The subject of my life as a minimalist keeps coming up in conversations lately.
I’m always a bit taken aback when someone suggests it, because I don’t think of myself as a minimalist at all. It’s true, I’ve lived out of a backpack, essentially, for over five years now. My whole life fits into one checked bag and one carry-on. Does that make me a minimalist? Perhaps.
Interestingly, I view myself in the exact opposite fashion: I refer to myself as a maximalist. It’s not about stripping life down to the bare essentials for me, it’s about living as large as I possibly can, experiencing it all, and finding good in both extremes, with my heart somewhere in the middle. It just so happens that in this incarnation of my life, as I travel relentlessly in search of memories with my family as the kids evaporate before my very eyes, that I don’t have much in the way of “stuff.” That’s not because I’m morally opposed to the stuff. It’s because the stuff would interfere with what matters most to me, with what I’m trying to achieve to the maximum, which is time, freedom, experience and relationship building. For now, I choose to spend my time and money on those things, which means that I don’t have much “stuff,” which makes me look like a minimalist, I suppose.
So what about you? Are you a minimalist? Or a maximalist, like me? Where do you fall on the sliding scale of moral debate about “stuff,” its origin, impact and use? This is a discussion, and there’s no “right answer,” so please, chime in!
Location Independence is a concept that has exploded over the past few years. With the rapid expansion of the internet, all of a sudden, there are possibilities that didn’t exist, even a decade and a half ago. Travel has long sung her siren song in the hearts of many arm chair gypsies and now many of those folks, who previously burned with longing, find themselves able to hit the road and travel without giving up their careers.
It’s easy to see the draw: photos of folks working, poolside, books like The Four Hour Work Week, and countless blogs of evangelical nature bend “come hither” fingers at those “stuck” in their 9-5 with some level of discontent. But is it all it’s cracked up to be?
It’s one thing to save up and take a gap year, or work in spurts as you go, tucking into a contract for a few months and then traveling in free wheeling style for a few months. For many, that’s the perfect blend. But what is it like to truly work from the road, to hold down proper careers in a nomadic life? We do it. We know quite a few others who do it.
And here’s what I have to say: It’s a hell of a lot of work.
Juggling time zones, clients and projects across continents is not for the faint of heart. There are some very real benefits to being able to deliver during your clients’ off hours, and the combination of a lack of overhead and lower living costs in many popular overseas locations sweetens the deal. But the trade off is often that working from these “more desirable” locations is also more difficult, logistically, linguistically and in terms of connectivity.
It’s not a question of whether it is “worth it.” For those of us living and working location independent as we travel, it is most certainly worth it. But that should not be confused with it being “easy” or equated with working whilst on perpetual vacation. Work is work. Where it happens might be becoming increasingly negotiable, but the facts are the same. I think there is a certain amount of snake-oil-salesmanship going on right now in the community of books and blogs being promoted that suggest that it is otherwise. There are many examples of people who go big in their first year or two and blow hard about it, but where are they three or four years in? Very few continue in the lifestyle.
We’re five years in at this point. We live and work on the road. We make “real money” from “real career” type efforts and support a family of six. We pay taxes, we have insurance and investments. It’s not a gap year or a phase of a fling. It can be done, and we have a wide array of folks we could point to who are doing it. We’d encourage anyone who wants to that it’s possible and you can be your own rainmaker, in work, travel and lifestyle. But we’ll also tell you that it’s tough. There’s no free lunch, and anyone who says there is, is selling something.
Are you location independent in your career or do you want to be? Do you choose to work and travel? What has been your experience?
As my last Vagabonding contribution for year 2012 – and I am glad to say that it has been a great pleasure and a serious commitment, guys – I decided to comment on an interesting article I found here. The author, classifying himself as one of the “New Rich” theorized by Timothy Ferriss’ famous bestseller, gives the life perspective’s lowdown on his profitable work experience as he travels the world. His final view, however, is far from casting an idyllic image of this lifestyle, as he says “it occurs to me that the New Rich, for all of our impressive values, are just as guilty of materialism as the old rich. It just takes a different form. Instead of an addiction to status and possessions, we’re addicted to experience and novelty. The end result is the same. Our relationships, our connections to what’s important, suffer. For the first time in three years of non-stop travel, I wish for a home.”
