The Dream Life | Thriving abroad as a family
This week we are talking about how to thrive abroad as a family. And we have with us, Lin de Leeuwerk, who is a multi-passionate mompreneur who's doing all the things, and she's going to share with us her experience with how she is bringing her family to everything that she's doing within living as a global citizen, so to speak. So welcome Lin to our podcast today.
Thank you. Thanks for having me.
So Lin is an author, she's a photographer and also an online entrepreneur with a hospitality background. She's a mom of three, and has been living in various countries with her partner of 17 years, she advocates plant base and zero waste living, and she loves hanging out with her friends that's I'm so happy she's in Kyoto right? She loves the beach, and a good glass of wine, which we have shared many of. So, yeah, Lin also for me I'm super happy to have you here today.
Thank you for the nice introduction.
So before we dive right in, why don't you tell us a little bit about your personal journey and why, like how you got to where you are today?
Yes, well, is, as you said, I've been living abroad for quite a while, actually I met my husband, in, when we were both doing Hotel School-Hotel Management in The Hague in Holland. And after we graduated, we really wanted to just move abroad and see the world and so we started working for hotels, first in the UK, in London, and from there on actually every couple of years, something new came up and we just moved with the company, and we got married on the way, twice.We had some kids on the way. I, at some point when I had my first child Jamie he's now almost 10.
So I actually quit working in the hotel business when, when I was pregnant with him, because I was working in events management and it's kind of like a 24/7 job so it's not really that's really, that's something that's very sustainable when you have small kids, and it worked very well with my husband's job- he got promoted we moved again, and I was able to stay at home with the kids.
And so now we have three. Three kids: two were born in Thailand, and one was born while we were living in Tokyo, and we've been in Japan seven years now. Kids are all in school full time, so I kind of like, I'm getting my life back again, and following my, my passions and doing what I like to do.
Yeah, it's funny, we share a lot of similarities actually with our lives and with our husbands are both in the hotel business and the constant moving and everything and I guess for me was, it was similar that once we knew we wanted to start a family, right? I was also working in a hotel operations that it's just not, it's just not easily doable, especially when you're abroad and you don't that support network like you would maybe at home with grandparents or this or that, right? So you say okay, I need to need to figure out something else. It's funny that you mentioned as well I mean the seasons, we're all in now as you said, you're finally hitting that new chapter in your life because now your little one is full time in school as well. So how do you feel about that? All of a sudden: wow, I'm by myself at home now.
I love it!
I have all this freedom.
Yes, this is actually her second year of being in school full time, And the good thing is that she really loves it because she's the youngest and she wants to be, you know, just like her big sister and brother, so there wasn't any hesitation from her side to go to school full time, and of course as a mom that's really, you're really happy to hear that because then you don't need to feel guilty about your own time.
So, yeah, like when she went to school full time my husband said to me, “Just take your time, you know, take six months or a year, just like relax and just figure out what you want to do.”
So, I did that and then actually halfway during that year COVID head and then I had to home-school the kids for three months, so that kind of like broke up my relaxation year.
That was not part of the plan.
Yeah but all in all I think it's, for me, as a mom I think this is really good for me because I need a lot of like alone time and just time with myself to think about things, to be creative and to connect with, you know, other adults, and not just kids. So I'm really enjoying this time.
And as a multi passionate entrepreneur because you're an author, you are into photography, you're an online entrepreneur, so you're doing all these things, and I just went to ask you: How do you how do you make that work for you in the sense of when you have so many interests and so many things that you're passionate about, how do you go about choosing which projects you get involved with?
Is it something that you have some sort of structure or you get hit by inspiration, or how do you approach the work that you do and how you do it around your family life and living abroad as well?
I think in the beginning when I, when I had my first one I started to get interested in photography because of course, you have your own child who’s the most beautiful one and you really want to,capture your child in the best way and that's how I became interested in photography and also then offering that to other families, you know to take their photos to make their memories.
