Create a Dream Lifestyle With This Unconventional Strategy That Is Saving Global Freelancers Thousands of Dollars Each Year
My first freelance job was as a Training Consultant for a Fortune 100 company in 1996. I have made a living as an independent freelancer ever since. I always loved the freedom of freelancing, but I didn’t figure out how to leverage that freedom to create a dream lifestyle until 16 years later.
Now when I meet fledgling freelancers who are struggling to establish or sustain themselves as independent contractors, I have one piece of advice that few of them have ever considered as a strategy for success.
The U.S. has the 15th highest cost of living in the world. That means there are 180 countries on the planet where you can live more cheaply. If you are a freelancer who works remotely and has complete location freedom, you can put thousands of dollars in your pocket every year by leaving home for extended periods of time. I’m not talking about a two-week vacation. I’m talking about getting a 3-6 month tourist visa and actually living like a local in another country.
The feast-and-famine nature of freelance work demands that you be a disciplined saver so that you have a cushion when you’re in between projects and contracts. Dramatically lowering your living expenses in another country makes saving money a lot easier. This strategy allowed me to survive with less stress in the economic downturns of the 9-11 attacks, The Great Recession, and the COVID-19 Pandemic.
International Travel Enriches You Both Personally and Professionally
Not only can this traveling lifestyle help freelancers financially, it will also make them more well-rounded, worldly, and valuable professionals. It’s like a chef who travels extensively in different regions of the world in order to learn the intricacies of their cuisine. When you live abroad, you’ll develop a broader perspective that will allow you to land bigger projects with multi-national companies that value your global perspective and experience.
Completely pulling up stakes in your home country to go live like a local in a foreign country is really a lot easier than it seems. Personally I stumbled upon this in 2012 when I was between projects (and simultaneously between homes) and decided to gift myself an extended travel adventure.
The Lifestyle of a Global Freelancer Is Closer Than You Think
By some serendipitous gift of the Google gods, when I was researching how and where to travel for an extended period of time (something that pre-retirement Americans rarely do), the search engine trail led me to the concept of housesitting. Traveling farther down that search wormhole portal led me to Petsitting.
One week later I had my first local petsit. Two weeks later I had a six-week petsit in Australia. I added a five-week petsit in New Zealand shortly after that, and I was elated about the 3-month adventure that was going to cost me not much more than a plane ticket. Serendipitously again, I only booked a one-way plane ticket.
As the time to return to my “normal” freelance existence crept closer, I was expressing my resistance to booking my plane ticket home to a frequent-traveler friend of mine, Jason. A very simple conversation with him was life-clarifying…
JASON: Could you keep petsitting and still do your freelance work?
ME: I don’t see why not.
JASON: Then why don’t you do that?
ME: [LONG pause] I don’t know why not.
JASON: Then just do it.
ME: But how long should I keep doing it?
JASON: Do it until it’s not fun any more!
That was in 2012. I “did it” for two years straight Down Under, petsitting my way around all parts of Australia and New Zealand. And I am still “doing it” today. The “it” being International Petsitting my way around the planet while continuing to do U.S. freelance work.
What Core Values Help You Make Your Life Choices?
Never before that conversation with Jason had I thought I could fashion my life using “Do it until it’s not fun any more” as a core value. In retrospect, making life decisions any other way seems pretty crazy.
In The Year of the Global Lockdown, one of my projects was to organize the 88,000 photos that I have taken in my adventures as a freelancing International Petsitter. Every photo filled me with an overwhelming sense of joy and gratitude for that conversation with my wise and wonderful friend, and the courage that I had to allow myself to live the life that was even better than anything I had been able to dream up for myself.
The gift of the Global Lockdown and the concurrent shutdown of the travel industry was validation of my Carpe Diem philosophy of life, which most people around me view as impulsive and reckless. Yes it is and yes it is. And that’s okay by me.
