How To Trade Being Chained to a Job for Traveling the World

  • March 3, 2010 by Guest Writer
  • 27 Comments

Thinking about redesigning your life is exciting, but for most of us it is overwhelming, too – so overwhelming that most of never make the leap to do it.

We envision our roadblocks much easier than we do the big dream, don’t we?

  • Debt

  • Family obligations
  • Career
  • Peer pressure
  • Fear of the unknown

First you start to fall

We stumbled into lifestyle design quite by accident. We were living in Massachusetts, both working hectic jobs that required a lot of travel.

At first this was exciting – a new marriage, great jobs, and a new location. But it didn’t take long for the new to wear off and reality to set in.

We were chained to our jobs to support the lifestyle we had created to reward ourselves for working the tough jobs.

It is a never-ending cycle, isn’t it?

We were one our way to a brick wall, both emotionally and financially, and without any sort of “lifestyle design” instruction or forethought we just decided to make a change.

Then you stumble into lifestyle design

When you reach a breaking point, decisions come easily.

We knew that we were unhappy with our work schedules, long commutes, and lack of quality time with each other (or quantity, for that matter). So we made a list of the ways we could change our lives to make those things better.

The first item was changing jobs. At the time, the job market was pretty good, and we soon realized we could fix the commute problem and the quality of life problem if we really focused on the job situation.

We opened up our search to other cities we found appealing from a lifestyle perspective. Instead of taking the first good job in one of our “dream cities” we evaluated the commute, what kind of neighborhood we wanted to live in, and how our lives would function with the job.

We finally ended up in Seattle, living in a house one-third the size of our old one, and giving up one of our cars and a bunch of our stuff. The change has been lifesaving, and my only regret is not doing it sooner.

That one exercise – making a list of the ways we could make our life better – set us on a path to question everything and continually make small and large decisions for a better life.

And if that isn’t lifestyle design, I don’t know what is.

Finally, stumbling turns into running

A lot has changed since that first conversation four years ago. We’ve got the best social life we’ve ever had, we’ve eliminated our debt, and we’ve started our own web design and business consulting company to help fund our upcoming 3-year trip around the world.

Did you see that one coming? Yeah, me neither.

But that’s the thing with stumbling into lifestyle design by just making one area of your life better. You move on to the next area, and maybe tackle a bigger part of your life. And then the next, and then the next. Pretty soon, that big dream you had that you never thought would really happen becomes a distinct possibility.

And before you know it, people are asking you about “lifestyle design” because they want some of what you’re having.

The next time you complain about some area of your life – love, money, work, leisure – take a minute to figure out what you could do in that one area to make a change in your level of happiness.

Before long you’ll start thinking this way about every decision, and you’ll have the focus and vision you need to truly create the lifestyle of your dreams.

Betsy Talbot is one-half of the blogging team at Married with Luggage. When she’s not writing, she’s saving up, paring down, and getting ready for a trip around the world with her husband Warren.

photo by Thomas Hawk


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Archan Mehta March 3, 2010 at 1:34 am

Hi Betsy:

Well, I am glad that Corbett has the vision to invite somebody like yourself to guest post every once in a while. What a fabulous one.

Yeah, we get into these vicious circles, don’t we? And then it is a real challenge to get unstuck. How do you ever break free?

In the meantime, the wheels keep turning and we lose out on valuable time. And we slave away for somebody else, who makes the profits.

Instead of objects, it is better to focus on experience. For example, many of us pursue the “American Dream.”

Problem with “bigger is better” and having to keep up with the neighbors is that it steals the joy from our lives.

Maybe our search is for something else entirely, and we don’t really need a BMW sports car, a Hollywood bungalow, an ivy league education, trophies, awards, and a private jet. Big deal!

From my own experience: what I bought tended to enslave me. What I hoarded made me miserable. Once I de-cluttered and simplified my life, well, let’s just say I am happier now. And I am planning to get rid of more in the future. I prefer a minimalist approach to life, thank you.

I have found that some of the poorest of the poor are at peace with themselves. They have a smile on their faces and they flash their white teeth whenever I talk to them. And that’s what is really priceless.

And yet, many of them have very little at all in terms of material wealth. I am not trying to glorify poverty here, just trying to convey: bliss is an inner journey. And we need to go within and find out who we are.

Frequently, our focus is everywhere else but not within our own selves.
And that may well be the road to misery. Thanks for a great post. Cheers.

