What Our Move to Location Independence is Not

It’s been a few weeks now since we let the cat out of the bag and announced our move to location independence. Understandably, Pete wanted the first “official” notification of our plans to go to his employer, where he worked for fifteen years as Director of Marketing. Once he had given notice there, we started letting folks know what we were up to. Most were delighted and supportive.

Some, however, not so much. This is just what you should expect when you announce any major life decision. Reactions, after all, have as much to do with the self as they do with a catalyst. And you changing something means they have to change, too, in the way that they think of you, and how they see themselves in relation to you.

Interestingly, we found that many of those with whom we shared were not familiar with the concept of location independence at all. Others expressed confusion. How were we ever to make things work? What are our intentions about continuing to work altogether?

The most common reaction we got was, “Wow! Wish I/we could do something like that!” To which the only relevant response is, “Well, you can, of course.” Even so, we were still quite surprised at the amount of dubiousness in the mix. So, in this post we’re going to address some of the skepticism, put the basic misconceptions to rest, and foreshadow what’s going to be happening next.


Nice, but I/we would never be able to afford it. Once we developed a goal, the elements of a plan to achieve its objectives fell into place rather easily. This was somewhat surprising, to be honest. We thought things would be more complicated. Our main goal started out as wanting to travel more. In order to do that, we each needed to be as flexible as Pete’s generous vacation plan.

We first tested things several years ago, when I sold my business. We were planning an extended vacation, and decided that I wouldn’t “unplug” as I normally might. Instead, I would continue to work at my newly-defined freelance gig while we were away. Other than taking advantage of the opportunity to visit with franchise locations in the vicinity, there really was no measurable difference in working from Minneapolis or somewhere else.

The experiment worked: at the very least, we could maintain the same lifestyle we currently had with Pete working and me freelancing. But we were still subject to his vacation time, which although generous was subject to certain restrictions. And we were dependent upon the health insurance and other benefits from his job as well. Next we had to devise a way to supplement our income to the extent that we could continue to transition out of his employment status without drastic effect.

So envious that you can retire early. Okay, but we’re not really retired if we’re still working, are we? The plan has always been about continuing to work. In our series we co-wrote with Dot of Deeper Issues, Through a Glass Grimly (which begins here), we go into more details about the necessity of working we faced and embraced. Nothing has changed. We’ll be working long past the traditional age of retirement for most folks. We are most certainly not suddenly independently wealthy in the financial sense, anyway.

Kind of a knee-jerk an extreme reaction to emotional loss, isn’t it? It’s true, we’ve had great emotional loss within the past year, as both Pete’s parents have passed. Last summer, right after his mom died, we flirted with the idea of going totally nomad, in an RV. Ultimately, I was the one who called a halt to that. I just wasn’t ready to give up our home base, and Pete reluctantly agreed to compromise. As it turned out, this was a good thing, as his dad suffered a fall just before Christmas and didn’t recover.

Both of Pete’s parents wanted to do many more things, and their advice to the family was along the lines of “live your life” and “don’t put things off,” similar to what my father had advised me just prior to his death. We took this messaging to heart when his mom passed and accelerated the plans we already had in place, setting a new timeline. Pete decided he didn’t want to be employed as of August 1, 2011. We beat that date by six weeks.

This is a too-big risk during this economy. Risk is associated with any decision. We happen to think it’s more risky to be dependent upon one source of revenue – like a job – for your income. All your eggs are in one basket, which makes you vulnerable. Some, if not most, employers take advantage of that. This tendency is amplified in a down economy, where workers who feel “lucky to have a job” will accept additional responsibilities in a downsized environment, or other compromises in pay or benefits in exchange for what they consider to be security.

It’s always amazed us that many people view self-employment as riskier than working for someone else. We know ourselves and our capabilities. We know we’re resilient, resourceful, and willing to work hard. Most importantly, we can take advantage of the many opportunities that come our way to fuller extent. “The harder we work, the luckier we get.”

Your lifestyle will take a huge hit. For years, our lifestyle, individually and together as a couple, in great part was comprised of accumulating, paying off, maintaining, and storing stuff. This can be a form of tyranny, as those smarter than we have already pointed out. Upon downsizing into one shared home when we married, I was concerned by the intensity of my attachments to stuff. I revisited these feelings when we prepared to move to our townhome. Our personal effects should be viewed asĀ affects, too.

The interests we pursued over the years – gardening and landscaping, woodworking, crafting and needlework, home decorating – were all stuff-dependent. You can’t redecorate without getting rid of stuff and then getting more. With knitting there are patterns, yarn stash, needles and notions: stuff. If you’re going to work with wood you need power and hand tools, storage area for piles of lumber – new and salvaged, and a place that you can get sawdust all over and leave it that way. The entire thing was so reminiscent of my father, who famously announced one day that all he could grow in his garden was “tired.”

