I am writing this as I sit in a wooded park, near a lake in Texas. Two days ago I was in New Mexico visiting a friend and the week before that I was in California, Arizona, and took a day trip to Mexico. Oh yeah, I also work fulltime. You might be wondering how I get anything done!
I have been living location independent since February 2017. Location independent is a lifestyle that allows you to live and work from anywhere. Prior to 2017, I worked remotely for more than 10 years, which equipped me with the tools to be able to work from anywhere.
It is possible to have amazing experiences and still get a paycheck. For example, it is currently 2:00 p.m. and I worked all morning, took my dog for a walk in the sun to get my creative juices flowing, enjoyed lunch before writing, and I will still have time to go explore the area. Regardless of where I am, I have experienced heightened creativity and satisfaction with my work since I have been location independent.
To some, a location independent lifestyle is absurd and downright horrifying. That is okay. The lifestyle is not for everyone. But if you are anything like me and love to experience new places and meet new people, being location independent is a dream come true. Or if you are an introvert, like many people I have met in my travels, and feel most at home in solitude and remain inconspicuous while still enjoying new places, being location independent is exactly the right fit.
Not everyone has the desire or ability to be location independent – if that person is you, feel free to stop reading here. I am not interested in selling the lifestyle—it is not a product. What I am committed to is offering my experiences, quality resources, encouragement, and research-based tools to help you succeed if you choose to become location independent for any amount of time.
Here are some ways to start planning a location independent lifestyle…
1. First, ask yourself questions that will help you determine if being location independent is a good choice for you.
The following are examples:
- What is most appealing about becoming location independent? And what, if any, hesitations do I have about the lifestyle?
- What are the top three things that are motivating me to make this step?
- What obstacles might get in my way of making the change?
- What is my financial situation (e.g., debt, student loans, savings, retirement, etc.) and how will it change or not change if I become location independent?
You might also consider doing a pros and cons list. Take 10 minutes to write as many pros as you can think of and 10 minutes for cons. Put the list aside for a day or two, come back to it and review the list closely. Is there anything you want to remove or add?
If you have a spouse, partner, or children that will be involved in your location independent lifestyle, be sure to include that person/s in your process. Also, discuss your questions and answers with someone who is not involved and who you trust will give constructive feedback.
2. Determine your method. If you want to be location independent, it is important to know how you will financially support the lifestyle before jumping in.
I have met people living location independent around the world who are supporting themselves in a variety of ways. Many have a business that they can run from anywhere, which is what I do with Creative Travel Connections. There are businesses that are naturally more conducive to a non-traditional “office space”. I also know a woman who runs a successful medical weight loss business from the road—she has a manager who runs the day-to-day at their home office and they have systems in place that work seamlessly for her to lead the company from a distance.
Other people have made an agreement with their employer to work remotely or work as contracted freelancers. Graphic and web designers, social media and SEO specialists, and other tech related professionals, often known as “digital nomads”, were among the first to make headlines for the location independent lifestyle. Today, there are all sorts of professionals traveling the world while taking their fulltime jobs with them – financial planners, project managers, and even wedding consultants. There are also people who work non-remote jobs wherever they are in the world. I have met people that work at restaurants, as tour guides, at national parks, on cruise ships, at Amazon, or even at a Walmart in each location they live.
Now, if you are retired or financially independent do not think you can skip to number 3! After you determine your method, it is still important to think through your expenses. No matter how well you plan, if you are moving around a lot there are expenses that can sneak up on you (e.g., medical, unforeseen transportation needs, etc.) and having a savings for emergencies is key.
3. Destination/s. This is my favorite part! Location independence does not mean you have to be in a different city every month or even every 6 months. Your first destination might be London and you end up loving it so much that you stay for a year. Or you may visit all 50 states in the U.S. over a 9-month period. That is the fun of being location independent—you do not have to box yourself into one destination, but I do recommend planning out your first 5-6 months and viewing it as a trial period. I did a 5-month trial in SE Asia and Europe. I then went back to my home-base in Michigan to sell my house and become location independent fulltime, but that may not be your experience. If you come back from a 5-month trial and do not want to continue, that is okay – take the experiences you had and keep living life to the fullest.
My advice for planning your first destination is to work through your questions (see #1) and the location, or type of location, will likely pop up. One of my top three motivations for becoming location independent is to be somewhere warm and sunny year-round. Therefore, I choose a destination based on the weather. My destinations also revolve around my work—e.g., scouting out locations for Connect trips, leading a trip, projects, etc. One of your motivations might be to learn Japanese. In that case, I would suggest Japan as your first destination. You get the idea.
4. Prepare physically and mentally. You will need to physically unload your stuff before becoming location independent. Hoarders, you are not going to like this paragraph! Whether you will be living in a 1,500 sq ft penthouse in Thailand, in a different Airbnb every week, or in a RV, you will likely need to downsize. I am still giving away things that I thought I might need, but in reality I need very little. I downsized my office when I became location independent (a.k.a. my addiction to purchasing office supplies…I mean, who does not need every color of sticky note or paper clip or…), but I can now fit everything I need for my office into one shoulder bag. Okay, okay, there is still a secret box with a bunch of ink pens, markers, pushpins (don’t ask!), etc…but that is not my point! My point here is…what do you really NEED vs. want?
Mental preparation is a key priority for anyone entering into the location independent lifestyle. Emotionally intelligent people will have an easier time coping with travel, interacting with various people, challenges, and the overall lifestyle. Sometimes location independence is more work than not. Typical daily tasks still have to be completed (e.g., laundry, groceries, paying bills, etc.) on top of making travel plans, learning the “rules” in your new location, etc. If you are not emotionally prepared, you could become very overwhelmed. And if you are traveling internationally, culture shock can quickly set in. Developing your cultural intelligence is of utmost importance so that you can integrate well into new cultures. Being culturally intelligent, something anyone can develop, will only enhance your experiences.
These are some of the first steps toward a location independent lifestyle. The next step is timing. Timing is different for everyone and for some there are big changes that need to happen first, like quitting a job. Take the time you need. It is your life.
If you would like some help, our coaching team is happy to come alongside you as you journey to location independence. Lifestyle coaching is a great way to get personal support. Our coaching team can work through a planning strategy with you and help with budgets, talk through challenges, give you resources for handling your mail and medications when traveling, set goals for your life and work routines, and much more. Our team is also certified to administer and debrief the CQ® (cultural intelligence) Assessment to help you assess and increase your cultural intelligence.
by Julie Slagter