Elze Lambrecht is a Belgian fashion designer, she managed to start her freelance creative coach business while she was traveling around the world, before she even knew of the existence of a category of people who work remotely while traveling constantly; the so-called”digital nomads”.
After meeting in Bali, I kept following her with interest, surprised by her continuous trips, evolution, and projects; until her return to Bali, where she is now about to run her own Guest House: Villa Plumeria in Bingin Beach, where we first met.
I read some of her previous interviews and found them to be extremely inspiring and empowering; she demonstrates an uncommon will to get things done and a great entrepreneurial spirit, even for the travelers’ worlds, where you often meet creative and fanciful people.
After reading them, I felt the desire to sit with her on the floor again, at that low and super long table, discussing in front of a Bintang and a Mie Goreng about different things other than surfing conditions or the next beach party.
Returning to Bali is a constant on my bucket list, so I know it’s gonna happen sooner or later; but in the meantime, I asked her to answer some questions in this interview that I’m sharing with you, hoping that it can be just as inspirational.
We talked about traveling, how to start your own business abroad or remotely, and about life choices.
Enjoy the reading!
Interview to Elze Lambrecht
Hi Elze, please introduce Yourself to the readers!
Hi, I am Elze, 29 years old, and I am from Belgium.
Do You remember how we met?
Yes! We met at Pondok Indah in August 2016 when I was visiting Bali for 10 days. We stayed in the same hostel with an amazing group of people that did not know each other; I am still in contact with a few of them.
I was travelling by myself in Asia for three months already and had a stop-over in Bali before I went to Australia to start my working holiday year there.
Please tell us about Your Travels. For how long have You been Traveling and how many Countries have You visited so far?
The exact amount of countries I have never actually counted. I have been travelling ever since I was young, mostly in Europe, together with my parents, did camps abroad, so I cannot tell you the exact number.
It’s not the quantity that matters, but the quality, right? 🙂
Any Favourite Destination?
Bali for sure, as I live here 🙂 and then I really loved Vietnam.
What motivated You the most to Hit the Road at the beginning? A sentence from a previous interview with you impressed me: “If everyone would repeat what their parents did, the world would simply stay the same”.
I love my parents, they are amazing, smart and unique people. They are an inspiration for sure, as they achieved so many things on different levels. Honestly, I don’t know how they manage everything they do, including me and my sister.
However, I did not feel I want to take over their entire lifestyle by staying in Belgium. I was graduating from Fashion Academy and I was 26 at the time. I basically just got scared that if I should stay, I would get stuck.
For clarity sake, there is no wrong in doing that, but ever since I was a kid, I wanted to see more than what I was surrounded with.
Graduating and being `in-between stages’ opened the door for me to see what was out there. I felt like I did what I had to do, by studying and having some skills to rely on, but the step to travel the world was easier for me than the step to find a job, buy a house with a mortgage and finding that lifelong partner. I felt very unmotivated to do that, and that I needed to be selfish for a bit longer.
What I meant with that sentence was that if everyone copies the life of their parents, things would evolve slower in the world, and so would people, because there is no opposition to what is happening.
It is also hard to see yourself in true daylight if you are constantly surrounded by people with the same mentality. You unconsciously adopt that mentality without actually owning it 100%, because you don’t really know anything else.
I am convinced that a lot of people live a life that was `fabricated `for them and they make it work. They might be happy with that, I cannot speak for them. But I just did not see that for myself.
About Working Remotely
During your journey, at some stage, you quitted casual jobs and started working as a Freelance Fashion Designer and Creative Coach. I found that very inspiring, can you tell us about that evolution? It worked out well?
Before I left to travel, I worked for several months as a graphic designer for a Belgian company to save money for my trip. That money declined pretty fast, so I made a plan to go to Australia and live there for a bit, working with a working holiday visa,. I found a job in hospitality in the Sunshine Coast, and in the meantime I was researching about working remotely as a fashion designer.
I ended up on this freelancer website called Upwork, and started to apply for jobs. I found jobs quite fast and one job lead to another and so on. I created my own website and worked a lot of hours after I came home from my other job.
After a few months, I could quit the hospitality job and live from my freelance income. It worked great and I had constant work.
