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of us just know that there are other possibilities for our lives now, and that the ways we thought we had to live were out of date, not guaranteed or limited in some way.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.

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?

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.

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…

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7 years ago

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!)

7 years ago
Reply to  Monnette

Great ideas, Monnette!

7 years ago

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… Read more »

7 years ago
Reply to  Sofie

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 =)

7 years ago


7 years ago

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!

7 years ago
Reply to  Elaine

Working on it, Elaine – definitely =) Thanks for the tip!

7 years ago

Oh how I wish I could travel as much as you do. Unfortunately a lot of things are holding me back right now.

7 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Norton

Us too, Jeremy – we don’t get away nearly as much as we want to!

7 years ago

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… Read more »

7 years ago
Reply to  Genah

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 =)

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