This is an interview with guest Ranika Koneru, a multi-passionate retreat company owner, affiliate marketer, real estate investor and income coach from Texas, USA. We met at Nomad Island Fest in December 2023, where we were both speakers on stage. We are also both members of The Nomad Escape’s InnerCircle business network. I was curious to learn more about her work running Cloud Connections, a company that she founded to take digital nomads on trips to cultural festivals around the world.

Ranika, founder of Cloud Connections, coworking in Khao Sok, Thailand

Ranika talked about her time working in corporate jobs and how she decided to quit to travel full-time and pursue entrepreneurship. She discussed rebranding Cloud Connections to focus on cash flow and personal growth, and her plans for a retreat in India incorporating cultural and healing practices. I also learned about how she builds community through her work and fosters professional development and personal growth in herself and others.

Toks: Where did you grow up, and where do you consider home now?

Ranika: I was born in Washington, DC at Andrews Air Force Base, but I moved when I was young, to San Antonio, Texas. And from age five to 17, that is where grew up. I am actually about to leave Brazil and go back home for three months, which is crazy because it’d be the longest I’ve ever been in one location since I started nomading.

Toks: How long were you in Brazil?

Ranika: I got here at the beginning of February, and I’ve been going to places like Rio and for Florianopolis, São Paulo, and then now I’ve been in Pipa.

Toks: Awesome. So you’re going back home? Is that to the US?

Ranika: Yeah, exactly.

Toks: That must be nice. Okay, what’s your work history and background?

Ranika: I know we’ve had a little bit of a chance to chat about it since meeting you at The Nomad Escape last year. I can’t believe it’s been three months since that, by the way – it’s crazy how time flies. But I have been sold on going to college, getting the big girl job, and getting the nine-to-five for so long, and I did that actually for about 10 years. I just can’t believe I spent an entire decade in corporate. But I’m about to celebrate my first anniversary of being a job quitter. I have been slowly ramping up my own coaching business as well as creating a retreat business. Then I hope later this year, I get into more speaking events and engagements, like what we both did at The Nomad Escape last year.

Toks: That sounds amazing. So you’ve got a lot on the go? 

Ranika: Oh my gosh, I’m constantly busy. I made a friend here in Pipa and she’s like, “Let’s just go hang out and just explore.” And I’m like, “You’re right. I need to live the lifestyle.” But I’ve definitely been putting a lot on my plate, which also includes real estate investing.

Ranika on an outing with a group of fellow digital nomads in Brazil

Toks: You mentioned the retreats business – is that the Cloud Connections?

Ranika: Yeah, it’s Cloud Connections. I’ve actually been chatting with Michelle, who’s the founder of The Nomad Escape, to repivot some of my strategies. So yes, it will still focus on the festival aspect, but something that I’m going to incorporate as well is – I’m rebranding it to Cashflow X Culture. So there’s a cashflow component of learning how you can escape or leave your nine-to-five, or leave something that no longer serves you, whether that is the person you’re seeing, or being a doctor in the medical field, and find a way to start creating passive income to travel and to work on your own time – like a roadmap that’s tailored to you. So we’ll talk about that.

Then I will have one component as well, like a few-day add-on to that. So, for example, after this call, I am talking to different venues in Goa and India to start really getting the traction for creating a revamped redone experience to help people out of their shells and figure out what it is to be a digital nomad, then learn the skills that they need and then to celebrate together. So I’ll have, for example, lessons around Indian dance, yoga and meditation. There’ll be more of a healing component that is in line with that specific culture. I’ll even have an Ayurveda workshop that comes in and then I’ll be teaching different pieces throughout. Then of course, we’ll have a beautiful beachside setting, and then get to experience the Diwali festival, “the light over darkness” – where that’s a really good theme to realise you’re here to shed a new layer.

Ranika and friends enjoying the festivities of Rio Carnival in Brazil

Toks: So exciting! You mentioned going back to India – I think I’ve seen on your website that you have a Holi in India event – is that happening this year?

Ranika: Oh, I mean, I will eventually get back into Holi. But as for this year, I’m really focusing on doing this brand repivot, this new strategy. But I still am all about the cultural festival and wanting to bring people to experience the best things the world has to offer.

