Take your job abroad and travel while you work

Jan 30, 2012 at 10:00 a.m. ET

Gone are the days of paper-pushing office tedium. Location independence has emerged as the new anti-cubicle ideal. Technology has made it possible to work from anywhere – Paris, London, Bangkok, Istanbul – without compromising professional traction or potential opportunities.

Woman working from beach

Everyone from Web designers to copy writers to journalists are becoming global citizens, taking their work abroad and designing a lifestyle that works for who they are and where they want to be.

No fixed address

Liberated by technology, more and more professionals are waking up to the fact they can take their jobs anywhere. Technology has freed us, yet still allows us to be connected to people to get the job done no matter where we are. If travel is something you've put off because of work, now is the time to hit the road! Technology has made it possible to become location-independent, or live and work from anywhere you want -- like a flat in Paris, condo by the beach or loft in Buenos Aires. Of course, this lifestyle isn't for everyone, but it is possible.

Who's hitting the road?

Countless professionals are not only living the global lifestyle, but also taking their journeys from office buildings to beaches to the Web to share their adventures with the world. Exile Lifestyle chronicles Colin Wright's switch from cubicle-dwelling designer to independent traveler living in a new city every four months. Almost Fearless allows Christine Gilbert to share her transformation from a corporate job to world traveler (she's currently in Beijing with her husband and young son), and Tales from Technomadia is the story of Chris Dunphy and Cherie Ve Ard, a couple who have combined starting their own technology strategy consulting company with a healthy dose of wanderlust to create the ultimate adventure.

Getting started

LaptopBecoming location-independent isn't easy and there are many things to consider before you pack your bags.

Take a look at your profession. Can you do it from home? If the answer is yes, then you can do it from anywhere with a wireless signal.

Start small: If you currently work in an office, your boss might not jump for joy when you suggest working from Barcelona for six months. This is to be expected. Start by proposing a trial period of working from home two days a week. If this goes well, work your way up to full-time. This may take a while, as you will have to prove yourself.

Practice: Intermittently take long "working weekends" and actually do work while you're at the cottage or lying by the pool.

Broach the subject: Once your boss knows he or she can trust you, broach the subject of working from abroad. Explain that you will have capabilities such as Skype or video chat and a webcam for conference calls, Wi-Fi, lots of backups for your work and a schedule you can both agree on (if there is a time difference).

Tell clients about your plan: If you already work at home on a freelance basis, start talking to your clients well before you even think about booking a flight. Explain to them (see "broach the subject," above) that you have all the capabilities to get in touch and submit work on time, with the quality they are used to. If you are reliable in your hometown, you can be reliable elsewhere.

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Making it work

PassportIf you think becoming location-independent is for you, here are a few tips to help make it happen.

Set a firm deadline: If you don't, you'll keep putting it off and making other things your priority.

Have a money-making plan: This means working to prove yourself to your current clients (so they remain loyal to you when you go abroad) and working to gain new ones before you leave and while you are away.

Do your research: Even though you've always wanted to live in Paris, does it fit your budget? If not, choose another destination. Look into cost of living, how easy it will be to find a place to stay, general safety of the area and how reliable and prevalent the Wi-Fi is in your chosen destination.

Network: Let your friends and colleagues know what you're doing. See if they have contacts in the city you're planning to work from. Even something as simple as recommendations for a good Internet café or expat bar can be helpful to your transition.

Start slow: You don't have to uproot yourself entirely. Start with one or two months. If that feels comfortable, consider subletting your apartment or renting out your home for a longer duration. The important thing is to do what feels right for you.

Whether you want to explore the world for a few weeks or a few years, know that given the right plan, tools, sense of adventure and work ethic, being a location-independent professional is no longer a pipe dream but an entirely possible lifestyle choice.

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