communities popping up around the world. They can be great support networks, especially for people who work independently and remotely.
Many countries are also starting to offer special long-term, remote work visa programs: Germany, Spain, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Barbados are a few. In a lot of these cases, you pay a flat rate for a visa, prove you’re making a certain amount of money, and you can stay for a year.
Usually, you do have to continue to pay taxes in your home country, but that varies depending on your individual circumstances. If you’re a US citizen, for example, and you’re out of the country for at least 330 days in the year, you may qualify for a foreign earned income exclusion. That’s definitely something to look into.
There are a lot of exciting recent developments in terms of healthcare options for digital nomads, too. I always recommend World Nomads, and I’ve heard good things about Safetywing as well.
Overall, this is an area where things are shifting a lot at the moment, so make sure you’re staying up to date with your research.
Wonder What’s Missing From Your Wellness Business’ Marketing Strategy?
A Renewed Emphasis On Sustainability
Jen: A third COVID-related shift, aside from online work and geographic flexibility, seems to be a greater awareness of our interconnectedness, in our relationships and communities, as well as with nature. A wonderful consequence is a renewed emphasis on sustainability in all its dimensions.
I want to ask two questions here, and my first is: what can we do in the wellness and travel industries to make our business practices more ecologically sustainable?
Erica: The first thing is to slow down enough to start shifting our thinking toward the long term. Our culture has become so fast-paced and technology-oriented; just “go go go!”
Consider how the way we’re currently living is going to impact the next generation and generations down the road. Nature is so cyclical, and many of today’s business processes and economic systems are linear. We need to realize that and take steps to address it.
As far as being a digital nomad, there’s some tension there. As people leave their home communities to live in other parts of the world, we have to be careful of thinking in terms of, “Okay, I work online, which means I can make money anywhere. I want to go live in the coolest, cheapest place I can find.”
But that’s not super sustainable.
We do need to connect with and nourish the communities around us.
The “Regenerative Economy” and What It Means For Wellness Workers
Jen: Those are wonderful insights, and a great segue into the second part of my question on the theme of sustainability, which relates specifically to economic sustainability.
When we were preparing, you brought up the concept of “the regenerative economy.” Can you define that concept for our audience and explain how it’s important to the future of wellness work?
Erica: This is an area I’m really interested in, and still learning a lot myself!
If we look at the Latin root of the word ‘regenerative,’ it basically means ‘to create again.’ So, it’s the concept of coming from a wounded or depleted place, where we need to heal and renew.
If we think about this in the context of the world economy, it means reorganizing and rebuilding our economy in a way that supports our home on earth. It’s almost too simple; as humans, sometimes we make things really complicated! Nature has it down: the universe keeps renewing itself, and it’s up to us not to get in the way.
I read a paper by John Fullerton titled Regenerative Capitalism: How Universal Principles And Patterns Will Shape Our New Economy. It isn’t anti-capitalism; it actually acknowledges many of the benefits of capitalism, like innovation and efficiency.
But at the same time, it contends that we need to come at things with a regenerative mindset. We need to understand that we are all one; our personal health is the direct mirror of the planet’s health and the economy’s health.
It sounds really simple, but for some reason, we’ve moved so far from any kind of balance in so many of the systems we’ve built. The next part of our evolution has to be to heal ourselves by healing our planet and our economy.
2020, An Exercise In Building Resilience For The Future
Jen: My last two questions are pretty open-ended. We’ve just been through a time where there’s been a ton of uncertainty for individual teachers or practitioners, small wellness businesses, and entrepreneurs of all types.
One, what advice would you give to someone just starting out as a wellness professional?
And two, is there anything different that you might underscore for someone who’s more established in the industry but feels like they’re experiencing a major transition in focus or process of re-building?
Erica: For those new to the industry, my advice is: “Just start, just do it!” Don’t get into that paralysis by analysis zone. Start on whatever it is that’s calling to you, even if it means investing 20 minutes a day and being consistent with it.
It’s an amazing time to build something new. There are so many resources out there, so many groups and networking spots online. [Editor’s note: one example is our own Facebook group, The Retreat Leader Hub, which is a supportive community for networking, information sharing, and promoting your offerings].
And for people that are reevaluating, it’s along the same lines. This is a great time to pause, step back, think about things. Listen to what your intuition is telling you.
This past year has been such a good exercise in building resilience. So many people have come out feeling, “If I can get through this, I can get through anything. I can do this!” And they have direct experience in dealing with challenges head-on without being so afraid to fail.
For everyone, another piece of advice would be to focus more on the quality of your work than the quantity. We can get so tied up in trying to be productive that we neglect slowing down to form real relationships, either in person or online. But it’s forming these relationships that is so important to building a sustainable career in the wellness industry.
Finally, if you’re in a rut with your business, it’s always worth trying to shift your awareness. Specifically, tune in to that inner voice that asks what can you get, what can you achieve? The one that questions things like “how much can I make,” “how many clients can I reach?”
Instead, ask yourself, “What impact can I have? How can I be of better service?” I honestly believe that the more we give, the more that ultimately comes back our way.
The current moment is a true testament to our resilience in the face of challenges. It’s also a time to renew existing relationships while seeking out new ones, to focus on the value we can add to people’s lives while building a sustainable career, and to assess what has and hasn’t been working well in terms of the systems that govern our daily lives. Armed with this knowledge, we’re in a unique position to develop better ways forward as professionals and as people.