Is Location Independence Overrated?

A lot of us seek ‘location independence’ — but is this something that will bring us happiness?

What is ‘location independence’?

Saigon, 2018
Saigon, 2018

I think the notion of location independence means:

To be able to live anywhere you desire at a certain moment of your life.

For example, if I’m in LA, and suddenly want to live in Osaka, if I were ‘location independent’, I can instantly jump on a plane, and live in Osaka for however long I desire, without having to show up to my job or whatever.

My theory

Saigon, 2018 with Jennifer, Cindy, and Annette
Saigon, 2018 with Jennifer, Cindy, and Annette

This is my theory:

I don’t think we desire ‘location independence’– rather, we just seek independence for working for a boss, a company, or corporation, which limits our personal freedom.

My experience being location-independent

Anaheim, 2018 #cindyproject
Anaheim, 2018 #cindyproject

Technically I am currently location-independent. I can live anywhere, at any time, for however long I want (finances depending).

Personally I like this freedom of not having to be stuck in one spot. I have the option of living anywhere (if I choose).

For example the last 2 years, Cindy and I have lived at:

  • Hanoi, Vietnam (8 months)
  • Saigon, Vietnam (3 months)
  • Osaka, Japan (1 month)
  • Kyoto, Japan (1 month)
  • Bay Area (San Jose with my mom, 1 month)
  • New York City (technically based in Fort Lee, New Jersey, with my cousin for about a month).

I know for myself, I’ve been enjoying this nomadic lifestyle, in the sense that it prevents me from getting comfortable. To me, the source of a lot of my creativity comes from discomfort. Thus for myself, discomfort leads to creative ideas.

The upside of being rooted in one spot

My current vlogging setup
My current vlogging setup. Being rooted has helped me focus on producing more videos.

Currently I am stationed at Cindy’s mom’s house in Little Saigon, Orange County. I really like being here right now, because with my current life goal of deadlifting 500 pounds– I need regular and close access to a gym. There is fortunately a gym I signed up for that is literally a 2 minute drive from the house. And this has been great, because I’ve been able to go to the gym at least once a day (every day); sometimes I even go twice a day! (I love the dry sauna at the gym to come up with creative ideas).

food Korean bbq
Unlimited Korean BBQ, only $12.95 (my heaven)

Thus, with my current goal of wanting to deadlift 500 pounds, it is actually better for me to be rooted in one spot for a while. Thus, if my 500 pound deadlift is my current goal, I actually would prefer NOT to travel right now, to NOT live intermittently or nomadically at the moment.

Shot on Fujifilm XF10, SR+ mode in JPEG, processed with iPad
Shot on Fujifilm XF10, SR+ mode in JPEG, processed with iPad. Little Saigon, 2018

So perhaps the notion of ‘location independence’ isn’t an ultimate goal we should strive towards; rather, we should think to ourselves:

What are my current life goals, and what kind of lifestyle would actually allow me to attain those goals?

The upside of paying (very little money) in rent.

Processed with VSCO with d2 preset

For example, we are currently living at Cindy’s mom’s house, and we are only paying $500 USD a month in rent (we technically don’t need to pay Cindy’s mom rent– but we feel it is the ethical thing to do).

Little Saigon, 2018
Little Saigon, 2018

Furthermore, here in Little Saigon, food is insanely cheap. I can buy 1 pound of ground beef or pork for only 99 cents!!! Even though I am a voracious meat-eater, even I cannot really eat more than 2.5 pounds of meat a day. Thus, it technically only costs me $2.50 a day to feed myself.

Paris baguette street photography
Paris Baguette coffee shop. Little Saigon, 2018

Cindy and my expenses right now are at an all-time low; which is great, because it means we are able to save a lot more money. Remember our formula:

The easiest way to stack dollars in our bank accounts is to reduce our living expenses to the bare minimum.

Do you prefer spending money, or saving money?

Xf10 and SR+ mode. Processed with VSCO with n1 preset. Newport Beach, 2018 #cindyproject
Xf10 and SR+ mode. Processed with VSCO with n1 preset. Newport Beach, 2018 #cindyproject

I’ve also discovered for myself this truth:

Saving money is more fun than spending money, and more challenging (in a fun way).

And because I make my money digitally (by selling HAPTIC products via our shop or because I teach workshops intermittently around the globe, it technically doesn’t really matter where I am– as long as I have access to wifi (anywhere in the world), and access to coffee (fortunately also everywhere in the world), I am good.

Intermittent living

Working out of a hotel in Osaka, 2018 Cindy
Working out of a hotel in Osaka, 2018

I don’t think I’ve heard the notion of ‘intermittent living’ yet (we have the notion of ‘intermittent fasting’).

The basic idea is this:

Be location independent, but when you live in a spot, strive to live in that location for a more extended period of time– perhaps 3 months, 6 months, or 1 year.

Our tiny yet effective kitchen in Osaka, where we lived for 1 month (found the apartment on AirBnb)
Our tiny yet effective kitchen in Osaka, where we lived for 1 month (found the apartment on AirBnb)

I know for myself, I don’t really envision myself buying a house somewhere, and living there until I die at age 120. I have no idea where my future is going to lead me, but this seems to be the only certainty:

I will never be ultimately ‘settled’ in one spot.

What if location independence isn’t the goal?

My substance-creation tools. Osaka, 2018
My substance-creation tools. Osaka, 2018

If you’re starting your own photography business, or trying to get yourself off the ground, perhaps it is a good strategy to stay in one spot, and pay the minimum amount of money for rent or expenses. Ain’t no shame with living with your momma (I love my umma to death).

Cindy at work in our apartment in Osaka, 2018
Cindy at work in our apartment in Osaka, 2018

I also think the goal of being an entrepreneur is to maximize our freedom in life– our freedom of the hours of our day, and to maximize our free time. I don’t think it is to have the ability to live a ‘baller’ lifestyle (that shit gets old).

Cindy's writing tools
Cindy’s writing tools

Thus perhaps if your goal is to have more freedom over your life, location independence isn’t necessarily a good thing — because if you are living an ‘location independent’ lifestyle, it is often more expensive! Airfare (plane tickets) add up, and generally speaking, if you are airBnb’ing or staying in hotels for a shorter period of time, your living expenses will be higher than if you just stayed rooted in one spot.

Do you want to just keep traveling for the rest of your life?

Lumix LX100 selfie. Osaka, 2018
Lumix LX100 selfie. Osaka, 2018

I also think the point isn’t to just keep living on a plane, jumping from foreign city to foreign city. I still love traveling, but the end goal of life isn’t to travel indefinitely. I think traveling is good to spark new creative ideas, and to open up your mind.

Salary man drinking a beer. Osaka, 2018
Salary man drinking a beer. Osaka, 2018

Thus, traveling is merely a means or a road in order to do what you truly desire– which is to create artwork, make an impact in the world, and to share your own wisdom and knowledge with others.


Osaka Selfie with RICOH GR II. 2018
Osaka Selfie with RICOH GR II. 2018

Of course this is just my personal thoughts, based on my personal experiences. I encourage you to challenge yourself, and think for yourself. You can safely ignore everything I say.

Osaka, 2018 #cindyproject
Osaka, 2018 #cindyproject

But this is what I really encourage you to do:

Determine whether your desire for ‘location independence’ is a “true preference”, or a “false preference” (all these internet bloggers have suckered us into thinking that this is the best lifestyle).

And also ask yourself:

If you did gain location independence, then what?

Location independence isn’t the goal; it is often something else. What is your end-game?


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