11 Ways to Prepare for Location Independent Living

She works hard for the money...while in Buenos Aires cafés.
She works hard for the money…while in Buenos Aires cafés.

So, you’ve decided to transition into a world of location independence. Congrats! Now comes the roller coaster of emotions and life-altering decisions — good times.

For many, after making this enormous decision, after the initial elation comes overwhelm. Oodles of significant questions arise and abound — possibly driving you batty. Where to begin? What to do first? Or second? How to make your whole world mobile? What to pack?

Before you set out on your nomadic living adventure — or before you even DECIDE to do so — it helps to break down and consider the major steps you’ll need to take. While my list of 11 ways to prepare is by no means comprehensive, it’s a start that helped keep me sane (well, mostly).

This is most definitely a beginner’s guide; I’ll be posting in greater detail on each point in the coming weeks. Where to begin?

  • Determine Your Income: Above all else, if you’ve decided to become location independent, a majority of the following decisions (budget, travel expenses, lodging costs, where you live, and more) will be affected by your earnings. Though it might not always be possible depending on your circumstances, I suggest determining what your monthly income (or average monthly income) will be as you go forth into the great world. This means figuring out exactly what you plan to be doing for work and income.
  • Create a Realistic Monthly Budget: Based on your monthly income, create a realistic budget for yourself so you avoid ending up in scary financial straits down the road. So many people fear diving into and detailing their budgets, but it’s probably the most important thing you can do, in this case. In addition to the basics like rent, health insurance, cell phone bills, car insurance, consider all the weird, unexpected costs that pop up in your life (oops, my car got a flat; oy, I need antibiotics for my strep throat; hey, I got invited to a black tie wedding). And don’t forget the little things: Kindle purchases, dining out, WINE.
  • Cutting Down Your Belongings: There will be purging. By god, there will be purging! It’s normal to stare at an apartment or house full of stuff and enter a state of complete paralysis. But begin one room at a time and really pare your life down to essentials. If you’re nostalgic, plan to rent a storage unit for larger items, if you’re not, well, godspeed – toss away! Right now, my living essentials (depending on where we’re heading for a stint) at their most fit into my RAV4, at their least into a carry-on size suitcase.
Our pile o' stuff that comes in the car with us during US-based travels.
Our pile o’ stuff that comes in the car with us during US-based travels.
  • How Will You Actually Get Your Work Done? So, you’ve figured out that you’ll earn money working as a customer service rep. Or a bartender. Or a copy editor. Whatever you’ve decided to do (see #1) for your income, you better be able to do it from the road. Consider exactly what tools you need — let’s say, a computer, Skype, a cell phone — and the things you’ll require for them to work, like electricity, reliable and fast WiFi, and cell service.
  • Banking & Retirement: Banking from the road can be tricky. Particularly if you’re freelance and have clients who won’t pay via direct deposit. (Personal rant: why on EARTH doesn’t every company pay via direct deposit?!). If you are going to receive checks, figure out how you can deposit them from the road, or who can deposit them for you. You’ll also want super-secure online passwords, and to alert your bank that you’ll be overseas or withdrawing money from a variety of locations. As far as retirement goes — just because you are nomadic is no reason not to sack away money into a retirement fund. Set up a targeted date retirement fund or similar, if you haven’t already, and plan to contribute online. Set this up from home and test the waters before taking off.
  • Buying Health Insurance: If you’re traveling overseas, you might look into international insurance like World Nomads, which I’ve happily used. This could be bolstered with a high deductible plan at home, just for good measure. If you plan to travel stateside (assuming you’re US-based) look into plans within your budget in the marketplace or through the freelancers union, or similar.
  • Set Personal (or Joint, if a Duo) Expectations: If you’re traveling alone, you’ll only have to account for your whims and fancies, but if you’re going location independent as a duo, you best have a good old fashioned come to Jesus about what you both expect out of your travels, where you’d like to go, and fall back plans if it doesn’t work out as expected. Communicate! Express not repress, Meg Ryan!
  • Decide Where You Want to Live and Travel: There’s no right or wrong way to pick a locale – you want international? Go for it. Wanna start in the U.S.? That’s what I did. All that said, depending on your working needs, you will have to take certain factors into consideration. It sounds like an awesome idea to live in an isolated bungalow on a Thai beach, but can you count on the village’s WiFi to be reliable for your work?
The view from our neighborhood in Utah.
The view from our neighborhood in Utah.
  • Look for Accommodations: My best tips? Airbnb, Homeaway, and Craigslist — pretty much in that order. Of course, depending on how long you plan to be somewhere, that could change, but we’ve had our best luck finding short-term sublets on Airbnb and Homeaway. Using our scientific system, we’ve only had one minor fail; otherwise, all houses and apartments have been fab. So, what’s this so-called system? Basically, at all costs, make sure the hosts have a LOT of positive reviews. Also, check to see the host’s response rate. You can judge a lot from these two factors.
  • Packing Tips: What you need exactly depends on where you’re traveling and how you’re getting there. When we are traveling within the US, we have our car, so we have more space, and in addition to clothes, and shoes, I also bring some cooking supplies and camping gear. When we go abroad, it’s mostly limited to the most basic clothes. Yes, bring something that makes you feel pretty to wear. No, don’t bring 6 pairs of heels. Plus, make it personal! I always pack my collection of little charms and amulets I’ve been collecting over the past few years — these include mini Buddha and Ganesh statues from India, Zuni fetishes from Santa Fe, and a tiny knit llama from Peru.
  • Keeping in Touch with Friends and Families: You will get homesick. You will miss friends. Trust me. Be prepared by figuring out how to stay in touch. Will you use Facetime? Skype? Do your closest friends and family have either? Schedule phone dates with friends and relatives. Buy postcards, just to kick it old school. And if possible, try to welcome visitors.

Still have questions? Leave me a comment or send me a message through my contacts page if you’d rather keep it private.

As I mentioned earlier, I will be expanding on each of these in greater detail in the coming weeks. Woohoo!

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