Lou Blaser went from one extreme — a road warrior flying all over the country all the time — to another — a corporate office. Today she’s found the location independence she really wanted. Here’s how she managed the transition.
I was a “road warrior” back when I was in management consulting.
That’s the term we used for someone regularly heading to the airport on Monday mornings to catch the first flight out to whichever city their client happened to be located.
Personal life was suspended until Thursday when we returned home. Saturdays were laundry days. And Sundays? Well, that’s when we spent time packing for next week’s trip.
While many of my colleagues soon tired of this work situation, I enjoyed it. I got my packing and travel routines down pat. I thought I could work that way forever.
From Road Warrior to a Corporate Office
Then, one day, I left management consulting and joined a company that pretty much meant I went to the same office day in, day out. Every day. All year long.
Did you hear the pain in my voice there? No, it wasn’t all that bad.
There were benefits of a work-life that didn’t require you to be on first name basis with the guards at the airport. And there’s definitely something to be said about having your own desk and a parking spot.
Soon after I took that position, I found myself doing something I’ve never done before: fixing a workspace. MY workspace! I discovered that there was a certain joy in shaping a work area such that it became your personal space.
I had never had that before!
My friends were happier I was around more often because it meant we didn’t need to cram everything on Fridays, Saturdays, and half of Sundays.
I was a happy camper for a while but it always felt as if something was lacking. My initial assumption was that it was the actual act of traveling that I craved — until I reminded myself that packing was a pain. I certainly didn’t miss packing.
Upon closer examination, I realized that it was the variability that I missed. The idea that I wouldn’t have to face the same wall every day for as long as I had the same job.
I started to wonder if there was a way I can have the best of both worlds.
I Wanted Flexibility and Freedom
When I left Corporate America, I decided to make flexibility a key metric for whatever new direction I may head toward. I wanted to fashion a kind of work-life that would allow me to be anywhere I wanted — or may need — to be and still be able to do my work.
Outside the walls of the traditional corporate structure, I discovered there was such a thing as location-independent work. And though I no longer envisioned myself as perpetually being on the road, I wanted the freedom to be able to travel.
My vision was to better integrate my life and my work.
Setting this intention meant there were certain kinds of jobs and projects that were immediately appealing… and some, not so much.
I discarded previous “dreams” of running a coffee/wine bar or a small niche bookstore. I didn’t want to be tied to anything with a physical location. Anything that required physical inventory were not as appealing. Jobs that would depend on a locally based clientele went out the window.
Technology Was My New Partner
Technology — which had always been my friend (I was in IT after all) — became a valuable “partner.” Access to fast and stable internet connections became the primary consideration as I sought location independence. I had to budget for the best mobile devices and cloud-based services I can afford.
And paper? Well, you can’t really have location independence if you’re lugging around reams of paper, right? So, embracing a mostly digital work-life became a necessity too.
Now, I don’t want you to think that I completely transformed my life overnight. This all happened gradually over a period of years… especially that last bit. And most recently, I undertook the most ambitious part of this “transformation.”
Finally, Location Independence
Just before the pandemic became part of lives, I decided to temporarily relocate to Asia to be with my mom. Mom’s got mild dementia and I wanted to spend as much time with her as possible. I also wanted help my sister who had been doing the lion’s share of caring for my mom.
Temporarily moving to Asia was possible because my work today allowed me to be anywhere — as long as I had access to that fast, reliable internet I was talking about before.
But while the work part of my work-life made it easier for me to travel to Asia, the life part of the equation wasn’t so easy. I had a condo. I owned physical things. I had a car and a storage unit and all the stuff.
That’s when I realized that to make the move, I would have to take the last step towards really being location-independent (my definition of it anyway). I decided all my physical belongings would either travel with me, or I’d need to sell, donate, or throw them out.
Nothing would be boxed and hauled to a storage unit to gather dust and forgotten forever.
It was a big undertaking that was difficult at times. I had to channel Marie Kondo many, many times. But in the end, I’m happy I went through it and stuck with my intentions.
As I write this, it’s been a little over two months since I landed here in the Philippines.
I’ve organized my little home office space. I’ve been able to keep to my regular release schedule for the Second Breaks podcast. I’ve resumed my publishing schedule for Midlife Cues. And I havn’t skipped a beat on a couple of other side projects.
You gotta thank the wifi and broadband.
It took several days for my mom to recognize me. But after seeing my face and hearing my voice every day, she remembers me now. I get to eat meals with her every day. I sit with her a few hours each day and share laughs. With the dementia, she remembers less and less of her memories but we make new ones every day.
Ten years ago, I would have only been able to do this for a couple of weeks before I would have had to return from vacation. These days, the time limit is only Mom’s to mete out.
Lou Blaser is the writer/publisher of Midlife Cues, a weekly publication for midlifers interested in amping up their middle years. She is also the host of Second Breaks, a show that explores midlife’s twists and turns so we can go out there and make the kind of ruckus we want to make.