I started writing this post in Recafé, an amazing restaraunt in Rome, and finished it up on a flight to Christchurch, New Zealand. For me, the upside of being a global citizen has always outweighed the downside. However, there are plenty of pros and cons to be considered when it comes to saddling up the ol’ air horse and heading out to get your nomad on. I delve into some of the big ones here, and offer some resources for further knowledge harvesting along the way.
Without further adieu, let’s jump right in!
“I also have in mind that seemingly wealthy, but most terribly impoverished class of all, who have accumulated dross, but know not how to use it, or get rid of it, and thus have forged their own golden or silver fetters.”
As I grow older, I find myself embracing the concept of minimalism more and more. I will try and refrain from trying to convert anyone to that wonderful, life giving mentality here, but I cannot deny the massive impact it has had on my life and the condition of my heart.
In case you’ve been living in a paper sack for the last few decades, western culture is OBSESSED WITH STUFF! If we are not vigilant it is super easy to fall in to a vicious cycle of work-make the money-spend the money-work. And on and on it goes.
Setting out on a long term voyage gives you the perfect opportunity to purge from you life the poisonous and soul sucking scourge of excess crap. Sound a bit extreme? Perhaps. But no seasoned traveller will dispute the fact the the less stuff you have to cart around from place to place with you the better off you will be.
It is absolutely essential that you cut back to the bare minimum when globetrotting. But even if you are still in the planning phase, with months or years to go before you take the leap, the time to start cutting back is now.
I remember well when I first started planning my great escape. Sitting on the couch in my house one night as I researched the places I wanted to visit I had a scary thought, “What on earth am I going to do with all of my crap!?” Like many, I had a lifetime worth of excess. Old football jerseys from high school, boxes of photos and knick knacks, ridiculous amounts of books, and somewhere around 45 pairs of socks. 45 pairs of socks! WTF is that about?!
We don’t have the room to get in to a how-to session here, but fortunately a myriad of resources for cultivating an attitude of less is more is available online. Two of my favorites are Becoming Minimalist and Zen Habits. They are not focused towards travelers, but the principles are totally applicable.
Obviously, one of the coolest parts of location independence with work is just that, being able to choose where you work. As a global citizen you are no longer tied to a particular cubicle, street, or country for that matter. You get to soak in the joy of seeing the world while building a business. Not a bad deal considering the fact that most people are stuck in a 9-5, still aimlessly wandering the same streets they grew up on, never having left their city, let alone state.
Simple as it may be, this is a BIG one. For example, if you’re currently living in the USA you could relocate to just about anywhere you wanted, with the exception of a few places like London, and spend far less on living expenses than you do at home. Being able to earn US Dollars while spending other forms of currency will make you feel like your breakfast tab is equivalent to a trip to the ATM.
Especially in the early stages of business development, every penny counts, and those pennies will go much much further if you do your homework and relocate to places with favorable exchange rates and low costs of living. This doesn’t mean that you will have to live in a shack in Buenos Aires or busk the slums of Paris, quite the contrary. It is possible, with a little research to land awesome apartments in the worlds finest cities for a fraction of the cost of your current rent or mortgage.
I suggest you check out NomadList for finding cities to explore.
Lower living expenses mean way less stress in your start up days, as a small cushion of money, like a month of your current US expenses, can sustain you quite well for several months in a more favorable location.
No more monotonous daily grind for you my friend. As a global citizen everything becomes exciting and new again. Landing in a new city for the first time, especially where you don’t speak the language, is like being a 5 year old all over again. You can’t read anything, you don’t know where you’re going, hell, even crossing the street properly becomes a roll of the dice.
I remember sitting down to a meal in a restaurant in Osaka, Japan. I pointed to something on the menu (as I had absolutely no clue what anything said), the waitress smiled politely and nodded. A few minutes later I was served a bowl of soup with a lid on it. I opened the lid, and then quickly put it back on. In my bowl was a live octopus, wriggling its little cephalopod ass around (trying to jump out so it could eat my face I assume). I thought I had been pranked, or perhaps she had brought the soup too soon. But I later discovered I had ordered a Japanese delicacy know as odori don, and people eat those things on purpose!
A few years later, when I first traveled to Scotland, I was halfway through my meal of haggis, and several pints to the wind, when I learned from my dining partner exacty what it was I was eating. “Wait, wait, wait. You’re telling me that this is a sheep stomach stuffed with sheep brains and sheep heart?…… Great.”
Good times await you on the road my friend. Everything, from the way you sleep, to the way you bathe, to the way you go to the bathroom will change as you travel from place to place.
“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”
~Martin Luther King, Jr.
I love the above quote, how true it is. Luckily for you, dear reader, you are both the oppressor and the oppressed. Only you can grant yourself the freedom to chase your dreams. Only you can give yourself permission to get out there and live life to it’s fullest, to dream BIG, to explore, and to thrive.
Freedom is so fundamental to living and working abroad that many books could be, and have been written about it. It is the lifeblood of nomadship. Not just the physical freedom of location, but more importantly the freedom to grow. It is impossible to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced it, but there is a very real, mystical opportunity for renewal that comes along with globetrotting.