After reading, the natural question I have is: has the whole “digital nomad” concept of life finally exposed its own limits and faults? Isn’t it, ultimately, just another more solitary way to do business? I can only see that, in the end, a digital worker is STILL bound to his own work schedule and internet connection necessities, after all… with the aggravated understanding of his own group’s isolation. Apparently, the New Rich have reached a level where relationships, life, and possibly the same essence of travel and adventure, radiate from a computer screen. The work location really does not matter anymore: lives keep being conducted behind the comfort and isolation of internet connections and LCD screens, exploiting a code of honor in which relationships may be just taken as an umpteenth source of data – and therefore , become easily negotiable online. In my opinion, the uneasiness expressed by the author is understandable for a long-term traveler; regardless, it casts big, dark shadows on the psychological well-being of online traveling businessmen, at least under a relational point of view, as outlined in the article.
In my own long-term traveler sense, being a New Rich looks exactly like 走马看花 (zou ma kan hua), or “to watch flowers while riding on horseback”: what can be the depth of perception of someone who only experiences places in between computer stints? I am glad that someone from the group finally outlined that “digital nomads” have lost their connection… with reality. Maybe, and pardon the biased pun, if they lost their internet connections, instead, the horrible consequences may help them regain a sense of the exceptional life stories they are living… but can we/they stop thinking of profit and money as we/they travel, at least for a short while? I would like to read your opinions/experiences.
Christmas this year find us on the edge of the jungle in Borneo. Hiking yesterday I found a pocketful of nutmeg and remembered making a Christmas phone call years ago, with my brother who was here in the Spice Islands while I was “at home” changing diapers. He told me about the orang utan he’d encountered deep up a jungle river and he mailed me a boxful of nutmeg he’d picked off of the forest floor for me. This year I’ll be making that phone call home, and he’s the one ankle deep in babies and diapers.
Josh spent the first five years after university in a 34 foot sailboat, circumnavigating. He was named after Joshua Slocum, so it was his fate. He and I have both chosen unconventional lives, as a direct result of our unconventional upbringing. We were raised to follow our dreams, instead of toe the line. I’m unspeakably grateful for that.
I remember a few short weeks before we leapt off the cliff, quit the high power job, sold our house out from under our four young children and struck out in the world with what we could carry on our bikes and nothing more, talking with him on the phone from his little homestead in the Okisollo channel in BC, where he builds boats and plots adventures. We’d been getting a little push back from people in the conventional world, people who were concerned that we were committing financial suicide, limiting our children’s educational or social potential and who were a bit incredulous that we’d step out of a “perfect life” for something so uncomfortable, so uncertain, as full time travel.
“We’re just getting a little hate mail, and it’s making me wonder… is this going to turn out to be a big mistake? I mean, it’s different with four kids, isn’t it?”
Josh chuckled, in his quiet way, and replied:
“And these people sending hate mail, what, exactly have they done? Do they have any experience with this kind of thing?”
I had to admit that they did not. None of them had done anything out of the status quo.
“See, to my mind, that’s exactly where you want to be. When 90% of the people who haven’t done anything think you’re nuts, that’s just about right. It’s when the 10% of people who have done what you want to start raising red flags, then you might want to listen.”
I laughed with him and breathed a sigh of relief; of course he was exactly right.
Over the years, I’ve repeated that bit of wisdom to many other folks on the cusp of something huge and frightening and life changing. It’s proven itself true in our own lives, time and again. If you want to live a passion driven life and your passions are taking you outside of the status quo, don’t look to the folks living conventional lives for the encouragement or experience you need. You’ll need to surround yourself with other dreamers of big dreams, and you’ll need to create a community of folks who are living in the world you’re trying to create as a sounding board and sanity check.
Daily activities, within a comfortable, familiar environment can be interesting enough with a disability. If you spend time in a wheelchair, you know how different surfaces, or slight inclines, can create an immense challenge. Well yes, they may pose a challenge, look at it this way; a world on wheels is a unique perspective.
