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Why Being Location Independent Sucks

Location_Independent_Sucks

February 29, 2012.

190 W Main St, Somerville, NJ 08854.

After selling all of my material possessions and donating 80% of my closet, I walked down to the leasing office and dropped off the keys to my empty one bedroom apartment. I finally did it.

I was location independent.

I had just parted ways from my corporate job two months ago and I had no idea what I was going to do or where I would do it. I had plans for the next three weeks and a whole lot of uncertainty ahead after that.

A year later, I’ve had more life experiences than many people piece together in a lifetime. I’m extremely fortunate.

I’ve been to 48 of our 50 states. I’ve facilitated workshops, organized meetups, and given speaking engagements all over the country. And I’ve spent a great deal of quality time with my brother David, the highlight being our 12,000 mile road trip doing volunteer work across the United States last summer.

This past week David spent his spring break with me at SXSW in Austin and the other half in Manhattan with dozens of my close friends.

Again, I am so damn blessed.

But as I walked back from dropping David off at Penn Station and I finally had some time alone, that sinking feeling arose. It’s very strong today. It feels a little like a dull ache between my heart and stomach. If I could give it a name I’d call it that “yearning, achy, somewhat empty feeling.”

I miss comfort.

I miss depth.

I miss love.

When you read our blogs and see our Facebook feeds you’re seeing the best of being location independent. We sell you on the beaches of Thailand, the nightlife of Medellin, and working from coffee shops and hotels all over the world. It looks like a non-stop party. Well, because most of the time it is.

But there’s a lot that you don’t see. You don’t see the sleep debt. You don’t see the floors and couches where we sometimes lay our heads at night. And you don’t see the doubts, fears and questions we have.

“Where am I? What day is it? What month is it?”

“Am I getting too old for this shit?”

“Will I ever have a family? Do I even want a family?”

Yes, every story has two sides. What you see from us are the absolute highlights. Peak experience after peak experience.

Well, here are some of the not so sexy realities of being location independent. Here’s why being location independent sucks.

 

1. Relationships are highly improbable

Last year I had a lot of short term relationships (or just relations). I’m not judging those who do, but I’m getting to the point where it doesn’t serve me anymore.

I’ve had this discussion with several friends who travel full time and it’s one of our common pain points. Some of us just become content being asexual, weighing the benefits of travel over love, sex, and intimacy. Some of us fuck like wild rabbits, with enough crazy sex stories to write a Tucker Max novel. And some of us are in relationships, some of them open and some of them monogamous.

For those of us who are in relationships, it puts a strain on things. My last real relationship imploded because of my lifestyle. When I really thought about though, I’d probably break up with me too. It takes a really special someone to wait patiently at home while our partner is vagabonding all over the world.

I’m not saying being in a relationship is impossible while being location independent, but I just haven’t seen too many good examples yet.

 

2. You have very little quiet time

I’m an extreme extrovert. I love walking into a room of fifty strangers. Because I know I’m going to walk out with fifty more friends.

But even with that said, I’m getting a little tired.

Essentially every hour of every day is spent with someone in front of me, whether it’s an audience, a dinner party, a meetup, or sitting with my Couchsurfing host sharing stories over breakfast.

I’m always sleeping in a house or apartment with two, three, sometimes five other people. When the first one of us wakes up, we all wake up.

I’m constantly on.

And it’s starting to take a toil on me.

 

3. You don’t have a place to host

I bought my first house when I was 24. Four bedrooms, three bathrooms, two floors and one big Asian. After a couple of weeks of living alone I told my best three guy friends to move in with me. For free.

It was a blast while it lasted.

Later in Ohio and New Jersey I became an expert at bringing people together. I’d have friends over for football weekends, I’d throw parties for my entire grad school program, and I’d regularly host friends or travelers from Couchsurfing.

Hell, I had a 61 year old woman from Couchsurfing sleeping on my couch for a month.

Now I can’t do that. I’m always the one being hosted.

I know about the importance of graciously accepting gifts, but a piece of me feels like I’m receiving more than I’m giving at times. Which is a totally new and slightly awkward place to be for me.

I know I’ll have a place again in the near future and when I do…

You’re all invited.

 

4. Habit building is difficult

I just had breakfast this morning with my friends Sean and Dan and we talked a lot about the importance of habit building. I know I’ve certainly been dissatisfied with myself in regards to willpower lately.

I work out… sometimes.

I journal… sometimes.

And I even have a great yoga and meditation practice… sometimes.

