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Since 2007 when I first coined the term ‘location independent’ to describe the way of life my then-husband and I had inadvertently created for ourselves, much has moved on in the industry. There are many more names, communities, services and tools for the digital nomads of today – and yet, for me, one thing remains the same…

Being location independent is the ability to earn a living from wherever you are and it’s a mindset.

It’s a mindset because although I own a house, a houseful of stuff, a car and I have 2 children, I still consider myself location independent. If I chose to, I could up sticks and leave in a couple of weeks and relocate somewhere else, safe in the knowledge I could still earn a living and financially support myself. And the other stuff? It’s all relatively easy to sort out, especially when you’ve done it a few times before.

So why belonging?

Belonging touches a raw nerve for me for very personal reasons relating to my adoption. I think it’s a tender spot for many of us who lack a sense of belonging from our lives today. Finding belonging when we live increasingly isolated lifestyles can be a challenge…

  • When local community structures are broken or continually eroded.
  • When more and more people work remotely or from home.
  • When travelling and relocating is increasingly common and many of our relationships are lived through screens, rarely in person.

The community and social groups we may once have felt a part of – our tribes – are changing and we’re having to find new ways of belonging. These days, there are numerous communities for location independent folk and digital nomads to join, but joining still these doesn’t mean you belong.

From my own experience – and those of friends, clients and colleagues – location independence can breed a particular kind of loneliness, isolation and a never-ending quest to find a sense of belonging.

There’s a reason I became location independent and I’m quite sure now – 10 years after I first began – that the real reason was to help me figure out how to find a sense of belonging, no matter where I am in the world nor who I’m with.

The Story So Far…

Looking back to 2003 – in the days before location independence was a thing – my life was very different…

I woke up on a daily basis feeling average, and more often than not below par. With a sore throat, dull and pasty skin and still feeling fast asleep, I’d drag myself out of bed and rush through my morning routine. Contending with a bus ride, a tube ride and then finally an hour-long train journey all before 9am is not the way I’d typically choose to start my ideal day.

My job as a management consultant with Accenture was full-on. I enjoyed the money, the challenge, most of the people and some of the lifestyle, but not the office politics or the sense that I’d have to answer to other people for the rest of my life! But the biggest, most frustrating of hurdles always stopped me from making a change – I had no idea what else I wanted to do.

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 me was my Mum dying. After 2 weeks off, I just didn’t feel able to get back to ‘normal’ and managed to organise a 6-month leave of absence to travel round Australia and New Zealand with Jonathan (where we also got married!). 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.

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) and it felt like an opportunity…

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.

So I continued building my business and Jonathan set up his own freelance graphic design business (he’s now an illustrator) but 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  – an expensive mortgage on a swanky loft apartment, household bills, frequent dinners out etc. – it would only take a downturn in our business for a month or two before it could get very sticky, very quickly for us 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. 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 online?

…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. After finding out we were pregnant with her while we were in Cape Town, I was adamant it wouldn’t curb out travels. We hit the road with her when she was four months old and lived in Dubai, Thailand, Turkey and Edinburgh before deciding 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). I began a new relationship with one of my best friends and we’re working hard to create a new blended family with 4 kids between us.

Jonathan and I co-parent on a 50/50 basis and jointly home educate the children. It helps that we currently live about 5 minutes apart, in a small town in the middle of the UK, patiently waiting until Samson gets past the trickiest of ages for travel so that we can – jointly, separately and blended-ly – travel more!