See the world whilst running a business

Carrie McKeegan and her husband started a business that allows them to travel the world. They are currently based in Bali, Indonesia. In this Q&A she tells us about leaving the corporate world, coping with internet blackouts and travelling with a toddler.

First, could you tell us something about yourself and your background? You’ve had the travel bug from an early age, right?

Hmmm… I am an ex-London, ex-general manager at Barclays who has always wanted to run my own business and see the world. I grew up in Mexico City and moved to New York when I was 10 years old, plus my parents travel a ton, so the travel bug runs in my family. And the more I see of the world, the more I want to see! My husband and I run a tax business that specializes in tax preparation for Americans who live abroad, which fortunately means that I get to do both (see the world and run my own business!)

What made you choose to move to Bali? How long are you planning to stay there?

After living in London for six years, we were ready for a big change. We had spent a lot of time in South America and Europe and wanted to experience another part of the world, and settle down a bit more to give ourselves time to grow the business. And Bali just felt right… we started out with a list of places to go to next with lots of criteria (I am an MBA after all- that is how I like to make decisions) and then just threw out the list and went with our instinct. We felt it was a good choice because we knew the schools were good for our son, Timmy, the cost of living was reasonable, and the people here are lovely- warm and open and very peaceful. So, we figured we would hop on a flight and give it a go. We don’t know how long we’ll be here…. and that is the beauty of it. I am just starting to get used to that freedom.

We sometimes joke that it was meant to be. My mom was pregnant with me on a trip to Bali, so my middle name is Wyann (first born in Balinese).

How long have you been running your own business? Was living a nomadic lifestyle something you had in mind when you started the business?

My husband and I started our business (Greenback Tax Services) when we were both still happily working and living in London, both at big banks. However, we always knew it wasn’t for us in the long term. On a holiday to Croatia, I read the book “Power of Focus” and one of the activities it asks you to do is describe exactly how you want your life to be 5 years from then. It sounds silly but I was so busy at the time that I didn’t really realize that what I was doing wasn’t going to meet my long term goals of seeing the world, running my own business and having a family.

So, ever since then, I have been working towards that goal, getting closer every day. My husband and I made a pact then and there that we were going to work nights and weekends to get a business off the ground by the end of the year (2008). We had a list of business ideas to focus on but chose Greenback because of the freedom of location it allowed us. It was hard work, but exhilarating. We had some lucky breaks, like finding wonderful accountants to work with us right from the start.

What about travelling with a small child? How is that going?

To be honest, I don’t know what it is like to have a small child without travelling all the time. After my son was born, we spent 3 months in London and have essentially been on the road ever since. There are definitely challenges- trying to keep a semblance of routine and consistency, which children need; travelling light is almost impossible (we only have what we can take on an airplane with us, and even so, it is comical watching us traipse through airports!); and constantly babyproofing.

But there are so many benefits… children bring out the best in people (usually)… my husband and I aren’t nearly as outgoing as our son, who makes it so easy to meet new people everywhere we go (usually by screaming HIII!!! & doing lots of wiggling to get people’s attention). And kids make you stop and appreciate things you might never notice. We spend a lot of time admiring the daily offerings and listening to the roosters crow, which I would probably never take the time to do otherwise and so miss out on a whole piece of the day to day lifestyle/culture here.

What’s a typical day for you?

I get up early (5:30 am)- I find it is the best time to get work done. Timmy gets up around 7am, we do breakfast together as a family and then my husband and I usually take turns working/watching Timmy until around 5/6pm. Often one of us has to go into town to ensure more reliable internet for skype calls. We also have a nanny who helps. At that point, we all take a break and have dinner together, then usually log on again after dinner and try to do calls with the US. We are in our busy season and trying to grow our business pretty substantially so right now it is pretty full on. I try to fit yoga in 3 times a week but that is harder some weeks than others. On the weekend, we try to always each get a wonderful Balinese massage, and spend Sundays exploring Bali, often on Sanur beach.

Are you finding time to absorb the local culture and language?

Yes, but not as much as I would like. I find that if I am visiting a country, I am a good tourist. I see all the sights, the museums, read up on the history. But when you are living somewhere, you arrive and are much more concerned about how to ask where you can buy fresh fruit or a working mobile phone, or looking for a house, for example. I am signed up for Indonesian language courses and getting to know people here but would love to do have a bit more time to properly absorb and understand the culture a bit better.

What are the challenges in trying to run a business from Indonesia? How do you cope with them?

The biggest challenge is internet speed. There is nothing more frustrating than prepping for an important skype call and then having a big thunderstorm cut the power and internet for the rest of the day. It is the rainy season now so that happens relatively often, so I am learning to take it in stride. I warn everyone I work with about the potential delays, and always have non internet requiring work on hand to make sure I can be productive regardless. The other challenge is the geographic location. Prior to Indonesia, at some point or another, most people we do business with would travel through London. In Bali, it isn’t so easy- the closest big city is Singapore and it requires a bit more planning, so there is less face to face.

Read more:
Galungan celebrations with a Balinese family
A slower pace: life in an Indonesian village
Teaching English: a totally practical way to see the world

About the author

Lucy (Liz) Chatburn
Lucy is English and first ventured out of the UK she was 19. Since then she has lived in 4 different countries and tried to see as much of the world as possible. She loves learning languages, learning about different cultures and hearing different points of view.
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1 Comment

  • Eduardo Septién

    It is really uplifting to see young people engage in an honest quest to add fullness to their life and live up to the challenges that that entails. Many congratulations to Carrie , her husband and chid!