Escape Your Office Job!

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Sophia from Minneapolis says:

“The more I sit in an office, the more I want to be location independent. … I feel this need to travel more, to explore, and not be tied to an office in Minnesota.”

location independent lifeIn my last post, I told Sophia how she can see the world for the price of a Honda. Today I’m going to describe how I became location independent — a term that means “I can work from anywhere on Earth with an Internet connection.”

Sophia asks:

Q: When you came back from two years abroad, how did you start earning money again?

I assumed I’d get a “traditional” office job. (Haha! I could NEVER suffer though one of those again!)

Before I launched my two-year round-the-world trip, I hemmed and hawed about how to explain a two-year gap on my resume.

I probably delayed the trip by a year, under the guise of “I’d just like to save a little more,” because I was worried about how to explain this gap.

How silly.

I’d be justified in worrying about a gap if I sat in my pajamas on the couch all day. But I did something kick-a$$.

I prominently display those two gap years on my resume (which I keep updated, even though I’m not looking for jobs). I’m more memorable than 99 percent of the other candidates who have taken the conventional path.

I also note the skills I developed through my two-year trip: like the ability to negotiate in 120-degree heat with someone who doesn’t speak your language.
location independent jobs
If I was hiring someone, I’d want a radically self-reliant go-getter on my team. Someone with chutpah. Someone who’s done something awesome.

Q: Were you planning on looking for another journalism job?

I prefer to pave my own path and live on my own terms.

In the year 2011 alone, I took 5 trips to New Orleans, spent one full month in New York, 10 days camping in Nevada, 10 days in the Caribbean, one week on Anna Maria Island in Florida, four days in Los Angeles, three days in St. Louis, two days in Sacramento, dropped by my hometown of Cincinnati and my former home of Denver-Boulder, spent a weekend in Chicago, and went to a festival in Tampa. I couldn’t have done that if I had limited vacation time.

Q: Did you know you wanted to be location independent when you came back?

I had the “anti-dream.” I didn’t dream of being location independent, per se. I recoiled at the alternative to location independence. I shuddered at the thought of needing to “put in a request for vacation time.” Yeech!
find location independent jobs
Before I traveled, I worked at a newspaper and LOVED it. I wore flip-flops into work and I danced to people’s ringtones. It was that type of place.

But I got two weeks vacation a year, and that drove me crazy.

Don’t interpret this statement to mean “I don’t want to work.” I have no problem working long hours late into the night, as newspapers often demand when there’s a late-breaking story.

But it’s next-to-impossible to run off to Tanzania or Kenya or Russia if you’ve only got 10 business days to do it. THAT’S what bothered me.

I had no idea what I’d do when I returned to the U.S., but I was certain it would be something that would give me freedom to design my life.

No One Gets Paid to Vacation

Bear with me while I take a quick tangent.
paid to vacation
Some people are enamored with the concept of “paid vacation.” Paid vacation is a myth.

No one “pays” you to go on vacation. You get paid to work, and your employer pays you in installments throughout the year.

The agreement between you and your boss says: You pay me $X dollars to work 40-50 hours per week, 50 weeks per year. And you’ll pay me in installments.

If I take my “paid vacation” in December, you’re just paying me in delayed installments for work I’ve already done.

Whoever coined the phrase “paid vacation” is a public relations genius.

Okay, thanks for sticking with me through that tangent. Now to answer your question about how I created a location independent job:

A Windy Road to Finding Work You Love

Midway through my overseas adventure, my Dad asked me if I’d be interested in running our family business, a three-person software company. He was nearing 70 and wanted to retire. I’m his only child.
location independent career
I thought it was a great opportunity to run a small business, so I agreed. Big mistake! I lasted in that company less than six months and hated every minute of it.

If you don’t like your work, you’ll stink at it. The six months I spent at the family business was a waste of everyone’s time: bad for me AND bad for the company.

“Follow your passion” isn’t just a cliché, it’s a practical, down-to-earth recipe for success. We enjoy what we’re good at, and we’re good at what we enjoy. We hate what we suck at, and we suck at what we hate.

I’m good at writing and marketing. So I decided to look for digital (e.g. location independent) opportunities to leverage that talent.