But I think, as of course, we all evolve and our passions kind of evolve, and when I came to Tokyo I did quite a lot of photo shoots, but then when I came to Kyoto I found there was not really a market for it. So, I got more into photoshoots with tourists. I was with a company and Australian company and they would like match up to Australian tourists in Kyoto with me and I would do a photoshoot with them in Kyoto, but of course that also stopped because of Covid and so since then I've, I've just kind of like found another creative outlet, which was my writing, and I still take photographs, like most, like sometimes, mostly or friends like Desiree and I really like to support other people and help other people in that way. So if my photos can help with that and yeah, that's really good. And then my other creative outlet then became writing like I've always been writing as a child already like diaries and so on. So I thought just to set myself a challenge, and, and write a book, and while I was doing that, which is like a romance novel for adults, obviously, when I was doing that my daughter was like you need to write a book about me and my friends and so I did. I found an illustrator and an editor and just got the ball rolling and I self-published two books out of a trilogy. In his last year.
And if you're asking me like how to like juggle these things I think especially with the creative part is just like, you need to find that sweet spot when you have the time, and when you can be creative. So for me it's like early mornings, like I get up really early and then just have the quietness, to arrive, basically. And it's also like in our co working space where Desiree and I often share a co working space, just the fact that you're out of the house and you're in that space and you're in the mindset, to, to write.
Yeah, so that's basically how you know I find a time pockets to yeah those things
That's really good. First of all I love, I love your books, and we'll definitely put a link to those in the show notes of this episode because they're amazing. And they're all based in Kyoto on mythical creatures and everyone who's sort of loves Japan right, it's just so interesting to read about that and then involve your children and it has a guide book with it and everything. So we'll put all of that information in there but yeah speaking about,
And I'm also interested in the romance novels.
Oh yeah, That was so good. Super good.
It's actually the idea for the romance novel came like, I read a lot of romance novels, just to kind of like switch off and just be in a completely different world, you know, than my own. And so I came with the idea for this novel because my biggest fear living abroad and being dependent on my husband's job really for the visa here, for our house here, for everything, so my, my biggest fear is that something would happen to him or happened to his job or knock on wood.
So I started to I thought if I write about it, maybe I can put this fear aside, and just give it a space, you know, so I did so I wrote this novel, but, like, a woman, kind of like our age who goes back home after living abroad, and how she designs her life.
Yeah, it's it's really really good. Iva,
I love how you’re channelling- Yes, I definitely will check it out- because I love how you're channelling a lot of those fears that we all have to some extent when we are away from our families and, as you say dependent on who the breadwinner is in that moment. And knowing that a lot of variables can happen, right, knock on wood, but they are out there, and they can unfortunately touch us to some degree. So it's really amazing to hear how you went about it, dealing with that fear and just turning to something so powerful, which is a creative outlet for you as a book
Exactly and then I also like to, because that's like the creative outlet, but also to kind of like put something in place to help me when such an event would really happen that's also the reason I set up my online business, I became an online entrepreneur just to have kind of like a backup plan.
Just in case, but something real, you know, like it's good to put your creative outlets like somewhere, but then to have something tangible as well.
Exactly. And I know that is what led you also from past conversations, that is what led you to actually diving into this entrepreneurship and turning what was pretty much a passion before into a proper business and we'll speak about that in a second, but I think it's really courageous as well, of women to do that, but I think it's also a very responsible thing to do right? Because I resonate with that and the fact that that was always a goal in my mind to stay independent. Because I also from my past life, it came a little bit out of fear that I was trying to overcome, of having actually been in that position to be standing there, with absolutely nothing at one point, and I swore to myself that I'll never ever, ever let that happen to me again. And yes now I’m in an amazing marriage, very, very healthy, we've got our second baby on the way, you know, things like that but still, it's like this this thought of being independent- if you need to be, you know also gives you that identity back that we used to have before family before the husband before the kids, right? And I never wanted to lose that. And I know for you it was, it's similar that this is what propelled you to now go that next step into entrepreneurship.