Have you ever considered yourself a Digital Nomad?
I did a lot of research on how to deal with the whole financial side of things, as I was not living in Belgium but still paid taxes and social security there. So, I tried to find people who did the same.
I had no idea how to find them and during that time, that term was not that known. I found this one website from a tax consultant who did international service for “digital nomads” and so, I discovered the term.
In the beginning I was based in Australia, but after that I traveled to a lot of places with my laptop, so I guess I could consider myself that. It didn’t matter that much as I just did my own thing and was not too involved in online scenes. It was only later that those kind of scenes came to the surface, and the benefits of getting to know more people who did the same became more evident.
Afterwards, you decided to settle in Bali and you’re now about to run your own Guest House: Villa Plumeria. You once said: “If you stop searching for new goals and new opportunities, then boredom is going to be a protagonist in your life”. So, is this another evolution?
To me, it is, yes. Knowing myself, I need challenges and problems to solve or I get bored of the stagnating feeling. When I decided to start the villa business, I had stayed in several countries for a longer period of time, creating another business abroad seemed way easier than two years before. When it is the right time, things just fall into place when they need to. This idea came to me so easily and it did not seem that hard to do.
If you have no idea about living abroad or travelling, then all these things seem unimaginable. But you learn along the way and there are so many possibilities on what you can do and how you can make things happen, that previously seemed impossible.
Now I know I can do so much more if I really want to. I found out that the key to go from one stage to another lies in making decisions. Which is so logical, but a lot of people have ideas but keep them in their head and don’t take action, so nothing happens.
I have heard many people say: `I wish I could do this, or I should do that` but they do not take steps to actually do those things. To me, it means they do not really want it, or are afraid to do so. Which is ok, but then, nothing will change, and you have to accept that.
In your previous interviews, I read some inspiring answers about working for yourself and taking what you do as a business. Have you ever seen yourself as an entrepreneur?
Yes, even before I actually started anything and was going to school. When I was a kid, I knew I would do everything in my power not to work for anyone else.
I worked in hospitality and factories as a student or as a holiday job, so I know how it is.
My problem is that I don’t function that well when people tell me exactly how to do a job. I don’t like the be told how and when and where. If you tell me a problem and ask for a solution, I will find it quickly without someone telling me the steps in between. When they do tell me, I just get lost because it is not my own thinking process. So I know I’m better off just figuring things out by myself.
I also counted the time when I worked somewhere and thought that was the most awful part of it all. I felt my time was taken from me to do tedious jobs that lead to nothing but a paycheck.
When I started working with startups and small businesses on a short term basis, I felt I could give my all and I was totally motivated. I love it and I love seeing someone else succeed in their dream.
Have you got other projects going on at the moment?
Yes, I am setting up an e-commerce. Can not reveal everything yet but it will focus on people who want to be creative in their home and need some guidelines to do so.
I am doing this together with my sister who lives in Belgium and is a certified therapist and psychologist . We are joining our skills so that I’ll do the creative part and she will focus on the overall customer experience.
Next to that, I am working on expanding the villa management business, but that is a longer-term plan.
About living in Bali
So, after all your travels, you chose Bali. We all love Bali, but can you can you tell us your motivations for this choice?
A year after you and I met, I went back to Bali for four months. It was a great time, I was here with friends but it was not a long term vision yet. After those 4 months, I went back home and all I could think about was coming back. It just felt right to be here, hard to explain. I guess the weather made a huge difference and especially the way I felt here.
People who come to Bali always come back. It has that effect on us. Why that is so?… remains a mystery 🙂
Do you still surf much?
Not that much, in the beginning, I was obsessed with it though! But now, it is just on occasion.
Surfing is not easy if you are not that confident in the water, and I am versatile in the hobbies that I do. But I love it when I do get to surf and it’s an amazing feeling to be out there.
How’s living in Bali when you’re no longer a tourist?
Definitely different. There are certain aspects that make it easy to live here and others who do not.
A lot of people come here on holiday or to `find themselves`, so you have to separate yourself from them a bit. In the beginning, I didn’t mind, but I noticed I could never build any lasting friendship as everyone was always leaving again. If you live somewhere, you want to have a solid circle to a certain extent.