Toks: I was gonna ask as well about future events, because I’ve seen that you’ve got Chiang Mai from last year, then got Rio earlier this year. So, I guess because of this rebrand, you’re still working on things, and then you’re gonna start putting out future events that you’re doing?

Ranika: Exactly! Yeah. My goal is to have probably one event a quarter for next year. We’ll just to have the one in Goa for this year because there’s a lot of work to be done to create a roadmap for it.

Toks: I totally understand. When did you say the Goa one would be?

Ranika: End of October to early November.

Toks: Sounds good. I can’t wait to see the details of that. So that’s gonna be the next and the only other one you’re doing this year. And do you know what trips you’re gonna do next year yet? Or do you have an idea of what trips you’ll do with Cloud Connections?

Ranika: I think that’s still to be determined. But I feel like because India has so many festivals, and because I have the roadmap in go already, I’ll probably repeat and reupdate what worked and what didn’t work, and then create something better with Holi for the first three months of the year, and then I’ll figure out what to do in the second three months.

Toks: That’s awesome. Okay, let me go back to you specifically. In general, what sort of places do you like to travel or where have you been in the past year or so?

Ranika: Let’s see. I realised that I do like a little bit of like a small-city vibe. For example, in Pipa, it’s really cute, it’s really charming, but there’s no nomad infrastructure here. There are no colivings that have air conditioning, and I’m like “dang!”. But it’s beautiful with the beach. However, I’d prefer something like Cape Town where there are little pockets of neighbourhoods, you have a beautiful ocean, the weather’s incredible during the summer months, and there’s such a good foodie scene. I think a foodie scene is important because here in Pipa I’m like “They just eat the same thing every day – where’s the diversity?”

Toks: So, you’re a big foodie, as well as wanting that good digital nomad infrastructure?

Ranika: Exactly! Small city vibes, yeah.

Toks: All right. I dig that – I like cities as well. So why a small city as opposed to a large one? Just because large cities could be a bit too crazy, or…?

Ranika: Well, I was just in São Paulo for a few days and I don’t like the air quality and how I feel so small there. I think it’s nice in a small community to really connect and mingle with people. Because [in a large city] you’re just too overwhelmed and people just get too busy, and the reason I started nomading was to get out of that intensity.

Toks: Yeah, I totally understand. Could we go a bit more into what led you to the digital nomad lifestyle?

Ranika: I mean, it kind of just happened. I remember just feeling so trapped during COVID, and thanks to COVID and to my nine-to-five being forced to go online. I realised, “Hey, like, why am I here? Why not just pop into Mexico and see what happens?” And I was able to do that. Mexico is so much more chill and I get to walk on the beach every day.

Toks: Yeah. ‘cause I imagine you’re liking Mexico a bit more than your home at that time?

Ranika: Exactly. Yeah.

Enjoying a community dinner

Toks: Okay. So, what led you to start Cloud Connections in particular? Like, what’s the story background to that?

Ranika: Well, three years ago, I went to Carnival in Rio for the first time with a group of nomads. I realised that they were going to Rio specifically for Carnival and they all came together for this purpose. A lot of them shared that they didn’t know how to really travel or pick destinations – that’s why they like joining different community groups. I met so many people who are like, “I don’t know how to travel, I just want to bring aspects to help me figure out my schedule.” So that’s what I realised – a lot of people think, “Oh, it’s carnival. Oh, I can go to Rio. Oh, that makes sense. Like, I didn’t know what else to do. Oh, it’s a great reason to go.” And just seeing Carnival and seeing how friendly Brazilian people are, I decided to create the company around it. I went to Bansko Nomad Fest that year, I just was so inspired by all the speakers there, and it really helped me take that idea into making it an actuality.

Toks: Yeah, it sounds like a very good concept, especially, I imagine, you get a lot of people on it that are solo travellers and looking for other people to go to the festival with. So I can imagine it’s a good purpose for that as well. 

Ranika: Exactly.

Toks: I like that. I’m curious as well – obviously, you have the in-person and the festivals, but in what way do you maintain the community or beyond these in-person festivals? For example, do you have online chats, groups, WhatsApp, and things like that?

Ranika: I have a WhatsApp community. I just sent every single person in there a voice note, sharing all the exciting updates that are underway and thanking them for supporting me along the journey so far. It’s been exciting to receive some responses. I’ll be active there at least once a week to try to engage and try to encourage them to invite others to be part of it.

