“Save up money, quit your job, travel the world, and repeat.”
It sounds nice – so nice, in fact, that an entire industry was built on pretty much this exact mantra (hello, travel blogging!)…But you know what sounds even nicer?
“Make money how you want, when you want, WHILE traveling the world for as long as you want.”
Yep, now there’s a concept I can really get behind!
Let me preface this whole blog post with this: if you want to quit your job to travel, and feel ready to take that plunge, DO IT. Definitely, without a doubt, 100% do it. Especially if you’re a recent college grad who’s on the fence about what career path you want to take, or someone who’s feeling burnt out in their current profession and in desperate need of a career break.
As long as you have adequate savings (both for the trip itself and for after you return home) and are okay putting your career on hold (or not having a typical “career” at all), there’s nothing wrong with quitting your job to go travel for a few weeks or months or even years.
If you’re someone who:
- Would prefer to travel or live abroad indefinitely (hey, maybe forever!) without having to return home to replenish your piggy bank;
- Doesn’t have significant savings, and needs or prefers to keep making money while traveling;
- Genuinely enjoys the creative, mental, and personal challenges and growth that go hand-in-hand with working, and don’t want to give those up;
- Would like to work for yourself one day, maybe even running your own business;
- Doesn’t want to give up your career, apartment, relationship, or other “roots” but does want more freedom and flexibility to travel than the typical 9-5 can offer
Then I’d like to offer an alternative approach: working remotely, i.e. location independence.
What Does it Mean to Be “Location Independent?”
It’s not exactly a new concept, but for those who are uninitiated, location independence simply means not being tied down to any specific desk, office building, city, state, or even country in order to complete your work.
It could mean working remotely for a large corporation, starting and owning your own business, or doing work on a freelance/contract basis (like me – I’m a freelance copywriter/blogger!).
Whether you choose to work from home in your underwear, from a local coffee shop, from Hawaii, or from Spain – hey, that’s your prerogative! As long as you get your work done, most employers won’t care where their location independent employees/freelancers are based.
One exception to the rule: depending on your specific job, you may be required to be available or online during certain business hours, such as from 9am – 5pm Pacific Standard Time.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to stay within that time zone – but if you choose to work from Croatia, you would need to be ready to work from 6pm to 2am. Which may be just fine for you night owls out there!
Is Working Remotely REALLY Better Than Quitting Your Job to Travel?
Like with any big question, I think the answer here is “it depends.”
In the end, it all really boils down to what your travel-related goals are, and what you hope to get out of your experience. If you’ve always dreamed of taking that one epic round-the-world trip, but don’t necessarily see yourself making it a long-term lifestyle, then it may not be worth the stress and struggles of building a location independent career.
But I can say with confidence that working remotely ROCKS if you want to:
- Make long-term and/or frequent travel part of your ongoing lifestyle
- Continue building your career while traveling (no resume gaps!)
- Gain financial stability and independence
- Be your own boss
- Set your own schedule (go on and toss that alarm clock out!)
- Have more time to spend with your loved ones
- Work wherever you’re comfortable
Location independence can take on many shapes and appearances, and no two remote career paths will ever look exactly the same. Working remotely could mean traveling all the time, or it could mean traveling none of the time. It could mean traveling one week, one month, or six months of the year!
In terms of frequency of travel, someone who works remotely could:
- Live abroad 100% of the time, choosing a new city or country to live in each month of the year.
- Travel six months of the year, and live in their home country the other six months of the year.
- Have a house or apartment in their home country, and travel when they feel like it (as an example, taking 12 one-week trips per year, 6 two-week trips per year, or 3 one-month trips per year, for a total of 3 months of travel per year).
- Have a house or apartment in their home country, and not travel at all (but have more freedom and flexibility to work on other hobbies or personal goals, or spend time with friends and family).
The point is, location independence is all about one thing: FREEDOM.
It’s up to you how you use that freedom; only you can decide if it suits you best to work from a coffee shop in Colombia, from a co-working space in South Africa, or from the comfort of your own couch.
For me, the biggest benefit to working remotely and having a location independent career is that I’m free to have both roots and wings.
