In Conversation With… Mademoiselle Nomad
I love coming across inspiring people living conscious, mindful lives which is why upon crossing paths with Béa Chan who runs the slow-travel and slow-living blog Mademoiselle Nomad, I knew I had to meet her for an interview. After quickly establishing a friendship in the digital world quite a while ago now, we finally grabbed the opportunity to meet up in person to talk about her life, her work and her vision – and I found it to be such an insightful experience.
Life Before Slow-Living
36-year-old Béa was born and brought up in Mauritius and due to certain circumstances during her childhood including the divorce of her parents, she developed a need to live a very structured life where she was in control, constantly striving for perfection; much different to the life she lives now. She told me, “I used to plan my life way into the future. I needed everything to be planned. Aged 11, I was already planning university – it was ridiculous!” Growing up in Mauritius where everything is very laid back and relaxed, Béa explained how she had always dreamed of big city life, which led her to pursue a career in the hospitality industry. When a job opportunity arose beckoning her to leave behind island life and embrace big city life in Dubai, of course she took it.
She fell in love with Dubai and this is where her travelling lifestyle began; moving countries and cities and taking on different jobs in order to be allowed to stay in and enjoy a country, but yet never fully taking the time to sit back and enjoy the ride. Life was all go, go, go for Béa and I was interested to know how and why everything suddenly changed.
The petite Mauritian beauty expressed that although there was always something inside of her telling her to relax and slow down, she would never listen to that inner voice as her vision was something else altogether. But then in 2015 something happened which changed everything forever.
“I was living in Cape Town,” she told me, “and I was super busy! I had FOMO (‘fear of missing out’) and I attended all the events and sometimes I would even do three birthdays in one night! I just couldn’t say no to anyone. One night while dashing from one birthday to the next, I got into a car not realising it wasn’t a licensed taxi… It turns out that the driver was suicidal and told me he was going to kill himself and kill me too. It was after going through all of that, that I realised I wasn’t paying attention to what I was doing. I wasn’t present. That was a huge shock. Why was I rushing?”
This experience – as traumatic and unimaginable as it is – was the driving force that made Béa stop, slow down and transform her life into the calm, peaceful yet exhilarating journey that she enjoys today.
So where did she begin? Well, at the time that these events took place, Béa was working in a call-centre, which she told me was “draining my soul, spirit and dreams”. She began making changes by putting healthy boundaries in place and began to focus on what was important to her, making that a priority. Rather than constantly worrying or stressing, she decided to start living in the moment and taking the opportunity to truly be wherever she was, in that moment, at that time. As she couldn’t afford to do much in terms of socialising on her call-centre wages, she began spending more time at home; making small changes such as de-cluttering and making her living space look nice. De-cluttering her home gave her the space to breathe and the ability to tune into her inner voice, which led her down the path to living a life that she was truly in love with.
I asked her what her inner voice told her. She said,
“I guess I realised that I always wanted to serve the world; to do something to help. I wanted my life to be of service, but I didn’t know which way to go. I’m passionate about writing and people and travel, and I wanted to do something to combine all of that.”
It was at this point that Béa Chan transformed into the blogger and life abroad confidante that we know today: Mademoiselle Nomad.
Mademoisellenomad.com is Béa’s own little corner of the Internet where she shares her slow-travel stories while also helping other people living life abroad to navigate the intricacies of their new lives through all the various stages, using her own experiences and wisdom gained from travelling around the globe. She expressed that her blog is not a typical travel blog; rather, she writes to create more tolerance and understanding between people – something she feels is seriously lacking in our world today.
She embraced slow-travelling because of her love for people and culture, and wanting to understand them on a deeper level. “I’m more interested in the people, rather than the activities,” she smiled, “travelling slowly is more productive. You get to discover these amazing humans and gain a deep understanding of them and the culture they live in. I’ve realised that we may all eat, talk and do things differently, but underneath it all, we’re the same.”
Since becoming a slow-traveller, Béa has spent time in over 12 different countries including Tunisia, Switzerland, England, Spain and Portugal. She once even attended a spiritual retreat in France where the participants didn’t speak for two weeks straight – now, that must have been an experience!
In order for my blog readers and myself to get to know this wonderful human being a little better and gain inspiration from the life she leads, I decided to bring our interview to a close with a series of quick-fire questions. This is what happened…
What brings you the most joy?
When I see people doing amazing things and not allowing themselves to be limited by their circumstances.
Aside from writing and the work that you do, what else do you enjoy?
My work is my life – it’s all blended. But other than that, I enjoy cooking; experimenting with watercolour painting; reading; walking; going to the beach. I also love going to food markets.
When you are lacking inspiration or have a creative block, what do you do?
I wash the dishes – especially when it comes to writing. I have to leave it alone. I will just go… and wash dishes!
What if there are no dishes to wash?
Well then I go for a walk. I just do something that doesn’t require much imagination or creativity.
Can you tell me about a book that has greatly impacted your life?
A French book: ‘L’art de vivre au fil des jours’ by Victoire de Montesquiou. She was born into a French aristocracy and then suddenly she had to live like a normal person. The way she talks about life and her wisdom – wow, I enjoyed it so much. I got this book in 1998 and I still have it to this day. It changed my life. I wanted to be like her; she was a bit of a mother to me. I admired her life, her poise and she speaks about ‘elegance of the heart’ – it’s just full of gems of wisdom. She teaches you how to be a decent human being.
Who inspires you?
Well obviously Victoire de Montesquiou. Also, Jennifer L. Scott and then of course, people like Maya Angelou who went through so many hardships but was still a positive shining light in the world.
Can you tell me about some of the practices that you use to keep yourself present?
- Focus on what you’re doing and don’t think about 10,000 other things! Savour and appreciate the moment.
- De-cluttering! Living a minimalist lifestyle; trying to see what’s essential and focussing on that.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to adopt a slow-living lifestyle?
Don’t overthink it – simply be, and be more mindful. Focus on what’s important to you: what your vision is; who you are. Live your authentic self and be more connected to the things that make you YOU.
Is there anything that you find a challenge in your life at the moment?
The biggest challenge for me is anxiety. I have to be really careful about what I eat; what I surround myself with; people I’m around and what I consume. How did I overcome that in order to be able to travel? I had to learn to find a way to use it to fuel what I wanted to do.
From your perspective, what problems do you see in the world and how can we fix them?
I’m no expert but from what I can sense and feel, it’s a lack of understanding between people. When you don’t understand each other all you will see is how different we are; you won’t see how similar we are. Then there’s also this whole thing of not letting people be who they are; either wanting to change them or suffocate them or force your beliefs upon them. That makes people so miserable!
I’m an idealist. I think not allowing people to dream or follow their dreams is a problem. Ultimately, if we follow what we’re naturally inclined to do, then all will be good.
What are you looking forward to in the future?
Marrying my fiancé Sean, more travels and hopefully doing it as a family.
And finally, if you could share one message with the whole entire world, what would it be?
It sounds so simple… but, ‘love each other’.
In a world that seems to be getting faster and more rushed by the day, Béa is a living example of how slowing down, enjoying the moment and listening to your own inner wisdom can help you to live a more fulfilled and happier life while also helping the world to become a better, brighter place. It was an absolute pleasure to meet her in the flesh and I can assure you that she is just as lovely and as inspiring in person as she is in the digital world.
First published in Defi Media Group’s ‘News on Sunday’, Mauritius.