Melissa Ng in Ladakh, India, photo courtesy of Rackley Nolan
Interview with Melissa Ng – Founder of Melewi, Product Design Strategist, Nomadic Entrepreneur
My name’s Melissa Ng, originally from Singapore. I’ve spent the last 8 years travelling and working – of which the last 6 years on my business Melewi, which is a location-independent Product UX UI design studio, working with a fully distributed team across 7 countries, and clients all around the world, including McDonald’s, Visa and Samsung.
The autonomy! Not just being able to travel to different countries, chase after hobbies I like, but more importantly, to be able to create a lifestyle and work environment that I enjoy – for instance, working from cafes, or taking some of my team calls while taking a walk outdoors.
Another thing I love is getting exposed to different experiences, lifestyles and cultures. From navigating the hectic chaos of New Delhi, to the living in the calm serenity of the Swiss alps, to being awestruck by the tradition and customs of Kyoto. Plus! All the different food you get to try.
Melewi has been remote since day one, before working remotely was really a thing. It started out when I discovered by accident as a freelancer that I didn’t have to be shackled to one spot since all my clients weren’t in Vietnam where I was living at the time.
Once I started hiring the team, I wanted to offer the same working lifestyle that I had and loved, and thus the Melewi team was born!
It’s not just about being exposed to different cultures, people and behaviours, but really about expanding your data points to big enough of a sample size to find any correlation and causation to glean a deeper understanding of people and the world.
Growing up in Singapore was a big privilege, but it’s a small country that can be a bit of a bubble.
Travelling and seeing so many things I’ve never seen before across a spectrum of good – traditions, nature, history, sports, and bad – poverty, pollution, corruption, trafficking, widened my perspective and has given me the opportunity to broaden my thinking, and also to connect better with people. And to also keep working and improving on myself.
When I moved away from Singapore for the first time, I was incredibly shy and socially reserved. Through necessity, a lot of effort and most importantly, the right set up of frequent solo travelling, I was able to mostly overcome it and now am no longer shy, which has been a necessity for running Melewi!
Most of the challenges are very much more on the personal front than with work. The biggest thing about constantly travelling is the lack of a base, and over time, the lack of strong roots.
Your friends and family back home see you a couple of times every year, and slowly you drift apart. Living a different type of lifestyle also doesn’t help. And when you bounce from place to place, you don’t have enough time to form deeper friendships and relationships, and the roots never quite take hold.
It’s something that creeps up on you over the years and suddenly you feel a bit adrift, and maybe a bit like you don’t quite have a place in the world. It’s definitely challenging, and I’m still finding ways to mitigate it!
Is it sad to say a constant in my life is good coffee? I’m kidding, but not really… (laughs).
Okay, let me expand upon that: there are some routines I keep with me no matter where I go. One of those habits includes a hot shower, followed by enjoying a morning coffee. Not just a coffee for a caffeine fix – though I’d be lying to say I don’t also do it for that, but really having that one thing to look forward to in the morning, enjoying the couple of minutes to myself while having it.
If I’m in a city, I typically shower, then walk or skate to a cafe, and that has become a ritual I love, especially when the sun is out.
There are a few mottos I live by which follows me no matter where I’m at.
»Always asking why and why not? …being curious about everything, as well as choosing when to accept or reject my fears.«
Those are big parts of my identity that don’t need a physical location, but for me to just live them best I can everyday.
A place you belong and are accepted. This place doesn’t have to be physical. I know I have a place with my business and team, and it’s not just because I’m the owner. And my teammates know they have a place within the team too. I know I have a place with my close friends who are spread out around the world, even if I’m not physically there with them. To me, that’s home.
Recognising my privilege. Growing up in Singapore, there was a lot I take for granted. It’s such a safe and stable and comfortable life you have there, and you’re not exposed to a whole lot. I never fully comprehended just how lucky I was to be born there, and what a stepping stone it was for me to even be able to have the opportunity to strive for what I strive for.
I moved to Vietnam when I was about 20. It was a 2 hour flight, but it could have been on another planet. It was noisy and chaotic and absolutely fascinating. But it also had people everywhere struggling to make a living, prostitutes being sold on the back of motorbikes, beggars and their kids sleeping on the streets, policemen pulling over innocent drivers to line their own pockets. Just a 2 hour flight away from where I was born.
Don’t neglect your mental, emotional, financial and physical health! This isn’t a holiday, this is your new everyday. Stay in touch with friends and family. Don’t let being a „nomad travelling the world“ become your entire identity. Trust me, people get real tired of listening to your travel stories. You’re more than what you put on Instagram. Take a break if it gets too much. Staying home once in a while doesn’t mean you aren’t still living a nomadic lifestyle.
If you’re interested to transition into, or start a location-independent business, we’re starting up a new and super exciting extension of the business: which is remote business content publication and consulting – everything to help you start a successful remote business.
We’ll be launching it soon, but you can sign up to stay in the loop on remoteuprising.com!