As much as I like to claim I know it all and have done it all, I’m just as much a procrastinator as the next guy. About six years ago, I read ‘The 4 Hour Workweek’ by Tim Ferriss and this gave me my first ideas about Location Independent Living. I was instantly in love with the concept, because of all the freedom and independence it offered. I mean, think about it: If you could live wherever you wanted to, change cities and countries whenever you felt like it and take advantage of the fact that your dollar is going to sustain you for a long time in many countries, wouldn’t you also be enthralled? Well, I certainly was.
I was also incredibly naive about the whole thing. Tim Ferriss deliberately makes the transition to Location Independent Living sound so easy, you get the impression you could get there in six weeks from now. Just set up a “Muse” (a passive income generating online business) and off you go, riding into the sunset of some South-Asian tropical paradise. Krauser coined a really good term for it: “Freedom Porn.” That just sums it up perfectly. You read the 4 Hour Workweek and get so aroused by all the great opportunities awaiting you out there that your critical thinking eventually blacks out. Sounds familiar? It’s another variation on what I call the “self-help high“.
Well, I definitely fell for it and so I started playing around with a Muse, an MMA t-shirt business, that didn’t make my any money (Although, ironically enough, it did make me a couple of hundred bucks a few years later). When I finally realized that maybe the whole 4 Hour Workweek thing was just a bit too unrealistic, I stopped working on the Muse and got back to real life. The impression I got from the book lingered though. I thought that, if I cannot do the best thing, i.e. going Location Independent, I’ll do the next best thing and turn my passion into my job. That still seemed much preferable to the mindless 9-5 existence of slaving away for someone else, which is what I saw all around me.
Taking a detour
As a result, I founded my own MMA gym in 2007 and it grew to the point where we got close to 300 people training with us, all on long term contracts. Nothing to sneeze at, if you consider that MMA was a niche business, (especially here in Germany). It was a very stimulating experience, both in terms of building up the athletes coming to train with us and building up the business. There was tons of stuff I had to learn about, such as marketing, sales, taxes and so on. For the most part, I really enjoyed having my own “passion-fueled” business; it definitely beat any regular job I could think of.
Meanwhile, I couldn’t shake my original dream of living a Location Independent lifestyle, just going wherever I felt like going, with the maximum amount of freedom. In a sense, my MMA gym was actually the opposite of this: it tied me down to the city it was in and constantly demanded my attention. Heck, it made it difficult to just go on a vacation every once in a while, as we were open all the year round. So I came up with an idea: What if I sold the gym?! The money I’d made would allow me to travel the world and finally fulfill my dream! (not to mention to finish my ongoing PhD thesis…).
Which is what I did – I sold the gym. This could be the happy ending of one of these success stories that you read about in self-help blogs all over the internet: had a problem –> thought of a solution –> now it’s sunshine and cocktails all day. “And you can do it too! Join my members only program for 9.99$ a month!”
The reality looks slightly different though… I’m actually scared shitless of the sudden possibilities.
To jump or not…
Right now, I’m so hesitant to do what I had always dreamed of doing, travelling and seeing the world. It’s ridiculous. For the last couple of months I’ve been coming up with excuses NOT to buy a plane ticket, convincing myself that I should still wait, that “now” was not yet the time. But you know what? I’ve come to suspect that “now” will never be time and I will keep delaying myself until I REALLY find a reason not to go. Maybe get someone pregnant? As I said, it’s plain ridiculous!
So in order to get this sorted, I’ve at least pinpointed a few of the fears that are at the root of this, since I believe that, if you know what’s scaring you, you can deal with it. It’s the uncertainty and the self-delusion that leads to inaction.
Hence, I present to you my list of excuses that are still preventing Nicholas Drillman from enjoying the sun:
1. “Which place to choose?”
I simply can’t decide on a place… Rio de Janeiro, Chiang Mai, New York City and St. Petersburg are my faves, and they have been for quite a while. I think it’s actually not the endless possibilities that are confusing me, but that I want this place to be perfect. It should have the perfect beach, it should be cheap, the women should be gorgeous, the local cuisine Paleo friendly and everybody should be speaking English perfectly. Oh, and maybe throw in some arts and culture, would you? This is not just stupid and unrealistic, it’s also completely unnecessary. Just decide on one place, go there and see if you like it. If not, move on… This is not a once-a-year vacation, where you better make sure everything is perfect, this is an ongoing lifestyle. And I’m still refusing to see that.
2. “Am I not too old for this?”
