This is an introduction to us, for those of you who don’t know us. It’s also an introduction to the location independent lifestyle. In case you have never heard this term (like we hadn’t a few months ago), location independence is a broad global movement which involves working and living anywhere and everywhere. [*As a side note, many location independent types are self-proclaimed “digital nomads” and are, in fact, their own bosses.]
Location Independent: Being unabashedly untethered. And owning it like a boss*.
Who are we? Finding ourselves through location independent travel.
This isn’t some sort of self-awareness journey. Mostly, it’s like a lifetime of memory making hitting its second or third phase. Please allow us to introduce ourselves. Hi, I’m Crystal and this is my husband Chad. We are married, originally from the Midwest and don’t have children. We are in our late 30’s. We are dangerously approaching our early 40’s. Someone affectionately decided to start naming those who are the likes of us D.I.N.K.s. (Dual Income No Kids) in the 1980’s. It seemingly stuck. Lucky us.
What made us decide to try this? Is it for you?
Mostly we started considering this lifestyle because we could. We hit a critical point in our lives and careers during 2015 and 2016 where the stars aligned and all of the following conditions became true:
- We both had jobs that were technological in nature (okay, “digital” if you must) and allowed us to work anywhere in the United States that had a secure internet connection. (We could work globally if Chad’s job allowed for it, but some sticky rules ask that he only vacation internationally, and not take his work abroad. So the U.S. is our perimeter for this experience.) You certainly could do it globally if you’d prefer and actually I’d recommend that. If you’re concerned your employer won’t allow you to travel, start planting seeds today about your ability to telecommute and work independently. If you are a valuable employee, there’s a solid chance you may be able to sway them.
- We had two (2) homes in the Midwest that we recently sold. So, in a rare state of grace, we had a little extra liquid cash flow to afford us the first round of extra expenses (security deposits, travel across the U.S., some extra flights and hotel rooms, etc.) I’ll talk more about expenses below.
- We were both young, healthy and traveled enough to feel comfortable hopping from place to place, and knew we could navigate a variety of living situations such as flats, stairs, high-rise buildings, hills and other curve balls different cities might throw at you.
Yes, we are quite thankful. No, it’s not all perfect, but we’re certainly trying to make it that way. I’ll deep dive into that below.
How are we able to do this? How do you get started?
Really, the ability to lead a location independent lifestyle is largely based on two (2) factors for kickoff:
- Your profession – what you do for a job.
- Your personal wealth – do you have any extra money in the bank to get going?
Now, I know exactly what you’re going to tell me. You don’t have a job you can do anywhere, and you don’t have any extra money to do this. Well, if those to factors need to be addressed perhaps you can take a look at one of these long lists of jobs you can do as a location independent traveler, and start your savings plan today for a future move? I estimate it takes a solid 6 – 12 months to really map out your plans anyway, so you have a bit of time to think about this. Trust me.
Kids? Not to worry. I have had several friends tell me that they either home schooled their kids so they could travel extensively or had travel schedules coordinate with school calendars. Certainly this may add a layer of complexity, but it’s not impossible. Here is an entire post dedicated to this subject.
How much does it cost?
The cost of living a location independent lifestyle is largely up to how large you want to live. In a nutshell, if you are traveling as a couple or family. I wouldn’t start this without anything less than $10,000 tucked aside. If I was traveling as a single person, I’d suggest having $5,000 – $7,500 set aside. Between the cost of living in other cities (which often will be higher), the security deposits you’ll pay, plus the rent to get going for your stay, there are just many expenses that fall outside your normal course of monthly fees and costs. I don’t personally like worrying about money, so having a safety net (what if the transmission falls out of the car along the highway in Kansas?) makes the experience a little less stressful to get going.
If you want something even simpler, how about checking out ROAM Co-Living? Roam is new way of living, where members sign one lease, and then live around the world in a network of global communal living spaces that provide everything needed to feel at home and be productive the moment you arrive. Strong, battle-tested WiFi, a co-working space, chef’s kitchen and a diverse community are offered at each spot. Currently, fees start at $500 per week (or $2,000 per month) and there are locations planned for Miami, Bali, Madrid, Buenos Aires and London.
Should you be saving? Well, that’s for you to decide.
We did some math as we were considering leaving Indiana and evaluated the following expenses:
- How much were we spending on housing and all other housing-related supporting expenses like utilities, insurance, taxes, maintenance, services, etc? When we calculated that, we found out we were spending about $1,500 – $1,700 per month depending on how broadly we included expenses and estimated increases in expenses over time. As we planned for our travels, our goal was to try and hit an average of about $2,500 per month for most cities (knowing some would be more, and others less) so we’d adjust for the inflation of larger markets we knew would exist.
- How much we’d accumulated in large household goods and what those goods might be worth if we tried selling them. We had an entire three-bedroom house to unload. So we were able to add an additional $10,000 to our bank accounts by liquidating our assets. While time consuming and arduous, this was TOTALLY WORTH IT and I’m going to write another blog about it (soon I promise) so you can follow our exact same steps to increase your cash. (That might help you with bullet point #2 above, right?)
- How much we might make when we sold our house. You may or may not have a home to sell, so this is only important if this fits within your personal situation.
