Manuel and I have been location independent for over three years now and nomadic since October 2013. We're, location independent (LI), nomadic, slow travellers. That's quite a mouthful. In the months following October that we've been homeless, we've lived and been to Bogotá, Colombia, San Francisco, USA, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and now I am writing to you from Bali, Indonesia.
When people hear about our lifestyle they think we're pretty lucky and truth be told, we are. We're lucky enough to have careers and businesses that earn in dollars and euros - enough for us to be able to afford to live in different countries. However, in order to be able to make enough money to afford this lifestyle, I have to be very disciplined and consistent. I work as a writer and if I don't work, I don't get paid. If I don't get paid then I don't get to go to my next destination (and you know, don't get to eat and all that too).
It's nice to think that I get to play all day (and trust me, I would love to!) but for those who don't know what it means to be location independent, here are my truths about being location independent:
I'm not on vacation
I am on an actual work schedule. True, I can set my own hours and decide I want to take Mondays off instead of Sundays, and yes I can work nights and sleep all day. But I have real deadlines and people relying on me to get work done. The only difference between me and you is that I can work in my underwear. On my bed.
Routines create stability and keep me grounded
Without it I feel like I'm on vacation and get nothing done. The one thing I try to do whenever I get to a new location is get back into routine as quickly as possible. My current one is to work 3 hours in the morning and 3 hours in the evening. I spend the time in between exploring the city or meeting up with new people. As much as possible I try not to work weekends and leave that for actual travel around the country we're living in. I also try not to work after 7pm (but this one is hard).
Some of my routines:
- My one thing that I do each morning to signal the start of my day is making coffee with my Aeropress. I bring my Hario grinder and Aeropress wherever I go and love buying locally roasted coffee beans to try.
- Rolling out my yoga mat and doing some yoga - on lazy days (or hangover days) I sometimes barely get 15 minutes of rolling around the mat. I still try to at least get on the mat so I can check off that I went there.
- Knitting. Perhaps not a routine, but I bring my knitting needles with me everywhere too. Knitting is my cue that the work day is done and now I get to play.
Timezones and jetlag can be a bitch
Travelling can really mess with your schedule and routine. You can pretty much cancel out the day of travel for any kind of productive work other than packing your life in a box and making sure you've got everything wrapped up. Not to mention if you're going to different timezones, jetlag can get you out of commission for a few days too. And of course making sure you have the times right for deadline submission. Not that I'm complaining about this, but it's really something I never took into consideration before I starting slow travelling. So I have to be extra careful with work if I know I'll be travelling a lot that month (and I usually am) and make sure work is all in order so that I don't piss off my clients.
Discipline and I got acquainted really fast
Man, I am obsessed with productivity tips, hacks, anything that makes me sit down and do the work. I fight myself everyday to get my ass to the desk and working. Sounds dramatic, but it's true for me. I found the book The War on Art by Steven Pressfield very helpful in getting me to the desk everyday. Now I have a goal chart which I find very helpful.
Can't take things for granted
Things that I used to take for granted like fast internet, clean water and even wine (!! haha!) are not necessarily the same in other countries. In Bali we brush our teeth using bottled water because the water smells of rotten eggs (not all places, it's because of the pipes and materials used) and I even wash my face using bottled water - like a boss!
Still worth it
That said and done, I still wouldn't trade my life for a desk job. I might have a lot to adjust to, have to put in more effort in making sure I get things done and fight jetlag every once in a while, but nothing beats waking up in a new location every couple of months. Meeting all the new, interesting people we've met so far, eating all the different foods, and having your weekends feel like mini holidays because you're in a brand new place and you get to play and explore!
I'm a better person
My life has been interrupted like nothing before. I am more street smart when it comes to travel, I have to adapt to other cultures and quickly too, and re-examine my life and who I am. Nothing teaches you faster and better than experience. My memory bank has floweth over. I feel a mixture of control and losing control of my life and it is exhilarating.
Being location independent and nomadic might not be for everyone, but if you are thinking of becoming LI, just be clear of what it consists of, and then by all means go out there and do it anyway!
Anything else to add to this list? What is your truth?
UPDATE: This article was originally published in my old blog. When I moved it here I lost all the comments. I apologise to the original post commenters!