I have the good fortune to be able to travel often, and I have been asked often how I got that good fortune and what I do to maintain it. How am I able to spend an entire Summer in Paris, or hop around Eastern Europe for months at a time? Don’t I have a job? Am I rich or something? Yes, I have a job and no, I am not by anyone’s standards “rich” though I am comfortably middle class- right in the middle. The answer is that it took a lot of life building on my part to get to a point where I can live my life the way I want to, live almost anywhere I want (note I said almost) and get to do these things. It certainly did not happen by accident.
I don’t have children. I made a decision early in my life to not have children. Not because I wanted to travel, but because of many, many reasons. While I am sure it is possible for some super-parents to be able to do this kind of stuff with a family, I have never met anyone that does. Not having the cost of raising children has freed up most of my income to do with as I please. No, I don’t consider it a sacrifice because it was a well thought out choice.
I decided to quit college after four months. I actually consider this a good thing (for me) because I realized I was not getting an up to date or applicable education that would actually get me employment. Instead, I was being forced to take useless classes that had no bearing at all on what I signed up to learn to do. I realized pretty early that my goal was to work for myself in the future, so I didn’t really care if a potential boss cared about my degree or not. I knew I would need more chutzpah than most to be able to bypass the hurdles that would come from not having a degree, but I weighed that decision against the idea of starting my adult life with thousands of dollars in student loan debts I would never get out from beneath, and decided I preferred chutzpah. I have never regretted that choice. My husband made the exact same choice after one year in college, for the same reasons. We are doing quite well. I am not saying that not going to college or quitting will work for you, but I’ve never had a problem and I believe that the American tradition of “if you don’t go to college you will be unemployable or flipping burgers” is a myth. It depends a lot of the kind of career you want. Some require college truly. Others don’t and yet people still think they do. It seems a horribly expensive decision to make on auto-impulse.
I am successfully self employed. My husband and I own a small software development company that employs 8 to 10 programmers (8 full time, 2 part time specialists) from around the world. We started the company with no start up cost, save a computer and a lot of talent and hard work. No bank loans, no maxed out credit cards. Just work. We both worked in the IT industry before, being employed by large companies and proved our worth to employers, built reputations for excellence and reliability. Then we branched out on our own, hired amazing programmers and now everyone in our company works from home – virtual office. What this means for us (and our employees) is that we can travel or live anywhere, as long as reliable high speed internet service is available. In 2005, we sold everything we owned and moved to Panama, bought a house and have been happier than we could have imagined. We operate our business from a home office, usually spending 9 months out of each year in Panama and the rest of the year traveling elsewhere. While we are away from our home, we rent it to visitors for short term stays, covering our mortgage and often making a profit. We work while we travel. We don’t do the ‘sight seeing all day, every day’ kind of travel (though that is fun), and we prefer to stick to one place and have more time there to explore at leisure and soak up what life is really like. When we plan well, we can usually have 3 to 4 day work weeks (though we check in to see if problems occur) and have the rest of the week off, since our company is running on it’s own while we are away. We have to be connected. We don’t ever really get days off because if a client needs us, we will be there without complaint, but this style gives us the opportunity to travel while we are still young and to be able to afford extended travel. We usually rent short term self catered apartments rather than hotels or hostels. We can go to Buenos Aires, spend the mornings working and be tango dancing by 3pm. It is a different way to travel and live. It is a lot of work and a lot of hassle, but it is worth it.
I enjoy my work. For the way I travel, this is very important. I actually like what I do and I enjoy doing it, so if I have to spend all day inside on the computer while in Paris instead of going to a beautiful garden, I am OK with that. I don’t begrudge it. The garden will be there when I am done. This requires being pretty laid back about everything.
I’m laid back, man. Chill. I tend to just go with the flow no matter what. When you travel a lot, it helps to have an easy going attitude. I don’t expect things to go my way. I figure if things do go my way, it’s a lucky bonus. I have traveled with very regimented, uptight people before, where everything was expected to work on schedule, like clockwork, and any interruption to a plan or a routine was met with irritation and fear. In my opinion, those interruptions are part of the experience. I tend to be annoyingly rigid when it comes to my work while traveling, because I want to make sure I am always on time for my clients and always meeting deadlines, but the rest of it – bring on the chaos.
Low cost of living at home. We keep costs at home fairly low, making it easier to have expendable income and to justify leaving for months at a time. The car is a used Toyota Corolla, the house is awesome (we like it) but we bought it in 2005 for $147,000 (in Panama) so the mortgage is low. We tend to shy away from spending on material things and prefer to invest in experiences instead. Living in Panama instead of the US has made it possible for us to live this way. We lived in California for years and watched our money be chewed up while getting very little in return. So we moved.
I limit exposure to naysayers. This is a difficult thing to do, but I try to limit the amount of time I spend around negative people, particularly the ones who enjoy telling me that things are “impossible” or that I “should” live a certain way, according to their life plan. When you are doing what you want to be doing, those people will come out of the woodwork and do their best to inflict their own misery on you. I don’t let them infiltrate my life. That doesn’t mean that I don’t listen to well thought out advice, or concerns. It just means I don’t listen to haters. To live your life as you want (travel related or not) takes immense courage, and you shouldn’t let haters slow you down.
I am always trying to do something new. I decided a few years ago that I wanted to be in theater. I had done a lot of theater work as a kid, and then in Panama, I thought “How am I going to be in theater here?” It turns out it wasn’t that hard. I found a theater, I auditioned, got a part and have been in several plays there. A couple years later, I decided I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to write over the top, pulpy novels, the kind I enjoy reading for escape. So I wrote one. I published it, and people bought it. So I wrote more, and people bought those too. So I was a writer. Then I decided I wanted to be an artist. Well, that one was harder for me, but I’ve only been painting for three months and I just hung my first piece in a gallery, and no, I am not very good. At all. Like, seriously. But my art is up there for people to see, and I’ve been hired by an author to illustrate the borders of a children’s book. So, I think that makes me an artist. A good one? Probably not, but an artist. I wanted to start a company, so I started one. I didn’t ask for anyone to validate my ventures with a piece of paper or their permission. If you want to do something, do it. Don’t think you need to wait for someone to tell you it is alright. If it’s safe, sane and right for you, do it. If you have this attitude, you will rack up so many awesome experiences in your life resume, and travel will be richer for you.
It’s all just my opinion and experience, but I hope this helps.