Betsy Talbot March 3, 2010 at 7:00 am

Archan, you sound very wise! When you find a source of true happiness you don’t need nearly as much in the way of material things, do you?

Richard @ WpSplitTester Review March 3, 2010 at 4:30 am

I think the thing with lifestyle is that it kind of creeps up on us slowly to the point that we don’t see all the changes happening. We start out free and fun-loving out of school and end up tired, bored and unfulfilled some years later. The chances happened so slowly we didn’t see them coming. Even more so, sociaty likes to try and keep us there. For example, it’s far easier to get a mortgage or get approved to rent a property if you have a “regular” job than if you run your own online business.

Betsy Talbot March 3, 2010 at 7:03 am

You are spot on, Richard. I think the biggest enemy to “happily ever after” is apathy. Not because we don’t care, but because we stop realizing we can when we are doing what everyone else is doing.

Once you start paying attention to even the small decisions and how they relate to your dream you’ll see a rapid turnaround in this way of thinking.

Rasheed Hooda March 3, 2010 at 5:57 am

Hey Betsy,

Great Post. I love the idea of improving one area of life and let it expand into the rest. I have always been a minimalist, except for books. I had accumulated a lot of stuff because since getting married, because the mother of my children is a hoarder. I have recently started purging, and I feel great.

Thanks Corbett, for inviting Betsy over for a guest post.

Rasheed

Betsy Talbot March 3, 2010 at 7:06 am

Rasheed, you have my same weakness – books! I have recently gotten a Kindle, and even though I hate that it means I’m not shopping at my local bookstore much anymore, it does keep my book clutter down and allows me to carry several books with me at all times. It will be great for our trip.

I feel for you being partnered with a hoarder. I come from a long line of packrats and have that tendency myself, and it is hard to live with. Good luck with your purging.

Lis Carpenter March 3, 2010 at 7:56 am

Kind of like kaizen, isn’t it? Instead of improving business practices though the focus is on increasing happiness by tiny adjustments.

Betsy Talbot March 3, 2010 at 11:07 am

I LOVE kaizen and have used it for both business and personal projects. It is amazing how big small changes can be over time. If you don’t know what kaizen is, just google it and find out how 10% changes 10 times can give you so much more than a 100% change at one time. Amazing stuff.

Carmen March 3, 2010 at 7:59 am

Betsy, I like how you pointed out that your downsize and move to Seattle was the beginning of your lifestyle design. So many people are equating this term with traveling the world, and while you’re preparing to do so, you would have been engaged in lifestyle design even if you didn’t ever get on the plane. In my opinion, your design began the moment you and your husband became conscious about the need for change and made plans to make that happen. Good for you!

Betsy Talbot March 3, 2010 at 11:11 am

My one complaint about the whole “lifestyle design” concept is that so many people equate it with travel and location-independent work (or no work). To me, lifestyle design is simply living the life you really want.

My favorite example is my mom – she has a huge garden and spends all her free time with her flowers, vegetables, and various plantings. To her, this is heaven. It means she can’t even travel for a weekend in the summer because of all the maintenance required.

To me, this is hell and I would hate having all that responsibility, no matter how lovely it is. So I live in a townhouse with no yard.

Mom doesn’t even have a passport and doesn’t want one. Yet we’re both living the life we want.

There’s something for everyone, and it doesn’t have to include travel.

unbjames March 3, 2010 at 8:51 am

“The next time you complain about some area of your life – love, money, work, leisure – take a minute to figure out what you could do in that one area to make a change in your level of happiness.”

The essence of this post in a sentence. Brilliant stuff!

Betsy Talbot March 3, 2010 at 11:05 am

This really is the secret recipe for happily ever after, isn’t it? You’re a great editor, UNBJames.

nifer March 3, 2010 at 9:12 am

I just recently started thinking this way, so thanks for the encouragement and inspiration!

Tyler Tervooren March 3, 2010 at 10:07 am

Let’s call it the “lifestyle design snowball” – like the personal finance world likes to talk about the “debt snowball.”

When you’re thousands of dollars in the hole and have no idea how you’ll ever pay it off, you just pick the smallest debt you have and start paying it off more aggressively. Forget the logic that comes with interest rates, higher balances, and all that hooplah – it’s paralyzing.

Pick something tiny and make it better. It’s the first step to the other end of the tunnel and it applies to any part of life.