Some of us have great morning rituals. I do. Here it is:

1. No Internet until morning rituals are done
2. Smile!
3. Write in my dream journal if applicable
4. Drink a glass of water
5. 7 minutes of yoga/stretching
6. Brush teeth, use tongue scraper
7. Take a 60 second cold shower
8. Journal for 20 minutes
9. Complete one round of The Work on a thought that doesn’t serve me
10. Complete my one most important task of the day
11. Prepare and eat breakfast

But when I’m going to bed at 4am after a night out with my friends, there’s a pretty small chance that I’m going to get up at 7am and do my full morning ritual.

And without the Power of Habit, comes procrastination and laziness. And with procrastination and laziness comes that nagging feeling that we aren’t playing to our full potential.

 

5. There’s always bigger and better

Travel is like crack.

Three years ago I would have never dreamt that I would have seen the places I’ve seen. But now that I have and I know how easy it is to travel, I want it all.

Northern Lights? I wanna see ’em.

Machu Pichu? Sign me up.

Thailand? Let’s do it.

With technology and a little know how, the world truly is our playground. But where do we stop? Do we ever stop? And how much is enough?

 

Tomorrow I leave for Berlin, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Den Bosch, and Oslo. Part of me doesn’t want to go. I know, first fucking world problems.

I could lie to you and tell you that everything is great. But I’m here speaking the truth.┬áCause that’s what I do.

Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t give up the last year of my life for a million dollars. Seriously. It’s been so incredibly rich with Love, Laughs, Light, and Life. All the Big Ls in full effect.

But that’s only half of the story.

This is the other half.

  • http://karol.gajda.com/ KarolGajda

    I know this feeling. (Though I’m an extreme introvert so I refuse to spend too much time with people, haha.) It’s why I finally stopped traveling last year.

    There are no right or wrong answers, which you already know.

    Something that might help is the answer to two questions.

    1) Am I having fun?

    Yes? You’re all good.

    No? then ask …

    2) Is it temporary?

    If that answer is no then it’s probably time for a change.

    If the answer is yes then you probably just need to chill out by yourself for a while.

    See you Wednesday!

    -Karol

    • http://www.hrostoski.com/ Mike Hrostoski

      Yes! Looking forward to seeing you very shortly. So excited about the crew of men we are gathering together in Berlin.

      • http://suitcaseentrepreneur.com/ Natalie Sisson

        What no ladies allowed?

  • http://twitter.com/nomadamyscott Amy Scott

    Brilliant post, Mike. I can relate to a lot of what you’ve written here, and it’s why I kept tweaking my location-independent lifestyle over the years until I found a mix that works for me (and it continues to change, as my needs and priorities do).

    Right now, my perfect mix includes time in one place laying low (and I now have a home base that allows me to do just that), and other times running around doing all the exciting, fun stuff people expect nomads to do.

    I know what you’re going through on the relationship front, too. When the “relations” start to get old and you’re looking for something more, I think the ideal scenario is to find someone who has (or is interested in) the same lifestyle (and who’s headed the same direction). The good news is this is much more likely to happen if you carry on living life the way you choose. I just kept on doing what I was doing, and eventually I got lucky and met an amazing guy who wants the same kind of life I do. Yay! :)

  • heatherlyone

    These are such great points Mike. And it’s kinda funny because I call myself location independent, except that I’m currently based in Lima indefinitely (over a year now). I’m location independent because I CAN work from anywhere (not because I move around constantly), but similar to Karol, I’m an extreme introvert so if I’m on the road and forced to be around others all the time, I get bummed. I also get bummed having no base to return to over long periods of time…so I find that the answer for me was to set up shop in a foreign country where I can still have my base but every day is interesting, I don’t need to rely on other people to have regular adventures, and much of what I want to experience over the next couple of years is within relatively close reach. The last time I backpacked extensively, I finished off 6 months thinking, “I can’t do it *like this* again.” So I’ve made up new rules for living adventurously out in the world, and so far, so good. Thanks for addressing the shit side of life on the road.

    • http://twitter.com/nomadamyscott Amy Scott

      I totally agree, Heather! It’s key to find what works for you. Being location independent is awesome because it means you CAN go/work anywhere, but it’s important to remember that doesn’t mean you MUST. :)

  • http://twitter.com/MatthewGBailey Matthew G. Bailey

    Berlin is high on my list of next adventures… Wish I could make it there this time with you guys!

    Good point touching on the downsides of location independence. I’ve been yearning to write something like this soon as well.

    I know some people who are trying to work online as well but the loneliness and boredom of staring at a computer for a full day is almost to much for them. I have found ways to deal with it but I can truly say I’d rather be outside.

