TMBA 335: The Long View on Location Independence

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Over the past six years Dan and Ian have used this podcast to discuss different aspects of location-independent entrepreneurship. During that time the movement, and the number of those creating lifestyle businesses, has grown. Many more people have seized the opportunity to travel, live in different parts of the world and have greater control over how they spend their time and energy.

Relatively few, though, have talked openly and online about the challenges and downsides of being, what some call, ‘a digital nomad’. However, two respected writers have spoken out.

Mark Manson and Stacey Herbert have both traveled the world as location independent entrepreneurs, only recently putting down roots for the first time in years. In this episode, you’ll hear them share their thoughts about some of the issues that those pursuing long-term location-independent lifestyles face.


Listen to this week’s show and learn:

  • Why Mark and Stacey decided to write about the “dark side” of digital nomadism. (5:20)
  • What it means to be a “Digital Refugee”. (16:00)
  • Why men seem to make up the majority of digital nomads. (25:05)
  • What made Mark and Stacey decide to put their roots down. (29:40)
  • What direction they believe the location-independent community is going in now. (33:17)

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Dan & Ian


Published on 05.05.16
  • Dan’s points seem to hit the issue on the head:
    – No matter your lifestyle, you need some kind of normal social structure.
    – No matter where you are or how you’re traveling, you have to be able to afford it.

    Not having either one (social / money) handled leads to anxiety and all sorts of weird lifestyles. Balancing both while traveling the world is easier said than done.

  • Ryan Nagy

    Great podcast as usual. I must admit, that I did not realize how young the people in the lifestyle movement were, nor how temporary is the time frame for most of them. I am 48 and I have been living in Mexico for 5 years. Most of my friends who have location independent businesses here are from 30 to 50 years old. And you know what? None of us have plans to go back to our home countries (mainly U.S., Canada and several countries in Europe). We have local girlfriends and wives, some have families. This is “it” for us. Though several of us may move to another country – again for a long-term stay.

    I think what a lot of the young(er) folks are doing is cool and exciting. But it is not really that much different from being a tourist. I am not knocking it. It is a kick ass experience. But it is MUCH different when you learn the language and integrate a bit and perhaps start a local business, volunteer etc.

    cheers! – Ryan

  • I come at this from a slightly different perspective. I just turned 51, married with kids. I’ve been moving more slowly than the 20-something backpacking crowd, but we have been in Philippines, Malaysia, back to US, and then in Puerto Rico over the last five years. Quality education and stability for the 8 and 11 year old are driving us to pick a spot and stay put for at least the high school years. Plus first world conveniences do have an appeal.

    We are planning to move to Austin, and if all goes well, actually buy the house with the white picket fence. It will be nice to have a home base even if we disappear for a month or three from time to time.

    All that said, there’s a recruiting outfit from Hong Kong that’s pitching me on a contract in Shenzhen. If the numbers get big enough, I might get tempted to push back the picket fence for another year…

  • Vincent Ko

    I enjoyed this podcast. I like how you and the interviewers gave an honest view of the location independent lifestyle.

    The nomadic travel phase is so important because it helps you determine what makes characteristics and people make up your perfect city. If you don’t hop from city to city, you won’t have too much to compare to about what you don’t like and don’t like.

    I was location independent for 3-years with my main home-base being NYC. If I hadn’t been nomadic though, I would have never discovered Ho Chi Minh City (I knew nothing about the city before arriving). My time traveling made me realize the three most important thing I want in a city are: an entrepreneurial and evolving city, people that have a positive outlook and smile, warm weather and access to good Asian food. HCMC checks all those boxes for me – I’d never been to a more lively city that was literally sprouting around me, where the locals and expats smile at strangers and have a positive outlook on the future, and the amazing food! So I went the opposite direction that many do, switched from NYC to HCMC. I made the jump and signed a year lease and bought furniture. It feels good though, to have picked a city based on your values/experiences in lots of other cities, setting up roots and evolving your travel plans to 2-6 weeks trips a few times a year, instead of being constantly on the move.

