One of the biggest misconceptions regarding what location independence really is directly relates to the affiliation with the digital nomad existence. Being a nomad simply means that you have some form of income coming in directly to your bank account via the Internet, whether it is a pension or a salary or your wages from being a freelancer or your residual income from various online enterprises, enough so that you can travel around the world and go anywhere without having to worry about having a specific office in a singular location. It’s a lifestyle of freedom that has its roots in the nomadic, roaming existence of the desert Bedouins.
Location independence has been directly tied to the digital nomad lifestyle for a long time, but in reality there are two different types of location independent expats. The first is the aforementioned digital nomad who prefers to wander around the world backpacking and enjoying each destination for brief periods of time. The long-term immersion expat, on the other hand, is still a location independent traveler, they just choose to opt more for the long-term travel option, staying in one place for three years to five years or until they’ve earned a secondary citizenship. Alternatively, if you are independently wealthy you can simply buy yourself a secondary citizenship, but most countries want a minimum investment of around $250,000, which leaves most of the middle class out of this particular option.
When I try to explain location independence to someone who isn’t familiar with the lifestyle, their first reaction is usually to question how anyone could think of doing that without having a home, a base of operations. And while backpacking is one way to be a location independent traveler, long-term immersion trips give you base of operations from which you can then explore the surrounding area at your leisure, along with friendships, business relationships, personal connections and beyond through cultural and language immersion. Not to mention access to the local cost of living, which are always a fraction of what they are the United States and the United Kingdom.
Living abroad as an expat doesn’t mean you have to be without a home. While backpackers tend to live in hostels, hotels and other people’s homes CouchSurfing or other sites as they make their way around the world, long-term travelers rent apartments, condos and houses, or they buy an affordable piece of property and sit on it for a few years while they earn their residency and then either keep it as a rental or sell it on the way to the next destination. Others house-sit, or house-swap, going to different places around the world and basically taking care of and maintaining houses for anywhere from a few weeks up to six months or more while the family or individual is off on business or otherwise.
As you all know from reading the blog and immersion guides sold here here, the free 30 Ways in 30 Days which accompanies our newsletter and The Expat Guidebook, I promote long-term immersion travel for numerous different benefits, not the least of which are mentioned above. When I am living in a city like Bogotá or Cancun or Sofia, I have access to local rates on accommodations, which are always cheaper than hostels, just like hostels are cheaper than hotels. But with an apartment I also have security, maid service, furnishings and privacy, which makes it perfect for a base of operations from which I can not only work, but also utilize as a logistics hub for my travels into the surrounding regions both for pleasure and for video work for the company.
Having a local base of operations allows you to lighten the load because you have a place where you can store all of your things and know that they’re safe while you’re out and about adventuring, taking pictures, recording videos and having fun with your local friends and doing things like going to the beach, camping or hiking trips. Or clubbing, if that’s your thing, although that’s generally reserved for picking up bar chicks/guys rather than exploring a destination for its cultural worth.
At no point since I left the United States in January 2008 have I ever once been without a home despite the fact that I am location independent and I have a job which allows me to travel the world and go anywhere I want. I had a two bedroom apartment in Sofia, I have an apartment here in Cancun, and I had an apartment in Bogotá. I have always had a home, a place to store things, my own bed, my own desk, a safe, filing cabinet, printer and everything else you need to have an actual home or base of operations. Things that you don’t want to have to lug around with you when you are backpacking, but you can have when you are doing immersion travel and long-term expat living.
At the end of the day it is still a choice as to which lifestyle appeals to you the most, but I wanted to point out that there is such a thing as having an actual home despite being location independence. Some people refer to it as slow travel; I prefer the term immersion travel, but it means the same thing. Rather than bouncing around with a backpack and a few spare changes of clothing, long-term immersion trips mean having that feeling, even while traveling, of “Home Sweet Home”.
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