Reality Check: Can You Handle a Location Independent Lifestyle?

Location Independence
Some days you find t-shirts that sum up your life.

“Yes, there is another world. This is it.” –Stephen Dunn, poet

“You can’t get away from yourself by moving from one place to another.” —Jake Barnes, in Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, 1926

Every so often, people reach out to me, asking about the ins and outs of location independence. Sometimes these are friends who are curious about how I actually do what I do. Other times it’s people who have stumbled across my blog and are planning to embark on a RTW journey or location independence themselves. And less frequently it’s people I meet on the road who are simply in disbelief that such a lifestyle is possible, or that I could be happy living it.

Let me tell you: it is, and I am.

That’s all I’ll say about that now, because this particular post — and the series of location independent posts I have up my sleeves — are all about you.

Before I get into the nitty-gritty of exactly *how* to make location independence work (and believe me, in subsequent posts, I will), I want to stop and ask the most important question of all: Are you really ready for location independence? Is this really what you want?

If your answer is a resounding, “YES,” god speed and good luck. You can check out now and tune back in for details in later posts. If your answer is a, “Yes, I am, I mean, I think I am, I really almost certainly do,” then, you might want to continue reading.

Because I want to give you a little insight into what your location independent reality will look like: the good, the bad, the ugly and the spectacular.

Say Buh-Bye to “Stuff”

location independence packing
All our “stuff” to date.

Remember, if you’re saying farewell to a home, you’re likely saying goodbye to all the things you have in that home. There are exceptions to every rule, but typically, this will be a reality, and it’s easier said than done for some people. Be ready to pack up all your knick-knacks, furniture, clothes, books, kitchenware and toiletries and place them in a dim storage unit for a good long while — or sell them. You will soon have your worldly goods in a backpack, or a few boxes, which will either prove freeing or panic-inducing.

A Case of the Lonelies

You meet countless people on the road. These people will touch your heart and life and may shift your perspective on love or politics or the human condition. The flip side? These people probably won’t become your besties, and probably won’t follow you on your travels. You will have a lot of alone time, and you better be comfortable with yourself and ready to face yourself solo. Even if you’re traveling with a companion (as I am), there are still profoundly lonely moments, where I just miss a little girlfriend time.

Money, Money, Money

Depending on how you choose to earn money when you’re location independent, you may find yourself earning significantly less than you did while working in an office. Sure, there are stories of entrepreneurs who have managed to start 2 dozen companies and earn 6 figures, and while it’s absolutely possible it’s a) really hard, and b) really rare. Of course, you may also find that your expenses have been slashed considerably without the cost of rent or car insurance, making it easier to survive on less income. Still, working out your detailed financial plan prior to hitting the road is critical.

The Devil’s in the Details

There’s a lot to consider and organize before setting out for location independence. Like I mentioned earlier, there’s the question of what to do with your stuff. There are also considerations like healthcare, and what to do with your bills or your mail. You’ll have to ponder how to stay in touch with friends and family so you don’t feel isolated from them. Bottom line: you will come across pretty regular bumps in the road that you best be prepared to face and subsequently deal with.

What About the Daily Excitement?

valerie conners
Daily excitement sometimes includes frozen lemonade with fresh mint. Don’t judge.

I think people have these great imaginings that once they take off to be location independent, daily life becomes a glittering scene of beaches, umbrella-topped cocktails, perfect sunsets and exotic locales. Few people envision the reality: wherever you may go, you’re still working, you’ll likely still stick to a schedule of some sort and it probably won’t be super sexy: wake, exercise, work, lunch, work, dinner can be pretty typical. Even if you’re working significantly less, a lot of your day (and night) is actually spent staring at a computer, toiling away. Sure, you’re staring at a computer in a totally awesome location, but it’s still work.

The one thing I wasn’t entirely prepared for was how different location independence would be from my RTW trip, when I wasn’t working at all. That truly was a trip filled with daily awesomeness and change. Location independence has been quite different — my routines aren’t all that different on most days, and usually do involve a lot of work. It’s work I love and it’s way better than an office or cubicle, but still, I’m not sipping a fruity cocktail while doing it. Well, not usually.

BUT WAIT — Thar’s Gold in Them Thar Hills!

Destin Florida
A perfect sunset in the land of perfect sunsets, Destin, FL.

While you will face a medley of unexpected (or expected) hurdles once you embark on this lifestyle, be prepared most of all for its beauty.

You will have freedom. You will have adventure. You will feel gloriously alive. You will be proud of your courage and your decision to defy convention.

I want people to be aware that location independence, like all the best things in life, doesn’t take you away from yourself. It brings you closer. This is a good thing, trust.

Sure, you will have days that are as dull as they might have been when you were working in your cubicle, but you will also have days that are golden.

You can take a spontaneous afternoon trip to the Grand Canyon’s North Rim simply because you live near it, you will camp in majestic National Parks, you will learn new languages, you will love strangers, you will have experiences so magical and foreign you cannot even begin to picture them now, in your present day.

Consider it all, the good and the hard. And even if it scares you (and it will), remember the words of Rumi, “Move. But don’t move the way fear makes you move.”

Move with your heart.

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