Meet the Nomad: Sandra Abrouk
Welcome to another “Meet the Nomads” where we chat with a digital nomad living a full-time journey and working lifestyle. We discovered Sandra through our Instagram community. This interview was a questionnaire-based one, which was sent out by our team member Shivam Singh.
So let’s know more about Sandra!
Q: Hi Sandra! Let us begin with getting to know you. Tell me about yourself, your name, where you were born, etc.
Hey Shivam! I’m Sandra Abrouk, I’m 34 years old and from Belgium. My dad is from Tunisia, and my mum is from Belgium, and I grew up in Belgium. I also have a twin sister. So yeah, I spent most of my life in Belgium as far as I remember, I have always had something regarding travel with me.
I used to spend my summers in Tunisia with my family. When I was 15, a thought came to my mind, “Why are we living in Belgium? Why are we stuck here? The world is such a beautiful place and we should explore it more”
I went to university in Belgium, and that’s when I started traveling around, exploring the city, whenever it was possible. When I finished my studies, I worked for some years in Belgium, and at some point, I had burnout due to all the work.
That burnout changed me and made me realize so many things, that I didn’t realize before. I was always trying to fit into the box, or adhere to a certain lifestyle, have a stable job, work hard, make good money, have savings, buy an apartment/house, meet your partner, get married and build a new life together.
I rejected everything that I was told before, all the societal norms, and began a journey of self-exploration. It’s a never-ending journey for me, which gives me joy. Four and a half years ago, I decided to quit my job and leave Belgium, sold most of my belongings, and bought a one-way ticket to Bali, and that’s how the adventure started!
After traveling for a few months in Bali, I went to Australia on a working holiday visa. This made me realize that I want this lifestyle, I don’t want to be location-dependent.
I decided to be a digital nomad. First I started to explore possibilities in digital marketing, that wasn’t really my thing, so I discovered a creative path for myself.
I went to Belgium from Australia when the pandemic hit, and took a bit of a career break. After a reflective workshop, I realized that I loved creating experiences for people, showing empathy, and working on their needs. That’s when I got into UX designing, got into a boot camp, and worked on a couple of live projects. That was a really empowering and freeing experience for me, and after that, I started working in the co-living industry, where I currently work now as well.
I apply UX design not to build digital experiences, but to build real-life experiences!
Q: How was your life like? Your education, your friends, and your family?
I have had a pretty good life, I have to say. I had very loving and supportive parents. My education was very strict, I really had to perform well, get good grades, and study a lot. I was also into sports when I was younger, so I played volleyball. My dad was really competitive, so he had a lot of expectations from me and my sister in that aspect of life as well.
I didn’t grow up in an intimate family where we wouldn’t speak a lot about feelings and deep intimacy, but I had a good childhood, modest, and had everything I needed.
I’ve always had a few friends, but good friends. I keep a close circle of people who enrich me and help me grow to be a better person.
I was good at school, not incredible, but always had good grades. I did whatever I had to do with regard to school, as my parents were very strict and demanding. At university, I studied different things.
I started studying biology, something very scientifical. Although I loved it, when I started my master’s degree, I realized that I didn’t picture myself being a scientist in the long run, so I did my master’s degree in tourism management. It was challenging for me as a science grad, as learning about human science, geography and tourism posed some problems for me, but eventually, I overcame all the hurdles.
Q: Was there anything you were good at, in your early stages of life? Or were you trying to figure your life out as it went?
Sports was one thing, as my dad was a sports teacher. He wanted me and my sister to be competitive, not with others, but with ourselves. I have tried very different things in my life, such as education and jobs. I can pretty much adapt myself to different things and situations. I have always been curious, and ready to learn new things, which has taken me to different places and exciting journeys.
Q: Any good or bad memories from when you were growing up? How did it change or affect your life?
There’s a mix of good and bad memories, just like everyone. The good memories were with my family, every Sunday we would go to my grandma’s house in Belgium, with my sisters and cousins, eat good food, and play together. My time in Tunisia was always memorable as well.
I wouldn’t call it a bad memory, but the journey after the burnout was very challenging, and hard to get out of. When you’re raised in a strict education setting, you don’t have much free will or choices. My parents always had good intentions for me, but as ideal parents, they tried to impose their vision of the world on me, to make me fit into a box like society wants.
The more I go through life, the more I discover about myself, and it’s very liberating!
Q: How did you begin working? Were you always a 9-5 person? How did you get into the “Digital Nomad” culture?
I began working, not in a 9-5 setting, because I’ve always liked the flexibility, and changes, not a big fan of routine. I didn’t know much about entrepreneurship, while in Belgium. Throughout my career, I met many interesting people, who shared their ideas and knowledge with me.
In the summer of 2020, in the Coliving space where I was staying, I met so many people who had jobs that I’d never heard of before. They were digital nomads, remote workers, and entrepreneurs. They helped me with inspiration a lot!
Q: Was there any person/persons/ organization that inspired you to be a digital nomad?
I wouldn’t say an organization, but people I met along the way. I met my partner, who introduced me to coliving and since has been the biggest inspiration for me.
Q: What was your first country as a digital nomad? How was your experience?
So my first experience as a digital nomad was in France, that wasn’t much of a cultural shock for me, as France has a similar culture to Belgium. It was a pretty safe space to start my journey.
Q: Mention all the countries that you have been to as a digital nomad? Which was the best country?
I have been to France, Spain, Portugal, Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Bulgaria, and Italy. I’m missing some countries, but that’s what I can think of right this moment.
Well, I really loved my time in Portugal. I’ve always been a lover of Spain since I was young, and have always wanted to live there. Then I discovered Portugal last summer, and I’ve been living there since. I like Portugal because it’s easygoing, people speak English, and life is pretty good. You have very different landscapes and places that are really beautiful.
You have cute cities like Lisbon, which is charming and not that overwhelming. You can be into nature in no time, as Portugal is a small country. The one thing that really stood out in Portugal is all the community-building initiatives, which have a really good setup. You can also have good connections with the locals, which is not always the case when we compare it with other countries. I’ve always felt welcome in Portugal, which is really helpful for digital nomads.
Q: What are your future goals as a digital nomad? Do you have plans to inspire a digital nomad community? Any tips for them?
I have been traveling quite a lot lately, and I would like to change my traveling rhythm. I see myself having a few base cities, where I can spend a few months, and then change the destination. I’m a part of several digital nomad communities, where I can work and inspire more people, not only digital nomad communities but people who aspire to have that lifestyle.
I want to inspire human connections. I want people to connect with themselves, and other people, not just virtually, but in real life. The mind-body connection is such an important aspect for digital nomads.
Q: Where can people reach you, and know more about you?
Where to Next?
We hope you enjoy meeting the Nomads. So if you have a story to share with tips contact us on Instagram. Looking for more inspiration then head to Nomad Stays Stays that are nomad ready, helping you travel the world and work from anywhere! Join us as a member today and pop into Nomad Explorers community
This interview was conducted by Shivam content creator, adventurer, mountaineer passionate about people and concurring mountains!