    The relationship part is very hard. I’ve made it work now for 4 years but it’s getting tough. Unless both work virtually, then it’s almost impossible, unless one can save a lot, quit, and travel over and over again.

    My worst habits traveling is exercise and diet. I find myself forgetting to do simple pushups for months on end. I find myself not wanting to cook my own food, especially when it’s cheap, and therefore, diet gets out of hand. Then toss in parties and we’ll, you know.

    Then again, there are downsides to location independence as well, such as constant routine and little travel.

    I guess it’s finding a balance. I like the idea of a home-base with 6-months+ travel or experiences. Or at-least moving to a country as a home-base and moving from there.

  • http://twitter.com/Technomadia Cherie & Chris

    Wowzers, the lifestyle you describe would drain the life out of me. The good thing is, there are so many ways to be location independent and tweaking your approach can make massive improvements.

    My partner and I have now been on the road for nearly 7 years. Or actually, I should say – he has. He started off solo, and we met shortly thereafter, sharing a wanderlust that proved to be aligned. We travel in a RV, providing a home base that moves with us. We always have our own super comfy bed, know where the cups go and know where the extra toilet paper is stashed. We can choose our pace of travel, when we want to be introverted or around people, and switch up living in urban areas vs ‘out in nature’.

    And when want to travel away from home, we can park the house and fly off somewhere else for a bit.

    So please don’t cast location independence as sucking – you just haven’t found your balance. I doubt many would be suited for a hypermobile long term couch surfing lifestyle.

  • http://twitter.com/amberjadams Amber J. Adams

    Mike, I see some of the point from our convo on Friday (wait, do you even remember that?!?). I’ve always wanted to be location independent, and when I had a chance to travel around for a year, I reevaluated. I want to be able to come and go when I want, but I realized that being away from my friends and fam for large chunks of time really isn’t me. Thumbs up for keeping it real.

    Be safe and careful in Europe!

  • Tess The Bold Life

    Thanks for sharing this side. Too many people selling the dream are deceitful in order to line their pockets. You rock!

  • http://twitter.com/katieaune Katie Aune

    I think there’s a difference between being location-independent and being a nomad. What you describe is the life of a nomad (or a so-called “digital nomad”). I just spent a year traveling as a career break and experienced so much of what you describe and it made me never want to live the life of a nomad. On the other hand, it did show me that I would like to be location-independent. To me, that means having a home base with a job that allows me to come and go as I please. So if I want to jet off to Europe for a couple weeks, I can do so while working remotely, but I’ll have a nice familiar bed and friends and routine waiting for me when I get back home.

    • prime_sarmiento

      I agree with Katie here. Some location independent people don’t travel a lot – they just have a more flexi working schedule hence they can work anywhere. Having said that, while I value a mobile career, I prefer having a home base as I can’t stand long-term travel. it disorients me. there are many forms of location independent career. This is just one of them.

    • http://twitter.com/nomadamyscott Amy Scott

      You’re absolutely right, Katie! I had the same experience; traveling full-time made me realize I wasn’t quite ready to do that long-term, but being location independent allows you to do it however you want, and that’s been perfect for me.

  • Cynthia Morris

    I love this post. Thanks for being so honest. This happened to me, too. There came a time when I was whimpering audibly when zipping my fattening suitcase. I knew it was time to rein it in when I was in Rome and felt, oh, sigh, another city.

    It was wonderful and it was lonely. It was enlightening and it was boring. The worst thing is that it looks so cool! from the outside and inside it’s just another facet of reality.

    I have no regrets; when I came home after a year as a nomad, I had more confidence than I’d ever have, and three years later, I still have it.

    Thanks again for sharing this; I look forward to seeing where you settle and to hear the story of it.

  • http://suitcaseentrepreneur.com/ Natalie Sisson

    Hi Mike. I hear you buddy and thanks for writing this.

    I feel this on a daily and weekly basis, living out of my suitcase, constantly on the move. Always fending for myself, making new decisions on where to head next, where to stay, who to meet. On top of all this I’m running my business! Habits are such an important part to this and I think we need to g a little easy on ourselves as travelers.

    I’m also going to get in touch via email cos I want to use some of your insights in my book!

    PS I’m heading to Berlin in April – will I see you there?

    Natalie

  • Aamer

    I prefer to work from a base, and take two vacations a year.

  • Morgan Daniels

    “The Challenge”. The rituals are great when one has a more static lifestyle (which we currently choose to not have), and when we don’t follow the rituals due to our chaotic nomadic endeavors in which we love, should we feel guilty, or utterly content to have these amazing opportunities in our lives which leave us in awe and sometimes distraction?

