The Best Advice I Know for Becoming Location Independent
Our family is currently on a three year experiment to double our net worth and become location independent. While we’re not there yet, we’ve learned a lot on this journey.
If you’re thinking about cutting the ties and becoming location independent, here are a few things we’ve learned (some, the hard way):
Kill the Debt
First things first, get rid of your debt. There is nothing more binding than owing someone or some entity money. Pay off your credit card balances, student loans, and car loans as fast as you can. Consider selling your house to rent. When you owe money to a person or an institution, not only are you beholden to that person or entity, you’re stuck working long hours, in order to pay your fixed expenses and pay back your debt, as well.
If you’re thinking about traveling, living internationally, or taking on a job that allows you to live anywhere, I highly recommend paying off your debt first. There’s an inherent unpredictability that can come with location independence, especially if it involves living in an international location or traveling for long stretches, and being out from under the burden of debt payments is freeing.
Also, being out of debt allows you more flexibility. You could take a job that pays less, for example. How much money are payments currently eating out of your paycheck? If they’re gone, you don’t need to earn that money anymore. You could work for several months in a seasonal job, then take several months off. You’ll need less money if you don’t have to worry about car payments, student loan payments, and credit card payments.
Being able to live on less opens up many more possibilities in terms of remote work and travel. If you need less money, then you can save up faster, and it doesn’t take as long to earn a month’s salary (maybe 10 hours a week instead of 40).
Question your life. Do you really need such a big house? Do you need a full-time job? Can you start a job that might pay less but lets you work from home or online?
I know for me, I could do this now. There are tons of online teaching possibilities I could pursue as an ESL Teacher. No, they don’t pay as much as I’m currently making, but they offer way more freedom. So when we’re ready to cut the cord, I have options.
After we got back from our three-week vacation to Chile, we sat down and questioned where we lived. We’d comfortably stayed in a 600-square foot apartment, so we had a new perspective on our home in New Hampshire. It was lovely, yes, but it was also huge, and expensive: taxes alone were as much as Jacob Fisker spends in a year.
Selling our large house and renting a smaller space would free up more money to help us on our journey toward location independence.
Plus, selling a house is a huge undertaking! You’ll need to paint, prep, stage, box up all of your things, put it on the market, keep it clean… if you no longer own a house, then you have one (huge) less thing to do to be un-tied to a specific place. And, if you have any equity in your house, you’ll also have a large chunk of cash that can help finance travel or act as a large emergency fund.
Tell people your crazy plan. Start dreaming and allowing yourself to dream out loud. It doesn’t matter if you have all the answers. It’s okay to say, “I don’t know yet.” Do you want to save up and then spend a year traveling the world? Do you want to move to Florida so you never have to endure winter again? But absolutely no idea how to get there? The first step is to have the courage to tell others and commit to trying. Even if you fail, I guarantee you’ll learn and grow more than you would have if you never tried.
I started this blog with absolutely no idea how we were going to become location independent. Our family had some very loose ideas about how we could achieve location independence, and a not-necessarily-achievable goal of doubling our net worth in three years. Slowly, over time, we’re figuring out how it might be possible to structure our lives and work so that we’re not tied to one place.
I am not advocating that you quit your job and travel the world with no plan. Please understand that’s not what I mean by “do it scared.” Instead, the idea is to dream out loud. Allow yourself to imagine a different life, and share it with the people you love most. Allow your sub-conscious to work on ideas of how to make that crazy dream come true.
It will take time. There will be more questions than answers, most days. But slowly, very slowly, you’ll have conversations and insights, and a plan will start to murkily take place. Or maybe, like a bolt of lightening, you’ll suddenly see how you can make it happen and you’ll see the steps in front of you that you need to follow to get to where you want to go.
Read About Others Who Have Achieved Location Independence
One of the reasons I love to showcase people who are either location independent or living abroad is because I want to find out how they did it. Are they financially independent like Steve from Think, Save, Retire? Have they started their own wildly successful business on Etsy like Kerri or Pete of Do You Even Blog? Do they work remotely, like Mrs. Adventure Rich?
Ask Yourself, “What’s the Worst that Could Happen?”
We are creatures of habit, and it’s so easy to fall into the trap of having more security, owning a home, and following the path that everyone else follows. In fact, if you suggest a different path than the “normal” one, you’ll get a lot of pushback. People will question your sanity. They’ll question your judgement or your ability to live out your big, wild dream. Don’t worry. That’s just because you’re messing with their status quo. Their opinion probably has very little to do with you and everything to do with them.
The truth is, renting is awesome. Stability is probably a bit over-rated. But most importantly:
Doing scary and wonderful things will make you a better person, every time.
But the process will be hard.
When I wonder if we’re making the right decisions for our family, I always come back to a conversation I had a year ago. Mr. ThreeYear has a yearly conference for his company where clients and their partners are invited for a few days of talking business and networking. There are lots of dinners and time to really get to know the couples with whom he works. Last year, we sat next to a husband and wife who had achieved great success in business. He was a senior vice-president of a large manufacturing company and she had been the VP of HR for another company in the industry.
But, when they reminisced about the best time in their life, it had nothing to do with their corporate success. In fact, it was the opposite: many years ago, her husband got fed up with his job, quit, and they traveled the US in a camper for six months. This was when their boys were younger, 8-12, I believe. She told me those were the best months of their family’s life. “Yes, it was a little stressful that [my husband] didn’t have a job to go back to, and that we were living on savings, but we bonded as a family on that trip, and we made so many memories with our boys. They still tell me today that those are their favorite memories from growing up.”
If you’re thinking about becoming location independent or traveling more than you do right now, know that it does take planning and preparation. But making a change in your life, however big, starts with a decision, and then small, day-by-day follow-up steps to get there.