Technology and the internet have given us the ability to be location-independent. An increasing number of people are finding that they can take their skills and leave the traditional working life behind. They’ve discovered that it is possible to earn a living while travelling the world. Living a life that’s centred around where you want to live, not where you work.
Christine and Drew Gilbert and their son Cole are the poster family for the location-independent lifestyle. Over the course of their global journey, they’ve met many other converts to this new way of living.
The Seattle couple has been travelling and working online (Christine as a writer/photographer and Drew as a graphic designer/animator) since 2008. From the beginning, they’ve been writing about their adventure on their blog Almost Fearless.
Now they’ve taken their experience and the experiences of 18 others to create a documentary about the first generation of people who have a career and travel around the world at the same time: The Wireless Generation.
Speaking to Christine in Thailand via the internet (how appropriate), I asked her about the unconventional lifestyle that she, Drew and Cole lead.
When did you first decide that you wanted to live this kind of life?
I had always talked about writing, traveling and picking up photography, and always hated my job, regardless of how high up the corporate ladder I climbed. It was actually Drew who first said, “We can live off of what I make. Why do we have to stay here?” A week or two later we were making plans on how to leave that life behind.
How were you able to become location-independent?
We were fortunate that Drew had essentially been able to work from anywhere for years before we left. It was just a matter of convincing his bosses that he could still be productive from Madrid, then Central America. Throughout that time, I grew my blog, and was very fortunate that people seemed to like what we were doing, so by the time Drew was let go by his company, I was in a good position to try monetizing Almost Fearless, and it worked out!
How can others do the same?
If you work in a field that can be done remotely, very carefully see if your boss would be open to you doing it from home — prove that you are invaluable and still productive in that role, then see if you can stretch that to go farther. Or, learn a skill set that you can take on the road with you: virtually any creative endeavour (graphic design, illustration, writing, photography), if you are hard working and have some talent. Also most jobs that would require you to sit at a computer all day, IT work, etc. Be prepared to work harder than you ever have before — if you are working for yourself, a big chunk of your work day will be spent just looking for more work.
How did things change once Cole was born? Is it difficult to travel pregnant/with a child?
Having a child is challenging, whether you stay put or move around. We just choose to do it on the road. Cole still travels shockingly well for a 2.5 year old, so we are very lucky in that regard, and we spend most of our time in countries where people adore kids, so our experience has been really positive.
What inspired you to tell the story of location-independent people?
Drew and I had talked about making a film. It was something he wanted to do, so we talked about what we could film that would take us to interesting places and fit well with our lifestyle once Cole was born. We realized no one was talking about this amazing thing Drew was doing, working full time from a hostel in Costa Rica or at a cafe in Madrid. It seemed like a no-brainer that we should find people like us and tell their stories.
Who are The Wireless Generation? Do they share certain traits?
Drew kept asking that same question – he was obsessed with finding a thread that could connect all of these disparate people – singles, couples, families, and the thing is, it’s different for everyone. Some of them are adventurers, some just needed a change. Almost all of them are perfectly normal people who just decided to do something a little bit crazy.
How difficult was producing a documentary while travelling?
Oh, it’s not difficult at all if you ignore the screaming matches, hair pulling, object hurling, infrastructure issues that cause long power outages, the fact that it takes several days to get back in a groove when arriving at a new location, the fact that we haven’t ever tried something of this scale before, etc. Other than those things, it’s all incredibly easy.
The film was partly funded through the crowd funding website Kickstarter. Christine and Drew’s Kickstarter project helped them raise more than $35,000 for their documentary – much of it from strangers.
Were you surprised at the response to your Kickstarter campaign?
It was a very exciting/harrowing month that seemed to consume every waking moment for both of us. I think rather than surprised, I just feel so incredibly thankful and honoured that we got so much support from so many people who we have never met or interacted with.
Working and travelling isn’t for everyone. But it is certainly an option for those who need more than just a few weeks away every year. The location-independent lifestyle doesn’t have to be permanent either. Many people do it for fixed periods of time or choose to live closer to home.
As Christine says, “Even if your workplace is an hour away, and you work from home and get to spend more quality time with your kids, I think you are part of the Wireless Generation.”
The Wireless Generation will hit the film festival circuit in 2013.