As lifestyle design writers, we tend to focus on technology and online businesses as the primary vehicle for achieving location independence.
Online businesses are attractive because they have the potential to be automated, thus affording the owner to work only a handful of hours each week. We also hear about technologists more because they’re more likely to be bloggers.
We shouldn’t confuse attractiveness or popularity for reality though. In my travels throughout Mexico this year, I have met far more nomadic people who work in “regular” jobs than people who work with technology.
The people I’m going to tell you about below are real. Each of them spend at least three months outside of their home country. Most of them don’t take their regular jobs with them when they travel. None of them are technologists.
Names have been changed to protect the innocent.
The Nurse and The Contractor
Leslie and Cliff own a gorgeous little beachfront house on the Pacific Coast of Mexico. They’ve been coming to the same town for over 30 years, and typically spend 3 to 4 months there each year. Their son practically grew up there.
Leslie and Cliff both hold steady careers back home in the U.S. She is a nurse, and he builds and remodels houses. At some point in their late 20’s, they decided they wouldn’t settle for anything less than a couple of months off every year that they would spend windsurfing, playing tennis, watching sunsets and spending time with other friends who also chose to make the same little beach town home each winter.
How do they do it? First, they made a habit of living below their means. Second, they’ve both structured their careers around a long-term pause each year. Leslie negotiated an agreement with her employer to take the time off. Cliff works for himself and lets his clients know that he finishes all projects by a certain time late each fall.
These two are perfect examples of not accepting the status quo. How many nurses and contractors do you know who have arranged this type of lifestyle?
The House Flippers
Darryl and Angie are newlyweds in their early 30’s. They’ve been together for seven years or so, and got married just last year. Shortly after they started dating, they started spending part of the winter in Mexico. Eventually they had a house built there. Now they stay for six months each year.
When they’re back home in the Northwest, they usually take on a house remodeling project. They find a seemingly undesirable place in an up-and-coming neighborhood, fix it up and sell it for a tidy profit. They’re obviously shrewd in business, since they are still able to make a profit flipping houses in a real estate market that most people have given up on.
In Mexico, they’ve gone through the effort to be approved to work in the country. Darryl brings a unique skill to the sleepy little beach town. He’s an acupuncturist, and there’s plenty of business. His treatment schedule is full on most of the four days per week he decides to work. Angie picks up shifts at a local restaurant. Together, their schedules leave plenty of time for surfing and relaxing.
Marge is a lawyer in California, but that’s not where she lives. She maintains an apartment back in the States, but she spends months every year living in San Miguel de Allende, in Central Mexico.
I met her when we rented a house from her and her husband in San Miguel. They own a couple of houses in Mexico, and we were staying in one they spend quite a bit of time in. When I found out she worked from home, it was obvious how she stayed connected to her colleagues in California. The house is wired with multiple internet connections, a VPN into her work, local and VOIP phones and satellite TV.
Staying there was like living in Command Central. People could call us from the U.S. using a local number. We stayed up on the news during the Swine Flu outbreak. I couldn’t imagine a more capable setup. It was no surprise she is able to maintain a successful law career in that setting.
The Sales Guy
In response to my recent article about 3 ways to become location independent (entrepreneurship, freelancing and remote work agreements), I received the following comment from a person named Ross:
Why doesn’t anyone talk about doing location independent sales. Sales, sales, sales. Almost any sales job can be done over the phone. I’ve been traveling for 3 years (currently in Amsterdam) and sell for a company in Denver over the phone. Every article I read about digital nomads does a horrible job of thinking outside the box on employment. We promote this life of freedom but still don’t make it seem accomplishable. C’mon. There are too many opportunities. Think people think!
I’m glad Ross brought it up. So much of sales is conducted over the telephone or Internet that it seems to be a great candidate for location independence. In fact, Ross is completely nomadic.
Just the Tip of the Iceberg
This is just a smattering of people I’ve met while traveling who prove you don’t have to be an Internet mogul to live the location independent lifestyle, at least part of the year. I’ll profile more in future posts.
Are you semi-nomadic but hold a “regular” job? How do you pull it off? Let us know in the comments!
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photo by Phineas H