What is your philosophy, or I guess, approach to the whole idea of thriving abroad as a family, right? Because it looks very different as you said, when you were probably single or when you were with your then boyfriend, now husband, but it was just the two of you, pretty much, going around and living as expats. But then the kids arrived, and now that you find yourself having been abroad for so long. Is there some philosophy that you live by, where you say like okay we are definitely away from our families, and we had to make our own little tribe or community around the place that you are now. But how do you make it as thriving life abroad, instead of just being abroad and feeling like you're bouncing from one place to the next because it can feel very ungrounded, sometimes, right, if you are constantly in motion. And how do you ground yourself in a way where you regardless of where we are geographically, it is that whole notion and concept of thriving, and being fulfilled in this family life that you've created for you?
I think there's, yeah there's different things there's of course for me, like how I thrive personally like within this family. But if you're asking like about the family as a whole, I think it's been for me and my husband we've always communicated a lot about what we want and what our dreams are and we started as 20-something years old, You know, moving to London with like a scrapbook-type vision board like what do we want for our life, what do we want in London, where do we want to live, what do we want to accomplish, and every year or so we kind of like update those goals and those visions.
And yeah, we just really visualize what do we want for our family, where do we want to be, what you know in the so many years that we still have, what do we really want to accomplish and what is most important to us. And I think just in the webinar that I just posted this morning with my business coach she uses this term, which is like meeting the universe halfway.
So of course you can have your dreams and visions but you can't just sit there and wait for it, like to come to you, right? You need to also take action and take steps to really reach your goals and in that is also meeting the universe halfway. So for example when we were living in Tokyo, and we got the opportunity to move to Kyoto, I really didn't want to move here, because I really wanted to go to a different country.
But then we had this this vision of what we wanted for our next step and actually every box was ticked, except for a geographical location. So, then we just also said like, you know, we're just gonna do it and we'll make it something you know? Like wherever our family is we can make our own little world and we can make our own home, like our home is where our family is right so even though it wasn't our perfect opportunity, we thought, “Yes. Okay. We'll meet you there you know and we will make it the best that we can.”
And in hindsight, like we've been here three years now and it's really been the best. I've met like really amazing people and we've been living in like an amazing house, work has been really good for my husband, and we've had really great opportunities to travel and so on. So yeah, I think it's a great example for me, personally, of how you can have your vision, but you also need to, you know, pour some water by the wine and then make it like a full glass of wine again.
That's beautifully said and that's so true because often, these decisions are not in our control. We always dream about “okay so if you could go anywhere you wanted to go, where would you go?” Of course we have those dreams but it's really the art of making whatever comes your way, yours, not for someone, not for a company not to please someone else, but how do we make it ours. And I think that's a very beautiful kind of philosophy to live by.
And Lin, what advice, because I love the whole meeting the universe halfway and connected to what Desiree is saying that we all have our wish list, but sometimes the nice to haves right but sometimes we don't get all of that, just one go. And so, we need to accommodate ourselves or maybe realize, like you did, by having your vision that a geographic location or just the name on a map, really, was not the main thing, right? Because all the other boxes were ticked, so that in itself made up for the lack of a new geographic location in your situation. What advice would you give to those moms and entrepreneurs who are finding themselves on the verge of doing a move abroad, and who are facing those same questions about, what does this mean, how do I make this a great move for my family but also for me to thrive in what I want to do or to follow my passion, as a seasoned veteran, what, what would you say is like your top 3 go-to either mindset, hacks or piece of advice that you would give someone that is about to make that move?
I'm not sure if I can do like a top 3 type of thing but I think, you know, we as like moms living abroad I really think, we are like the strongest people right? Because when you take the family, the companies take our family and puts them somewhere else, it's always the moms who will figure out first where can I find an online community that knows about my neighborhood, where can I find a doctor, I found a house, we have a babysitter, the schools… I think moms can be so switched on and just get all the steps into place to land the family basically.
But at the same time, I also think you need to be really gentle with yourself and kind of like give yourself time as well because as in any move anyway, but an international move, maybe even more, it takes six to 12 months for everything to land, for everyone to be comfortable, and so on. So, I think it's kind of like a balance between just doing it, practically, but then also giving yourself grace and giving yourself time to land yourself. And I think what's you know what would you are doing in what I'm doing with your own online business is very easy, because you can pick it up and it doesn't matter where you are right? And because you're your own boss, you can also say like, oh okay so this month I'm just kind of like giving it a break, because you know we're moving I don't have the headspace for it and so on and I think that's a really strong point about like starting your own things.