If the pandemic-monium of 2020 taught us nothing else, it is that “tomorrow” is not guaranteed. The time to be who you REALLY want to be is now.
If a globetrotting laptop lifestyle calls to you, find out how freelancers can live in luxury while spending next to nothing on monthly living expenses… click here >>.
Love this idea! My mom is actually a pet sitter and she LOVES it! Great tips!
Hurray for your mom! If she likes to petsit internationally, I’ve always got more requests for petsitting than I can fit on my calendar, which is booked through the middle of 2022 right now. I’m always glad to pass along the gigs I can’t do to fellow petsitters! Thanks for reading!
I agree that you should be very disciplined to save due to the feast or famine nature of being a freelancer. I do love the independence and lifestyle of travelling to wherever suits.
Yes! My lifestyle is definitely aligned with my frugal tendencies! Thanks for reading!
Location independence is a dream!! Pet sitting is definitely a great option!
Yes! For those whose spirits call them to be free to roam, the full-time globetrotting life is “but a dream.” Merrily, merrily, merrily! Thanks for reading!
I do understand that there are so many less expensive places to use as a base than the U.S. And if you are an animal love, pet sitting around the world would be a great way to do it in a far less expensive way. I like the approach of “doing it until it is not fun anymore”. I have used that approach for many hobbies that I tried until I was ready to stop.
It’s so crazy how “achievement” oriented I was about EVERYTHING. Even hobbies. I felt guilty about giving anything up until I achieved mastery in it, whether it was still fun for me or not. Happily, that’s not for me any more! Life is supposed to be fun. Thanks for reading!
Congratulations on finding the work that combines international travel with it! We are now retired and would have loved to do that earlier! You are so lucky!
Yes… I wish I had stumbled upon it about 20 years earlier myself! But I bet your RV lifestyle is not that much different from mine. Just a slightly different way of “living the dream!” Thanks for reading!
This is such a great and encouraging article. Thank you so much for it. I think it is exactly what I needed to hear right now. Especially the note at the end: ”The time to be who you REALLY want to be is now.” It is awesome, thank you :).
Thank YOU for reading all the way to the end! If I knew “then” what I know now, I would have had a much more expansive life. But I was very caught up in other people’s opinions. Or more accurately MY PERCEPTION of other people’s opinions about what I wanted, what I believed, and what I did. Now that I don’t care about other people’s opinions, I am a much happier and much more authentic human BE-ing, not a fabricated superficial human DO-ing. For me, that is True (with a capital “T”) freedom.
Interesting strategy that I would never of thought of! It is always interesting to see how freelancers make a living and manage their lifestyle.
Freelancers are an eclectic bunch by nature, eh? I agree with you… it’s fascinating to find out how other people are managing their lifestyles! Thanks for reading!
I think it‘s a great lifestyle to live and work from wherever you want. Living cost in some amazing countries is so low and you can make so many experiences. Truly one of my dreams!
The lightbulb went off when I started to do the math! Technology makes EVERYTHING possible! Thanks for reading!
Wow, I don’t know if its something I can imagine doing but I really think petsitting is a good idea. I’ve often thought about being a freelancer but the uncertainty and the instability of it scares me a little. Having said that, if I ever able to become a digital nomad, petsitting would be something I’d look into, to finance my way and travel the world while working remotely.
I hear you! It does seem like a very scary thing… until you do it! You might want to try it out by doing a petsitting vacay first. Most people know if they love it and can’t live without it pretty quickly. Let me know if you need any help!
It’s so nice to read an article about someone making the step in their own right direction! What a great lifestyle, I want to combine both soon as well!
I love that thought… “making a step in your own right direction.” It gave me chill bumps – THANK YOU!
This is such a great way to save money. Me and my partner have done a lot of housesitting trips and it just makes seeing new areas so much easier. We love animals too, so being able to look after dogs and walk them is such a rewarding way to enjoy it.
If you love pets and love travel, it’s a dream lifestyle for sure! Thanks for reading!