Not long ago, Justin Skeesuck launched: The Disabled Traveler, with a tag line of “see the world differently.” Justin Skeesuck is a well-seasoned traveler. We connected (via social media) because of our mutual love of photography. I got to be part of the beta stages of his project, and am thrilled to now share with you his live site. On the main page, you’ll discover a free eBook! And every few weeks he hosts an Accessible Travel webinar. But also check out his blog. Where, even I recently discovered another wonderful site with great accessible information and stories called, wheelchairtraveling.com
A lot of the time the worst-case scenario takes over our mind, and it just seems safer to stay home. But hopefully both of the above mentioned sites will help you roll along to discover the world.
The Wall Street Journal had a story titled, “The let’s sell our house and see the world retirement.” A couple, Lynn and Tim Martin, decided to ditch the stereotypical retirement lifestyle and hit the road.
Here’s how Lynn describes it:
In short, we’re senior gypsies. In early 2011 we sold our house in California and moved the few objects we wanted to keep into a 10-by-15-foot storage unit. Since then, we have lived in furnished apartments and houses in Mexico, Argentina, Florida, Turkey, France, Italy and England. In the next couple of months, we will live in Ireland and Morocco before returning briefly to the U.S. for the holidays.
Nice to read that anyone can be a vagabonder, regardless of age, gender, income level, etc. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Just under the headline, click on “Interactive Graphics” to see a map with a breakdown of the Martins’ budget. Most of cities they’ve lived in turned out to be cheaper than their California home, even expensive destinations like London. Lynn gives much of the credit to the vagabonding ethic, as she shares here:
We follow some simple strategies to keep our budget in line. Stays in more expensive locations, like Paris or London, are balanced by living in less pricey countries like Mexico, Turkey or Portugal. We dine out several times a week but eat at home much of the time. I like to cook, and food shopping is a great way to learn about a country. (Finding baking soda in Buenos Aires isn’t nearly as simple as it sounds.)
Have you retired and are currently traveling? Please share your experiences in the comments.
In the end there are a million reasons not to live your dream, but all you really need are a small handful of reasons to do it. It all comes down to priorities.
If you are happy with your life at the moment, then there’s nothing you need to change. If, however, there is something you’re not happy with, it’s up to you to change it.
You have a choice. You can continue doing what you’ve been doing and you’ll get the same things you’ve been getting. If you want something different, you need to do something different. You know the saying: Insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different outcome. It’s true.
Set your priorities in life and then take steps to get there. It won’t be easy. It won’t come without work. Your dream won’t fall in your lap. YOU make that dream happen.
When we decided to ride our bikes from one end of the world to the other, we worked toward it with an undying sense of commitment and passion. Every action and thought was focused on making that dream come true. We woke up in the morning and thought about what steps we would take that day and in the evening we looked back on the progress we made. Baby steps to be sure, but they were steps in the right direction.
As I look back on that time period now, I realize there were three key attitudes and beliefs that were in place in order for us to be successful. (more…)
Business travelers, also known as “road warriors,” are some of the most experienced trip hackers around. Although here at Vagabonding we espouse slower wandering, these hard-core types have streamlined the process to a science. Their advice appeared in this New York Times article: How the tough get going: Silicon Valley travel tips. Prominently featured in the article is Tim Ferriss, known as the author of “The 4-Hour Workweek” and the “The 4-Hour Body.”
Naturally, there are many websites and apps that get mentioned. It’s interesting to see these guys apply a hacker ethic of “lighter, faster, more efficient” to their journeys.
My favorite tip was how to get a new charger and adapter fast if you lose yours. Ask your hotel to see their “lost and found” box. If you’re staying at a place that gets a lot of businesspeople, a lot of those things get accidentally left behind.
The CLEARcard was new to me. This enables cardholders to pass through airport security faster. While it’s a useful tool, a quick check of their website reveals that the card can only be used in four airports. If the card were more widely accepted, it would be more handy.
