The real freedom of location independence

Remote Work & Culture

Remote work, for most people, is about freedom. The biggest catalyst for that freedom is the choice to live wherever you want. Here’s why you might be missing the biggest benefits of location independence.

Matt Redler
March 21, 2022

A funny side effect of popular media coverage on remote work is that 99% of the attention goes to digital nomads. Tech people post travel plans on Twitter, Redditors upvote photos of laptops on beaches, and media outlets constantly glamorize the digital nomad lifestyle. But, fewer than 25% of remote workers are actually digital nomads.

What are the rest of us doing?

That’s what I’m about to cover. Location independence is one of the most significant benefits that come from remote work, and it’ll change the way we live for decades (and centuries) to come.

Location independence isn’t just an extra benefit to remote work: It’s the only sensible option. But, there are benefits that most people haven’t considered––values that I hear about frequently from people on the Panther team. Today, I want to share some of those with you.  

The three classes of location independence

Having location independence means that, if you want to go somewhere, you don’t have to quit your job to do so. That’s the best definition I can think of.

The strange thing about location independence is that everyone has it, to an extent. But, for most people, it’s unrealistically out of reach. You’d have to quit your job, or get residence somewhere else, or have enough money to live in a different place, or all of the above.

Location independence is kind of like character classes in a video game. Instead of ‘Knight’, ‘Bandit’, and ‘Wizard’, however, you have different types of location-independent workers.

  • Digital Nomad: This is one type of location independence. Digital nomads are people who don’t have a permanent home. Instead, they travel and work. Most long-term digital nomads will spend months in one place before moving, and some own property in some of the places they visit. About 15% of the Panther team is doing this at the moment.
  • Almost Permanent: People who are ‘Almost Permanent’ have a home that they live in for the majority of the year. But, they spend some time traveling and working abroad, because they can. Some people on the Panther team fit into this category.
  • Permanent: These are people who live in one location, permanently. Sure, they take vacations, but they have one single home. The majority of people at Panther (and almost every other remote team) are in this category.

Each class above is a perfectly legitimate form of location independence. And each class receives just as many benefits as the others. Digital Nomads aren’t using their location independence more than people who are Permanent, or vice versa: They’re just using it differently.

Here’s how life changes when you can live anywhere

Most discourse around location independence focuses on just a small subset of the real benefits. In reality, the advantages of location independence are wide-ranging and life-changing for every single type of person, whether you want to hop between countries or settle down in the suburbs.

Below are the real benefits of location independence––not just the ones you commonly hear about. They’re sourced from the experiences of every member of the Panther team, as well as conversations we’ve had with others.

Why location independence is life-changing for everyone

These are the biggest values that don’t receive as much coverage as they should. There are others, but you might find these ones particularly special.

  • Choice of community. When you can live anywhere, you get to pick your community. For example, if you like tight-knit, small-town communities, you can have that without sacrificing a well-paying job.
  • Family. You can live in the best possible place to raise your kids, and you can move closer to loved ones. You no longer have to consider whether you’re able to find work in the place you want to be with your family.
  • Travel flexibility. In the past, people who wanted to travel were constrained to week-long vacations. These are still great, but location independence gives you the freedom to travel however you want. If you want to work in a new city for a month, you can.
  • Cultural immersion. Some people choose to permanently relocate abroad. Others, who subscribe to the digital nomad class, may move from place to place, experiencing a variety of new cultures. This can inspire your work and your life.
  • Time. Office jobs take a lot of your time: A 30-minute commute, long hours in the office, another commute home. If you’re location independent, you lose the commute and busy-work of the office. You can better optimize your time to do the things you care about.

You’ll notice that these values are common things that people pursue (myself included).

Parents will quit their jobs to move to the place where they want to raise their kids. People will drop everything and move overseas to experience a new culture, hunting for a job to sustain their goals. Big-city workers will take lower-paying jobs to move to a smaller town.

The problem is that, in the past, you had to turn your life upside down to achieve these things. With location independence, that’s different:

  • Parents can move to the best place for their kids, no questions asked.
  • People can immerse themselves in new cultures without abandoning a job they enjoy.
  • You can live in a small town without taking a massive pay cut.

People with location independence can structure their life based on merit, not necessity. And that’s why the freedom to live anywhere is so important.

What are you supposed to do with this information?

I wrote this piece with two goals in mind:

  1. To convince both people and employers that location independence is about more than traveling the world. It’s a significant freedom that will change the way we live for centuries to come. We’re all still learning about this stuff, and there are plenty of undiscovered benefits that will become clear in the future.
  2. To convince employers that they should consider giving location independence to their teams. Total location independence isn’t feasible for every team today––it’s going to be tough if somebody moves somewhere without WiFi––but you should give your team the maximum degree of freedom possible. Odds are, they’ll thank you for it.

That’s it for today. If you want to read more on this topic, I’d suggest this piece about asynchronous communication. Without asynchronous communication, location independence (outside of 1 or 2 time zones) isn’t possible for most teams. It’s worth investigating.

And, if you enjoyed this, you can follow me on Twitter. I’ll post Twitter thread versions of some of my blog posts. I also post other things that you won’t find on the Panther website. See you there.

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