Location Independence: What Does It Really Mean?

I wanted to write a little bit about Location Independence because it’s a phrase that gets thrown around a lot.  As an online business owner and nomadic entrepreneur, it’s important for me to have the ability to pick up and move to another desirable location whenever I want. The question is though, how does one prepare to do this?  What exactly is location independence?  Let’s talk about a few things that will help define this a little better for you as well as some pitfalls to avoid.

Traveling Light Is Essential For True Independence

I know this seems like such a minute detail, but it really is extremely important.  I see so many people starting their travel journey and they have so much stuff with them.  It’s definitely hard to let go of your stuff at first, both physically and mentally.  However, your things can be an overbearing burden to you when it comes to frequent travel.  I saw one female traveler in Vancouver who had 7 pairs of shoes and one small suitcase just for her makeup!  Seriously!? Why is that necessary?  The funny part is she’s not even a long-term traveler, she was going back home in less than 3 months.

Don’t think I’m singling the girls out either.  I met a guy in Chiang Mai, Thailand who had 6 suitcases.  You don’t need that much stuff for any length of travel.  I’m guilty of this myself and I’ve definitely learned my lesson.  When I first left the United States to travel the world, I had no clue what I was doing.  I had a large suitcase, a large duffle bag, a small suitcase, and a backpack.  This is a crazy amount of stuff for the nomadic lifestyle.  

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Your things can burden you, slow you down, and actually cause logistical nightmares when moving from place to place.  It took time for me to adjust to slowly becoming a minimalist.  When I first left, I had to check a couple of bags.  I weighed them at home before getting to the airport to ensure everything was fine.  Guess what?  Their scale and my scale definitely were not the same and everything was not fine.  Even though I made it on time, it took me 30 minutes to repack my bags to their liking.

After they finally allowed me to check them, I still had to get through security.  I felt super nervous and was in a rush because I didn’t think I was going to make it on time to board.  Guess what happens to people who look nervous in airport security?  They get extra screening!  After all of this hassle, I ran all the way to my gate and made it with about a minute to spare.  I’ve definitely learned from my mistakes.  After about 6 months of traveling nonstop, I have one 50 liter backpack that carries my 1 weeks worth of clothes and some toiletries.  I also have a small backpack for my electronics.  Not only does this make it easier to travel, but it will also help you save a ton of money on flights by not having to pay for checked bags.

It’s so much more convenient to recycle your things by chucking something out every time you get a new item.  It’s also alleviated almost all stress associated with travel in regards to getting from point A to Point B.  Don’t be tied down by your belongings and make sure to travel light.  This is the first step to becoming location independent.

Don’t Buy Into The Digital Nomad Dream

In preparation for leaving everything behind to become a “digital nomad,” a term I’ve come to disassociate from, I did quite a bit of research.  In my findings, there were several “experts” or “guru’s” proclaiming that you can live off of $250-$350 USD per month.  Typically those that are marketing this fantasy world, aren’t actually living this dream themselves.  They are selling programs, courses, products, seminars, etc. that will cost you more than what they are telling you your cost of living will be.  In some cases many times more.  One of them produced a YouTube video that covers his life in Chiang Mai over the course of a week.  

In this video, he states how cheap his lifestyle is while eating a meal that costs 40 Baht ($1.12 USD).  In the same video, he is seen eating at another restaurant for breakfast.  He says he goes there every week.  I’m not sure where he is doing the math, but I’ve been to this restaurant, the average price to eat there is about $450 Baht ( $12.60 USD).  This equates to about $50 USD per month.  He is also seen going into a popular coworking space.  I’ve worked there and the cost of membership for this is 3500 baht ($100 USD) a month.  Funny how he isn’t advertising what he’s paying for those things in order to sell the lifestyle to others.  Clearly, he doesn’t practice what he preaches.

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Another supposed “expert” is selling the same dream of living cheaply in Thailand. Except he does it with the intention of being idolized by newcomers so that he may build a following to sell his dropshipping course too.  He advises that $600 USD is enough to live on per month.  Well, in my opinion, he’s getting closer to reality then guru #1, but still very far off from the truth.  If you want a dose of reality on what really goes on in the Chiang Mai Digital Nomad scene, read this article from Reddit that completely spells it out for you.  The author even refers to the community here as a “pyramid scheme” and I tend to agree.

Don’t get me wrong, Chiang Mai is a beautiful city with amazing people both foreign and domestic.  I’ve networked with some really great people that I’ve made lasting relationships with.  There is also such a rich culture here and I wouldn’t miss it for the world.  My point in all this is that if you want to be truly location independent, you need to be realistic.  This leads me to my next point…  

Have Some Form Of Income Or Financial Security

So many people come here because they saw a picture of some guy supposedly working on a beautiful beach or they listened to some podcast giving them “expert” advice on what it costs to live here.  Don’t fall for the gimmicks of people trying to suck you in so they can leech off of you.  

The reality is you need some kind of income or financial savings to fall back on.  If you don’t already have a location independent business then you’ll also need a marketable skill that you can build an income with.  If you have yet to acquire one, then it might make sense to learn that skill prior to flying halfway around the world, don’t you think?  

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So many people are looking for a way out and yes, it’s possible with hard work, perseverance, a strong mindset, and a little bit of savings.  In reality, you want to have about $2000 USD for every month you plan to stay abroad.  Will you actually spend that much?  Probably not, but it’s important to have something to fall back on while traveling.  It’s also important to note that I’m not just looking to live cheaply in one city.  When I set out to travel the world while working on my online business, I did it with the intention of being able to live anywhere I want.  This recommendation takes that into consideration.

What Is Location Independence?

Can you scrape by on $300-$400 per month?  Yeah probably, but your quality of life will be terrible.  You may have to haggle and negotiate for a cheaper price everywhere you go.  Your food and residence will pale in comparison to actually having the life you could have had if you were better prepared and more realistic.  I would have stayed home if that were the case.  

Quite frankly, this isn’t location independence.  You absolutely need the savings to fall back on, a steady income, or the time and money to build a business.  Otherwise, you’re not location independent.  You’re just location dependent in a different place.  

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Everybody has a different definition of what location independence means to them.  For me, I like to have a nice place with a comfortable setting for me to call home for a few weeks to a few months at a time.  Networking with a bunch of people telling me how great they are at XYZ business who are pretending to do everything out of generosity when their main motivation is really your money isn’t something that interests me.  I prefer to build authentic long-lasting relationships with quality people.  Having the ability to move destinations and get a change of culture and scenery at my leisure is something that really interests me.  When it does come time for this, I’d prefer to be able to maneuver from place to place with an easy transition.  

What does location independence mean to you?  Leave a comment below and let me know your thoughts!

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