Transitions, Best of Both Worlds and Investing in the Process

  • April 13, 2010 by Corbett Barr
  • 27 Comments

Tomorrow Jessalyn and I are headed back to San Francisco. It’s been a fantastic season in Mexico, filled with friends, surfing, romantic walks on the beach (really), introspection and a decent amount of work.

Leaving is bittersweet. We’re sad to leave the sun, simplicity and relaxation of Mexico, but happy to be returning home to our favorite city. Transitions are funny like that, especially when you’re moving on to something familiar but loved.

We’re fortunate to have been living in the best of both worlds for the past two years. The beaches of Mexico in the winter, and the intellect, culture, art and natural beauty of the Bay Area for the rest of the year.

I Wish I Could Do That

The most common response I hear when we explain our lifestyle to someone new is, “I wish I could do that.” Friends of ours who also live location independent lifestyles often hear the same comment.

Sometimes I respond by asking “why don’t you?” Or, “what’s holding you back?” Responses I hear back usually involve a bunch of excuses and reasons why the person is stuck in his or her current city/job/lifestyle. My new acquaintance convinces himself in a matter of minutes that I am privileged and lucky, and he will never be able to break free from his current circumstances.

The truth is, yes, I am privileged and lucky in some ways, but becoming self-employed and location independent were both decisions, not some magic thing that just happened. We aren’t rich or retired, we just made a very conscious choice to pursue this lifestyle.

It’s not all roses and champagne, either. We chose to live part-time in Mexico in large part because it’s far less expensive than living at home in San Francisco (especially because we sublet our apartment when we’re gone). Because it’s much cheaper, we are buying ourselves time. Time to earn enough income to support ourselves on an ongoing basis.

We aren’t quite there yet, and so we’ve gotten comfortable with ruthlessly cutting expenses and supplementing the rest with savings. It was a little uncomfortable to think about the sacrifices required at first, but now we hardly notice the things we’ve been living without.

Determination and hard work are more important in living unconventionally than privilege and luck. I still contend that most people can radically change their lifestyles if they want to.

In general, people I meet who don’t think lifestyle design is possible for them come from a background similar enough to mine that our relative levels of privilege are about the same. Whether you live how you really want to comes down to the choices you make and what you believe to be true about the world around you.

If you want to become location independent, work for yourself or travel the world, you have to work for it. More than that, you have to commit to enjoying the process it will take to get there. Wanting the result isn’t enough. There’s a long road ahead, so choose a beautiful one.

Investing in the Process, Not the Results

Fortuitously, my friend Kyle sent me a video on this very topic just a couple of weeks ago. Srikumar Rao is a professor at top business schools around the country, where he teaches a course on creativity and personal mastery. He says we spend most of our lives learning to be unhappy, even as we strive for happiness.

The “I would be happy if…” mental model most of us grow up learning is actually responsible for our unhappiness.

We should be steadfast in our pursuit of goals, but not fixated or consumed by them. It’s the journey that we can derive true happiness from. Results are out of our control and fixating on them will only lead to disappointment, fear, insecurity, anxiety and jealousy.

I have long thought balance might be the key to avoiding becoming obsessed with results (to the detriment of actually accomplishing what we want), but the model presented in this video has gotten my attention.

This video (from the TED library) is well worth the 17 minutes to watch. I was intrigued enough that I started also reading professor Rao’s book, Are You Ready to Succeed? Unconventional Strategies to Achieving Personal Mastery in Business and Life.

Do you focus on the results or the journey? Can anyone live a location independent lifestyle if they really want to? Let’s discuss in the comments.

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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Amber Zuckswert April 13, 2010 at 2:13 pm

I absolutely feel anyone can live location independent if they put in the sweat and realize it might not be so glamorous. Like you mentioned Corbett, you and your wife are spending time abroad to help cut costs in the states to build and save for an even better life. You are cutting and saving now to do what you want later. Finding ways to save and still live the life you want is brilliant. It might take some brainstorming, but is so worth the effort.

I do a similar thing by living minimally. I think the big ideas is to prioritize whats really important and valuable to you in your every day life. If it’s a killer pad to come home to every night then spend your money there. I’d rather rent a room, wear last seasons duds, and make my food so I can not only live healthier, but invest in what I value…dance workshops, continued education, travel, and nights out tearing up the dance floor.

I try ever so diligently to enjoy the journey and growing pains. When I throw myself into new and challenging situations it’s always hard at first, but proves so fulfilling shortly after.

We need to break the rules more often and think outside our conditioning. Yes you can move to Mexico and actually make money by subleasing your place…brilliant!