You see, every time you step off a plane, or a train, or a bus into a city that you’ve never been it’s like being reborn. It’s an opportunity for a brand new life. An opportunity to asses what’s working for you and what it’s time to let go of.
Old habits can be walked away from. Pains carried for years will melt away when confronted with the truth that a new experience shines on them. New relationships formed with strangers in strange lands will cause you to call into question your own belief systems, to ask yourself why you do things the way you do.
Is the old way the best way?
Or is it time to change?
The funny thing about the “cons” of living and working abroad is that, although they may seem daunting at times, many of them are “pros” in disguise. In my travels I’ve found that the things that seem the scariest or most difficult at first often end up being the most memorable experiences and opportunities for growth.
I have talked to a great many travelers and most of them agree… Leaving is often the hardest part of the whole process. When all of the unnecessary crap has been sold or donated, all of the hugs hugged and goodbyes said, and all of the bags packed, sometimes people are hit with a wave of panic when the time to head to the airport comes.
Just remember that it’s normal to go through a period of uncertainty or home sickness at first. Saying goodbye to a lifetime of familiarity and heading off to explore the world can be scary! When in doubt, review the reasons that you decided to take the trip in the first place.
I’ll include a tip from a friend and fellow traveler, Anna Melowski, “We spent so much time and energy trying to get everything just perfect before leaving. The funny thing is that once we were finally on the plane all of the stress of leaving melted away. My tip is to not spend too much time fretting, leave. Just go already!”
“What if my dad has a heart attack while I’m backpacking though the Alps?”
“What if my girlfriend back home decides to have a sex change and call herself DaMarcus, while I’m chilling with the monks in Nepal?!”
“What if my college roommate gets his face eaten by a genetically modified leopard while my cell phone is charging?!”
Holy shit! If your head is anything like mine it can come up with some ridiculously outlandish scenarios in a matter of seconds. I can oscillate between absolute serenity and total OMFG freak out panic mode when, usually after too little sleep or too much coffee, my wired brain has some free time to ponder end of world scenarios (or mutant friend eating felines).
When in doubt I default to my good buddy Mark Twain, who said “I am an old man and I have know a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.” Just remember, when the wheels of panic occasionally start to spin, that the bad outcomes we imagine seldom come to fruition.
As entrepreneurs and global citizens, we love technology. It’s what allows us the freedom to travel the world while still building businesses, making good money, and staying in touch with friends and family. But sometimes, as we all know, your phone/tablet/computer will slap you around a little, just to let you know who’s boss. Expect this.
If you are traveling in remote locations you will face crappy WiFi, limited availability of replacement tech, and difficulty finding cafe’s or work spaces. Fortunately, there are a lot of steps you can take to cut your changes of tech failure to the bare minimum. It’s too much to delve in to here, but I suggest you check out this article by Breanden Beneschott, co-founder and COO of Toptal, a marketplace for top developers. It’s geared towards software engineers, but the tips and principles apply almost universally.
Skipping town whenever you feel like it, enjoying the freedom of nomadship, buying an island to party on with your friends… All awesome things of course, but sometimes life can seem a little, uprooted without a fixed place to call home.
Always living out of a suitcase, meeting new friends only to have to part ways, never knowing where the local market is… I hate to break it to you, but sometimes it’s a pain in the ass. Sometimes it wears you out.
To sum up this con, be realistic. Just as with anything in life there will be trying times! Sometimes you will find yourself confused and lost, sometimes you will get frustrated with language barriers, and sometimes you might even look at people who have a fixed location with envy.
If you make a habit of sharing your plans for world travel with family, friends, and random passerby you will undoubtedly be met with negativity from some. Be prepared for this. Most people do not do what you are doing, therefore it is alien to them, and thus they label it as scary, stupid, or irresponsible. Although you know this to be false, you are better off not wasting your breath trying to convince them otherwise.
Aunt Melba may say “Honey, be realistic, the world is a dangerous place full of scary tribes of man eating savages who paint their faces and carry spears. You’re better off staying home where you’re safe.” Poor Aunt Melba, she’s seen one too many 17 second long blurbs on the news about the dangers of foreign lands. But don’t take her too seriously, she means well. Some folks simply cannot wrap their heads around why you would choose to leave the “safety” of home.
To safe yourself (and others) some heartache, I suggest you limit the people you share the details of your travel plans with to those who are open minded and supportive. This doesn’t mean we close our minds to differing opinions, some of which are indeed valid, it just means we remember that we are walking the path that is right for US. At the end of the day, thats all that matters.
Whew! I don’t know about you, but this article has got me pumped for some more exploring!
As global citizens, entrepreneurs, and adventurers the lives we lead are far from the status quo. Only you can decide what mix of fixed and unfixed location living works for you. I believe the most important thing to keep in mind in your journey is to always be true to yourself.
Experiment, take chances, make mistakes. But whatever you do, please don’t cut yourself short.
Never, ever let fear be the reason you don’t take an action that you know in your heart you should take.
As always, thanks for hanging out with us and being a valued member of the Passport Business community!
Can you think of any pros and cons not mentioned here? We’d love to hear them in the comments section below!