Raising anchor


I bought the last of my tickets for the 3rd leg and 3rd continent of my round the world with Sam the other day. We're heading to Japan, Thailand, Hong Kong, and then Southern Africa. And I'm super excited about all of it. My primary disappointment right now is that I don't think I'll be able to spend as much time as I'd like in any of the locations.

I commonly get asked two questions (normally one after the other):

  • What are you up to lately?
  • How do you afford this?

For some reason I find these seemingly normal questions very difficult to explain. It's easy for me to answer to myself, my closest friends, and other people who "get" the lifestyle of remote working. But to a lot of people the possibility of a travel / work-from-wherever lifestyle simply doesn't seem realistic.

So, what /am/ I up to lately? Well, the same old, really. I left my job at NowPublic, but while there 90% or more of my interactions were online. NowPublic was extremely generous to let me work from South Africa, Argentina, New York, and pretty much wherever I wanted to as long as I could present a case that there would be adequate internet access and "timezone overlap". Prior to that I was doing freelance work out of my apartment and had no fixed office. I'm currently working on my own project for a change and hope to be wrapping up the first phase of that towards the end of September.

This style of working from wherever is nothing new to me. I did a bit of remote work while at SFU, but the concept of being able to do my job from anywhere in the world didn't really dawn on me until about 4 months into my freelance work. I was a grad student at the time, which made travel during a lot of the year unrealistic as I don't think most professors would appreciate "dialing in" to class.

My first trip after having realized the possibility was just over 2 years ago to the far away land of Calgary. I'd taken a short road trip through the Kootney's to visit some friends and try and continue my contract work. I actually ended up being quite stressed out at the end of the two week period and drove back to Vancouver a bit early. I'd describe the feeling as almost a bit claustrophobic. For whatever reason I panic'd a bit about not being able to focus. It took a conscious effort to get over that, which I finally feel I was successful at a year later when I spent a week working out of New York.

The second part of the question... how do I afford this? Most common theories include my secret drug dealing on the side and rich parents who mindlessly hand over their hard earned cash to me. And though no one has said it, I do believe that a lot of people simply think I'm being irresponsible and will pay for this later in my life.

The fact is, this lifestyle hasn't actually been all that expensive. I recently calculated the difference in cost compared to living in my $1250/month apartment in Vancouver vs. flights and accommodations in the other places we've been (Buenos Aires, Rio, Peru, New York, San Francisco, and now Vancouver again) and the total additional cost has been approximately $2000 over 9 months. By the time I'm finished several months in South Africa I expect to be at the very least on par with a $1250/month apartment rental in Vancouver. Part of this is the fact that I'm now splitting rental costs with Sam. But the more important aspect is the strength of the Canadian currency in comparison to places like Buenos Aires, Johannesburg, or Peru. This is something I haven't even really factored in yet. My cost estimate doesn't include food prices, local transit or other day to day things like that. Consider that for $12CAD you can have an appetizer, beef tenderloin dinner, 2 glasses of wine, and desert at a nice restaurant in Buenos Aires. Of course, prices in Rio or New York balance off any day to day savings from Buenos Aires fairly quickly.

Leaving my job to pursue my own ideas falls into a different category than the travel/work thing (and may quite likely have been irresponsible ;-)), I was able to travel and work with NowPublic and while doing freelance quite easily. When it comes down to it, this is possible with most jobs, it's just a change in mindset that both the employee and employer need in order to make it possible. I've never made any large purchases (car, apt/house, kids, etc.) which has allowed me to take my savings and invest them in myself.

The main point is that I'm really not doing all that much different than I was before. I'm just not tied to a geographical location. I'm also not paying rent in Vancouver so I have no permanent "home base". Paying rent in only one place makes this quite affordable as long as you stay in a place long enough to offset the cost of the airfare.

With that said, the reality is that I'm actually just unemployed and homeless... and love it ;-).

Peanut Gallery



I'm glad you haven't bought any kids yet...they're expensive :)

Nice post dude! You're right, I'm sure lots of people don't get your situation. People who have never contracted often don't understand that part of the equation, and working remotely seems even more far fetched.

I think the requirements to get into a situation like yours are being very responsible, reliable, and extremely good at what you do...of which you have all 3 :) Without those I don't think you'd be able to last very long.

Thanks Man

Adam Mukendi

Hey! There...

I like your post. Really interesting and encouraging.

You have responded to most of my questions...of cause, you've got it right went you say: "..Most common theories include my secret drug dealing on the side and rich parents who mindlessly hand over their hard earned cash to me".
Really like your tips and will forward your post to many friends of mine who always look up to a such life style

Thanks man