“You’re working while on vacation?”
The question came from an American tourist sitting near me at a cafe in northern Paris. It was late in the evening, and I was slowly working my way through a nutella crepe while doing some research on my iPad for an article that I was writing.
The tourist seemed to be around my age, and he looked exhausted. From his bags, I gathered that he had spent the day running across the city, cramming in as many activities and sights as possible during his limited time here.
I’d already been in Paris for nearly a week, and had barely gone to any of the standard attractions. I tried to visit the Eiffel Tower, but its workers were on strike. That’s just about the only thing I’ve attempted to see.
Instead, my days are filled with buying bread, cheese and fruits at the open-air market; spending long afternoons people-watching at cafes, and taking leisurely walks to nowhere in particular.
France, nation number 29 in my 30-countries-by-age-30 goal, is the first true test of my location independence. A few weeks ago I traveled to Jamaica for a friends’ wedding, but I was only there for a week. Yes, I worked while I was there, but because I knew that I’d be back home within a few days, the pressure wasn’t as high. Anyone can take it easy for a week without doing too much long-term damage to their career.
This trip, however, is a different story. Spending nearly 20 days in Paris, I’m not so much “vacationing” as I am living my normal everyday life, with this new city as the backdrop.
“No, I’m not working on vacation,” I told the weary tourist. “My life is a vacation.”
Life, With a New Backdrop
I’ve fallen into a nice groove, a daily pattern: Wake up, have a slow breakfast, take a leisurely walk. Pick up some groceries, stop for lunch and people-watching, and return to the apartment in the mid-afternoon.
I’ve reserved 3 pm to 11 pm as my “official working hours.” This corresponds to the 9 am to 5 pm workday in Eastern Time, which means its the best time to send instant back-and-forth emails, make Skype calls, and otherwise carry on exactly as I would if I were back home. The streets are always buzzing with people, so there’s still time, late at night, to go for an after-work glass of wine.
I had pledged to spend at least one week per country in my 30-by-30 quest, but one week is a bare minimum. I spent 10 months in Australia, two months in Indonesia, taken 6 trips to Thailand and 8 trips to Nepal.
The intent behind my one-week minimum (one month preferred) is that I’m trying to live my normal life against this new backdrop. To make friends in each new place I visit. To find my favorite place to buy socks and get a haircut. My favorite dentist is in Bangkok, my favorite yoga class is in Prague.
This is location independence, the quality that I’ve based my business (and my life) around. I don’t want to see the Eiffel Tower; I want to see what my life is like when it plays out in a new setting. And thanks to the Internet, I can work from anywhere on the planet. Why stay in one place?
So what’s life like here? Long days. Brisk temperatures. Lots of cheese. And plenty of people to meet.
I’d better get rolling. After lunch, of course.