Before I became location-flexible, I spent a few years thinking, dreaming and reading about it. I’ve always loved reading about other people’s experiences for inspiration.
At first it didn’t seem possible to find a way to live without my salary. I had some income from side businesses, but not nearly enough to live on. It looked like I had only two choices: stay in the rat race and continue to earn a good salary and benefits, or quit my job and become a bag lady, struggling to make ends meet.
Well, it turns out there are alternatives. All the reading that I did got me to stop thinking so much about money and focus instead on something more valuable: my time.
Of course it helped that I’m a white, middle-class American with all the privileges that brings. And I already had years of a salary and benefits, and skills that could be used for online work. But even if you don’t have all those factors, I think it’s becoming more possible to design a different kind of working life, one that allows for a bit more freedom, balance, and a chance to focus on what’s important to you.
These are the books that inspired me and helped me see that it is possible to create an enjoyable life after leaving a salaried job (without becoming a “bag lady).”
Here’s a table of contents, since this post is long!
- Simple living/minimalism
- Cheaper places to live in the U.S.
- Taking a career break
- Cheap places worldwide
- Travel and living abroad
- Tiny houses, moveable houses, etc.
- Ideas for earning money
I’ve enjoyed reading on this topic for many years. I like getting rid of stuff and I feel better with fewer possessions. Here are some books that inspired me to move to a smaller place and get rid of most of my possessions (something I did in stages, starting a year before I left my job).
- The Power of Less: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essential…in Business and in Life
- Slowing Down to the Speed of Life: How To Create a Peaceful, Simpler Life
- On a Dollar a Day: One Couple’s Unlikely Adventures in Eating in America
- Were You Born on the Wrong Continent?: How the European Model Can Help You Get a Life
- The New Good Life: Living Better Than Ever in an Age of Less
- Luxury of Less: The Five Rings of Minimalism
- Beyond Wealth: The Road Map to a Rich Life
- Living in the Land of Enough
- How to Live Rent-Free, Save Tax-Free, and Escape the Rat Race by this Time Next Year…or Sooner!
- The Man Who Quit Money
- You Can Buy Happiness (and It’s Cheap): How One Woman Radically Simplified Her Life and How You Can Too
Since I lived in Boston my whole adult life, I thought about moving to a less expensive location. I grew up in Omaha, Nebraska and considered moving back, except for the fact that I enjoy living car-free and the public transportation there is not so good.
But, Omaha has changed a lot since the years when I lived there and I may still consider living there for part of the year at some point in the future. There are some walkable neighborhoods and a lot of interesting renewal projects where historic buildings are being turned into living spaces.
I enjoyed reading about different parts of the U.S. and comparing the price of living along with other factors that matter to me (walkability, arts & culture, weather). Here are some good starting points.
Books that compare different places
- Where to Retire, 7th: America’s Best & Most Affordable Places
- Life 2.0: How People Across the Country Are Transforming Their Lives to Make Their Own American Dream
- Nextville: Amazing Places to Live the Rest of Your Life
Web sites for comparing places in the U.S.
- City Data – It’s fun to browse their forums, where people ask and answer questions about living in different parts of the U.S.
- Rentbits – Compare apartment rental rates in cities around the U.S.
Books about specific places
- Moon Spotlight Providence – The Moon Handbooks are great. I considered living in Providence, RI for a while.
One idea I had was to take a break from my job for a year. Of course, this would have involved complex negotiations with my employer. In the end, I decided that I really didn’t want to go back to the same job, it was just the idea of a safety net that appealed to me in case I didn’t like living without a salary.
Books to read if you’re thinking of this option
- Reboot Your Life: Energize Your Career and Life by Taking a Break
- Escape 101: The Four Secrets to Taking a Sabbatical or Career Break Without Losing Your Money or Your Mind
- The Family Sabbatical Handbook: The Budget Guide To Living Abroad With Your Family
- Live Your Road Trip Dream
I’ve always enjoyed traveling outside of the U.S. and did more of it when I was younger (Russia, Guatemala, the Yucatán peninsula of Mexico, and India). Once I got busier with career life, I never seemed to have enough time, so I traveled less later on. Because I’ve always wanted to see more of the world, I started investigating how it might work for me to live outside of the U.S.
I started with general overviews of many places worldwide. Also, books written for retirees are useful, even if you aren’t retiring.
- How to Retire Overseas: Everything You Need to Know to Live Well
- Retirement Without Borders: How to Retire Abroad–in Mexico, France, Italy, Spain, Costa Rica, Panama, and Other Sunny, Foreign Places (And the Secret to Making It Happen Without Stress)
- The World’s Cheapest Destinations: 21 Countries Where Your Money is Worth a Fortune
Then I decided to focus on Mexico and Latin America.
- Living and Retiring in Cuenca: 101 Questions Answered
- Escape To Paradise: Living & Retiring In Panama
- Total Uruguay Expat eBook
- Living Abroad in Guatemala (Moon Handbook)
- Living Abroad in Costa Rica (Moon Handbook)
- Central American Cost of Living: A Travelogue of Day-To-Day Costs In Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama
I also subscribed to this magazine (print and PDF):
- International Living Magazine They promote a lot of expensive seminars for people wanting to buy real estate in other countries, but if you can ignore the sales pitches, their articles are quite interesting and inspiring.
One way to live cheaply and see the world is through house-sitting. It’s a great option, especially if you’re handy with repairs and good with animals. Since I’m allergic to cats and not really very handy, it’s not my first choice. But I did enjoy house-sitting for friends in Boston while they went to India for four months. It gave me the chance to continue living in Boston (but more cheaply), when I first left my job.
