location independent living

When We Can’t Wander As Much As We’d Like

When we become travellers, I think we become something else. Perhaps we are more liberated beings, suddenly aware of the great world beyond our doorsteps and more curious about all the things that we now know we’re clueless about. Maybe something within us changed on that first excursion to a foreign land and we want to become better acquainted with that self we met while we were away. We might have unfinished business with the world, whether that’s a destination list we want to get through or a culture we’re determined to learn more about. Some of us just know that there are other possibilities for our lives now, and that the ways we thought we had to live were out of date, not guaranteed or limited in some way.

location independent living

When we set off on our around the world (RTW) trip in 2011, we knew it wouldn’t be forever. We had no illusions that we would become permanent backpackers, trotting from city to city endlessly and living as perpetual nomads. That’s a fabulous lifestyle if it’s for you and you can happily sustain it. But by the end of the year we were exhausted. We still wanted to see the world but thought we’d try the expat life again for a while. We’d get to absorb a new culture and would still be able to travel quite a bit. And we did see a lot of places in 2012 and 2013: Finland, Estonia, France, London and the United States. Norway might be frighteningly expensive as a place to live, but at least the vacation days are numerous.

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Then we moved back to the United States. Despite all its problems, I love my country. But I don’t love working 50-80+ hour weeks and having very little time off to travel. We also live in a city that’s pretty isolated from the rest of the country. Long weekends are great, but when you have to fly there’s not a lot of time to relax. We’ve been taking driving trips and checking out the local attractions, but if you’ve been a traveller you know the feeling of itchy feet. We have dreams of taking a few weeks to road trip out west this summer but right now with everything that’s going on with work, we’re not sure when or even if that’s going to happen. So we feel disillusioned and perhaps a little sad. Sure, we could take off again if we really wanted to, but that would be short-sighted.

Because what we've realized is that we need to get our freedom back. And the only way to do it is to put in the time and hours now and set ourselves up so our lives can go in the direction we want them to later. We miss travel. Our first RTW was a test – one that seems it was so long ago now – to see what we like and what we don’t. We’ll never travel that quickly again. In fact, all we want is the ability to pick up and go whenever we feel like it. To not have to turn down invitations to foreign countries because we have jobs that require our presence in the office every day (yes, we've had to say no to a few of those in the past six months – heartbreaking!) The term “location independent" living may be a little trite, but isn't it still an exciting concept?

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I believe that the old/current work and lifestyle model is dead. Every day people are getting laid off from their jobs, burdened with enough work for two or three employees or finding their performance goalposts moved back further and further. Human beings get stuck in old modalities, thinking that what worked for their parents will work for them. Right now somewhere, someone is plotting a way for a computer or a robot to do your job. Technology is wonderful and amazing, but it is also altering everything about the way we live and work. According to the linked Economist article, “no country is ready for it.” Think about that for a moment. Widespread changes in the way we create our incomes. Social upheaval on every level. A truly globalized workforce. If you haven’t been thinking about this it’s time to wake up and do so. Nothing has been more empowering for me to shun a corporate job and create my own ways of employing myself. Yes, it’s been a struggle, but most people have to struggle a little and make mistakes before they hit upon their golden idea.

I did not mean for this post to drift into ideas about how to change your job to change your life but I’m happy about where the stream of consciousness went. I miss travel. But most of all I miss not being tied to one place and being independent of things I can't control. We want back in. Some have chosen to do this through their blogging or travel writing. I do enjoy that but I also don’t want to be working 75+ hours a week while I’m travelling. I do that now and as much as I love all the projects I’m involved in at the moment, I don’t want to be a slave to my boss-self either. Early retirement is more of what I had in mind. Which, of course, means that one has to either become rich or develop a form of residual income.

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None of these are new ideas. I just want to put it out there that I’m reaching. Travel has made me discontented with the “standard American lifestyle.” Perhaps once you break out you can never return. How many of you are in the same spot? Let’s talk about what you’re doing today to make those dreams a reality…


  1. Monnette 25 April, 2014 at 02:13 Reply

    As some would say, funding travels could come from passive income — like holding stocks — or blogging or maintaining an online store. You may not be able to travel for a long time but saving now might just be the ticket to travel longer and better in the future. (If you hit the jackpot, you might even retire early!)