In other words: I designed my life around my desire to be able to pack my bags tomorrow and move to New York / Italy / London. I put lifestyle first, and I eliminated career options that didn’t match that criteria.

Location Independence vs. Passive Income

If I trade my time for money, I’ll always be limited.

Right now I have location independence, but that’s not enough.

My true goal is financial freedom. This can only happen when my money makes money.

My path to financial freedom is through rental properties. I own a handful of homes that stick thousands in my pocketevery month, without forcing me to lift a finger.

Anything I buy must put money in my bank account AFTER I pay a rental company to manage it. If the property can’t create enough income to afford outsourcing everything, then I’m not buying an asset, I’m buying a job. That’s not freedom.

I’m location independent, but I need a few more properties before I’m financially free. I’d better get cracking.


  1. says

    Location independence is exactly what I’m aiming for. I figure that I have approximately 6 months, plus a few more depending on my saving habits, to have a location-independent income coming in. Wish me luck…

  2. says

    I especially enjoyed the part about putting your travels on your resume. Did you ever have a conversation with a hiring manager or someone like that about this?

    I’m just curious about your real estate investments. Do you think this will pose a potential problem with being “location independent” if you need to be a landlord and property manager for these properties? It seems that might be limiting, but maybe you’ve already though about this and a solution.

    • says

      @Jeffrey — Nope, I don’t see that as a problem at all. (re: How to own rental properties and be location indy at the same time). My boyfriend Will, who lives with me here in Atlanta, owns a rental property in Colorado that he’s delegated someone local to manage. And many of my family members who live in the U.S. go so far as to hire managers to oversee rental properties in Kathmandu, Nepal … though I might hesitate to go THAT far! :-) I’m sticking to domestic investments. Go ahead, call me risk-averse. LOL :-)

  3. says

    Now is the perfect time to buy real estate… falling prices and rock bottom interest rates (if you can get a loan). Long term it is a wonderful investment if you can put up with being a landlord.

    • says

      @Barb — More than anything, I REALLY want to buy cash-flow positive rental properties right now when prices are low and interest rates are cheap (the rates are higher for investor loans or hard-money lenders, but that means 5 – 6 percent, which isn’t so bad). It’s a dream so big I can taste it ….

  4. says

    Paula your story is definitely inspiring. I’m having a bit of trouble though. Since being laid off in January, I’ve been pursuing a “career” as a freelance writer, and while things are steadily looking up, the fact of the matter is I’m still not making enough for a full time income. 11 months later and the stress of getting a “real job” is even greater than before. Our lease will be up in February, we have debt to pay down. It’s tough to see the light at the end of the tunnel. What do you suggest? I had stopped putting in applications and told myself I’d really take freelancing seriously, but I recently started putting in applications again. It’s truly the last thing I want to do. I would love to travel, and work from home, or anywhere with WiFi for that matter. I just feel like it’s not realistic for me. Any thoughts/tips?

  5. says

    Very inspiring post Paula! Finding work you love is so important, without it the whole location independence and passive income strategy wouldn’t work because you’d burn out so quickly.

    I wish they would teach this stuff in school “finding the work you love”, the world would be a better place if people did what they love to do.

    • says

      @Kanwal Sarai — I think its a shame that, when we’re young, we’re taught to be employees and look for a solid, traditional job. We’re not taught that we can take the reins and live unconventionally. We have to figure that out ourselves … maybe its self-selecting for people who take the initiative to learn it!

  6. says

    I’m so glad I found out about this blog! It is awesome! My husband and I spent a year in China when his job sent him on an assignment. It was a wonderful experience. I quit my job of 7 years in order travel to China and have no regrets. I also have no desire to go back to an “office grind” and would like to find work that allows me to be location independent. After returning from China, my husband took a new job for which relocated us 50 miles outside of NYC so we are renting out our primary residence. I’m in the process of starting up an Etsy store to sell photography images (taken by my husband in his passion gig), but I’m going to need more substancial income. What to do, what to do…

    • says

      @TJ — That’s fantastic! I bet your year in China was incredible. I became interested in travel after I won a full scholarship to spend a month in Japan — it literally changed my life. And now that you’re living so close to NYC, I bet there’s a large photographer community (and art-buyer community) that you can tap for resources and info. What a fun new adventure!