Exactly because it doesn't stop right? It just continues and so we're not bound when we won't have these discussions with the husbands who all of a sudden come home and then we need to discuss something, it looks like we're gonna move again and you're going to be like. “But what about me?” and this doesn't come up and you're like “alright okay well I'm gonna pack up my laptop now and let's go. Where are we going?” So, no, it's really true, it's really important to build that foundation, and be able, like you said, to have that freedom to say, I'm gonna take a little bit, not a break, but like a break for my family because you are the backbone of that family you are that very important co-pilot that the pilot could not fly without. And so that's a really good mindset to have
I think, like, coming back as well to the way we are like doing business, you also have your community there right? So even when you move, you bring that community with you and that's already like a group of people that really aligned with you that can help you mentally when you're in, you know, when you need like some something uplifting or motivating.
And then, you know, then you get like the physical kind of community around you and then the place where you land but at least you already have that that you bring with you, basically
it's yes and that is so vital. Having that that tribe and that community.
That, that is, in a way, virtual right because you will meet people locally and you will find your friends and you will you will build your own network, where you are, but also having that availability of connections with people, even through distance. It's one of the things why Desiree and I are doing this project that is so dear to us, is because we are obsessed with building a tribe of empowered female entrepreneurs that really can empower each other, motivate each other, inspire each other regardless of the physical proximity or the distance. It really cuts across time zones and geographical locations, and it is so important as you say, especially when you are finding yourself starting out from scratch, because that's what usually tends to happen when we move.
We start from scratch and we have to gather a bearings and get to know the lay of the land, so to speak and, and it does fall on our plates. Not only that for ourselves, but also for our families right all the, all the little details of schools, locations, and, you know, where do you do your groceries, how does, how does it work right in this new place, how did that go about doing things.
And often it is, but in my situation, it's been like we move, and sometimes even the next day my husband goes to work and I'm there, yes, with the kids,
Yes, like where am I? where do I go? Where…
Or what happened to me like we move, but you have to do quarantine, in a hotel with your kids, but your husband is working and then he comes with really amazing nuggets of “I have a call at 3pm so I really need you to be quiet
Yeah like sure.
And I’m like “We are quarantining all together, I really didn't know what you expect to happen”. So, yes, they really sometimes look more at the macro things, I don't know if that makes sense, but you know, they're just like, “oh, we moved and now I’m working” and you're like yes but we're quarentining and all these things are also happening in the background that also need to be addressed.
Right, exactly. So, now, do tell us about Healthy Living by Lin and how you've turned that into your online business.
All right, so Healthy Living by Lin is the Instagram account that I started actually under a different name, I changed names to be more inclusive. I started that when I did a year of like full time training with a coach, and like I started to get interested in plant-based foods and I actually got a diploma in plant based nutrition as well. And it basically turns, not, we're not 100% vegan but we're just mainly eating plant-based foods. So, I started to just document my journey on Instagram. And then I kind of like, broaden the horizon, and it expanded because Healthy Living is not just food but it's also, you know, fitness and mental health and hydration and all these things.
And then I actually got in touch again with a friend of mine from back in my hotel school days, Who started this online business and she said like this is not something for you, because you already have your personal brand which is Healthy Living by Lin, so why not use social media to actually make money with that. So I got into the same business that she was doing and it's basically, it's three components. So, the first one is my personal brand, which is Healthy Living by Lin. And then, I'm a member of an educational platform, which also gives me automation for basically the products that we're affiliated with so there's a company, it's actually a Japanese company that we're affiliated with, and they have what they call a high, high ticket offer so there's a product involved that you invest in and then I earn commission on that. So it's really a three-way that works together.
And yeah, I started that in May, and it's also given me a very cool community with a lot of powerful ladies that are all you know doing the same thing and starting up their businesses and really starting to gain financial wealth, basically, yeah.
So I've been really enjoying it, it's really educational platform. I'm learning so much about social media and marketing, but also there are a lot of personal coaches on there who give masterminds and it's all been very inspiring.