    I agree one of the downsides of the lifestyle is that people come and go. For example, this week we had 2 going away parties in HCMC for people leaving for the Summer. I don’t mind it, I like the new influx of people that come and go. It allows you to meet more people, and like being nomadic to seeing many cities, meeting more people helps you find friends that you connect with – I’ve met some of my best friends on this nomadic journey. I enjoy living with DC’ers or folks traveling through, so I also have one room in my apartment rented out to one of them.

  • Once of the podcasts that were best timed for me. After 15 years out away from my home country and 4 years of location independence we finally have a home base in January (although so far we’ve spent half of the time abroad).

    The conversation hit home completely. I was listening to Mark mentioning the feeling of having to fill up a house with ordinary furniture and things I never owned from our completely empty living room (bar an Ikea futon, balance ball -doubles up as chair and ottoman- basic table and TV. No chairs yet.) I will save you the rest of the rooms in the apartment, little much else.

    It was time for us, but I agree with much that is mentioned in the comments. I kept meaningful relationships with a handful of friends over the years but mostly my relationships have been short and intense, you spill the beans the first time you meet someone, perhaps the second, but in general, I long for deeper meaningful relationships that “could have been”. And that’s perhaps I feel now so eager to be part of small communities where I can bring something to the table beyond being an idea tourist.

    Still, how do you know what bedside table to get if you never thought of them or, if you notice them, is at safari camps and lodges in Africa? Imagine cutlery, bed linen, or appliances! I’m totally overwhelmed. And curtains?! That’s a tricky one for me.

    I also share the feeling that Stacey had the first time she visited Berlin. I have been lucky to have long stays in different African countries always looking for “the place to settle down”. I’ve had a few “Berlin moments”, and I have repeated longer and longer stays to double and triple check the residential potential of A or B. We finally got a lease where more boxes where ticked.

  • I think I have managed well the working part of it, I seat in front of the computer and the frame of the screen becomes partially irrelevant. The trouble comes with controlling finances, healthy routines and keeping in touch what family and friends who moved from “why are you going” to “where are you now” to getting bored about your whereabouts tired of checking the map.

  • cheers Dan, agree hard to do but worth it if you can pull it off!

  • +1 for access to good asian food :) I’ve scoured all of Barcelona in my first month here and ensured I have a good stock of places to go.

    One of my priorities as well was having an extra bedroom in my house and it’s gone a long way to brining in old friends and keeping in touch.

  • agree! defo a bunch of important distinctions not necessarily made in this podcast: traveler, tourist, expat, slow travel, mini-retirement, etc etc etc

  • wow interesting to hear how it goes down Mike!

  • :D we’ll have to talk curtains Jordi

  • DIY diary: Month #5. I still refrain myself of making any holes in the walls.

  • Ryan Nagy

    Hey Dan Freis and Jordi, thanks for putting that into words. Perhaps your responses explains why we all listen to and love TropicalMBA, it gives us some type of normalizing structure or at least the sense that we can have one. My initial plan was to move every 9 to 12 months throughout the Spanish-speaking world and end up in Spain after hitting much of Mexico and Central and South America. But I could not pull it off. It was too isolating and my friendships too transient. But with Mexico and my friends here as a base, I am thinking about starting it up again, but traveling for shorter time periods, say weeks instead of months.

    Business model is also an important factor. I have had to change mine My income has been coming in big bursts 2-3 times per year (I do online conferences in the field of psychotherapy). And while the money is good, the sporadic nature of it messed with my reality a bit. So now I am moving to a membership site model where I do essentially the same thing, but people pay monthly. That should (I hope) bring me more stability and (I hope) make it easier to travel.

    cheers! – Ryan

  • Stacey Herbert

    I have a dishwasher now instead of a cleaner ;)

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