Meet 6 People With Awesome Lifestyles Who Aren’t Technologists

  • May 25, 2009 by Corbett Barr
  • 31 Comments

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.

The Lawyer

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:

SALES!!
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

Written by . Corbett is cofounder of Fizzle, a place for creative entrepreneurs, writers, makers, coders and artists, all working to support themselves doing what they love independently on the Internet. Follow Corbett on on Twitter.


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Ross Williams May 26, 2009 at 6:50 am

Great article!
See? It can be done even if you’re not a techy :)
What questions do people have about how it works?
The first thing you need to know, it’s much much much easier than you think*

Corbett Barr May 26, 2009 at 3:56 pm

Thanks again for the inspiration, Ross!

ChristiaanH May 26, 2009 at 7:53 am

At the moment I’m not nomadic but it could be easily done by doing a few things:

-Live well below your means
-Make sure you have enough time on your hands to pull it off
-Learn how to earn money anywhere
-Don’t own to much crap/clutter. Perhaps no more than you can fit in backpack or motorcycle saddle bags. (In which case a motorcycle would be great.
-and most important: have the guts to do it.

It’s uncomfortable for most people because of all the uncertainties. But it’s these uncertainties that make vagabonding so addictive. You’re constantly confronted with new (non-threatening) situations that get your body to produce endorphins. Before you know it your body will crave another trip and the sight of your backpack alone will cue your body to release more endorphins.

Corbett Barr May 26, 2009 at 4:00 pm

Your point about uncertainty is important. Fear of the unknown seems to dictate so much of our lives. When confronted with a decision where one path is certain but boring/safe and the other is uncertain but potentially life enriching, most choose the known path. We all have different abilities to understand and calculate risk and different thresholds.

Greg Rollett May 26, 2009 at 12:42 pm

Awesome post! Love that Ross brought in the sales thing. While I do work in technology (marketing-ish stuff) it is great to hear of others taking advantage of nomadic lifestyles with different career paths. I once met a contractor that went country hopping looking for fun construction and development projects to work on while spending time in their country.

Great stuff.

Corbett Barr May 26, 2009 at 4:01 pm

Thanks, Greg. I’m sure everyone would love to hear more about how you make a nomadic lifestyle work.

James NomadRip May 26, 2009 at 4:51 pm

You would think from looking online that only tech people do the location-independent lifestyle. But these are only a few examples of people who have “regular jobs” but not tech-related. There are a lot of options outside the box we were always told to get into.

Corbett Barr June 2, 2009 at 3:45 pm

Yeah, I’m meeting more and more people who do creative things to earn a living that don’t involve technology. I hope to cover even more here soon.

Carl Nelson June 2, 2009 at 10:55 am

While I am happy to call myself a technologist I don’t make my principle income off of the web. I teach lindy hop – a dance from the 1930′s – as I travel around the world.

The community is very supportive of travelers and I have the opportunity to travel worldwide teaching because of it.

Corbett Barr June 2, 2009 at 2:51 pm

Now that’s a creative way to make a living while traveling! I recently met a guy from Guatemala who makes a living while traveling by teaching people both Marimba and Spanish, both of which were hard but fun to learn.

Mark Dixon June 10, 2009 at 9:57 am

One side note about uncertainty and fear of the unknown… the recent economic chaos is proving that having the “security” of a traditional corporate career (with a house in the suburbs, a swimming pool and an SUV) is no defense against layoffs, corporate bankruptcies, mortgage foreclosures, etc. Worse yet, if you’re chained to all that stuff when it starts to circle the drain, you’re going down with it. Now is the time to unplug, pay off the debts, reduce your overhead and simplify your lifestyle.

Mama Bird July 16, 2009 at 3:25 pm

I would love to read more about Cliff and Leslie and how they educated their son, in particular. I would assume that she home schooled, but since it appears that she worked as a nurse, I don’t know how she could do that. But, then I also don’t know how they could go somewhere else for 3-4 months at a time without home schooling.

This is more in line with how my husband I would probably prefer to be, except maybe a month here, a month there, but still having our home base. I hate traveling at peak times, which is, of course, when kids are out of traditional schools.

I never read about anybody living this type of lifestyle without home schooling, so I’d love to hear more.

I could EASILY live this lifestyle without kids, as I’ve done it before in my younger days, but add kids to the mix and it’s a whole new ballgame. Not impossible, but definitely more complicated.

Great post though, I look forward to more!!

Corbett Barr July 22, 2009 at 11:53 pm

Hi Mama Bird. Here’s what I can remember about Cliff and Leslie’s situation. They’ve been traveling to the same beach town in Mexico for 30 years. Their son is now in college, doing really well, and applying to medical schools.

For the 12 or so years that he was school age (5-17), Cliff and Leslie would only spend about two months in Mexico, and their son would miss 4-5 weeks of school. I don’t know that they specifically home schooled him, but they must have had some arrangement with the school. In any event, he turned out to be a really great kid. If I find out more, I’ll let you know.

patti December 26, 2009 at 10:54 am

my husband and i make artisan soap.
over the years we have invested in good equipment, and we’ve learned how to become very efficient with our production.

our very first goal was to be debt-free.
we are childless by choice and we made that decision when quite young….i think it opens up a lot of other life options.
for several years we have managed to travel for 3 months or so each year, and to happily work for ourselves the rest of the time.
we coordinate our travel breaks with the predictable slow periods in retail, so as not to disrupt our customers too much.
we come home after our breaks energised and rested.
at this stage, we could employ people and stay away almost permanently….but we actually enjoy making the soap and living where we do.
our kind of small-scale manufacturing is location-independent to some degree.
we certainly chose to get out of the city and move to a rural spot, for the lifestyle….so you get to choose where you want to be initially. and of course, we could move our base if we wanted to.
but it isn’t something you can throw in a bag and take with you to bali for a month or two.

