Ever wondered what it’s like to live a location independent lifestyle? Sherry Ott has been traveling for six years combining a freelance career with traveling the world. Worldette’s Laura Coulter catches up her to find out more.
Sherry Ott is a refugee from the corporate world who is now a long term traveler, blogger, and photographer. She has been traveling non-stop for the past six years and is a co-founder of Meet, Plan, Go! a website and national event offering career break or sabbatical travel inspiration and advice. She also runs an around the world travel blog writing about her travel and life experiences at Ottsworld.
How easy is it to live a location independent lifestyle?
Once you let go of the idea of having a home and the stuff that weighs us down and keeps us from moving, it’s actually quite simple. However I’ve been nomadic now for five-and-a-half years and it took about three years to get comfortable with it. The hardest part is making the mind shift. In fact now if I’m in one place for a long time I get really impatient and antsy. I have a storage unit back in New York City where I keep personal things and clothes so I do try to get back there a few times a year to change out seasonal clothes or travel gear.
How did you get used to living with all your belongings in a backpack?
It does get tiring living out of a suitcase and one of the most exciting things is when I’m in a place where I get to unpack my suitcase and hang my clothes on hangers or leave my toothbrush in the bathroom on the counter; those things are pure bliss to me now. Life very simple for me, I have few choices of what to wear and I have very few bills that I pay, cell phone, insurance, and storage unit. It’s certainly not for everyone, but I love it.
What are the best countries to travel with a low cost of living and work profitably as a freelancer?
It’s great when you can find a country that has a low cost of living of course and good, reliable internet; that’s the Holy Grail. South East Asia and South America are both good because they are low cost, but also have a decent infrastructure to support freelancing. Africa on the other hand is low cost, but has little infrastructure. Thailand and Bali come to mind in Asia as there’s not a ton of culture shock there either and they are used to expats.
Have you ever been seriously worried about your income while on the road?
I’ve never been down to my last penny. I have, however, been out of local currency and had no way to get any more thanks to no ATM’s or banks to exchange money, that’s nerve wrecking. However, I watch my spending very, very closely. I have learned to get only what I need. I save up for splurging a few times a month, but overall I like to cook my own meals when possible, take local transport, and travel overland. I also use sites like Tripping.com and CouchSurfing.org to keep costs low. Overall, I go through income stress just like anyone else. It’s like a roller coaster.
How do you treat yourself while on the road? What are your splurges? I realize that your packing is down to an art, but do you indulge in Starbucks while abroad? Magazines? Martinis?
Booze and food are always good splurge. I quite often splurge through bartering my writing or photography services. I do photography, marketing, or public relations for small businesses or websites in exchange for a nice accommodation. The best place I ever did this was in Sri Lanka at a luxury villa where I was there to shoot photography for the website, and I have never lived so luxuriously. I seldom get Starbucks, but I do love to try local coffee. Occasionally I’ll get invited on a press trip and that’s a treat. I don’t ever read magazines any more. I do splurge on massage and pedicures once in a while though in cheaper countries. I think it’s important to do something nice for yourself and treat yourself.
How much money would you recommend for a year long trip or just to get started?
Of course this really depends on where you travel and is different for everyone, but on average, career break travelers spend about $25,000 for a year of travel around the world.
This can be cheaper if you move around less and do slow, overland travel of course. And I have seen budgets where people traveled for a year on $12,000 and some on $50,000.
Where can you save money best when traveling?
Lodging and tours are a great place to save money these days. There are many websites now that will hook you up with locals who are happy to lend you a room or walk you around their city for free. In addition, you can also do things like house sit in exchange for lodging. I’ve done house-sitting in Europe and the United States; it’s a real luxury and a great way to save.
Now that you’ve been on the road for so long where and what does ‘home’ mean to you?
Home is wherever I feel present and happy; it’s where my suitcase is.
How does your family cope with you being on the road for so long?
Oh boy, that’s a can of worms. Family relationships are better than ever. I see a ton of my family and for long extended periods of time. Since I don’t have a home, I often spend weeks at a time with my parents, brother and sister’s family when I’m in the United States. When I was working a traditional job in NYC, I hardly ever saw them.
What about your your friends or any romantic relationships, how do they fit in with you lifestyle? Does it cause any problems?
Friends are a bit more challenging. After five years on the road, friendships are bound to grow more distant. My friends have a hard time understanding my life and I go away for months and months at a time making it hard to stay in touch when I’m remotely traveling. They used to read my blog when it was a novelty, but now I think the novelty has worn off and we all just catch up whenever we can. It’s an area I wish I was better at. However on the flip side, you make a ton of new friends all over the world in my line of work. I have more friends now than ever; I just have very few close friends and find I’ve become much more of a loner in a way.
Romantic relationships are about non-existent for me. I move too much and have no anchor. This is also an area that I wish wasn’t so challenging. It’s really hard to get to know people when you are never in one place long and as a solo traveler you have to keep your guard up. I am quite untrusting when I’m traveling alone, so that makes it really hard to meet people in a romantic or even flirty situation.
Read about Sherry’s experiences, couch surfing and house sitting, as well as all her other adventures on her blog at www.ottsworld.com.
Are you living or considering a location free lifestyle? Let us know in the comments below.