  • Jadeleah

    I’ve lived as a house sitter now 4 years. And I am closing up shop and staying put 6 months so create good habits, exercise more and socialise more as well. This last year, I wanted to cry everytime I was leaving a house. I got enamored with the animals I cared for and with the home I’d made my own. And I have truly had enough. I went to go meet the very last house sit I will have last night and it took all my activing skills to sell myself and my services. MY heart ain’t in it. BUT I do get to care for a siamese cat, which I very much look forward to.

  • http://hoboceo.com/ mrkirkland

    Whilst being location independent isn’t all a bed of air freighted
    roses, in my experience most of the problems you list here are can be worked around or are nothing to do with location independence.

    In my 7 years of hobodom, I’ve never had trouble
    getting quiet time. Unless you’re deliberately seeking out contact
    with people (as you seem to imply you are) or spending all your time
    in shared hostels/accommodation, this shouldn’t usually be a problem!
    I think for most people location independence does not equal
    constant speaking engagements, parties and socialising :)

    I too die without being able to host and this has seldom been a big
    problem for me, even places I’ve only stayed for a few weeks I’ve
    hosted parties – just a couple of months ago I hosted a poker night
    in my hotel room, and anywhere I’ve stayed more than a month I’ve
    always had a least one party. In fact some of the places I’ve rented
    have been so much more fancy than anything I could afford in England
    so they have actually made me host much more!

    And I don’t think I agree with “always bigger and better”, I’ve
    found a few cities I really like and I’ll be happy in just one of
    these places for at least a mid term maybe even long term stay. Sure, I have travel plans,
    but there’s no rush, I see places like Macha Pichu more like holiday
    destinations than “bigger and better”. Quite happy to dig in for a
    while in Berlin, or Tokyo and get some shit done.

    Where I think you are on the money though is relationships and
    habit building.

    Relationships (of the romantic type) are harder for sure, this is
    definitely one of the main problems I see again and again for
    nomad/hobo types. I do meet other people traveling who are in
    relationships, and some with kids also, but it’s defintely a
    challenge.

    Habit building is a little harder for sure, but if you’re willing
    to be flexible then there’s work a rounds. I’d say if you were
    dead set on being a pianist or drummer, then you’re going to have a
    challenge re establishing your routine every time you relocate. But
    if you want to keep fit, you can do things like substitute the
    squat rack at the gym for one legged squats or in general body
    weight excersizes you can do in a hotel room. And why does being
    location independent mean you have to stay out with friends till
    4am? The only time I have this kind of problem is after big timezone
    shifts.

  • http://www.facebook.com/patricia.chungsathaporn Patricia Serrano

    So glad that I stumbled upon this. I was just expressing my frustrations to someone about the constant changeover in “relations” that you have while constantly traveling at dinner. When I first started traveling so frequently, I was a bit shaken, feeling like I needed a little more grounding and at times feeling desperately discombulated. But now I realized that the stability that I craved could not be found in any place outside of myself, but inside me. I had to find the strength to look inside and be comfortable with my mess, love and embrace the craziness that I was when I was testing my mettle, being my true self, and following my bliss. I learned to be as comfortable as possible with the changes and trust that my life weren’t falling apart, it was just falling into place. And that everything – the places, the faces, the relations were exactly where they are supposed to be and my life, as a big patchwork of vulnerable insanity, was perfect, just the way it was.

  • http://twitter.com/euvieivanova Euvie Ivanova

    Being in a long-term relationship while being location-independent is definitely possible, if: 1. The relationship started long before the location independent lifestyle, so the two of you had time to work things out in a regular lifestyle before making the jump; 2. If you both had the goal of being location independent and wanted it equally; 3. If you are location independent together and are both contributing to making it happen financially.

    This is the case with me and my partner, and it’s amazing! Exploring new cultures is a lot less lonely and a lot more fun when you can share that experience with someone you love.

    • Jane Manthorpe

      Euvie, how you describe your relationship with your partner is my dream :) I dearly want to meet my soul mate who shares my passion for being location independent and share experiences together. I can feel your happiness as you write :)

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  • DrShawnHaywood

    My husband and I LOVE being location independent! We love making new friend, hiking everywhere, working from beautiful places and being in love with life, where ever we are. It’s not perfect all the time and there are things that continue to be worked out. But I wouldn’t trade this kind of beauty and freedom for anything! Sorry it didn’t work for you, but there are MANY of us who LOVE it! Cheers, Shawn http://www.liberatemylife.com

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