The Location Independence Bait and Switch

As most of you who read these posts regularly know, I’m not a big fan of the people who try and sell the “digital nomad” dream.  I am pretty open about the fact that I think the overwhelming majority of them are running a scam to either try and justify their own inadequate situation or to sell you a big bag of hope.

The other day, my friend Stefanie Arroyo, made an interesting observation on Facebook, Stef said, “You can’t brag about location independence if you’re dependent on a low currency conversion rate.”

I take that one step further, you’re not location independent if what you earn isn’t enough to put a roof over your head and food in your belly in the country or city where you’re originally from.

And you see this a lot – people living la vida loca in a developing nation (or even the third world in some cases) who would struggle to afford rent on a one bedroom apartment and three meals a day in Sydney talking about how “free” they are thanks to their business.

They aren’t free or independent at all – they are cuckolded to low costs of living and favourable currency valuations.

These people might be living like upper-middle-class people in Thailand, Vietnam or Indonesia, but in many instances, they are locked into those locations because there is no way they could afford that lifestyle in the US, Canada, Australia or the UK based on what they earn.

The other thing is, for the most part, these people usually have zero responsibilities – they are usually unmarried and don’t have kids, so the decision to live in southeast Asia is easier in that case.

Now, I’m not knocking you if that’s what you do and I know a few people personally who do exceptionally well financially and live in Asia, but from my experience, most of these people are selling a pipe dream.

I can’t strongly advise you enough not to fall into the trap of saving up $20,000 and going to the Philippines or Bali to start your business because you’ve heard it’s cheaper there.

What will inevitably happen is that you’ll get trapped.

You may start making enough where you can comfortably rent that three bedroom furnished place in Chiang Mai for $1200/mth, but then what?

Well, when you start thinking about moving back home you’ll realize that you’re $4000/mth that your business produces will get you exactly next to nothing in Denver and your lifestyle of cheap food and cheap booze will turn into higher sharing a 2 bedroom flat and eating two-minute noodles.

You might even have to get a J-O-B.

You’re way better off figuring out how to side hustle and bootstrap your business from where you’re at now.  It will seem like a bigger mountain to climb but the truth is, the higher cost base will force you to be more focused on building a more financially successful business in the long run.

If you want to travel, no problem – make that one of the OKRs for your business.  Set an objective for yourself to generate enough income that you’ll be able to spend a month travelling in style.  Set another objective that says you’ll be able to base your business out of wherever you’re from, but while you’re travelling, you’ll still be able to work 2 or 3 days a week to help pay for it and not eat your savings.

That’s what freedom looks like.  That’s what it means to be truly location independent because you can actually afford to live anywhere you want without having to sacrifice your standard of living.

That “without having to sacrifice your standard of living” part is the piece most of the digital nomads always seem to leave out and strangely, that’s the salient part of “independence”.

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