  7. says

    Hi Paula,

    After I left my job earlier this year (owing to the nuclear crisis in Japan), I had the option of taking another job back in my home country. But I had been contemplating on the cons of a salaried job for quite some time and decided that I’d take that opportunity to set out on my own.

    For me, building a foundation for passive income was more important than location independence. I’m looking at it as more of setting up the passive income stream and then enjoying the benefits of location independence.

    I’ve taken my share of risk there, and I have to get some cash flowing before long. Let’s see how things progress… I’ll be sharing periodic updates about that on my blog.

    Here’s to true independence,


    • says

      @Mark — I can’t wait to hear more about how you create passive income. Now that I’m location independent, passive income is my next goal. It seems so large and daunting — but then, I guess ALL goals seem that way before you achieve them. :-)

  8. says

    So what did your dad do after your 6 month tenure?

    Being financially ‘secure’ does wonders for what you can and cannot do. I work for a big corporation, but under the stipulation that I can work from home and part time (or really anywhere, but with 3 kids, home is the only option). Had we not saved and budgeted so we could rely on just one income, I would be forced to take jobs that I probably did not want.

    My husband must work locally so we do not have total flexibility yet,but at least we partially do. Having one parent available all the time has been invaluable, and if we made different choices, our lives would be much more stressful.

    • says

      @Kris — Having that financial foundation in place is SO amazing! It really frees you, like you said. My boyfriend Will also works locally, so as a couple we aren’t completely independent. But I often take trips without him. :-) And he creates his own schedule, so he frequently builds long weekends for himself.

      Actually, that’s also the answer to your question about what my Dad did after I left the family biz — he replaced me with Will, who is not only a civil engineer, he’s also as much of a tech-dork as they come — you know, the kind of guy who reads science magazines for fun. (I can’t imagine!) He’s also got great business acumen; before we dated, he grew a start-up from two people (him + a partner) to more than 30 employees. He’s a much better fit for running that company.

  9. says

    Location independence does sound awesome and I think it’s great that you actually make a point of including your travelling experience on your resume. I know a lot of other people who try to explain it away or ‘bend the truth’ because they feel the gap’s not going to do them any favours.

    I have to say, reading this makes me so grateful that we have on average 26 days ‘paid holiday’ in the UK. It means that travelling is a possibility.

  10. says

    What a great post. It’s not a good time to buy real estate in Canada with higher prices, but I’m down with maintaining a higher savings rate so that you can build up capital for the future. I think that passive income is a myth; you need to actively build up the capital which means in some sense you’re always trading time for money. That’s fine, though, because compound effects mean that trading off a bit now can lead to much greater rewards in the future.

    I loved the pics, too, they were the perfect complement to the story. :)

  11. says

    I’m with you on real estate. I’ve financed one house with a loan from my 401K and another from I never want to get a traditional mortgage to purchase a home.

    This was a great interview.

  12. says

    The freedom and idea of location independency really is great. If only it was a little bit easier to get that first 200k in captial to start devloping those income producing assets. But I guess such is the adventure of life.

  13. says

    Having lived in four cities with friends in all of them and family in one, I would love to be able to run a business where I could spend time in each and travel for vacation more often.

    I have a side business that I haven’t put much effort into yet. It’s that amygdala! I always say that people with less education and fewer job opportunities are more likely to take the plunge to start a business. They have less opportunity cost.

    One problem is that today, “entrepreneur” often means “can’t find a job” to the opposite sex. Ladies generally don’t like to date guys without a steady income. :-)


    • says

      @UH2L — Then you need to find a lady who understands the awesomeness of entrepreneurship! One of the things that I really dig about my boyfriend is the fact that he’s never, ever “had a job.” :-) It’s one of the reasons I started dating him.

      Plus, if your lady is excited about location independence, you can become one of those amazing couples who start businesses together!

  14. Deana Watson says

    After returning from China, my husband took a new job for which relocated us 50 miles outside of NYC so we are renting out our primary residence. I love the idea of being location independent, and being work independent. It means that travelling is a possibility. Let’s see how things progress… I’ll be sharing periodic updates about that on my blog.

  15. says


    Hats off to you for your decision to own rental properties. You may also want to look into section-8 properties in Atlanta as you can acquire them relatively cheap(around 40-50K), and you are guaranteed payments from the city of Atlanta.


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