I think I am a location independent lifestyler. There, I said it and I feel I really am.
Maybe even before the term has become known to me, the itch to be one was embedded in my psyche ever since I became matured enough to live independently.
In my teenage days, I was always thrilled to be able to work and be with people from out-of-town. I hitched rides on trucks picking up and delivering construction sand coming from mines very far from where I live, often staying at bunks. I work with people much older than me, who speak a dialect that I knew nothing about and would always try to learn by continuously bugging them.
Those were the fun days and I think that was the beginning.
In my 20’s, just after graduating from college, while my buddies opted to find work within Manila, I chose to get a job in a shipyard hundreds of kilometers out of the city, to experience living away from my comfort zone again. So strong was the call to locate away from home that I do not even think about the hazards of living with others who might have different culture than me, eventhough we’re both Filipinos.
Those were the exploration and adventure days, and it built my confidence about future possibilities.
I remember temporarily refraining from this new found independence after me and my girlfriend lived together to start a family.
The time-out from location independent living didn’t last, though. I was fortunate to be in a relationship with a woman who is business-minded and very connected in her industry. Not long after, together with my partner, I started experiencing temporarily living out of my country and in nearby Asian cities – first in Hong Kong, then Bangkok and finally Jakarta. We shuttle back and forth in those cities and our main base, Manila.
Although we usually stay only for a week each time, we have become frequent travelers to those cities that we learned to blend well with the locals. We eat where they ate and travel around in public transport (this one is a bit of challenge if you don’t speak the language).
From those international exposures, I came to realize that it is really possible to be able to earn a living while traveling to other countries – to be location independent. Not only that, I also discovered that I am not the only Filipino who’s in this type of work set-up because I met so many others who were in the same boat – although in different fields.
My partner and I did this for years until our move to Canada in the late 90’s.
Earning in dollars, spending in pesos – a lesson in earning foreign currency
During the late 80’s, we happened to discover by accident the possibility of making money in US dollars while physically in the Philippines. It was the time when the US bases were still around and many servicemen lived off-base with their Filipina wives.
I will not discuss the detail of what product or service Americans are buying from us but it was the most eye-opening experience I’ve had. Imagine making money in US dollars and spending it in Pesos right in your own country! Looking back, I can’t help but think that those who found this opportunity early must have made a lot of money when the US bases were around.
That lucky chance we had lasted only until Pinatubo erupted (1991), thus ending American bases’ presence in the Philippines, but still we made an ample savings in US dollars. It was only a short time, I thought….. what more those who were able to take advantage of it for decades?
Those were the revelation days that started the dream to earn foreign money that’s worth many times in my country.
After we moved to Canada in the late 90’s, I promised my partner who later became my wife, that we will back doing business again because I knew it was her calling – our calling.
To make it a reality, we have to plan ahead. The plan was, I will work fulltime while she will start looking out for a business opportunity to start in and try to establish it as quickly as possible.
It was an ambitious goal that was set but our experience living and working in the Philippines have galvanized our resolve that we can do it. And indeed we were able to.
After 8 years of trying and working double-jobs, we were able to establish a business that supported us financially up to this day.
But wait, isn’t the topic here is to be a location independent lifestyler?
If you will notice, our life in Canada, eventhough I initially worked full-time for someone else, I am still living a lifestyle of location independence. I lived, worked and interacted with locals in every city I lived at in Canada.
But, what I discovered after putting up our business, was a different kind of location independent living – one that opened-up possible way of living on the road or be stationary anywhere in Canada or the United States. It was not the kind where I have to stick to one place, one employer at a time to go on with life.
The revelation was clearly an indication that times are changing – making job mobility an option for those who hates being stuck in one place to make money – like me.
I’ll not make you guess what kind of job it is that made it all possible – as travel agents. There…..
Anyway, working anywhere in Canada and the US is absolutely something new to me. In our past business experience in Manila, we had to have a fixed store or office where people will come and buy stuff from us. The only time we’re away from the store was when we are overseas for the usual sourcing of products for our customers.
This time, we only need our phone with us and every transaction can be finalized. It is just amazing!
Putting location independent lifestyle to the next level
The internet, if you will analyze it, is really a blessing for regular but talented and imaginative people. Anyone with a unique or brilliant idea or talent can develop a following of fans anywhere in the world. Youtube alone have made a lot of regular kids popular and rich beyond belief. Something that is not possible just decades before its inception.
Besides those I mentioned, there is this silent group that started to sprung like mushroom when the internet blossomed and took center stage – freelancers.
Freelancing is probably what made location independent living a reality for people all over the world. Freelancers are located fixed in their home countries and services customers in other parts of the world. There are freelancers in the Philippines, China, India or anywhere where there is internet available. I have proof that they are really making money online and have met some when I went back to the Philippines sometime ago.
Now, going back to our own business as travel agents….. will the internet help us take our business to the next level of location independence so that it we can run our business outside of Canada and the US? The answer to that is a big YES!
How do I know? Because I tried it! I tested the possibility in the Philippines and even tried to hire a freelancer to be our office agent but failed. It failed not because it’s improbable but more so because I lack the time to train people. Plus the fact that most candidates would not want to relocate where our office is.
Think call centers as the simplest way of explaining how it works.
Indeed, as travel agents, we can now work and service our customers anywhere in the world because the internet provides the means of communicating with them. But, to make it workable, certain factors that I am now working on must be met and I believe we are ready logistically and only needs to act on implementation.
Latin America as our office base is my next target of scrutiny.
Will location independent lifestyle complement your work?
While most of the people working as independent online contractors services the the internet marketing or search engine optimization (SEO) industry, that doesn’t mean that other careers not associated with it are excluded. If your work or business does not require you to be face to face with your customers and your duties can be relegated through voice communication or by email, then your job may qualify as a candidate for remote work, thus can be classified as a location independent profession.
Accounting and photography are just two that I can think of. I will do some research on what jobs will qualify as portable and will post it here some other time.
If you want to read more about how other people live a location independent life, how they do it, where they are located and probably get an idea or two on how to become one, I recommend Dave at PhilFAQs and Tim at Marginal Boundaries, two of my favorites. I will also put up a location independent lifestyle page as a resources page which may contain links or tools that you may refer to if thinking about how to become one.