Betsy Talbot March 3, 2010 at 11:12 am

You are right on, Tyler. And this is a perfect example since no matter what your dream lifestyle, it probably doesn’t include debt.

We get paralyzed by our situations and hesitate to take that first small step, thinking it won’t really make a difference. But it does.

Adrienne March 3, 2010 at 11:02 am

Wow – awesome. Your story is very inspirational. I believe I am on a similar path as you and your husband – just a couple years behind. We are talking right now about where we want to live next. We may end up going out of the country or just somewhere in the states where it will make more sense with the dreams we are pursuing. We’ve already simplified our lives a lot by selling a bunch of stuff we don’t need and living in a smaller/less expensive house. We don’t have debt so we are just saving, saving, saving – and investing, investing, investing. I am excited for the day we can take off for our 3 year trip around the world!!

Betsy Talbot March 3, 2010 at 11:14 am

How exciting, Adrienne! You are going to be so happy that you started downsizing and saving already. Decisions are just so much easier to make when you have less baggage and a little bit of cushion to see you through. I’d love to hear more about your planning and progress on your big trip. The time goes so fast you won’t believe it!

Jason March 3, 2010 at 2:45 pm

Betsy, great story. It’s inspirational to hear that other people think like my girlfriend and I and great to see how you achieved your liberation!

Now we’re focusing on saving (no debt), creating side businesses, and planning our next adventure! We’ve taken so many small steps that a year ago, we wouldn’t believe where we’re currently at. Thansk to Corbett for having you here!

Annabel Candy, Get In the Hot Spot March 3, 2010 at 6:05 pm

Nice one Betsy and thanks for hosting this post Corbett:)

Isn’t it interesting that downsizing to a smaller house is a good move. So often people get into debt buying things they don’t need and trap themselves living a life they don’t enjoy because they have to pay off the debt.

Always delightful to hear of someone else escaping the rat race and loving it. I don’t understand why everyone doesn’t do it – what a different world it would be!

floreta March 4, 2010 at 7:53 am

it’s great to see someone whose married living an “alternative” lifestyle. in hearing a lot about lifestyle design and location independence, i feel it’s most often associated with being single. glad to see someone out there making it work together.

Justin Wright March 5, 2010 at 11:03 am

This reminds me so much of my own journey. As time goes on, you start to realize where you are heading and what you need to change to pursue your passion and live your ideal lifestyle.

And I agree with everyone that said it is all about taking small steps. Many times those “small steps” end up being far more important than you think.

The key is to just take action and move in the right direction. Eventually YOU WILL get where you want to be. Cheers!

J. D. Bentley March 7, 2010 at 10:37 am

“When you reach a breaking point, decisions come easily.”

This is a really true statement. I reached my breaking point in 2007 and it made my decision to quit my job, which felt impossible and ridiculous just a few weeks before, the simplest thing I had ever done.

Great post, Betsy. This lifestyle design journey is overwhelming a majority of the time. We all have big dreams, but we need to focus on today, this hour, this minute. We aren’t trying to reach what we want in one giant leap, but in small daily steps and I think that’s something quite a few people forget or maybe don’t even realize.

The small things lead to the big things. The small things is where our focus should be.

David Damron March 8, 2010 at 4:23 am

I think the toughest part is the first. Just look at Sean Ogle from Location180 (http://seanogle.com). Once he made the leap, he felt relieved and alive.

For me, it was just about living without regrets. I know I have, do and will always have some regrets, but minimalizing them is a goal. By gaining control over my life through focus on lifestyle design, I was able to do exactly as expressed here by Betsy.

David Damron
LifeExcursion & The Minimalist Path

Simple in France March 10, 2010 at 4:30 am

I often wonder why big lifestyle changes often go with a change in location as well. We just moved to France . . . a similar story. I suppose it can be stressful to go against the grain, but it’s so rewarding, we’ve never looked back. Have fun on your trip!

Lani March 8, 2010 at 8:05 pm

I agree Betsy. And I’m glad you brought up that point. Lifestyle design is not a cookie-cutter or Barbie doll fits-all clothing size. Perhaps it should be called design your lifestyle.

But what I wanted to comment on is the fact that you brought up commutes. I think commute times are one of the things that makes people most unhappy. I’m glad you and your husband had the courage to take a risk and create a better life for yourselves.

Happy Travels!

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