Next to that, you live in a country that is not yours, so your significance is a bit different. This is not Europe, where the rules that are made, are the ones that count. There is a thin line between those here.
Do you see yourself living there permanently or you think it’s just a phase of your life?
I always said I would stay till I’m 30 years old and that is this year.
For now, things are going good and I can do the things I have in mind here. As long as it works, I will stay, but as I become older, other things might become more important and then, I might eventually move.
I honestly cannot say how long, things will happen when I feel I need to leave.
How often do you go back home and how does it feel like?
Weird! It feels very weird!
I go home once a year and my family comes here once a year as well. So we see each other every 6 months. If I go there, nothing changed that much, but I feel like I’m walking in the past.
I have a lot of mixed emotions when I go home, and I always struggle because I am scared of how I will feel. But once I’m there, it`s fine, it feels like a different dimension.
But I adapt easily, so when I return from Belgium back to Bali, then, that feels weird too. You can’t knot these two worlds together, it is just so different.
I cannot explain this to anyone, unless they live in the same situation.
What are the Highlights and Downsides of traveling for You?
The real highlight was honestly taking the first plane by myself from Belgium to Bangkok. It was so exciting, as I knew it would change my life forever. I was scared, sad and excited. I was gone for a year during that time.
Now, it’s really fun knowing a lot of people from everywhere, so that wherever I go, I can meet either a person that I know or a friend of a person that I know. It makes it so much easier and you meet great people. I also have friends coming to visit me from all over the world.
The downside is missing your family obviously. I have a great family and I would love to see them more often. For that reason, I will find a place closer to home once I get a bit older and maybe have my own family. I want to be close to my parents and my sister, but It won’t be in Belgium.
What’s Your best Travel tip or Travel hack?
Be informed about the countries you are going to.
Not every country has the same rules or visa entries etc. You can be fooled by thinking you are allowed to go to some place for free, without any papers and they do not let you in. It happened to me and it is not fun.
Always agree and do not try to prove you are right if you get caught doing something that’s perceived as wrong in a foreign country. You are the foreigner in their country, so be agreeable and respectful towards their culture.
Which destinations do you still have on Your Bucket list and Where are You going next?
For my next trip, I am going to Mexico, and that is in February. I really want to see South Africa and Namibia.
Any hint or motivation for a beginner traveler?
Yes, just do it and do not look at prices too much. I did that a lot of times, as I was tight on money, but in the end you’ll never regret what you have spent on a trip. The experience is worth so much more.
And for somebody willing to start his own business and work remotely?
Have a plan, do not go abroad and think you can work remotely without having a plan. I didn’t have one and I was lucky, but I see so many people thinking they will figure it out while they are here and they don’t. It ends up with them going back home and do exactly what they did before.
All these things cost money and when you run out of it, you have to cut yourself short. If you have reserves, then you have more freedom to think and be creative with your mind on what you can achieve.
We’re done! You got some extra space for thanks and recommendations!
A special thanks to my family who always supports me and never held me back from anything that I ever wanted to do. They are amazing and I would not be where I am without them. They are the most selfless, loving people I know.
Thanks to the people who showed me around in places, helped me out and befriended me.
I’m also very grateful to my friends that I grew up with, as I value their friendship and they are the only people in the world that I can be always be myself with, without being judged, and that is very rare.
Thanks Federico for letting tell my story 😀
Thanks to you dear, I ll see you around, let’s see where 😉
Here you will find some previous interviews to Elze Lambrecht, mostly about fashion design and entrepreneurship:
“How This Fashion Designer Became Successful On Upwork After Working As A Waitress” by thehustleisfemale.com
Influencer With A Voice: Elze Lambrecht by Jeune Magazine
You can read my personal opinion about Bali in the article: “Bali, the Island of the Gods?”
You’re planning to go to Bali? Read my destination card first!
- Follow Elze on Instagram: @elze.lambrecht - This is her profile on Upwork If you would like to stay at VILLA PLUMERIA in Bingin Beach, Bali, here you got the villa's accounts: Villa Plumeria on Booking.com Villa Plumeria on Facebook Villa Plumeria on Instagram: @villaplumeria
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