- How much it was going to cost us to travel. We had some specific things we wanted when we traveled so I’m going to outline those here and also point you to our “Packing like a Pro” blog where I get even more detailed on this point:
- What type of housing do you need? We only need a 1BD/1BA place, but you may need more. We are traveling with a pet though, so that’s a layer of complexity you may or may not have.
- How long are you staying per stop? We are planning on staying in each location for roughly 6m. We have about five (5) years’ worth of stops planned. Will we get them all in? Maybe. If not, not a big deal. It’s the journey that we’re excited about.
- Mode of transportation? Certainly if you are flying, you’re going to travel light. We drove across the country, so we had one (1) car to pack and make it work. This also affects other related expenses such as fuel, transportation at your destination, shipping fees, etc. Consider this accordingly.
- Furnished or unfurnished? We knew we wanted furnished units. We didn’t want to be bothered with outfitting an entire apartment or house for only a six-month stay. You may have more flexibility here.
- Private home or shared space? One big way to drive down your cost is by considering staying in a shared living situation. Since we are a couple, and have a pet, we are really not in a position to do this. But if I was traveling by myself, I totally would just pick up a room in each city through my network, and you saw I mentioned ROAM above, which is also a viable option in limited locations right now. Don’t have a network in each city? Here are a few tips to find a space:
- Craigslist – Housing Wanted. A lot of people know they can use Craigslist to LOOK FOR houses, but few people use the “Housing Wanted” category where you post information about yourself in the hopes that someone that has a room contacts you. We just used this in Seattle and it did net us some interest.
- Craigslist – Housing Needed – Auto Search. You can set up your Craigslist housing search to be both quite specific, but also automated. This way, as soon as new listings come online, you’ll get direct emails. This is very useful. Just be forewarned, Craigslist is now FULL OF SCAMS. Under no circumstances should you be sending money to someone who can’t walk you through the apartment and doesn’t legitimately have access to the unit, is able to walk you through it virtually and (preferably) owns it or has his or her name on the lease directly. So far, we’ve been lucky enough to find actual homeowners in our cities, but I just want to be certain that people realize this risk is high. The latest scams ask you to complete way-too-simplistic rental forms and wire small payments to “hold the space due to high demand” so if any of that nonsense is happening, just flag those as spam and walk away. Another big clue is rent that is “too good to be true” and low-res images.
- Facebook Groups. Private Facebook groups can be a great way to learn about housing that never hits the pubic channels, especially short-term leases. You may not personally know about these groups, however you may have friends in your network that do. Mention your plans to your friends so they can help connect you.
- Facebook Friends. As noted above, you never know who’s cousin lives in Paris, or Portland for that matter. It’s worth telling your network about your intentions to see if they can help you connect any dots.
- LinkedIn Contacts. Depending on what your job situation is like, you may also be able to post your planned relocation on LinkedIn. (Obviously, don’t do this if your boss doesn’t know about your plans. Awkward.) But, if you happen to be your own boss, and location independent traveling means opportunities to grow your business (like it did for me), then tell the world. Might as well get as much help as you can, right?
Where will we go?
Right now we have 23 cities selected across the United States that we’d like to explore. We think we’ve got these clustered into roughly a 5-year plan. We’ll start adding more cities to our blog as we solidify future dates. Right now we have San Francisco, Seattle and Austin on the immediate horizon.
We selected cities based largely on livability studies, access to outdoor activities and natural wonder and strong tech scenes. You may have other criteria.
Who will we meet?
Golly, we’ve met all kinds of people so far and that’s been pretty awesome. I will offer a suggestion here. If you have some cities where you have at least a handful of friends, that makes it easier to start the process of making new ones. (Sort of like a friend nucleus if you will.) If you’re light on friends in a new city, there are a handful of tools and apps that can help. Just recently in San Francisco, I beta tested the Hey Vina! app (like Tinder for friends) for women and also suggest connecting to like-minded individuals through Meetups.
Heck, if you reach out to us and tell us where you are, we just might meet you along the way too.
What do we hope to get out of doing this?
Honestly, we’re still deciding. One thing’s for sure—we’re certainly getting a lot more sunshine and happy days. It’s a weird thing when you unload a house. You no longer have to worry about mowing grass, or landscaping. Or the water heater breaking and eating up your fun money. Now you just go and enjoy that money in a new city. Yippee!
Other than a boundless set of adventures in each new city, we’re also hoping to spend some time committing ourselves to philanthropic endeavors, prioritizing hobbies and health over work and seeing just how different (or similar) each city is. We have a strong suspicion that the more things change, the more they will be the same.
A healthy dose of mountains (I can see Mt. Rainier out my window as I type this), beaches, bays, forests, national parks and ocean-side breeze certainly can’t hurt either. Bring it.
When will we stop? Will we ever come back home?
Whenever we’re done. How’s that for a non-answer answer? I guess when we get tired. Or homesick. Whatever that will mean to us in a few years. I can’t speak for Chad, but I know I will always come back home to Indy for work and fun and friends and laughter. While I did grow up there and was ready to spread my wings across the country for this location independent experience, I still value the roots that I established there and am happy to have a place to center myself again if needed.
An Editor’s Note: This blog can and will be updated. Think we missed something? Tell us. We’ll consider adding it based on facts, a strong recommendation or our own experiences. Find a mistake? Ugh, I hate mistakes. Happy to correct those and give you a big thumb’s up for finding them. Yours in