  2. Sofie 11 April, 2014 at 17:54 Reply

    This post really resonates with me. I haven’t gone on an RTW trip yet and although I would love to travel for a long time, I’m also pretty sure that a nomadic life isn’t right for me.
    Just like you, I’d like to just be able to pack up and leave whenever I want to or opportunities present themselves, instead of having to count how many vacation days I have left.

    It’s a difficult thing to figure out, especially since my boyfriend doesn’t really feel the same way as I do. Unfortunately he’s much more pessimistic in this than me and he doesn’t really see how it can be possible to build up another lifestyle if you don’t have a lot of money already.

    • inspiringtravellers 17 April, 2014 at 13:45

      It takes a LOT of work, but I believe it is possible. Keep plugging away at your dreams – if they are really what you are after, you’ll find a way to achieve them! Good luck =)

  3. Elaine 31 March, 2014 at 01:38 Reply

    Now that you’re feeling the burn of having a job back in America again and not liking it, you have the motivation now to go out and build a mobile business for yourself. Find your 5 hours in the evening, keep coming up with ideas, and you’ll eventually come up with something…!

    Good luck!

  4. Genah 19 March, 2014 at 08:35 Reply

    Hi there! I just found your blog, and this post especially resonated with me. My husband and I are working toward the same thing, location independence, and we are still a ways off yet. I’m also from the states and met my husband on an overseas adventure, so I totally get where you’re coming from! I just finished my masters and am about to reenter the cubicle world while my husband takes his turn back in school for programming. We have incredibly itchy feet (and always will as I’m coming to understand :), and this short term step “backwards” will hopefully ultimately our big step forward and back out into the world! Thanks for sharing your story! I’ll be sure to check back in with you guys here and good luck with all of your own plans for the future!

    • inspiringtravellers 19 March, 2014 at 08:40

      Thanks so much for your comment, Genah! Yes, sometimes we have to take a step or two “back” to move forward. Good luck to you both on achieving your dreams =)

  5. Marcello Arrambide 12 March, 2014 at 10:21 Reply

    So sorry to hear that you don’t get to travel much because of your work. I personally had to day trade to fund my travels. I’ve read about travel bloggers who had to work freelance jobs or even teach English in countries they’re currently in to make a living. I hope you will get your freedom soon.


    • inspiringtravellers 12 March, 2014 at 10:57

      Thanks, Marcello =) Maybe I need to spend more time with my stock portfolio, haha

  6. Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) 12 March, 2014 at 03:37 Reply

    My husband and I are about 4 months away from finishing up our own long-term trip and this post really spoke to me because it pretty much expressed all of the fears and frustrations that I am already experiencing and we aren’t even back home yet! We’ve been gone for about 17 months and have just come to fiercely love the independence and freedom that being out here on the road has brought us… we’ve started trying to build our own location-independent graphic & web business, which means that we actually work WAY more than we did back home, but we love what we are doing (or trying to do!) and we love knowing that we do this anywhere we choose. We have to return home this summer to resume caring for our two dogs, which will seriously affect our ability to travel and definitely limits our freedom. We’re not ready to throw in the towel just yet and return to corporate America, but just knowing we have to go back has been hard to handle.

    • inspiringtravellers 12 March, 2014 at 09:10

      Oh wow…savor, savor, savor those last few months and try not to worry too much about what’s coming at the end. I LOVE dogs but we have avoided getting pets for this very reason. I’m sure you will figure something out =)

  7. Laurel 12 March, 2014 at 03:14 Reply

    It’s so hard to figure it all out. Agreed that “location independent” is the way to go, but not always easy to achieve. That’s what I’m working on. I love being based in Munich, which will be my permanent home for the foreseeable future, but I also love being able to take off whenever I like.

  8. NZ Muse 10 March, 2014 at 15:36 Reply

    Wow, I’d love to get invites for overseas trips!

    I’ve been back about four months now and loving it. I did feel a pang the other week when I saw last minute steals of flights to Niue and wished I could take advantage of them though.

  9. Caroline @ Traveling 9 to 5 10 March, 2014 at 08:07 Reply

    Great post!

    Our goal of our first RTW trip in 2012 wasn’t to travel forever, it was to take a year to explore, and in the meantime create location independent lifestyles for us.

    Since 2012, we’ve continued to travel, recently much slower than we started out, but we are glad to have our companies set up that wherever we need to go as long as we have our laptops with us we can still work and travel as needed!