- Break Free: The Ultimate Guide to Housesitting
- Finding the Gypsy in Me – Tales of an International House Sitter
- Trusted Housesitters
- Mind My House
- House Careres
- How to become a house sitter and never pay for accommodation
After reading about many locations, Mexico appealed to me. It’s a short flight from the U.S., I already knew a little bit of Spanish, and I like the idea of not being too many time zones away from my friends back home (good for Skype conversations).
Here’s what I read that helped me choose where to go in Mexico.
- Choose Mexico for Retirement, 10th: Information for Travel, Retirement, Investment, and Affordable Living
- Rescue Your Retirement-In Mexico! How One Man Found a New Life After Losing Half of His Retirement Income and Savings!
- Retire in Mexico – Live Better for Less Money — Live the American Dream in Mexico for half the price.
- Moon Living Abroad in Mexico (The Moon “living abroad” series is available for many countries and quite good).
- The People’s Guide to Mexico
- On Mexican Time: A New Life in San Miguel
- Midlife Mavericks: Women reinventing their lives in Mexico
- Bus Across Mexico – Lots of details about how to travel cheaply on very nice first-class busses through Mexico.
I chose Oaxaca as my first place to live for several reasons. It’s known for fascinating culture (art, crafts, music, ancient ruins, colonial architecture). It’s also a big enough city to offer all the things that cities offer (public transportation, cultural events, good restaurants, etc). It has a community of expats, but they don’t stay in a gated community speaking English all the time, like some other places in Mexico. It sounded interesting to me and it is!
- Moon Oaxaca
- Viva Oaxaca: An Insider’s Guide to Oaxaca’s Charms
- Diario de Oaxaca: A Sketchbook Journal of Two Years in Mexico
Websites & Blogs:
Living in Mexico City
Someday I will visit Mexico City. I don’t know if I’ll live there, but I might. These are books that have inspired me about living there in spite of pollution and crime. It turns out that pollution has been reduced in the past few years and the crime is similar to other large cities worldwide (not anything like the drug-related violence in the north of Mexico).
- Mexico City drastically reduced air pollutants since 1990s
- Are Americans safer in Mexico than at home?
- Mexico City: An Opinionated Guide for the Curious Traveler (see blog below)
- Mexican Enough: My Life between the Borderlines
- Down and Delirious in Mexico City: The Aztec Metropolis in the Twenty-First Century
- First Stop in the New World
- Oh Mexico! : Love and Adventure in Mexico City
- Mexico City: An opinionated guide for the curious traveler (see book above)
- Mexico City Vibes
- Mexico Mike
- Midwesterner in Mexico
- The Mija Chronicles
- David Lida: Mostly Mexico City
Here are a few more books and blogs that have inspired me.
- The Solo Traveler’s Handbook: For Those Who Love And Those Who Long To Go Solo
- Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel
- How to Travel Full Time
- At Home Anywhere – Six Proven Expat Secrets for Making Yourself at Home In Any Foreign Country
- Almost Fearless
- Beers and Beans
- Legal Nomads
- Live Work Abroad
- Never Ending Voyage
- Nomadic Chick
- Nomadic Matt
- Nomadic Notes
- Retire Early Lifestyle
- Technomadia – The authors work online and travel the U.S. in a converted bus. I met them at SXSW a few years ago.
- Thrilling Heroics
- Vagabond Mary
Another idea for living simply is to live in a “tiny house” or a moveable dwelling of some type. I may try that in the future. Here are some books that have inspired me about small space living.
- The Small House Book
- Tiny Tiny Houses
- Twelve by Twelve
- Portable Houses
- Off the Grid: Live in a Van, Truck, Trailer, or Motorhome
- The Tiny House Revolution: A Guide to Living Large in Small Spaces
I like the Tiny House movement so much that I created a website to aggregate information about it,: http://smallwow.com/tinyhouses
I’ve been interested in entrepreneurship for a long time. In 2009 I started a side business with a co-worker. It’s called Feedwelder, and it’s a tool for webmaster to easily blend and display RSS news feeds on websites for a small monthly subscription fee. It’s not live yet, but we plan to go live in 2013. I also teach online courses and I enjoy that immensely! This year I’m working on two book projects and next year I hope to develop more courses.
All of these involve creating tools, products, services that bring in money after I’m done creating them. What I learned from my reading is that it’s better not to sell your time by the hour or project, because that’s not much better than having a salaried job in terms of time spent (it may even be worse, because you have to drum up business). Instead, I work very hard during certain months of the year (creating products), and then get income from those products while I’m on vacation or relaxing and visiting different locations.
A year from now I’ll report back on how sustainable this is. If it doesn’t work, I could always apply for a salaried job again. I’m going to do everything I can to make it work, though, because I love this way of life!
- The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future
- The 4-Hour Workweek, Expanded and Updated
- Making a Living Without a Job, revised edition: Winning Ways for Creating Work That You Love
- Get a Life, Not a Job: Do What You Love and Let Your Talents Work For You
- Will Work for Fun: Three Simple Steps for Turning Any Hobby or Interest Into Cash
- Rules for Renegades: How to Make More Money, Rock Your Career, and Revel in Your Individuality
- Career Renegade: How to Make a Great Living Doing What You Love
- The Great Reset: How the Post-Crash Economy Will Change the Way We Live and Work
So that wraps it up. This post is longer than I expected! I read a lot in the past few years and it was fun gathering all this information in one place. If you have suggestions for additional resources, let me know!