The internet is full of bloggers and Instagrammers who seemingly travel the world with little more than their passport and laptop whilst earning plenty of money as they do it.
This is the dream though, right? You are young, you do not have any commitments, want to visit new places and as a digital native, you can find ways to make money online. With the reduced cost of living abroad, what can go wrong? Plus, it’s much more fun than starting a business at home!
My whole business and blog, obviously, are based on how location independent my businesses are i.e. that I can be anywhere in the world and still make a living. Recently though I have been listening to more business podcasts which extol the virtues of doing just that, working from anywhere, and I’ve found myself thinking: I do that but that’s not how I do it.
I am a digital nomad, although I hate the term, in that my business does literally fit in my backpack and I can work from a coffee shop, from the back of a motor home or from the other side of the world. But I don’t.
I work from home around 99% of the time.
I have a partner and three children. My partner has a job, which she loves, but it is location dependant. The children are settled and the thought of us all travelling around the world together, moving on a regular basis would be the most stressful logistical nightmare I can think of.
I say this yet I still have my business backpack-style set up and so you may ask why? I have been thinking that too and as it seems have some others over at the Tropical MBA podcast.
If you are running your own business, location independent or not, I’d suggest listening to a few episodes and see if you catch the bug like I have. I’ve been listening regularly now for about six months. They offer some great ideas and insights into how you could grow and run your own business.
They recently released a podcast which touches on some of the negative aspects of the digital nomad lifestyle if you are constantly travelling and trying to work your way around the world. It was refreshing to listen to because nobody ever talks about the negative aspects. The whole idea of hoping on a plane to somewhere hot, opening your laptop up on a beach and making a small fortune are all anyone ever talks about.
My reasons for a nomadic settler lifestyle
Back to why I have a location independent business yet stay firmly tied to one location.
When talking about being a digital nomad, people will extol the virtues by comparing the lifestyle to someone who is in a ‘real job’ working for someone else. That however is not a fair comparison. Often people will argue that it’s better to work and travel rather than being stuck in a n open plan office with 200 other people but they are not the only options.
The options are:
- Work for someone else (usually tied to a specific place)
- Be a digital nomad (work for yourself but work all over the world, with no fixed base or 'home')
- The business backpack way (work for yourself, have a home, have the ability to work anywhere but in my case, choose not to)
Some people will say what is the point? I must have put time and effort into building a business that can be operated from anywhere in the world but then I choose to squander that opportunity and just work from home? Why bother and why not set up a traditional business that would benefit from being operated in a permanent location?
When my partner and I first met, we lived in different towns, around an hour’s drive away from each other. Back then, having a backpack business then meant that I could spend some of the week at her place and some at mine, without it impacting my work.
A couple of years ago we decided to move up the country to Norfolk. This meant that we had to find Trina a new job, in the new town, along with school places for our children. This was hard enough, trying to find somewhere that everyone was happy with but luckily we didn’t also have to worry about me because I can work from anywhere. It was one less thing we had to consider and do it made life just that little bit easier.
Admittedly we are unlikely to make such a large move ever again but having a business that could relocate without impacting any of my customers was excellent. If I had to find a job in the same area that we moved to, I would have struggled. What are the chances that both of us would have found great jobs, which we loved, in the town we were moving to, at the same time? Non existent.
If I had a location-based business we would have either been forced to stay where we were or I would have had to sell up and then start a new business as soon as we had moved. That would have been difficult and stressful.
Because one of us was able to up and move with basically no preparation, the move was made possible.
That’s not the only reason though.
In a few years’ time, we want to buy a motor home and travel around the country. Trina will be able to take a few weeks off of work and we’ll just hit the road. There’s no need for me to book time off and try to coordinate things with her work / holiday schedule. I’ll just throw my backpack in the back of the van and go.
As I write this, I’ve travelled down to see some old friends and left the family all at home. I booked an AirBnB, threw my backpack in the back of the car and I was off. Once I arrived, I hooked up to the wifi, checked my e-mails, did a bit of work and none of my customers were affected or were aware that I am 200 miles away from where I was this morning.
There are plenty of other reasons for building a business using the backpack model. Even if you are not aware of a reason why you may benefit from the flexibility at the moment, one day in the future you may want to up sticks and move half way up the country. Perhaps to a different country. Maybe you would just like to get a holiday home and spend three months in a warmer country and then come back home for the other nine months. Whatever your reasons, and even if you don’t have any at the moment, I’d urge you to consider building your business so that you can be a digital nomad or if you’d prefer, a nomadic settler - someone who can move around if they want to but decides not to.