And honestly, we were quite alarmed by attachments to stuff we were seeing in others. These tendencies affect us directly to varying degree, but the main takeaway is they create boundaries that inhibit possibility and spontaneity. Life is no less vivid when you have fewer things. In fact, one might argue, it is lived in a less-distracted present, with different priorities to appreciate more fully.

I don’t really like to travel, so it wouldn’t be for me. When you’re location independent, you choose your location. For many people, this means they travel more, which is one of our goals. For others, they’re free to stay where they are or put down roots closer (or farther away, if need be) to family or friends. The point is, you’re not constrained whatever you may choose.

Our family/school/church and other obligations are here. See above. These priorities don’t have to change. Everything we do in life is really a choice that we make. Your family is still your family. If school and church have important relationships, keep them. A cost analysis – one where costs additional to the financial play a part – will reveal what can work for you. Every place is waiting to be illuminated.

I am so not a computer genius, so there’s no way I could do what you’re doing. Well, you don’t have to. Nora Dunn, writing about Location Independent Career Basics, outlines several non-computer-related location independent careers she encountered in just one week: jewelry designer, lawyer, coach, board game designer, financial planner, sales, voice-over artist, and more.

Nobody really makes money on the Internet, do they? We’re not here to dispute the claims of others. There are plenty of people out there who do make money on the Internet, whether it’s a few supplemental dollars to five or even six figures every month. Consider all the ancillary ways in which folks can parlay their talents into paying work using the Internet, too: consulting, freelance services, passive revenue, online stores, and more. We’re doing a variety of things to bring in diverse revenue, and we’re constantly evaluating what’s working and what’s possible.

Summary Just as there’s no one better at beating yourself up than you, there’s no one better at talking you out of something than yourself. Like Yoda says, you either do or you don’t. While it’s true lots of us can spend an inordinate amount of time in the indecisive span between doing and not doing, ultimately all that happens is you take a step down a new path or continue with the one you’re on. It’s just that simple.

We’ve taken that step down a new path. As always, thanks for your company. :)

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14 Responses to What Our Move to Location Independence is Not

  1. Mike June 28, 2011 at 12:27 pm #

    Sounds perfectly right as far as I’m concerned, if you can make it work.

    I’d never heard of “location independent” before, but we had considered getting rid of the house and going RVing full time, like a lot of folks do, working if we needed to. However, we decided to try it for a while before we committed to it. Turned out it wasn’t quite right for us. So we travel part of the year and I work part of the year.

    There’s plenty of work opportunities in other locations in my field, so I don’t have to stay here to do it. However, since I get to do the funnest part of the job with little responsibility and work with people and job that I know well, I’d rather do it “at home” than go somewhere else.

    • Betsy Wuebker June 28, 2011 at 12:37 pm #

      Hi Mike – I kept thinking about how much it was going to cost to fill the RV’s gas tank and then could I drive the dang thing, much less back it up. Your example of working when you choose to take a contract epitomizes freedom in our book. Thanks.

  2. Patricia June 28, 2011 at 1:46 pm #

    Hey this is a fun explanation post Pete and Betsy…and I learned so much reading through. I am still attempting to earn money on line…I just have such a hard time with the technical stuff and I am not good at the marketing end of life….I have been reading the how to do the newsletter program but I don’t know how to launch the site….Kim has been so helpful and IT Girl ( on vacation) but yesterday I really did beat myself down to the bones.

    My goal is to earn our health care and put back our savings and be able to keep running this house. We don’t have computer programs to open and close windows/ or blinds etc. – I do all of that while I work at my job…but even after 60 straight days of rain we made money with the solar panels/ offset 322 pounds of carbon and cleaned the air equivalent to 4 full grown trees.

    I do not want to clean houses or wait tables any more….I want to get paid for something I do very well…and is needed…step by step I think I will get there.

    I think people are afraid too for things like what happened in our weekend: ZIP swallowed a bone piece which stuck into his diaphragm and heart – We had to set a limit on the surgery….if it exceeded X dollars then we would have to put him down…..fortunately they were able to save him…I am doing the home care and watching him….he is not home alone….and it will take time to pay the bill off – we were in reality too.

    I still wish I could get my husband to let us get rid of some of our “stuff” we are both frugal and minimalistic….but this house is my partner’s calling card and it is bringing in some amazing work….
    People are so afraid of what they don’t understand….including how to be energy efficient and green.

    • Betsy Wuebker June 28, 2011 at 3:48 pm #

      Hi Patricia – It sounds like you’ve got several different objectives from which you can derive benchmarks against your goals. And, as you point out, there are “golden handcuffs” in addition to salaries, such as benefits and perks, that can keep employees working. It’s all very individual when risk tolerance gets factored, especially if that varies between partners. You and I are still very much ahead of the curve when it comes to online activity in our age demographic. :)

  3. Cath Lawson June 29, 2011 at 4:34 pm #

    I’m so excited for you Betsy. You’re exactly where I want to be when my kids leave home. As you explained – even if you don’t want to travel a lot, it’s great to have the freedom to work from anywhere you choose.

