I share my thoughts on what it’s like being location independent. After the past three years of living abroad in Southeast Asia (specifically Singapore) and then later nomading around for 6 months, I share my take on this lifestyle and what I want people to know. As one of the cofounders of Asian Wander Women, I want women to feel connected and well equipped to start their own journey of exploring and seeing the world in a different lens.
Having schedule flexibility
This is perhaps more of a blessing than a curse, but it depends on how you work as an individual. Having a flexible schedule might mean you can run out for an appointment or take a dip in the pool in the middle of the afternoon. Most schedules are flexible due to the nature of remote work, but it’s also up to you to perform and keep your job so you can an income.
Traveling makes you more intelligent and worldly
In high school, I would have never thought I would want to live outside of Los Angeles. I ended up living in San Francisco for 9 years. In college, I would have never thought I would be able to work abroad in Asia. I ended up three years in Singapore. Now I’m back in the Bay Area with a different view on the world. I am no longer so stuck in my own thinking of staying in one ideal place; perhaps there is a wonderful soul city there for me. I loved Chiang Mai, Thailand and could see myself retiring there one day.
In the sense that travel makes you more intelligent and worldly, I depict it to your openness and curiosity to the world outside of your bubble. I see it when you ask questions about people’s past and why they are in a certain city, what their perception of work and happiness looks like, and what traditional and non-traditional values are instilled in the minds of travelers. You just learn so much from speaking and talking to others—if you ask the right questions, you can always learn from someone else, regardless of age, sex, religion, etc.
Traveling pushes you outside your comfort zone
When I studied abroad in Beijing, I was very uncomfortable for the first two months. My Mandarin was broken; I had anxiety ordering food and could barely make it through asking for a SIM card. It was chaotic to say the least, and I looked Chinese. Why couldn’t I speak it? I grew up in the states learning English as my primary language and was considered a banana. Yellow on the outside and white on the inside. You are forced to fend for yourself at times while traveling—this makes you uncomfortable, but so much more mature. Your ability to take care of yourself, look after yourself, and be a proven resource to yourself and others gives you that confidence.
You get the optionality to do the things you want
As someone who has been location independent, the optionality of choice is sometimes overwhelming. When your friends decide to leave, should you leave too? When opportunities present itself, should you also take flight and go elsewhere? When the lack of structure, that we’ve all been taught to abide and learn from, has been taken away, you are suddenly grasping at air and wondering what to do next with your life. It’s an exciting thing to be faced with so much newness, but also a fear of choosing a life that is not meaningful for you. Optionality is a double-edged sword and it’s important to know that life is a process, not an outcome.
Whatever choices you make is part of that process.
The world continuously changes with or without you
While you’re out there living your best life, you sometimes forget that the world outside is also moving ahead. When I came back, I was shocked to find a majority of my friends speeding up their timelines, engaged, having children, and buying homes—I sometimes felt behind and pressured to be on the same timeline too. Covid had increased timelines by 5x and I was still chugging along in my own lane. What a funny thing it is to come home and realize everyone has found their life partner.
It’s hard to keep in contact with people
A lot of catchups happened via Whatsapp or Zoom video. It was maybe once a month, 30 minutes or an hour most. You get the highlight reel of everything in your life and in your friend’s. Timezones aren’t helpful, but it takes two hands to clap and to make a friendship work. Naturally, as you get older, you do find it harder to keep in contact with friends and even more so if you are further apart in a different country. Proximity and consistency helps connect people together closer.
Having to adjust your routine or norm while being on the go so often
In the beginning of my time in Taiwan, I gained a significant amount of weight and this was partially due to my increase of consuming good food, but not taking the time to exercise or eat healthier. As someone who tries to walk 7-10K steps per day and works out 2-3 times a week, it was hard not having a routine while being on the go so often. This made me realize how important a routine could be for someone traveling and moving around all the time.
A routine can be taken away. For example, I like waking up at 7 AM regardless, make a cup of coffee, and start my morning well. Exercise routine is established when I’m in a new city and is something I have tried to make more of an effort about.
Dating can be difficult
Talking about dating is like beating a dead horse sometimes. While some of my nomadic friends have met their SOs while traveling, I personally think that I need consistency, time, and exposure to connect with someone more deeply. I’m wary in nature and not as forgiving. Dating is difficult for me because I am looking for best friendship, which takes vulnerability and time. Dating in general (to the nomad and expat community) has been transient and without intention. People are having a good time, not here for a long time.
I personally did not connect with anyone on any personal levels, but I hope my location independent friends do find great people out there. Dating apps are the norm, such as hinge, coffee meets bagel, bumble, and tinder (depending on what you’re looking for).
Due to cultural values instilled in us, I still feel some sort of guilt and responsibility to ensure my parents’ health and safety when they need to go into hospice care.
This is mostly for children of immigrants, especially Asians. It is in our culture to take care of our parents, whether it’s living with them when they’re older or ensuring they’re nearby and close to us. I do worry about my parents’ future and how we’ll be able to support them. Because the job market in tech is doing terrible and thousands are getting laid off, it is quite scary to think about how I will be taking care of myself. Though I am someone who always figures it out.
I hope you found this helpful. If you are ever curious to talk about this more in depth, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or schedule a 1:1 consult/call with me on Superpeer!