Location independent lessons from 2016: fighting isolation, building community & feeling like a fraud

01/10/2017 01:25 am ET Updated Jan 17, 2017

Being a location independent entrepreneur isn't all about sitting on the beach with your laptop whilst your VA counts your millions. Moving from place to place exacerbates some problems and creates new ones. Location independent entrepreneur, James Hunt, left his home in London in 2014 and hasn't looked back. But he feels that the challenges that digital nomads face aren’t always well represented. He reflects on some of his key lessons from 2016.

The end of a year and start of a new one is one of my favourite times. I love to take the time to reflect on some of the lessons that I learned in the previous year.

Last year was a busy one for me. I sold one business, started several others – and amazingly found the time to pursue lots of side projects too. It’s fair to say I’ve completely discarded the standard advice to ‘focus on one thing’. Instead, I’ve focused on having fun with my ideas. So if I wake up and decide I want to code, or write a blog, or create a business plan to validate an idea - I generally do.

I haven’t been overly nomadic in 2016, but one of the many joys of being location independent is that I can say “I like that place and I’m going to stay there for a while”, which is what I did in 2016. I was based in Chiang Mai for 6 months of the year.

My reflections this year have – unsurprisingly – centred on the location independent lifestyle: how it’s changing me as a person, and what I've learned about myself in the process.

Here are three key lessons I've learnt whilst being location independent:

1) Meeting new people is hard - but you gotta do it

I'm pretty shy and suffer from Resting Bitch Face, which ultimately means I find meeting people pretty hard.

And I'm not alone. I read lots of blogs about nomads experiencing loneliness, and I see it for myself when I look around restaurants and see people eating alone, or when I visit quiet coworking spaces where no-one speaks to or even acknowledges each other day after day.

Deep down, I want to meet people and have a laugh, so I try my best to put myself out of my comfort zone and just get on with it. Saying hello to random people; being open; remembering to smile; taking out my headphones; asking people if they want to grab lunch. I've even organised a few meet-ups in places that didn't have events, so I and others could benefit.

On the #Nomads chat group, I kept seeing people post up things like "Anyone want to grab dinner tonight?”. Off the back of that, I started Don't Eat Alone - a way for nomads to meet up over a meal. It’s hosted over 100 group meals in just a few months in Chiang Mai. (If you want to start it in your city, get in touch!)

A lunch with nomads and entrepreneurs thanks to http://www.donteatalone.co
DontEatAlone.com
A lunch with nomads and entrepreneurs thanks to http://www.donteatalone.co

I recently read a Facebook comment where someone was explaining how they felt lonely and depressed after moving to a new area. I completely understood their pain. I urged them to take a few steps in the right direction so they could help themselves:

  • Don't work from home, for a lot of us that is too isolating. Seek out a coworking space or café.
  • If there isn't a meet-up you like, start a meet-up you like! Creating a Facebook event is free.
  • Arrange lunch with the coworkers at your table, or organise a group lunch or trip for the whole coworking space.
  • When you meet someone and you think you have shared interests, ask for their Facebook and organise a lunch.
  • Cold approach people with similar business interests via Facebook or Linkedin in the area.
  • Do activities you like (gym, yoga, cycling, etc.) and hang out with other people doing that.
  • None of the above involves drinking or partying, and if there’s something you want to do that is beer-based, start a version that isn't.

Maybe these suggestions seem obvious to you. But if you are just starting the lifestyle, it’s nice to be reminded of these basics.

And as with anything worth having in life, building relationships requires some effort. You get out what you put in.

2) Community and learning from others is important for growth

You not only need to make friends and have a support network around you when you travel, but I think its vital you can learn and grow with your peers. If you're a business owner, its very common to think you're all alone and that no-one understand your problems. Cash flow, staff, stress, technology, conversions, funnels - the list of worries is endless.

In the first few locations I visited when I became location independent, I really struggled with community as I had chosen places that weren't well known for those pursuing the ‘laptop lifestyle’. But as soon as I visited Chiang Mai in 2015, I knew I had found ‘my people’.

In 2016, one of the main reasons I came back to Chiang Mai from Europe in May (while most others where going in the opposite direction) was the community in town. Being able to vibe off of people in the coworking space working on similar things, grabbing lunches with people and getting new ideas, going to meet-ups, fixing problems over a beer or three; I have found that priceless.

Don't believe some of the naysayers that claim Chiang Mai is just full of ‘digital no-moneys’, there are some seriously talented people in Chiang Mai, doing lots of ridiculously interesting stuff - and making lots of cash in the process!

Of course, Chiang Mai is not the only spot with a thriving online community: Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh, Medellin, Bali, and Las Palmas all have a community of digital entrepreneurs. Head to one of these places, soak up the knowledge and get inspired.

Realising how important community is helped me make a decision about a new side project - LiveWorkFit - which will take a high-level group of entrepreneurs to different spots around the world, bringing a community and vibe to places that don't have it. If the mountain won't come to Muhammad...

LiveWorkFit is a new coworkation retreat for location independent entrepreneurs
LiveWorkFit.com
LiveWorkFit is a new coworkation retreat for location independent entrepreneurs

3) Be wary of those shouting the loudest about their successes

It’s a weird one, this. I've done a lot, a ridiculous amount, but I still feel like I know nothing.

Everyday in Chiang Mai I meet people making courses or building products where their achievements do not match what they claim. ‘I made X (that didn't make me a millionaire), so I'm here to tell you how to become a millionaire, for only $999 BUY NOW’. LOL wut?!

I had to take a break from going to some of the meet-ups here as they just started… annoying me.

Social media gurus teaching you how to do social media - when my mum has more followers than they do! Marketing gurus ‘crushing it’, who've never read a marketing book in their life. YouTube celebrities who just talk crap at a camera until it sticks. Dropshippers who do $100K a month in revenue (oh, $99.5K is spent on ads).

There are plenty of actual frauds, so why do I still feel like one?

Avoid disheartening yourself by comparing yourself to other people’s highlight reels. And always be wary of those shouting the loudest about what they know and what they have done. There is a massive difference between someone who ‘knows it all’ and someone who ‘knows how to do it’. This graph, ‘mount stupid’, about sums it up:

<em>Most “experts” I meet are at that first high point – beware</em>
SMBC http://www.smbc-comics.com/?id=2475
Most “experts” I meet are at that first high point – beware
There is a massive difference between someone who ‘knows it all’ and someone who ‘knows how to do it’

With everyone being an ‘expert’, it’s easy to think you're failing, that you're stupid. ‘Why aren't I CRUSHING IT’ (whatever that means)? But you need to have confidence in what you know. People who sell ‘how I made it’ have often managed to ‘make it’ just once, which is why they now need to teach it. Those who can, do, those who can't, teach. There are caveats of course; someone who has tons of experience in an industry (a job advert may ask for minimum 4 years experience, has the person running a course had the same?), or a good indicator can also be if the person is still making a large portion of their income from what they want to teach.

So next time you read about someone selling their business, or somebody making five or six figures with their course, treat it as an education exercise - if this person can do it, so can I!

Read more from James Hunt and his location independent journey on http://www.locationindependent.co.uk, level up your business and personal goals alongside him at LiveWorkFit, or follow him on Twitter.

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