We live in a tourist town. I meet visitors on vacation in Costa Rica almost daily. When they hear that I live here full-time they usually react in the following way.
First there is surprise: “Really?” they say. And then there is a pregnant pause waiting for me to elaborate. When I don’t, because I’m not always sure where to start, I get a barrage of questions:
“How long have you been here? What do you do for work? Where do you live? Do you speak Spanish?”
And I answer:
“I’ve been living in Costa Rica for three years now. My husband and I both work online. I am a medical writer and my husband has a network of job search websites. We live in a two-bedroom condo across the street from the beach. It’s way smaller than our home up north was, but the beach… the beach!! Yes, I do speak Spanish. I learned when I moved here by going to a language immersion program.”
And they follow-up with:
“You’re so lucky you work online”.
And then I explain:
“Here’s the thing: I’m not lucky. I made a decision that I didn’t want to be accountable to anyone but my family. I created a plan to become self-employed and location independent. I executed my plan. It’s as simple as that.”
Depending on where we are, the conversation may or may not continue. If we’re at the beach bar, it usually does. We talk about how anyone can do what we did, whether or not they have kids, and whether or not they are currently freelancers.
Let’s go over some of what we might talk about if I was having this conversation with you.
Defining your dream
What is it that you want that you don’t currently have in your lifestyle? Do you want to travel more? Do you want more time with your friends and family? Do you want to be your own boss?
Before you can create a plan to make a change, you need to know exactly where you want to go. I suggest individuals enumerate two or three items, in writing, that they think will make their life fuller. Once it’s in writing, it is not set in stone, but it’s a starting point for planning. And that’s the next step.
Creating a plan
You have a defined your dream and it’s now in print. Now it’s no longer a dream but a goal. So how are you going to get to that goal? You’re going to break it down into smaller, quantifiable objectives or steps that can be checked off one by one.
If you want to become location independent, you are going to need to do one major thing before you can do anything else.
Define the obstacles in your path and make a plan to get past them.
Do you have a 9-to-5 job? How will you support yourself if you leave it? Will you even have to leave it? Can you ask your boss for a remote work arrangement?
What about people or entities that depend on you on a daily basis? How can you navigate those responsibilities? Perhaps it’s a business that depends on your oversight or a family member who is dependent on your care and support.
The most difficult obstacle to overcome is usually the least tangible - the emotional obstacle, or that four-letter ‘f’-word - FEAR. This includes all of those ‘what-if’ questions that arise. What if we don’t like it? What if my kids don’t progress at exactly the same rate they are progressing now? What if I don’t get enough work? What if people criticize my decision?
There are solutions to almost all of the above obstacles. Some take more planning, longer planning, or more work than others.
Let’s talk about the most common obstacle, one with which I have the most experience. Supporting yourself in your location independent lifestyle.
Four ways to become location independent
If you go to work in an office every day, but want to develop location independence, you have some options.
- You can adapt some of the skills you have and freelance online.
- You can come up with a completely new-to-you portable business
- You can save money for a period of time to support making less (or no) money for a period of time.
- You can prove to your existing employer that your job can be done remotely.
For more on the topic of working online from anywhere, visit this link.
Before you tackle the above steps, you must consider the ‘why’ in your plan.
Our ‘why’ is a desire to understand cross-cultural differences, speak more than one language, and enjoy a warmer climate.
Once you have your ‘why’, the rest can fall into place. Follow the steps above, and most importantly, have fun along the way.
Liisa Vexler is a blogger at The Family Freedom Project and a published author behind a book of the same name. Liisa is a Canadian writer specializing in the health sector. More recently she writes about her passions, travel and lifestyle. She lives with her husband and two boys ages 7 and 9 in Tamarindo, Costa Rica.