    Hopefully those peeps who didn’t understand to begin with do now, after your explanation. People do tend to criticise and scare you when you try to do anything different to what they think is normal. Truth is the idea scares them themselves and they try to put their fears onto you.

    • Betsy Wuebker June 29, 2011 at 5:32 pm #

      Hi Cath – You’re so right. We’re all governed by fear to some degree. It’s whether you allow your fear to totally dictate how you live, or if you relegate it to a healthy place in the decision spectrum. We believe that freedom is the ultimate in riches. More and more these days people are coming to realize that its exchange rate can be manipulated and are choosing different pathways. Thank you!

  4. Dot June 29, 2011 at 5:40 pm #

    I was surprised to hear that people would say such discouraging and incorrect things, but then again, when people found out I’d been (wrongly) diagnosed with lupus, many said, “Oh, my (aunt, niece, sister-in-law) died of that.”

    It’s great watching your adventure unfold. I know a little of all the research and hard work you’ve both put into it, and it’s so great to see it paying off so fast!

    I still think about our collaboration (thanks for the link) and wonder what I could fit into my health situation. Every so often I have an inspiration, but I still haven’t solved one problem — I wouldn’t be very social if I weren’t forced to be by my job. But perhaps the day will come when I’ll be employer-independent and location-independent.

    • Betsy Wuebker June 29, 2011 at 9:51 pm #

      Hi Dot – You are miles ahead within our shared demographic. Lots of people our age don’t even use a computer that much, if at all. So the good news is, when they do discover it, you could be poised to turn them into clients of some sort. Who knows? Recognizing that there is opportunity is an important part of all this. You’ve been very supportive of our efforts and we’re grateful. Thank you!

  5. Davina Haisell June 29, 2011 at 6:15 pm #

    Hi Betsy.
    Well, I think it’s terrific! It’s a shock to a lot of folk when they learn about a decision like this and I’m sure they are envious as well. Plus, they’re seeing the entire picture; the end result, minus all the steps you and Pete have taken; all the research and the time you’ve put in.

    Without breaking it down into steps, it’s not always easy to understand just how possible it is. You defy their idea of comfort and safety, but like you said, no job is safe these days. It’s inspiring to know of folk such as you and Pete who have made this happen for themselves.

    • Betsy Wuebker June 29, 2011 at 9:55 pm #

      Hi Davina – You’re definitely right that when you see the end result without what all led up to it, you can have the wrong impression. The funny thing is, our progress might be considered slow by some. We think comfort and safety based on a widely-obsolete model isn’t comfortable or safe at all. Awareness and self-reliance can go a long way in challenging circumstances, as you know. Thank you!

  6. Hilary July 3, 2011 at 4:40 am #

    Hi Betsy and Pete .. the post makes so much sense – you’ve decided what you want to do .. tried a couple of things, pursued your dream of being free – yet still retain an interest in life.

    Unfortunately others offer an opinion without stopping to think, and it’s their opinion .. they’ve no idea what’s gone on .. or how you’ve got where you’ve got to.

    People get stuck in a rut, and can’t see out of the box .. don’t give things a try .. or even think that at the end of their working life – that rut and box are still there .. doing the same old things. I know my mother said .. don’t wait til you’re 80 to think about other things .. she then did get stuck in a rut, depression etc .. pity as she had a huge opportunity to move on out .. but was frightened to do so without a partner (I guess and surmise) .. yet she’d started a successful business on her own …

    Togetherness as you two have is great to see – you’re working towards your own happiness and deciding what works and what doesn’t.

    I’ve been out of the rut and box for years .. not successfully yet – but oddly time has been my blessing .. and by the time I am free (as long as my mother doesn’t “make” me wait til I’m 80+ … going towards that direction!!) I’ll be up and running and ready to go.

    I consider I’ve been fortunate – yet have had and am having my challenges … it sets our character somewhat – defines what we are …

    Good luck – but like you … I’d hate to be on the road – without a base. Hiring an RV for a few weeks/months makes sense .. if you want to explore a part of the country that’s miles away … just bliss to get back to some degree of normality.

    I’m going to link through to your independent careers thing .. as the board game designer sounds interesting …

    The other important thing is .. that by keeping involved through some form of ‘work’ .. life is interesting – especially if working together it won’t be all time consuming and will be when you need to .. or when you’re stimulated to .. and your brains will be active learning new things …

    Please send a clone of Pete over here!!

    Congratulations and have fun .. cheers and hugs for now .. Hilary

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