I’m 34 years old (a very good looking 34 years old, of course…). Most people my age are well settled into their regular jobs, have houses and families and have watched every episode of “How I Met Your Mother.” The picket fence existence is obviously not what I want, but even I can feel the social pressure building up. When you are still younger, you simply get more leeway from the people surrounding you: “Oh, he has these crazy ideas but let him be, he is still young and idealistic.” As you grow older that changes. You are supposed to finally get your act together and become respectable (i.e. boring). And if you don’t, well, people are going to let you know what they think about that, whether you ask them or not. After all, a misery shared is a misery halved, isn’t it? Don’t you dare still have fun and chase your dreams in your mid thirties!
3. “What will the neighbors say?!”
Well, I actually don’t care about my neighbors… What I’m referring to is the expectations of other people. That’s very closely related to my previous point, but it’s not just the age thing. I would basically like to have everybody’s blessing to embark on my Location Independent experiment: my parents, my friends, my PhD advisors and so on. But the truth is, I’m not going to get that. My parents think I should stay put, finish my thesis and get a real job, preferably close to their home. My friends might think that I’m bailing on them, leaving our friendship behind in favor of travelling. My PhD advisor might think “Will he ever get this damn thesis done?” And so on. But ultimately, I guess I have to realize that this is MY life, not theirs. And it’s mine to do with as I want. No, this is not strong enough yet: It should be more of an imperative, actually – you only have these few of years, so why are you wasting them trying to fulfill other people’s expectations?! You will be dead eventually, and no one will remember any more if you were a proper middle class person or not. No one will care either way. Well, obviously, this idea hasn’t sunk in as deeply as neccessary yet…
4. Losing your social circle
Now, that is a legitimate one, I think. If you are away most of the year, in becomes very hard to maintain your friendships in your homebase city. Yes, there are alternative models, like Tynan, who has aquired a set of ultra-mobile friends over the years [link]. But what about my original friends, the people that I now see on a weekly or at least monthly basis. I imagine these relationships will suffer. On the other hand, when I lived abroad for two years, there were still a very few close friends that I kept contact with. So maybe by going Location Independent, you just weed out the people that were not that important to you in the first place? That’s a very harsh notion though. Somewhat at a loss here.
5. General fear of the unknown
This is the least concrete of all of my fears and therefore the most difficult one to counteract. If you are suddenly in an environment that is quite literally foreign to you, if you don’t know what is coming, that will lead to fear; especially in a control freak like me. So, when confronted with this fear of the unknown, the status quo suddenly seems very desirable: the cosy apartment you live in, the social circle you can rely on, the stores and bars and all the other familiar places you frequent. All of it is already there, well known to you, and all of it feels safe. But I guess all of this familiarity is also at the center of your comfort zone, not really promoting any kind of personal growth.
6. Moving is a bitch
Everybody hates moving and I’m no exception. All the piles of stuff you have to carry from A to B… just the idea of it makes me nauseous and this put me off doing it as long as possible. But why is that? Because we own so much useless crap, that we keep carrying around with us, even though we haven’t touched any of it in years. The solution is pretty obvious: Get rid of all that junk and become a Minimalist. I think the two of them, a minimalist lifestyle and a Location Independent lifestyle, go hand in hand; you can’t really do one without the other. And I’ve already made some headway on this, throwing away at least one item per day that I don’t need – I can tell you, it’s a very liberating experience already and my apartment just looks that much tidier for it…
7. What will I do afterwards, when I’m broke again?
That’s a legitimate one as well, I think. I only have a limited reserve of money that in the best case scenario will allow me two to three years of relatively frugal travel. But what about afterwards? Ideally, I would find something to do that allows me to stay mobile in the long term. And obviously, I like writing and blogging. But making even a moderate living from writing / blogging seems so unattainable at times, that I really doubt I can do that or should even try. Should I then focus my energies on something else, that is more likely to make me money? Like doing freelance work (copywriting, SEO or something similar) via a platform like Elance? I would kill myself eventually though, as, unlike real writing, those things just numb the soul (I’ve done them before…). Don’t have an answer for this one yet either.
Well, there you have it: the list of petty excuses for why I haven’t moved my procrastinating butt somewhere nice yet. We’ll see if pinpointing them down like this will help me with overcoming them.
Within a couple of days of finishing this article (over Christmas), I decided on a starting place (NYC), talked to the people I needed to talk to, and cancelled my apartment. So it’s done! By March 31st, I will officially be without a permanent residence. Now I just need to go ahead and buy a plane ticket. Such is the self-therapeutic power of blogging, I guess…