BTW welcome back to the city by the bay and I’d say it’s about time we met up over some Gracias Madre!

Corbett April 13, 2010 at 4:50 pm

It’s true, prioritization is important. When people say “I wish I could do that,” I suspect what they really mean is “I wish I could live a life of luxury without working my ass off for X years to accomplish it.” Unfortunately, that isn’t really an option, but there’s a reason the lottery is so popular.

Looking forward to catching up in SF. It will be good to be back.

Robert April 13, 2010 at 6:48 pm

Love little snippets like this in between more “meatier” posts. I shrug at people who seem to think they are somehow locked into their lifestyles even when they profess to want something else. I immediately identified with your opening statement, it’s part of why I’m doing my project website in the first place, to lay it all out for those that somehow think we are lucky or privileged, which I know for me, couldn’t be farther from the truth.

We command our life process, we guide our lifestyles. I contend people have the hardest time with this because they can’t see past next week, let alone next month or year, and so they continue to just do what comes next. The mini steps to being where they want to be just aren’t visible to them. Love the TED talk, and book…cached to later consumption. I’m sure I’ll enjoy.

Corbett April 14, 2010 at 9:10 am

I guess it’s our job to share those “mini steps,” right? Let me know how you like the video when you get around to watching it.

Rod B April 13, 2010 at 7:41 pm

I agree with Corbett. I know many people whose overnight success was several years in the making.

Corbett April 14, 2010 at 9:11 am

But the “years in the making” part always gets glossed over. It’s just not what people want to hear.

Richard @ WpSplitTester April 14, 2010 at 4:03 am

I think that it *is* possible for many people to become location independent though not necessarily everyone.

But going back to a point you made in your post it never ceases to amaze me how many people think that “we” are “so lucky” when we’ve often given up evenings, days off and vacations to work on our business ideas thus freeing us up to be able to do more of what we want.

Normally the people who say it to me are sitting infront of the TV rather than working away too :-)

“How do you do it?” they ask. Erm, I gave up TV for a start!

It’s one of those cases of giving up on what you want short term to get what you really want long term.

Corbett April 14, 2010 at 9:13 am

And the funny thing is, when you “give up” things in the short term, it often changes your life for the better in the short-term too.

Moon Hussain April 14, 2010 at 6:29 am

Corbett,

You’re right about that. I’m excited about what I’m going to do next, hopefully I’ll be even moderately successful at it.

Corbett April 14, 2010 at 9:13 am

What are you going to do next?

Morgan April 14, 2010 at 7:13 am

This is actually the first LD blog I started reading about a year ago. It may seem sudden to my friends, and certainly it will to my family, but I have been preparing for the last year to make sweeping changes to my life.

Yesterday I bought a ticket to Bali and will tour the archipeligo for 2 months worry free thanks to my savings from the past year, and my ability to drop the expectation of “normal”.

When I get back home, I will have the time, energy and finances to work towards my art. I still haven’t figured out how to make myself location independent, but I am designing my life into something that doesn’t enable misery, and it is a major change from just a few months before.

Corbett April 14, 2010 at 9:15 am

Hi Morgan, thanks for being such a long time reader. It’s great to hear about real progress people are making.

Your trip to Bali sounds absolutely wonderful, and I’m sure it will be life-changing. What kind of art are you working towards?

Sam April 14, 2010 at 7:55 am

“Most people can radically change their lifestyles if they want to.” Absolutely; you hit the nail on the head, Corbett.

Aren’t the people who say “I wish I could do that” therefore saying that they _don’t_ (perhaps subconsciously) want to change their lifestyles, as well as “I wish I could live a life of luxury without working my ass off for X years to accomplish it”?

@Robert: shoulder shrugging seems a very natural reaction to me. The problem is when it’s people who you really care about and would like to share this lifestyle with that have the “I wish I could do that” response. That can be painful.

@Morgan: good for you!

Corbett April 14, 2010 at 9:16 am

Yeah, Sam, it’s often a misunderstanding about what “that” is when someone wishes to do it, I suppose.

Richard Riley April 14, 2010 at 8:12 am

I think that anyone can live a location independent lifestyle. It just takes a lot of hard work, persistence, patience, and passion. All that it requires is either a large sum of money (most of us don’t have that) or an online business (or similar) focusing in on a niche that can provide some positive cash flow. The latter is much easier to aquire!

