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Robert Schrader

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How I Became Location-Independent

Posted: 08/24/2012 7:00 am

Like so many other Americans, I lost my job in early 2009. Although I sent out dozens of résumés per week, I hadn't scored even a single interview by the time spring came around.

One afternoon I took a break from job hunting and came across a blog that described an alluring lifestyle. "Location independence," the website read, "is about the freedom to live and work from anywhere."

There was only one problem: I didn't have the funds to go to dinner with my friends, let alone "anywhere." Disappointed, I closed the browser tab and resumed my search for employment in Austin.

Step 1: Get Out of The Red

Spring soon heated up into a scorching Texas summer, but the local job market remained tepid. Left without many options, I looked into teaching English in Asia, as some of my fellow English and writing majors had done. I signed the contract with trepidation.

By November, I had arrived in Shanghai, where I would be teaching English to adults. While it was far from a dream job, I earned significantly more than my cost of living, which enabled me to pay off all the credit card debt I'd incurred while unemployed.

I also managed to saved a few thousand dollars for travel. In June 2010, I handed in my resignation and bought a one-way ticket to Vietnam. It wasn't location independence -- at least not yet -- but it was a big step in the right direction.

Step 2: Get On The Road

Three days before my departure to Saigon, a crazy thing happened. See, I'd causally applied for a freelance Web writer position with a digital media company -- and got accepted! (True story: A week into my Vietnam trip, I spotted graffiti that said "Jump, a net will appear." Apt, huh?)

The good news is that I was effectively location-independent: I could make money from anywhere and, theoretically, travel indefinitely. The not-so-good news? I was earning just $15 per piece, which meant that I needed to write 7-10 per day to keep going.

Before leaving Shanghai, I'd also launched my travel blog, Leave Your Daily Hell. It served mostly as a journal during the three months I spent traveling, first through Southeast Asia, then through the Middle East and Europe, so I was shocked when I was selected to participate in a high-profile blogging competition in Thailand later that year.

Step 3: Get Off the Payroll

Among the travel blogging heavyweights I met in Bangkok was Nellie, who runs the wildly popular WildJunket blog. When I told her about how I was funding my travels, her reaction was less than positive. If fact, she said, that sounds really boring. It stung at the time, but she was right.

I spent 2011 and the beginning of 2012 working double-duty, traveling through South America, North Africa and Australia using the money I made writing "Web content," then burning the midnight oil and writing five articles per week for my travel blog, which steadily grew in popularity.

I sometimes wrote as many as 5,000 words per day, my work promoting Leave Your Daily Hell via social media and optimizing the site for search engines notwithstanding.

My hard work finally paid off in March of this year, when I received my first advertising inquiry. It's been all uphill from there although, as I recently explained, travel blogging doesn't have much in common with your typical vacation.

Three years ago, I couldn't buy my sister a drink. Last week, I bought her a plane ticket to Thailand with frequent flier miles! I am living proof that all you need to fundamentally transform your life is a goal and an unwavering commitment to achieving it. Becoming location-independent isn't easy, but it is achievable.

 

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