Toks: Well, I think I kind of asked you already about what else you do for work. You said you’ve got this Cloud Connections business and –

Ranika: A lot, yeah! I mean, technically if I focused on one, I could just spend three to four hours a day working on it because I am super ambitious and in such a growth phase with creating a company. I’ve been doing a lot. So I put it into five different pillars, of which one is Cloud Connections. Then one is developing my course and being a coach. I have a couple of students now, but it’s something I’m developing and then sharing like, “This is what we’re doing offline or online”. It’s something that we can also take time to go up, so to have that be the coaching programme. So you go into the retreat, and then vice versa – you don’t have to be in the coaching programme to go on a retreat.

Then I’ve been really working on my social media – I am trying to gain more of a presence there, and working on the Cloud Connections blog. But something I need help with is website design, because I realised that it’s just it’s such another huge component that I’m like, I can’t really just do everything right now – it’s just so cumbersome. I’m doing a lot and I don’t want to spread myself too thin, and I want to be doing the things that I feel like I enjoy.

Toks: Yeah, of course. Have you considered outsourcing, or are you already doing that?

Ranika: I tried hiring social media managers for Cloud Connections last year, and it just didn’t work out. So that’s something I’m trying to look into.

Toks: Yeah, ’cause my virtual assistant clients are busy doing a lot, and some would like to scale, but I’d recommend to definitely start delegating and outsourcing things so that you’re not too spread out. I mean, obviously, I know a lot about that, but we can talk more about that later.

Ranika: Of course. Oh, and then I forgot to mention doing real estate investing is also part of my course and creating passive income.

Toks: That’s awesome. What sort of digital nomad do you consider yourself? Do you have a base and just take trips? Or are you on the road all the time?

Ranika: Full-time nomad, absolutely. I’m excited to finally be home for a bit, although I’m sure it’ll be boring for more than a month. Like, “Get me out of here!”

Toks: Yeah, but it’s probably good in a way – it makes it more exciting when you do go away again.

Coworking in Brazil

Toks: Okay, you have the trips that are based around the festivals. Is it mostly just festivals, or is there any kind of professional development or coworking aspects to it?

Ranika: Definitely – so there’ll be two parts to it. Where the first part is more of like the professional development and personal development, then talking about how to tailor a plan to you to create passive income workshops around real estate and affiliate marketing, then having people do some talks around their expertise, talking about the stock market and their successes there, or an e-commerce person. So to go and share opportunities and how you can break free from working, trading your time for dollars (or whatever currency you use), and for really getting more strategic and efficient with having like the mindset work to be like, “You deserve this, or you can do this. This is how.”

Toks: Yeah, that sounds awesome. So obviously there’s play and there’s a bit of work there as well, so it’s got that good mix.

Toks: Have you witnessed any quite good transformations that you’ve seen between people who have attended your events, such as collaborations or someone who decided to start a venture, or something like that?

Ranika: Yeah. I just saw someone I was mentoring overcome some of her own personal hurdles. She was so scared, for example, to use social media at the beginning – she didn’t like it and didn’t see the point of it. Then I’m coaching her through, sharing, empathising with her and realising, “Yes, I can understand why you don’t like it, but here are all the reasons why it would be beneficial for you to boost yourself.” So she was able to really align her framework and do great at posting now.

Toks: Yeah, that’s brilliant! Anything else you’d like to add?

Ranika: Well, I’m just excited! I’ve been so into my own personal development over the past few months. I’ve been really investing in myself heavily, to then be able to give back and create this – I just feel like I’m on such a roll! I’ve never been so much more excited to be working on things that I love. Even if it’s a lot of work, and some tasks aren’t as pretty or exciting as others, it’s just been it’s a fun journey, and I’m really excited to see where all this goes. I’m just so excited that we were able to reconnect and then chat more about it.

Toks: I really liked learning a little bit more about it. Yes, it definitely sounds like a great business model, and hopefully, I can come along to one of your trips sometime.

Ranika: Yeah! It would be great to have you and see you again!

Ranika’s interesting choice of coworking on a rock

Connect with Ranika

Cloud Connections website: https://www.cloudconnections.co/  

Cloud Connections Instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/cloudconnections_/ 

Ranika’s LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ranika-koneru/ 

Ranika’s Instagram profile: https://www.instagram.com/rainbowrani_/ 

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