  10. Deia @ Nomad Wallet 9 March, 2014 at 19:08 Reply

    I love this post because this is how I feel, too. For me, early retirement is definitely the way to go. I wouldn’t mind doing some freelance work on the side, but I wouldn’t want that to be my full-time job. It will take some time for us to reach a goal passive income that I feel can support us wherever we choose to go, but we’re getting there.

    I know we can always travel ultra-cheaply, with couchsurfing and house-sitting and hitchhiking and travel hacking and work exchange. But it’s just not for me. I need to have an income coming in every month and a net worth that’s growing in order to feel secure. We all have to find our own balance, right? :)

    • inspiringtravellers 12 March, 2014 at 09:07

      Definitely! I’m curious about what you are doing to develop a passive income?

  11. Katie 9 March, 2014 at 14:49 Reply

    I can totally relate! I’ve been back a year and a half from my RTW trip and while I initially loved having stability and routine and a regular paycheck, I am getting itchy feet as well. Unfortunately, I know my finances won’t allow me to leave again for at least a few years and I don’t really have anything that I can do to support myself on a location independent basis (my job is all about building relationships and face to face contact and I don’t enjoy writing or social media enough to try to carve out a living doing either of those). For now, I am just trying to squeeze in weekend trips around the US and 1-2 international trips a year with my vacation time (which at least is more generous than most Americans get).

    • inspiringtravellers 12 March, 2014 at 09:06

      Thank goodness for the generous vacation time! Agree that not all professions are suited to the location independent lifestyle. You may discover some opportunities down the road…we never know where life will take us =)

  12. Gillian 8 March, 2014 at 14:01 Reply

    We returned from our RTW in 2010 already plotting to leave again. We managed to stay in Canada for 2 and a half years before breaking free again. We are, by all accounts, scrabbling to make a living but we ARE doing it. We can’t afford to live in Canada (although we did have to return for nine months to care for a family member – throughout which we were heavily subsidized) and are approaching it as ‘serial expat-dom’ – we stay in one place for 4, 6, 12 months and then move on. We’re finding it to be the best of both worlds; time to work and get to know a place and yet almost always challenged by the unknown. We spent 4 months in Thailand last year and this year will spend 4-5 months in cycling Europe before hitting Mexico for 6 months over winter. I love that we overcame our fear again to step out and do something different – it’s totally worth it.

  13. Amy 8 March, 2014 at 07:09 Reply

    This resonated with me as well, especially after an endless winter. We’ve been back from our RTW trip for 3 years now. We’ve been working upon trying to create happier lives than we had before we left. And we have – I even mostly like my job – but the pull of travel is strong. Even with my ample vacation (I work for a nonprofit) it is not nearly enough. We’ve thought about the expat life, but it seems eventually you just have a new routine in a new location. I’m not sure the nomadic lifestyle appeals to me either though, as I like some stability. So I’m not sure what I’m seeking, but I agree, once you see what is out there it is hard to go back.

    • inspiringtravellers 12 March, 2014 at 09:02

      These are all such great points, Amy. I hope you find what you are looking for – I think that’s the hardest part for everyone: figuring out what we want!

  14. Krista 7 March, 2014 at 16:20 Reply

    I am definitely in that same spot, Andrea. :-) I really resonated with this post. I spent much of yesterday sitting quietly with pen and notebook in hand trying to think of ways for us to have that freedom while paying our bills. Everything I could think of requires a few years hard slog first, so that’s what I’m focusing on. I’ll do the prep work and trust that it will enable the opportunities later. :-) Wishing you guys the same. XO

    • inspiringtravellers 12 March, 2014 at 09:00

      Good luck to you, Krista =) I feel like the hard slog will be worth it. And what better motivator to keep going when things get rough?

  15. Heather 7 March, 2014 at 15:59 Reply

    I have itchy feet too. We’ve been back in the States for nearly six months now and I’m ready to GO! I’ve been researching weekend trips and road trips and interesting activities around town, but the whole reason we’re back in the States is to save money for our next expat adventure in Europe. So while I know we have some great travel opportunities on the horizon, it doesn’t stop me from wanting more.

    • inspiringtravellers 12 March, 2014 at 09:03

      I completely feel your pain, Heather! It’s hard to save – we always look for the free things to do or just stay home and work in order to save. Europe will be worth it! =)

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