I do agree with you though that everybody seems to have an excuse. They may want it more badly than the people living the lifestyle but without ACTION all their thoughts and affirmations are wasted. All it takes is moving forward one small step at a time. Each day do something you didn’t do yesterday to move you towards your goal. You wouldn’t think one or two thinks would help you, but multiply that by 365 days in one year and you can quickly approach your independent lifestyle. You may not reach it in a year, but you will have developed enough momentum where it will be harder to fail.

Corbett April 14, 2010 at 9:20 am

Getting started is difficult, but staying motivated to see such a huge change through to the results you want is even harder to do. Developing that momentum is key, but I think learning to enjoy doing the little steps is even more important.

Richard Riley April 14, 2010 at 8:15 am

Forgot to mention that I absolutely love the statement in your post, “It’s the journey that we can derive true happiness from. Results are out of our control and fixating on them will only lead to disappointment, fear, insecurity, anxiety and jealousy.”

Those two sentences have far reaching implications that extend to every facet in life.

Corbett April 14, 2010 at 9:17 am

The video above is all about that statement. I’m not totally living that philosophy yet, but I hope to be there soon.

Walt April 14, 2010 at 8:31 am

True, true, true… unequivocally true … all of the above comments! Realizing that most respondents are from the US, my own life and lifestyle change may go against the grain for some. Sorry about that! Change there will be coming also.

My “The Cuba Travel Club” (http://clubforlesisure.com) is providing me with challenges and opportunities. Difficult challenges? You bet! Worthwhile? You bet, again! Marketing is the most challenging. Opportunities abound!

Going back to marketing, I am also looking for referral business and of course that brings with it reward for each referral. Besides generating business (vacation bookings) it means getting to know a lot of interesting people, for me, an exciting side benefit.

Is it tiring all this business activity? You bet, but it is a good sort of tiring. Well, have to go now and meet some more folks.

Happy entrepreneurship everyone!

Corbett April 14, 2010 at 9:21 am

It’s a shame that U.S. citizens are still not allowed to visit Cuba. I’ve heard (from Canadian friends and some who sneaked in via another country) it is a must-see destination.

Darryl and Angie April 14, 2010 at 11:27 am

Hey Corbett,

Another great post. To all the readers that aspire to location independence, there may be some difficulties a long the way but it really is not that hard to achieve. Be creative with making money and get your expenses down to minimum.

We’ll miss you and your wife down here!

Darryl and Angie

John Bardos - JetSetCitizen April 14, 2010 at 3:31 pm

Another great post Corbett! I also loved the video. Thanks for sharing.

I certainly agree that “most people can radically change their lifestyles if they want to.” It can be done quickly and relatively painlessly if you move to a low income country, go to a rural location or start teaching English like I first did.

I moved to Japan on one weeks notice with no job, visa and only $1000. That is not the full story because I had a friend already there who helped me out for a week, but that type of lifestyle change is definitely not that difficult to achieve.

Making lots of easy passive income and traveling the globe like a jet-setting celebrity is a different story. Easy money is not so easy in my experience. Maybe that is the vision that many nay-sayers believe?

I have found that I can be much happier with less money. It may be hard to imagine living on a fraction of your previous income but it is possible as many are proving all over the planet. Less things means less headaches and more time for the things you value the most.

My current living expenses are 25% of what they were a couple of years ago, but now I have the time and freedom to work on whatever I want. The process really is where the fun is.

soultravelers3 April 14, 2010 at 7:01 pm

So true & great video! I can really relate to your transition thoughts & best of both worlds! We love when we are here & we love it when we are on the move & the two styles complement each other perfectly.

We’re spending our 4th winter in Spain & will be gearing up soon for our transition of our 7 months of traveling around Europe ( & then onto Asia this year to winter in a new place).

It is so true that anyone can live the location independent travel life if that is what they want & they are willing to do what is necessary to create it. We’ve been living large for years in “expensive” Europe on just 23 dollars a day per person, a price almost anyone can afford.

“Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.” ~ George Bernard Shaw

Morgan April 14, 2010 at 9:54 am

My wife and I have a pastry side business that is not LI but is something we enjoy doing and could take us in some very positive directions.

Corbett April 14, 2010 at 9:59 am

Awesome, Morgan. Sounds tasty ;)

Walt April 14, 2010 at 11:01 am

Thanks Corbett,

You are 100 % correct! It is like traveling into another world, another time, another culture, another experience that is radically different from most other unless one is prepared to travel to more far-off and dangerous places.

Th Cuba Travel Club niche vacation tours also allow you to catch a glimpse of the real Cuba instead of the much more closet approach provided by the usual all-inclusive beach type resorts which provide a more insular look at Cuba.

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