I did research, and found Global Entry. This is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that can help members speed through security. Global Entry has been deployed in many major American airports, making it far more convenient than CLEARcard.
Some of the advice was risky though, like packing a starter pistol and declaring the firearm to TSA, as a way of making sure airport staff don’t lose your bag. With security being a big concern these days, this is not something I would recommend to anyone.
How do you pack light for your trips? Any tips for speeding up the check-in and boarding process? Please share your thoughts in the comments.
Most dreams die because the dreamers can’t take the requisite and always terrifying step into the unknown. The best laid plans and sincerest intentions are no protection against the stomach-lurching sensation when you let go of the lifeline.
Cila Warnke is currently writing a book – THE BOOK, as she refers to it. Here’s her description: The Book tells the stories of people who refuse to go gently into the fiction of “normal” life. They have confronted all the usual excuses for saying “no” (children, illness, age, lack of opportunity) and with cheerful, bloody-minded determination said “yes” to their dreams. These quiet heroes know the secret of success is not money, power, or privilege, but passion, desire, and a willingness to take risks. They are, to borrow from Henry David Thoreau, living deliberately.
I am fortunate to be one of the cast, one of the people profiled in The Book. Cila has been posting snippets of her writing on her blog for a while and I love reading about the wonderful people she’s spoken with. But yesterday, when I read her newest installment about my story, this part hit me: “Most dreams die because the dreamers can’t take the requisite and always terrifying step into the unknown. The best laid plans and sincerest intentions are no protection against the stomach-lurching sensation when you let go of the lifeline.”
And that made me think. Do more dreams die due to fear of the unknown, or due to lack of money? I hear from many people who say one or the other, and I honestly don’t know the answer. I’d like to say that lack of money may delay a dream, but if you are committed to making the dream happen that hurdle can be overcome. Taking that terrifying step into the unknown, however, is more difficult in my mind. For those of us lucky enough to live in developed countries, it seems to me that we can make it happen if we work hard enough. I know that, for many people in less fortunate situations around the world, there is no way no matter how hard they work.
And so I ask you: Do more dreams die because of lack of money or because of the fear of the unknown? What do you think?
Nancy Sathre-Vogel is Mom to an adventurous family who will try just about anything; many times, they actually achieve what they set out to do. Their most recent success was biking from Alaska to Argentina, but there have been others too. And some failures in there as well. You can follow their adventures at www.familyonbikes.org/blog
There’s a lot of talk in cyberspace about living your dream. Live life on your own terms, grab life by the horns and take it for a ride.
But what happens when you discover that the life you thought you wanted isn’t meeting your needs like you thought it would? Then what? Hang on anyway? Or give yourself permission to move on?
That’s precisely where we found ourselves as we hiked the Colorado Trail through the Rockies this summer. As we planned our 500-mile backpack trip we figured we would love being out in the mountains with our backpacks full of tents, sleeping bags, and food. It would be just us and Mother Nature out there in the wild blue yonder.
Yet when we got out there it wasn’t quite as we had envisioned. We knew the journey would be difficult, but didn’t expect the level of traffic on the trail. Mountain bikes whizzed past and we shared the trail with others out for a day hike while we lugged heavy backpacks. Somehow, it wasn’t quite what we had in mind.
And so… what? Do we hang on to some idealized version of our dream and keep going? Or do we accept the reality of what it is and call it off?
In the end, we opted to bail. We realized that long-distance biking is what we enjoy, not so much long-distance hiking. That’s OK. Different strokes for different folks.
Did we fail to live our dream? Not at all. We failed to hike the entire 500-mile Colorado Trail, but we lived our dream. We planned, we packed up, we hiked 200 miles, we learned we weren’t enjoying it, we changed our plan.
Now we need to come up with a new dream. I wonder what that will be?
Have you ever had a dream that ended up not being all you expected? What did you do? Bail or stick with it?
Nancy Sathre-Vogel is Mom to an adventurous family who will try just about anything. Many times, they actually achieve what they set out to do. Their most recent success was biking from Alaska to Argentina, but there have been others too. And some failures in there as well. You can follow their adventures at www.familyonbikes.org/blog