Hello from Mexico!
If you follow me on Instagram you know that I just spent a few days in Mexico hanging out with other digital entrepreneurs. It was a spontaneous impromptu trip I booked simply because I felt the urge to get on a plane and explore a new place.
For many people, being able to run a location independent business they can work on from anywhere in the world is a dream come true. Admittedly, it was one of the major reasons I wanted to freelance and work for myself. I didn’t want to be tied to a job where I had to log a certain amount of hours and ask for permission to get on a plane if I felt like it.
Despite the fact that this is how I felt, I have to admit I wasn’t really taking advantage of it. My first year of self-employment I went to about eight different cities all within the U.S. During my second year of self-employment I only went to Charlotte.
By December 2015 I was itching to get on a plane. I realized it wasn’t a matter of making more money because I can just make money from anywhere. It also wasn’t an issue of lack of time because I make my own schedule. It was simply me getting in my own way because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to handle having a location independent business.
As soon as I realized this, I booked a roundtrip ticket to Mexico using Southwest points and called up my web designer to see if I could crash with her in Chiapas. She said yes and I’m sitting in her dining room as I write this.
Since this was the first time I attempted to run a location independent business while traveling internationally, I figured it would be great to share some of my insights with you guys.
I know some of you have some major wanderlust. I also know some of you feel like you simply can’t design your life and finances in a way that would allow you to travel and work at the same time. I’m here to clear the air. I plan on covering this topic extensively as I begin to travel more, but for now, here’s a good place to start.
Lesson #1: Our idea of a vacation is ass backwards.
Before heading to Chiapas I had a couple of days in Cancun. I then took a regional flight to meet Rachael (my web designer and friend) in her town of San Cristobal De Las Casas. During my stay in Cancun I realized that most of the people there were a) American and b) spent all their time in the hotel and didn’t get a feel for what Mexico really is. In fact, I was the only American on my regional flight to Chiapas.
I don’t know about the rest of the world, but I do know that many Americans tend to think vacations look a certain way. They need to look like exclusive hotels. They need to look like not working at all. They need to look like having everything planned out.
Like most things, this just isn’t how life works. We end up not really experiencing anything that way and spending way more money than we need to (all-inclusive are not cheap).
Another interesting aspect of having the idea of vacation ass backward is needing to wait until you have a certain amount of time of vacation hours. Since I have a location independent business I can run from my laptop, I can take a trip whenever I want. My web designer and her husband had been traveling extensively for the last couple of months and their web developer, who also stayed with them while I was there, spent six months traveling the world last year.
I know that for many it’s not really a choice. They can’t pack up and get on a plane because their jobs don’t allow them too. I get that. But there’s still something to be said for actually using your vacation time. Americans are taking the fewest vacation days in four decades, according to a study called Project: Time Off. They are forfeiting billions of dollars in paid vacation days.
Additionally, if you want to eventually have a location independent business, you may need to start hustling your ass off and build a career that allows for flexibility.
All of this is to say three things:
- Traveling doesn’t need to look like swanky hotels and doing nothing for a set period of time. You can definitely work while on the road and it’s worth it to explore a little more.
- If you can’t just pack up and get on a plane on a whim, at the very least take your damn vacation time and stop working for your employer for free.
- If you want a location independent lifestyle, create a career that allows it.
Lesson #2: Traveling doesn’t need to be expensive in order for it to be enjoyable.
One of the main objections I hear about traveling is that it’s expensive. More specifically, that sometimes it needs to be expensive in order for it to be enjoyable. This is a false assumption.
Flights can be free or low cost with credit card points. You can travel for fairly cheap and get some good deals so long as your dates are flexible.
You can also go to beautiful countries that aren’t expensive. I’m astonished by how little money I spent in Mexico. Granted, I spent little money because I didn’t stay in a tourist area. I went to a totally different part of the country to get a feeling for Mexico and was using Mexican pesos. I took a tour to Agua Azul, Misol Ha and the Mayan Ruins in Palenque for a total of about $25 USD. Some of my meals were literally costing about $5 USD and of course, I was staying with friends so there went the hotel expense.
The most expensive thing I had during this trip was my hotel stays in Cancun in between flights within Mexico and going back home. For those, I simply saved up money and tried to get as many days away from tourist areas as possible
The point is that traveling doesn’t need to cost an arm and a leg, therefore money isn’t a valid excuse.
Lesson #3: “I wish I hadn’t traveled so much in my life,” said no one ever.
I’m big on values based spending. This means I make sure to spend money on things I care about and cut drastically everywhere else.
Because I want to travel I have a savings account specifically for travel related costs. While I go out of my way to make things less expensive, I still have to spend money sometimes to make things happen. In 2016, I’ll probably end up spending a few thousand with all the trips I have planned, with Bali being the most expensive because it’s part of a retreat.
This just means I work out my budget so that I prioritize this. I keep track of these goals by using tools like the Capital One 360 goal setting feature and Mint.com. I highly recommend The Mint Manual (affiliate link) which is a book that teaches you how to use Mint like a boss.
This is where it’s important to remember that I would much rather spend money on experiences than things. Stuff is cool, but it loses it’s luster. On the other hand, I’ll always remember the nights laughing with friends in Mexico and doing a headstand atop a Mayan ruin. I will always remember the insane view of Palenque and the sheer majesty of the river canyon in Chiapas.
Besides, no one has ever said “Damn, I really wish I hadn’t spent so much time and money traveling.
Lesson #4: A location independent business expands horizons.
I met my web designer online a few years ago when she first rebranded my site just before I quit my job. Fast forward to 2016 and I’m staying at her house in the middle of Mexico.
I’ve met so many people through my online work that I literally have friends everywhere in the world. This would not have been possible without the internet.
Lesson #5: There are challenges to a location independent business, but it’s not as hard as you would think.
I worked a little on this trip. It’s not because I have to since I can just stop taking clients, it’s because I can work from anywhere and had some important deadlines. This means I was working at airports and on airplanes (not like you’re going anywhere anyway). Because I was staying with a couple other digital nomads we had a co-working day while in Mexico and would sometimes work in the mornings. I also got some stuff done at the hotel in Cancun before enjoying the pool.
Granted, I also have some systems in place so I can explore. Since I knew I’d be having some adventures I also got some work done ahead of time. I have contractors who know what they need to do while I’m gone. I have people I can delegate to. So on a Monday when I’m taking a boat tour of the canyons in Chiapas I know things are getting handled.
Lesson #6: Just fucking do it.
When my new friend Stu (web developer and yoga teacher) and I were at the waterfalls at Misol Ha he stopped for a second and said “I just realized something. I’ve been hellbent on creating passive income so I can do what I want, but I’m looking at a gorgeous waterfall in the middle of Mexico right now. I’m already doing whatever I want.”
This is an important realization. We choose to live our lives the way we want, but often times we’re too busy waiting for external circumstances to change. We get so much into our own heads that we literally stop ourselves from living. We forget we have choices.
Mexico is a magical country and I’m so happy I decided to take this trip despite my fears of running a business while I’m traveling to another country. I look forward to doing more of this as the years go on. At the end of the day, I’ve built my life in a way that I can do this so it’s up to me to take advantage of it.