For much of the life of this blog (five years in October?!), I have talked about my family’s desire to be location independent. When I first began blogging, Mr. ThreeYear and I considered the possibility of moving abroad, teaching in international schools, or becoming digital nomads.
In the end, we moved to North Carolina. Although we were technically location independent when we moved, we have since made decisions that tie us firmly to one area of the world. We bought a house, I got a location-dependent job there, and I now have a second location-dependent job that I hope to stay in until at least both boys graduate high school (in May of 2028, which is crazy close for us to be empty nesters! Whaaahh!!).
We haven’t talked about, or really even thought about, moving, moving internationally, or otherwise taking advantage of location independence in three years.
Why did our goals and dreams change so much?
I liken our family’s journey to a passage in Your Money or Your Life (the revised edition), where Vicki Robin talks about how you can fulfill your need for adventure in simpler ways than by traveling around the world. Let me be clear: I personally want to and value traveling around the world, but Robin’s point is that sometimes understanding your desire allows you to be more creative and more frugal about fulfilling that desire.
In hindsight, we didn’t necessarily care about traveling all over as a lifestyle. We cared about being closer to family, being able to travel to cool places during our vacations, and about social interactions. Since we’ve moved to Davidson, we’ve fulfilled all three desires, and so we don’t need to travel around for long stretches of time to be happy.
In fact, I realized that moving around a lot would actually be a terrible option for my family. Mr. ThreeYear, Junior ThreeYear, and Little ThreeYear all struggle with anxiety to varying degrees, and routine is very helpful to helping them manage that anxiety.
And because Mr. ThreeYear works remotely, we do have more travel flexibility, especially during the summer when I’m off. For example, we’re currently at the beach for a stretch of 2-3 weeks, and Mr. ThreeYear is working from the house here.
I am hopeful that next summer, we’ll be able to take off for the month of June and travel, perhaps to Spain for that yet-to-be-rebooked trip that got postponed in April of 2020.
As I delineated in this post, we prefer to stay in one place while we travel, and spend a little more time exploring. So a month in one location is great for us.
One of my students has parents who are both college professors and they spend all summer traveling, much like Justin from Root of Good. I think this is an amazing option for kids, as my student has seen Asia, Europe, and South America. He knows a lot about the places he visits, too.
The Benefits to Staying Put
There are, undoubtedly, a ton of benefits to location independence, especially when your kids are young. You get to see lots of new places, you get to explore, you get to expose your kids to many different cultures, foods, and ways of doing things.
But we have loved putting down roots in our neighborhood in Davidson. I have loved developing friendships with our neighbors and watching Little ThreeYear run across the lawn to play with Sam, or Lucy, or Harrison, or Bennett, or Lucy 2, or Will. I love having those families over for dinner.
We love being able to walk to our neighborhood tennis courts and play pickle ball, or have dinner at the cafe, where we inevitably see friends. We love being able to call our friend who lives down the street who’s an ER doctor if we have an injury, or a weird rash, haha, and we love being able to bike down the road to have dinner with our friends a little farther away. It’s nice to have a pool in the neighborhood, though we rarely use it, and it’s really nice to live half a mile from the Greenway, a lovely trail maintained by the town.
As you can see, I’m talking about staying put very specifically in our neighborhood. We’ve developed a life that happily encompasses a few square miles of territory, and go from home, to school, to town, to home again.
We wanted to be permanent travelers and now we barely leave our neighborhood? What is up with us?
Our dream of becoming location independent got me through several hard New England winters.
But in the end, our decision to move to Davidson made much more sense to our family, probably because parts of it were so familiar.
We knew how to buy a house, because we’d done it several times before. We knew how to settle in in a suburban neighborhood, for the same reason. We knew how to get our boys enrolled in public school, and I knew how to get a job as a teacher.
All of those decisions felt familiar, and easy. While we probably could have navigated the ins and outs of me getting an international teaching position, we were always left with the cold, hard reality that Mr. ThreeYear makes 80% or so of our income, and he couldn’t work from just anywhere, especially in his current role.
We also wrestled with the fact that living abroad meant living far from our families. We already live super far from Mr. ThreeYear’s family, and when we lived in New Hampshire, we were alone. It felt isolating.
Now, that feeling of isolation, of being trapped in a sense, is completely gone.
The Benefits of Our Location Independence Dream
I am so glad that we entertained the idea of becoming location independent for so many years.
Dreaming doesn’t cost a dime, and yet it can bring you so much happiness.
Mr. ThreeYear and I would sit and talk about various places we wanted to live. He would push me to apply for international jobs, and our dream was what pushed me to finally start a blog.
Our dream conditioned us to think more expansively about our lives, to entertain more possibilities and to take control back over our futures.
In many ways, we felt powerless during our time in New Hampshire. Because Mr. ThreeYear had been laid off twice in one year back in 2008, we felt very economically tied to his job, and our economic future always felt precarious.
Just like my grandfather who lived through the Depression and was an obsessively frugal saver for the rest of his life, I have realized that Mr. ThreeYear and I bear scars from the Recession of 2008. We came out smelling like daisies, through luck and privilege, but we did not come out without wounds.
I am forever grateful for that time, because we are in such a stronger financial position because of it.
But without that dream, we may not be here now. For Mr. ThreeYear, negotiating to work remotely was a very difficult career move that could potentially not have paid off. And if it didn’t, we might be living in Portland, Oregon, working for Nike. But that’s another story.
For me, dreaming can be hard, because I get locked into one plan and am slow to change my thinking, much like a cruise ship is slow to turn at sea.
But for Mr. ThreeYear, dreaming is a way to try on different lives and discard them, over and over.
We’ve definitely loosened our spending belts over the past few years, and I’m glad we have. We spend more money on trips, services, and stuff that makes us happy.
Now that Covid restrictions are starting to lift, we’ve begun to think more seriously about travel. We even took a trip to Napa in April that I will blog about soon.
They say you know you’re happy when you don’t think about your happiness anymore. For this season, at least, I am there.