There are no vacation policies tying me down to just two weeks of travel time a year; instead, my only limitation is how hard I’m willing to work to ensure I can finance all of the trips I want to take.
It’s been quite the journey to get here (more on that below!) but these days, I have a comfortable balance of roots (apartment, steady work, a career I legitimately enjoy, and – oh yeah – a husband!) and wings (solo travel, trips with my husband, and a job that lets me work wherever there’s wifi) – and that’s something that I could never have by just quitting my job to travel.
Who Can Work Remotely?
While I’d love to say that anyone could work remotely in theory, that’s just not 100% accurate. If your job requires you to be physically present (i.e. carpenter, masseuse, esthetician…you get the idea) then obviously, there’s no way for you to do your job remotely.
But does that mean the location independence door is closed for you forever? Definitely not!
Many of the most common remote jobs don’t require any specific education or training – they simply require you to do the job well. For instance, if you’re a good writer (and perhaps more importantly, if you enjoy writing) and are willing to learn to write at a professional level, you can transition from working as a masseuse to writing website and blog copy for spas and massage therapy businesses, thereby opening the door to remote work.
So, what are the “most common” remote jobs? Just to name a few:
- Social Media Managers
- Web/Graphic Designers
- Customer Support Agents
But I’ll let you in on a secret: if you’re someone who currently works in an office and spends the majority of your working hours at a computer, the best remote job available to you is YOUR CURRENT JOB. No, really!
More and more companies, both large and small, are opening their minds to the possibility of letting current employees work remotely. As a freelance copywriter, I work with a number of businesses in a wide range of industries…and almost all of my clients have at least one full-time remote employee. Some smaller companies even have 100% remote teams!
My Path to Working Remotely (and the Steps You Can Copy)
These days, I’m lucky enough to work from anywhere I can connect my laptop to a wifi network. Most of the time, that means my new apartment here in Santa Clara, or a nearby coffee shop.
But when the mood strikes I’m free to accompany my husband on a work trip to China, fly home to visit my family in Texas, or book a solo getaway somewhere tropical and gorgeous…without sacrificing my productivity or paycheck.
Like most remote freelancers and employees, I didn’t get here overnight. In fact, my journey to location independence took about two years – and it was filled with plenty of missteps and mistakes.
Here’s a rough timeline of how I got to where I am today:
- December 2014: Graduated from Clemson University (go Tigers!)
- January 2015: Began working a full-time, in-office marketing job in Houston, TX
- June 2015: Applied for a part-time, low-paid writing gig on the ProBlogger Job Board (just to get my feet in the door; I still kept my office job)
- July 2015: Was offered the gig, and began writing blog posts on an as-needed basis (making roughly $80-100 extra income per month at first)
- September 2015: Quit my full-time office job in Houston to go travel in Central America for a few months, and was offered the option to work remotely during my travels instead
- January 2016: Returned home from my trip; briefly tried working as a travel agent, realized it wasn’t for me, and quit in March
- March 2016: Scored my 2nd freelance writing client
- April 2016: Began working for my old employer part-time in the office again, and continued getting new freelance clients through referrals
- January 2017: Began working 100% remotely as a freelance copywriter/blogger/social media manager for multiple clients
There were plenty of times along this journey where I found myself feeling frustrated that it wasn’t progressing more quickly – What was I doing wrong? Why wasn’t I getting more clients? When would I be able to support myself 100% on freelance income? – but in retrospect, I’m thankful for every lesson learned.
My top piece of advice to anyone who wants to start working remotely, especially as a freelancer? Start small.
Begin looking for side gigs and part time work right now, and see how it goes. Can you handle setting your own schedule and being responsible for your own deadlines? Are you able to work from home without getting distracted (and trust me, that’s the easy part – try not getting distracted when you’re in a beautiful foreign country!)? Do you enjoy writing/programming/translating enough to make it your career?
If so, you just might be ready to make the leap towards location independence, working remotely, and spending as much time abroad as your heart desires!
Have you ever quit your job to travel? How did it go? Do you work remotely, or would you like to? I’d love to hear your story!