Cordillera Blanca – Huaraz, Peru
An approaching new year is always a good time to reflect on one’s life and decisions. Are we satisfied, or do we need to make a course correction? Are you satisfied, or do you yearn for a course correction? I’m here to tell you that it’s never too late. Whether it’s little changes, or one great big change, there is nothing holding you back. Except you of course. Read on to learn more.
Location Independent euphemistically describes the situation of finding yourself technically homeless. The term was coined by the world class travel photographer Elia Locardi and his wife Naomi at http://www.BlametheMonkey.com. I only recently encountered this talented couple who share my philosophy and my choice of lifestyle, and coincidentally we embarked on our separate adventures at about the same time. It’s certainly not for everyone, but it’s comforting to know that I’m not the only one in the world who embraces this way of living.
What does location independent mean? It literally means that you have no home, no permanent location, and that you are continually on the move from one country to the next. Another new term in the gypsy lexicon is Slo-travel. My buddy Paul France, another convert to perpetual wanderlust, uses this term frequently. Slo-travel is seeing and doing less, but experiencing more. Simply stated, it means spending longer periods of time in fewer locations to immerse yourself deeper into a local culture and experience. Another quote from Elia and Naomi: Experience is the highest priority.
As I’ve so often mentioned before, the simplest things in life can often be the most difficult, simple doesn’t necessarily mean easy. So it is with being location independent and a slo-traveler. But virtually anyone can do it if they really want to. As the Locardi’s say: The only barrier between getting what you want, and not getting what you want, is trying. What prevents so-called normal people from trying? Fear, plain and simple. Fear of the unknown. I’ve found that fear is ephemeral, once it is faced head-on it goes up in a puff of smoke. How many things do we deny ourselves in life, because of something that really doesn’t exist at all?
The Locardi’s transition from the mainstream to the unconventional so closely parallels my own that it begs the question: Are there many more of us eccentrics out here than one would initially suppose? My often repeated motto, my mantra, is to: Live Simple, Live Cheap, Live Free. Kris Kristofferson said it best in his ballad Me and Bobby Mcgee: Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose. There is an empirical truth buried within that song lyric. We are held prisoners within the prisons of our own making. We do it to ourselves. Voluntarily.
Naomi Locardi says: I “thought” I wanted a house, nice cars, nice clothes and the ability to eat out at nice restaurants whenever I wanted. But when we achieved all that I found that I was’t happy. How many of us have had the same experience? She goes on to say: With the economic collapse in the United States we found we had a house worth much less than we owed; we both made a lot of money but we never had any left over. We worked ourselves to exhaustion just to pay the ever-increasing bills, our quality of life sucked.
Beginning in late 2007 that was my predicament exactly, and by 2011 it had reached the point of no return. It finally culminated in divorce, bankruptcy and home foreclosure. Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose. My transition from a minor somebody, into a major nobody, had begun. And like the Locardi’s I started shedding what few remaining possessions (stuff) I had left. Family photos, a first edition book collection, a camera collection and a gun collection went to my kids. My car went to my daughter. Everything else was either sold, given away or dumpsterized. What remained was packed into a small pack and duffel bag, and I left the United States. That was four years and eighteen countries ago.
I left the USA broke and homeless to pursue my photography, writing and travel. Four years later I am debt free, have about three to five years traveling money in the bank, write an international blog and sell my photography worldwide. If I died tomorrow I would die knowing that I had achieved my life’s ambition, and I would die a happy man. But I have no plans to die anytime soon. Freedom, for me, is not having mortgage, insurance and maintenance payments to worry about. No car equals no payment, insurance or maintenance. No cable, internet or phone bills. No gas and electric bills. No water bills. What few things I buy I pay for with cash. The Locardi’s have discovered this alternative, unconventional lifestyle early in life. It took me a bit longer.
They readily acknowledge that things may change, in fact they probably will change. Their business has taken off, and threatens to consume more and more of their time. They photograph iconic worldwide locations for tourist bureaus, magazines and advertizers. They organize and conduct photography tours and workshops around the globe. They do product reviews and endorsements. They are guest speakers, and can be seen frequently on fStoppers and B&H Photo. Bottom-line they are successful and, even more importantly, doing what they love. I am not as financially successful as they are, but my life Happiness Quotient is every bit as high.
I am location independent, I am a slo-traveler, I am a successful photographer, writer and world traveler. My house is my backpack, my business is my computer, my home is the world. My friends are everywhere. It is an amazing way to live: simple, cheap and free. Will it last forever? No. Eventually I will become too old to live this way, but I will cross that bridge when I come to it. Even that will have its satisfactions and rewards: I will have my memories, my accomplishments, my Scotch and cigars and even possibly a dog. Life is not about stuff, it is about experience. Experience should be the highest priority. On that I totally agree with the Locardi’s. You should checkout Elia’s photography at www.BlametheMonkey.com.
This life doesn’t have to be an all or nothing proposition. Embrace the bits & pieces that speak to you. The life of a vagabond doesn’t appeal to everyone. To many, especially to women, a house suggests comfort, stability and security. The instinct to hunker down and nest is a human instinct. In my experience it’s more of an illusion (delusion) than a reality, it can all be gone in an instant. Experience is more lasting than material stuff. The key, I think, is to live life on your terms, and not to be ruled by fear and a lack of trying. Heed the advice of the Locardi’s: The Barrier between getting what you want, and not getting what you want, is trying.
Stephen F. Dennstedt
Photographer, Writer and World Traveler