Location-Independent Income: How we work from anywhere

Money is one of those topics that we’ve been taught to avoid. It just isn’t polite to talk about it. In some ways, this is odd, because it’s a basic necessity of life for all of us and something most of us spend a fair amount of time thinking about. But we know better than to bring it up in conversation.

The exception to this rule turns out to be when you choose an alternative lifestyle. A surprising number of complete strangers have asked us about our financial arrangements with varying levels of politeness. I have my own set of theories on why this is, but for the purposes of this post, it doesn’t matter too much. We know that, whether spoken or not, most people we meet are wondering how we manage to make this lifestyle work financially. So here it comes! Answers to some of the questions you were (probably) too polite to ask!

Matching Expenses

First, it’s important to understand that this lifestyle is not expensive. It can be, but it doesn’t have to be. We aren’t on vacation. So if you imagine your average expenses when you’re on vacation and think that we can afford to live at that level year-round, you would be mistaken. When you’re on vacation, you have all your ordinary bills at home PLUS what you spend on vacation for a hotel, eating out, admission to attractions and all those little extras that you splurge on because you’re on vacation. It all adds up. Our budget doesn’t look that different from how it looked when we lived a more traditional lifestyle. More details about our budget are for another post. Just know that we don’t need as much income each month as you might think.

Getting Started – Trial and Error

When we first started traveling we had a reliable income from Staffan’s paternity leave from Sweden. Micah was a newborn when we hit the road and Staffan was paid for a certain number of days to be home taking care of him. This gave us the chance to work on establishing a solid, location independent income without the pressure of needing it right away. Had we been based in the United States before we launched, we would have tried to get that established prior to launching, but tax laws and time zones made it challenging to get very far in the process while we were still living in Sweden.

We had ideas of what it might look like to work from the road, but very little of that matches our current reality. We also had dreams of some ideal solutions that haven’t worked out like we’ve hoped. We are so thankful for that paternity leave season. Staffan wasn’t allowed to work, since he was being paid to be home, but it gave me the freedom and flexibility to try and experiment (and fail) all while all five of us were together, traveling, and learning the ins and outs of our new lifestyle. What a transition it was!

As uncomfortable and disappointing as it is when things fail, we learned a lot that first year from what didn’t work. I always suspected that I would be terrible at direct marketing sales, and now we know for sure. (A big thank you to everyone who graciously took my phone calls and even tried out some new products during that season.) I know a lot of people who are supporting their families this way and doing very well. I applaud their success and spent many months trying to join their ranks. My heart was never truly in it, though, and it’s just not for us. Now we know.

It might sound obvious, but in the end I came back to asking myself those basic vocational questions: What am I good at? What do I enjoy doing? What do I have experience with and how can I make those things work with our nomadic lifestyle? It requires a little creativity and a lot of networking, but we’re finally reaching a place where I can answer these questions with integrity and keep my family afloat. Asking, “How can I make as much money as possible in as little time as possible from anywhere in the world?” led me to fall flat.

One of the best lessons we took away from those early months was the value of trying. I don’t regret anything that I tried, even if I spent a lot of time going in the wrong direction. You can’t steer a vehicle that isn’t moving, so sometimes any momentum is useful, even if it means you have to backtrack a bit.

Multiple Streams

We have always aimed to have multiple income streams, for a variety of reasons. We like not having all our eggs in one basket. It works well to have several smaller jobs that don’t expect full-time hours or require regular commitment because this leads to the flexibility we want. For the foreseeable future, this is our income strategy.

Teaching English

Since November, I have been teaching English as a Second Language to children in China through a company called VIPKID. I make myself available according to my own schedule, with no minimum number of lessons required, and parents can choose to book a lesson with me whenever I’m available. There is no guarantee of booking lessons in all the times I make available, and it took some time for parents to find me, but now I have some faithful students and it’s a relatively reliable and steady income. The company provides the curriculum and the video platform. I just have to make sure I have a good internet connection and a quiet, well-lit environment with an appropriate background. Because of the time differences, I generally work late at night or in the early mornings when our kids are sleeping. By the time they wake up, I’m usually done work for the day and so work rarely interferes with family time or travel plans. (If you’re interested in more information, please contact me through the comments. I can get a referral bonus for telling others about the company and coaching them through the hiring process.)

VIPKID on the road
This is how we convert our bedroom into an English classroom!
Teaching Math

While this one was never a part of my plan, the opportunity found me and I have really been enjoying being a math tutor over Skype. I hadn’t considered that being good at math and passionate about teaching was actually a marketable skill that meets a special need, particularly in our nomadic community. As middle and high school students advance in math, sometimes they exceed the level of math that their parents are able to teach them at home. In other cases, it just helps to have an outside voice to help explain things a slightly different way. Teenagers are digital natives, so having tutoring sessions over Skype is just as comfortable, if not more so, than meeting in person. I keep my number of students relatively small and we agree together on times each week that work well for everyone. It is wonderful to add this income in a way that is very flexible, that meets a need, and that is a fun challenge for me.

Freelance Writing

It has always been a dream of mine to be a writer, and supporting our lifestyle by writing was always a part of this dream that we are pursuing. It has been so exciting to see my opportunities as a freelancer increase and develop over the last six months. I hope to gradually see writing begin to take over as our primary income. I got started through a website called BlogMutt and I’m also now finding work through UpWork. There are many websites out there, but these were recommended to me by someone with personal experience, so that’s where I started. Recently I began contributing to the blog “Never Idle” on the Outdoorsy website. For my first article, I got to share the inspiring story of some friends we met in California last year.

My author bio that appears at the end of my articles.

While there are many advantages to maintaining several jobs, it certainly isn’t perfect. Freelancing is wonderful for flexibility but we also know that when we don’t work we don’t get paid. There is no paid vacation time or sick days. We love that our work fits into our life and not vice versa, but we also have to adjust to fluctuating paychecks and a little more financial uncertainty than we might prefer. As yet, none of the options we’ve explored for Staffan to find similarly flexible jobs have worked out, and we’d be more comfortable if we were earning a little more each month than we currently are. Still, our bills are paid and there is food on our table and gas in our tank. We give thanks for daily bread.


As technology advances, there are ever increasing opportunities for earning location independent income and having the freedom to pursue non-traditional lifestyles. As we travel and meet other full-time travelers, we find that each has solved the need for income in their own unique ways. Currently, this is ours. Whether you were concerned for our well-being or simply curious, we hope that we have answered the questions you were (probably) too polite to ask. If not, don’t be afraid to ask them in the comments. We hope that by sharing this, we can help more people think outside the box in order to pursue their dreams.



3 thoughts on “Location-Independent Income: How we work from anywhere

    1. Men tack Kerstin! Jag gillar att skriva så det känns så bra när folk uppskattar det som jag har skrivit! Att hinna handla mest om att prioritera och vara effektiv med den tiden man har. Jag har fortfarande mycket att lära mig i det området. Men det är också så otroligt viktigt att man kan ta emot hjälp och stöd från familj och vänner. Vår lilla familj är som ett lag – lyckas vi så gör vi det tillsammans! <3

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