Becoming Location Independent

The five years I spent as a professor gave me a small taste of what life is like working for yourself. Sure, the experience was not entirely equatable–I had health insurance and a steady income, but I could (mostly) control how I spent my days. As long I showed up to campus to teach my classes, attend committee meetings, and hold office hours, the rest of the time I could work where I wanted.

I easily spent more time working in local coffee shops than I did my office. When I was on a tight deadline, I would work until the wee hours of the morning, but it was in the comfort of my own home, unshowered, and in yoga pants. But it was still work. The fluid nature of my schedule meant that I could drive my kids to and from school each day, and I could spend an entire day chaperoning my niece’s field trip to the zoo without having to take a vacation day.

I thrive when I have this type of freedom in my schedule.

It’s not that I want to be a digital nomad; I honestly think I’d grow tired of constantly moving around, and I don’t want to be that far away from Emma and Oliver (and my niece and nephews) for an extended period of time. I just want to be location independent, so that I could jaunt off to India whenever I had the inkling.

Of course the downside, for some, is that it also means that I don’t take traditional vacations from work; when I’m traveling, I’m just working in a new location. I graded papers on a slow boat through Laos this past summer and have written articles in coffee shops all over the world.

I genuinely love the work, so it never feels bothersome, and I’m the type of person who feels restless without a project.

When I left academia in May, my initial plan was to become a full-time freelancer, but I couldn’t quite make the leap. I felt that I needed more stability while the kids were still in school, so I took a job teaching. I’m working at a great school and have supportive colleagues and awesome students, so I’m quite happy to be doing this while I write on the side.

I haven’t lost sight of my goal, just doing it in a way that makes sense for me and my family. I will make the leap; it just has to be more calculated when you’re responsible for two other humans.

In true Jen Roberts fashion, I’ve made one too many to-do lists. I’ve mapped goals, outlined dates, created budgets, and obsessed over every detail as I try to write as much as possible when I’m not at work. It’s the same level of commitment and sacrifice that it took to finish my Ph.D. while teaching full-time. I didn’t have much of a social life then, but that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make. Maybe next year at this time I’ll be writing from Bali.




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