Being location independent is a way of working, a way of living and – more than anything – it’s a mindset, a way of being…
Freedom is one of my core values – I build my personal and my business lives around this goal and I am driven by the desire to do what I want, when I want, with whom I want and where I want.
Sometimes this means living and working from an exotic-looking location halfway round the world, but most of the time it means working from the comfort of my home in the UK.
I know how privileged I am to be able to experience this freedom and so I make the most of it every single day. This is what freedom means to me. What does it mean to you?
Who Am I?
I am Lea Woodward – a British, home-educating mother of two.
Quite accidentally, I first coined the term, “Location Independent” in 2007, when I first created this site to document my global travels with my then-husband, Jonathan.
I didn’t think “nomadic” accurately described what we were doing – running our business online from wherever we travelled to – and so I came up with the term, Location Independent*, instead.
* I first used “LIP living” (short for ‘Location Independent Professionals Living’) but soon realised it wasn’t the most descriptive or snappy term 😉
How We Got Started: The Short Version
Back in 2005, fed up with the instability of the rat race and working for other people – as a management consultant and graphic designer – we decided to go it alone and set up our own businesses (my current one is here).
Not wildly excited about the prospect of economising for a few years until our business ventures took off, we hit upon the idea of living in a lower cost country which would enable us to maintain the lifestyle we enjoyed – but at a much lower cost. And so we left the UK in early 2007, headed for Panama.
We spent the next two years travelling to places such as Thailand, South Africa, Grenada, Italy, HK, Turkey and the Caribbean, until a rather unexpected addition to the family came along – our daughter, Mali.
Undeterred by parenthood, we hit the road again in 2009 when Mali was 4 months old. Before the age of one she had travelled to and lived in the UK, Thailand, Italy, Dubai, Turkey and Scotland.
In 2013, we also welcomed Samson to the family. In 2016, we split up as a couple though not as a family, and currently both have a home base in the UK. Even with our new family structure, we plan to travel – together and separately – for 1-3 months at a time, while we home educate both our children.
How We Got Started: The Long Version
Looking back to our lives in 2003 – in the days before location independence was a thing – they were very different…
We woke up on a daily basis feeling average, and more often than not below par, especially if we’d been out the night before. With sore throats, dull and pasty skin and still feeling fast asleep, we’d drag ourselves out of bed and rush through our morning routines.
Contending with a bus ride, a tube ride and then finally an hour-long train journey (me) and a 90-minute car drive through the suburbs of North London (Jonathan) all before 9am is not the way we’d typically choose to start our ideal days.
The Daily Grind…
For us both, our jobs were full-on – as a management consultant (me) and an in-house designer (Jonathan) with barely a break for lunch. On arriving home after 9pm, we would usually collapse on the sofa for 10 minutes then drag ourselves up to cook some dinner (always some sort of pasta and sauce – it was quick and easy!) before collapsing back on the sofa afterwards, turning on the TV and falling asleep until we woke with a start at gone midnight only to have to get up and actually get into bed again.
The next day was usually the same. As was the next and the next and the next…
The rare holidays we took were not for lack of money – our combined joint salary was way above average and we could pretty much afford to do mostly what we wanted – but lack of time.
Scheduling holidays around clients demands and projects was a nightmare and taking more than 3-4 weeks off was a bad career move and simply not the ‘done thing’. So snatched holidays here and there were idyllic but all too short.
Today, my life is very different…
I do what I want, when I want, with whom I want, and where I want.
So how did we got from the merry-go-round of the corporate rat race to the free-as-a-bird wanderings of a location independent lifestyle?
The Catalyst To Change…
Usually there’s a catalyst. Something that moves you from the status quo to something…different. The unknown is terrifying so it’s usually easier to stick with the known, even if it’s not quite what you want.
The catalyst for us was my Mum dying from a cancer-related complication. We promptly arranged a 6-month leave of absence and had an epiphany while travelling around Australia & New Zealand.
On my first day back in the office – totally NOT according to the very loose plan I had in my head – I quit my job. I think it’s still a company record.
The Career Change…
I decided to pursue a long-time interest in health and fitness, and re-trained to become a personal trainer, before becoming more deeply involved in the holistic aspect of wellness.
After 2 years of running my holistic health business, Jonathan was made redundant from his remote, corporate design job (for the 3rd time in 2 years).
We decided we’d had enough of someone else controlling our income and our lives, and realised that it was time to decide what we really wanted to do with the rest of our lives – instead of following the conventional path that we’d found ourselves on.
Ultimately we knew we had to do something different. Here’s what we decided to do:
- Jonathan would set up his own freelance graphic design business (he’s now an illustrator).
- I would continue running my health & fitness coaching business whilst building up the business/marketing coaching side (coaching & consulting for other fitness professionals to improve their businesses) which I seemed to have fallen into.
While our fledgling businesses were generating enough income to cover our outgoings, we were plagued by the niggling worry that there was no guarantee it would continue that way…
Given the high level of our outgoings (expensive mortgage on a swanky loft apartment, household bills etc.), it would only take a downturn in our business for a month or two before it could get very sticky financially.
Becoming Location Independent…
We tried budgeting and being super frugal for a few weeks but it wasn’t much fun. In the meantime, I began to wonder whether there was another creative solution to the problem – other than simply reducing our outgoings.
Having already travelled a lot in my life, I knew that there were plenty of places in the world where you can live on a lot less than we were earning and have the same, if not a better standard of living. So we asked ourselves:
What if we left the UK for one of these places and continued to run our existing businesses?
…and that’s how we ended up in Panama – speaking zero Spanish and having told our family and friends we were moving there – on what became the very first of our location independent adventures. But instead of staying there, we decided to keep moving!
Over the next three years, we were privileged to enjoy living in the places such as Buenos Aires (Argentina), Grenada (West Indies), Cape Town (South Africa), Plettenberg Bay (South Africa), Phuket (Thailand), HK, Turkey, Italy, Dubai and more.
Enter Children (Unexpectedly!)…
In 2009, we unexpectedly welcomed a new member to the family – our daughter Mali. We hit the road with her when she was four months old, and then decided we wanted a home base when she turned one. In 2013, we welcomed Samson into the family and spent two months in Thailand with them both in 2014.
The Current Chapter…
In 2016, Jonathan and I split up. Very amicably. We jointly home educate the children and currently have home bases about 5 minutes away from each other. We’re waiting until Samson gets beyond the most tricky ages for travel before we think about hitting the road for longer periods of time, possibly together but definitely individually and with the children.
To keep up with the latest, find me on Facebook and say ‘hello’!
(Note: I don’t friend strangers until they’re real life friends).