Seth Barham Design
Minimal and effective design, inspired by culture.

Spartan Wanderer

Ramblings from the road, gear reviews, design trends, and whatever else happens to be on my mind.

5 Tips for Mobile Freedom

Some people get the travel bug, spend a few months abroad and then it's gone, completely out of their system. Maybe they even realized that they like home much better and don't plan leaving again any time soon. For the rest of us, it's not so simple. Sometimes I like to think of travel as a chronic condition, and the only cure is more travel. That's where it gets tricky, because there are quite a few obstacles to overcome if you want to travel perpetually. 

1. Consider becoming a minimalist.

This is my first piece of advice because it will make your life easier regardless if you decide to travel long term or not. We live in an era where it's considered normal to accumulate material things as some sort of imagined mile marker to true happiness. I think this is bullshit and simply a creation of our current system to preserve itself. Who's going to want to work a traditional job when they learn that having lots of stuff doesn't make you happy?

Therefore, get rid of it. Well, at least enough of it to make constant travel easier. After traveling in China for a while, I refuse to check a bag ever again. Most of what I own is in my backpack and laptop bag. The rest of it stays in a bag at my parents' house. Living with less material things (and caring less about accumulating them) will naturally shift your focus onto collecting experiences instead. This sentiment will make travel more enjoyable in the long run.

2. Develop a skill that you can use to make money anywhere.

One of the first questions people ask me when I tell them about my lifestyle is what I do for money. Contrary to what most people seem to believe, perpetual travel does not equal perpetual vacation. I've got to work too! I'm currently teaching English for about 20 hrs/wk and I fill the other 20 with making the transition to being completely free of any location-dependent job. Most of this is through freelance design work and writing, as well as a Beijing-based startup.

For some of you, this could be as simple as asking the your current employer if you can work remotely. More and more companies are allowing their digital employees to do this so they can save on office space. If you're not so lucky, something like teaching English is a great place to start. The hours are low and the money is usually great compared to the cost of living in your country of choice. Use your free time to develop that skill that will truly cut your ties to any place in the world.

3. Set up some streams of passive income.

I hate money, but like it or not, it is a necessity. One of my goals is to make as much of it as possible with minimal effort. That’s the dream, isn’t it? Although difficult, it is more possible than it’s ever been with our friend, the Interwebz. The most common way to do this is by starting a blog, but if you actually want to make money, it’s more tricky than that. First, you need to actually write about something that people care about. Even then, all the followers in the world will not give you cent unless you actually monetize your website.

There are several ways to do this, the most common being ads via Google Adsense. This is still going to be a mere trickle unless you have mad traffic and are uploading loading good content daily. The real money is in affiliate marketing. You use a company’s link on your site and if a reader buys something after clicking said link, you earn a decent commission. Content is still the key, however; not many disingenuous people are going to profit from this. Lately, I’ve been getting the most passive income from my T-shirt shop on Redbubble, so if you’ve got some creativity in your bones, put it to work!

4. Automate as much as possible. 

I consider this somewhat tied into minimalism, because it’s all about making life simpler. This should also be implemented as much as possible with the previous tip, as it frees up more time to create more streams of income. The first step to automating everything you do is writing out your workflows for everything you do. For example, I made a note in Evernote that describes every step that goes into publishing one blog post. 

I spend a good chunk of time now trying to see what tools and strategies I can use to eliminate as many of those steps as possible while still yielding the same results. This is best practice for business, but you can also applying to more mundane things like paying bills, or even your morning routine (i.e. having breakfast pre-portioned out, etc.). Time equals potential. The more you have the more results you can yield in any part of your life, whether that be work or play.

5. Establish a home base somewhere. 

A lot of other long-term travelers will probably disagree with me on this one, and it’s true that having a home base is not strictly necessary, but I do think it makes life a lot easier. For me, it’s mom and dad’s. I like having an address for all my important stuff like tax or other business documents to be received and safely stored. Nobody wants to carry around important shit like your Social Security card or birth certificate.

If you haven’t completely given yourself over to the one-bag lifestyle, then it’s good to have a place to store the rest of your stuff without paying for it. I’ve got an antique, Harry Potter-esque trunk that I keep all of my other stuff in back home. And of course, it’s nice to know, psychologically speaking, that you have a permanent home to go running back to should things go completely south. 

Evolution and optimization are your friends.

If you want to travel perpetually, you need to make a habit out of adapting. This is great advice for anyone, but a life abroad presents unique challenges - money, culture shock, visa and tax laws - that compel you to get your shit together. When I say evolve, I mean take yourself more seriously and diversify. If you do anything digital, whether it’s coding or blogging, monetize it. If there’s something tangentially related to what you do, stick your big toe in and see if you can do that too. All the while, optimize the systems you use in your life. Pack better, tighten your workflow and enjoy your life. You’ll never want to go back. 

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