And it's funny how it always comes back to community right? Something that we get out of it is all of a sudden this newfound community of coaches, like-minded people, other women in your shoes in a similar situation trying to achieve similar goals, but I like the concept that yet, you are able to keep your own brand, there's a big focus on just keeping your own identity and all of this, which is.
That's the whole point but you basically I'm not out to, to sell people this product. The idea is that through attraction marketing by them liking my brand, and want to know more, they will get interested in it and see it as a business opportunity for themselves as well. And actually, there are a lot of people from the same, you know, from all who do oils as well and so on because it's also like a wellness product.
So yeah, it's very interesting as a very, like, a super nice group of like mainly women but there are also men and we all kind of like have the same goal, which involves a lot of yeah just health for everyone you know, for your family and the planets and so on so I'm really happy to be a part of that.
Yeah, exactly like you said, attraction marketing it's not it's not about sales. It's not about selling but it's people who are attracted to your type of lifestyle kind of thing. I want to do that too. That's inspiring. I kind of want to follow in those footsteps and then you share maybe that that product that you're using or different like health products or the product you're affiliated with, and people are like, well, I like the things she does, let me go and try that out, which is which is beautiful right? And you're never selling, you're just really attracting people into your tribe so we'll definitely put some of your allow us also your website and some of the links and everything. If people are interested to kind of find out what is that what is she doing what is she talking about and there's something that hey I could start earning money with while doing my own thing. I think that's super interesting.
And at the end of the day, sharing is caring. And you are sharing your experience you're sharing what is working for you, and I guess that's the new model for us right to come from a place of cooperation and sharing what we have seen that has worked for us with others, in the hopes that it might resonate or it might not, but in the hopes you're just putting it out there. Just like any mom would help out other moms with regards to “I found this to be very helpful for me, why don’t you try it out?”
And I think definitely in these uncertain times, it's good to have you know a backup plan, or like your financial independence as we as we spoke about before.
Yeah and multiple streams of income as well. You never have to focus on just one thing and I know that's what a lot of moms especially moms that are just going that route now for the first time right. They're afraid I have to drop everything else, I can’t do this, but that's not true. We're all doing so many different things and we're multi passionate and it's about making harmony out of that, making that all work, it will never be unbalanced but you'll find harmony with it. And one day you'll feel like writing more or then you have another photoshoot, or then you're like, no I'm really going to focus on my business now. There's so many different streams that fulfil you. Right and that's beautiful.
Exactly and I think what you said before as well. I read one of your posts about it is that with this online business is also a way, in a way, can be a passive income, right, like you don't have to be on it like all the time for it to generate money basically.
Correct and it's that whole freedom like you said, if there is another move on the way like that happened to me two years ago when we moved to Japan.
I literally couldn't do anything for like three months, because we also got married in between back in Spain. But the pay checks kept coming and that's when my big aha moment was like, Ah, this is amazing. This is so good. This gives me the type of freedom that I was really looking for without really what I wasn't really like out there. It found me as well, like the universe met me halfway as well. When I wasn't in it what it gave to me out of that really bizarre situation of everything tumbling down at you at one so yeah it's all comes together it's really, really great.
Thank you Lin so much for coming on today with us and really sharing your wonderful journey and your experience and then giving us these powerful insights on how you are really doing it all being multi passionate about everything that you do, and having all this amazing streams of income that are really coming from a place of putting your creativity into this amazing outlet for others as well. Thank you so much.
Thank you for inviting me.
If you want to connect with Lin, you can find her on Instagram and on Facebook and LinkedIn, and we will put all of those links into the show notes together with her website.
You can check out her books,
I think the books definitely if you have like kids that live abroad I think they will be able to relate very much the kids that are the characters in the book,
Thanks so much for being here. It was amazing.
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Lin de Leeuwerk
Lin is an author, photographer and online entrepreneur with a hospitality background. She’s a mom of 3 and has been living in various countries with her partner of 17 years. She advocates plant based and zero waste living and loves hanging out with her friends, the beach, and a good glass of wine.
CHILDREN’S BOOKS BY LIN