Justin December 30, 2009 at 3:13 pm

Hey I’m new to blogging but I’m not new to this type of lifestyle. I really like how the ‘Sales Guy’ was featured because that’s the way that I’ve been funding my ‘Sales Driven Adventures’ the past 5 Falls. I don’t do it over the phone (rather in a new city every year — Cali 3x, Dallas, Pittsburg, & most recently Atlanta but there’s money to be made quickly). Just this year I worked for 5 months out of 12 and the rest of the time I roadtripped across the US and backpacked through Latin America. This lifestyle gets a bit addictive because it really doesn’t cost that much when you live below your means. It’s taken me to 50 countries now but I love reading how people have found a few places to really live abroad and make this lifestyle that much more enjoyable .

Maggie Mae February 11, 2010 at 5:27 am

I’m not location independent but I have a friend who is. She’s a landscaper in a high-end summer home locale and he’s a retired PO/tree-remover guy in the same summer home locale. They live below their means (key). And, they have a home “here” and a piece of land “there”. They move a trailer to their “there” spot and jump off to the Bahamas on a whim. She puts their girls in school when they’re local and home-schools when they’re not. She mostly grew up on a sailboat being home-schooled so the location independent lifestyle is not new to her. It works for them (though I’m not sure their pets are thrilled about the arrangement).

Maggie Mae February 11, 2010 at 5:29 am

Oh, and when they’re here… they move that trailer to whatever camping ground location she wants to spend time in during her off days (generally in a 3-hour radius from the home base) and lives location independent semi-locally as well.

Sailor Girl April 19, 2010 at 10:05 pm

Corbett I’ve just come across this blog, and I love it!! It’s giving “names” to all these things that have been floating around my head…

I know this is a little late (given the original date of the post), but I thought I’d just quickly mention my parents… when I was 11 they sold our house & cars & furniture, and took my sister and I on a 4-year sailing adventure around the world (on our 41′ sailboat). After four years of living on savings (on a pretty tight budget) they came back and essentially had to start back at zero… but I don’t think they’ve ever regretted it, and my sister and I are certainly appreciative of the sacrifices they made for us!! What I think is awesome about them is that they did it the old fashioned way — no big flashy businesses or lottery windfalls… just simple saving & frugal living.

What I’d like to figure out is how to adapt the sailing lifestyle to a more permanent setup… ie not *have* to come home after four years, but be able to work/have some sort of input so the cruising lifestyle doesn’t become too much (grass is always greener, etc…)

Corbett April 20, 2010 at 3:25 pm

Hey Sailor Girl, I’m glad you commented here. We often meet kids who are on extended sailing adventures with their parents, and we wonder what the kids will think of the trip when they are older. I would guess that they will appreciate the trip and look back on it fondly, but haven’t heard from anyone first-hand until now.

Cruising for at least a season is definitely on my list. I’m not sure I would enjoy it for four years straight, but I can see the attraction.

Ron June 1, 2010 at 1:57 pm

Sailor Girl,
That same thought has been popping up in my brain alot lately. I have been reading liveaboard forums for a while. Wow what a adventure these folks live. Are you planning on a liveaboard adventure yourself?

Tim June 14, 2010 at 2:52 pm

Coming from parents that were Entrepreneurs&Artists types, the 9-5 routine always seemed foreign and stifling to me. However in years past and when I had a young family, Outside Sales seemed a pretty good compromise to me in that it offered flexibility and little or no office time required.

Tony August 2, 2010 at 1:56 am

Nice article. I’m currently full-time technical writer, but I work from home. The deal is I can work from anywhere in the world that has an Internet connection. My girlfriend Ana is a nurse, but she now works as a contract nurse, giving her complete flexibility. In the future I’d like to work fewer hours, and maybe do some contracting from time to time, so that we could travel. We’re traveling to Philippines next year, and may end up spending quite a bit of time there. The “Sales Guy” is right – there are so many different opportunities it can be overwhelming.

Corbett August 2, 2010 at 5:46 pm

Cool Tony, sounds like a nice plan. I like the flexibility to stay somewhere if you like it, or move on / return home if you don’t. Good luck!

TJ November 6, 2010 at 5:54 am

I’ve been reading up and learning about leading a life that isn’t location-bound and being free to do the things I want, and so many people who make it work live off proceeds they get from the internet. I’m such a non-tech person, it’s great to see some people who don’t depend on technology to fund their lifestyle. More stories please!

Jan Koch June 8, 2013 at 3:06 pm

The great thing today is, that you don’t need to be a techy, even if you want to build an online business.
Maintaining websites gets easier every day, almost everyone knows how to use a writing program and we all use social media, so customer relations isn’t a problem too.

What’s preventing most people to take action is the fear of the unkown and the lack of confidence in their own abilities.

We don’t need to know everything, there are lots of experts available to help us.

We just need to start.

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