One of my favorite quotations is from author Christopher Morley: “There is only one success – to be able to spend your life in your own way.”
Freedom is a cheap word. It gets thrown around, particularly by politicians and their accomplices, in ways that cheapen and corrupt the concept. One thing people have in common in Venezuela, UK, the U.S., China, North Korea, and the Islamic State is they are all told by their political leaders that they live in true freedom. Obviously, they are all using different definitions of the word.
When I think of freedom, I use a clear definition. Freedom, for an individual, means having complete control over your life and property. When everyone has that, it’s a free country. So far,
“everyone” does not have it.
But as individuals, we can work towards engineering our own personal freedom as best we can under this era’s limitations. Inherent in “complete control over your life and property” are a massive range of choices. Where do I spend my time? How do I earn income? How do I invest? What do I want to do every day? Who do I want to spend my time with? What is the ideal lifestyle for me?
When we spend time thinking about these questions, it doesn’t take long to realize most of us are hemmed in by political forces. Americans, in particular, are getting increasingly restricted in their options with personal banking regulations, foreign investment restrictions, onerous reporting requirements, and now even passport confiscation for a mere allegation of an outstanding tax bill.
The basic problem all of us have is living, working, playing, and investing inside just one country. It’s proverbial “all the eggs in one basket.” And frankly, no matter where you live, you can’t exercise maximum control over your life and property if you are, by definition, restricted to artificial boundaries. In plain terms, other people own and control your life and property.
Living Outside the Bubble
It’s difficult to explain how liberating it is to live outside the bubble of propaganda and the personal restrictions we are supposed to accept as necessary. It reminds me of the allegory of Plato’s Cave. How do you explain freedom to people who have never actually had it?
One of the most common questions Connie and I get from people we meet after we mention living all over the world is, “How do you decide where you will live?”
I find the question somewhat telling, because most people are conditioned to having their “choices” dictated to them by circumstances and by other people who exercise control over them. It’s a foreign concept for those people to grasp that an ordinary, middle-aged couple could start every year with a clean sheet of paper and decide what they want to do and where they want to do it. Connie and I just talk about what we’d like to experience and then we design our year to do that.
For example, in 2015 we wanted to investigate living in Spain as legal residents. So we moved there and spoke to a lawyer. We didn’t like the terms and conditions we would have to satisfy, so after three wonderful months we left and went to a favorite place, England. While there, our expat daughter visited us from Ethiopia and we had three marvelous weeks together.
We had never spent time in eastern Europe, so we decided to visit Romania next. It was a wonderful surprise and now is on our favorites list. We’ll be returning. We had the opportunity to meet a couple of our kids in Las Vegas when all of our schedules lined up, so we did that too. We hadn’t seen two other kids for awhile so we moved to China for a few months to be with them, since they were teaching English there. Then we went to Thailand for two months, then moved to Ireland for the first time ever. Now it’s 2017 and we’re making plans for where to spend time this year.
It’s difficult to communicate how liberating all of this feels to a person who gets two weeks vacation per year, and even those weeks are subject to approval and cancellation by others. It’s difficult to communicate how we earn our entire income online in ways we own and control to a person who has a conventional job that somebody else owns and controls. (See? There’s that thing again about freedom and who owns your life and property.)
Don’t Just Look at Today, Look at Tomorrow
Here’s another great quotation that resonates, this one by Robert Louis Stevenson: “Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”
It’s no accident that Connie and I live the life of freedom that we do. We reap this harvest today because of the seeds we planted in previous days. And we continue to plant the seeds because we want our tomorrows to be as free as possible. We even started a business where we help others do the same.
If you want an “escape artist” life full of choices, full of owning your life and property, full of personal freedom, I urge you to look at what seeds you can start planting. Nobody will plan and execute your escape for you. In fact, they will do the opposite, since so many invisible forces benefit from your entrapment inside the box. Want to be an escape artist? Take action without further delay.
Pete Sisco is a digital nomad, author, lifetime entrepreneur, and an expat with a passion for individual freedom. He and his wife have lived in a dozen countries. For Pete’s advice on building durable online income as a path to independence and freedom, visit his site: http://www.resilientpersonalfreedom.me/about-us/
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