Last winter, I discussed with a fellow Swiss blogger named Benoît around a hot coffee at a train station.
I knew him only via his round-the-word travel blog and I always found that his story was inspiring as taking a one year world tour with our children is one of our lifetime goals.
As we were discussing, I figured out we were both targeting independence, although not the same kind.
He wants to reach what one calls location independence.
Let's start with the interview.
Interview with Benoît from Novo-monde about Location Independence
MP: First, tell us some words about you and your blog.
Benoît: Hey thank you for inviting me! My name is Benoit and I come from the beautiful mountains of Wallis in the french part of Switzerland.
At the moment, I work as a web developer in a start-up in Zürich but I'm also a part-time travel blogger (yes, a travel blogger on the Mustachian Post :) ).
To make things short, I started blogging with my future wife 3 and a half years ago. At that time we were expats in the cool city of Vienna (I was doing my PhD in numerical biomechanics there ;) ). But at some point, we decided we wanted to realize our dream and travel the world for a long period (best decision of our life!). So we quit our jobs and left for China... we came back only 19 months later (that was 10 months ago).
Before we left, I always wanted to learn how to build a website from scratch (I've always been a curious person) and we were looking for a way to stay in contact with our family and friends... This is how our blog novo-monde.com started!
We put a lot of passion and energy to share our travel stories and pictures the whole trip long...
And I have to say, we had a lot of fun doing it! We always tried to inspire our readers and show them how beautiful and simple travel can be.
What did it changed in our life? Everything! We have now big dreams and we strongly believe we can fulfill them.
On the blog side, we have grown up a solid basis of readers and a very engaged community... Every single comment, e-mail, picture... we receive from them is our reward for the time and energy we put in our blog. From a personal point of view, every single skill I learned with the blog helped me switch from biomechanic to web development! I told you... the best decision of our life!
Benoît and his future wife Fabienne, both blogging at novo-monde.com
MP: Before we dive into the topic; did you know what was financial independence before you found mustachianpost.com?
Benoît: To be honest, I did not know specifically about financial independence, but I already was really interested in the topic of "passive incomes". I started looking into "passive incomes" because I wanted to start monetizing our growing organic traffic without bothering our readers (and also because I prefer to do a lot of job once and earn some passive money with it instead of looking for partnerships and stuff like that all the time).
That's why I started implementing affiliation on some of our pages...
But if it is done well enough, I'm sure it could allow us to reach FI at some point, although it is a completely different way of doing it compared to you :)
MP: Back to our topic. Let's first ask you what's location independence from your point of view?
Benoît: Well, for me it is simply being able to exercise my professional activity from anywhere in the world as long as there is a decent internet connection :).
I'm talking about internet connection because I'm planning to work online but it does not have to be like this.
Imagine you are an English teacher, you could teach almost anywhere in the world. But that's not the only example, the possibilities are limitless!
You could be an artist, a waiter, a writer, a translator...
Of course, in our numerical age and with all the tools at our disposal, it has never been so easy to work remotely. There is no more distance between people, you can do skype conferences, there is 3-4G everywhere and even some companies don't have any offices anymore because all of their members are working remotely!
But what I like the most about being geographically independent is the flexibility that comes with it. It will actually allow me to organise my work around my life and not the opposite anymore. And I truly believe this is the path I should choose to be happy in life.
MP: Was there a specific event that happened, or a specific blogpost that made you think "This is my lifestyle dream!"?
Benoît: There was no specific event or blog post that made me think that way (of course I read many blog posts about the topic)...
It was more of a process.
During our travels or through our blog, we met many people that were geographically independent (for example we met the Hecktic travels couple recently in Finland... they are really inspiring people doing house sitting all around the world) and they were actually looking very happy.
It made us realize that there are alternatives to the so popular "corporate lifestyle" that we were supposed to experience after our university studies.
Most of these guys are not owning much (I mean no house, no car, no furnitures...) but they looked more happy because they can simply be more spontaneous thanks to the flexibility this lifestyle gives you.
And for me it is really all about improving my life quality by being more flexible, being less bound to a single place, being able to organise my work as I want to, being able to jump on opportunities more easily, being my own boss (even if it is not a direct consequence of being location independent)... and so on.
MP: As Mustachians say: "Having a dream is good. Taking action is what will bring you closer to realizing your dream!"
So, do you have a detailed planning with next steps and a "deadline" to make this happen? If yes, what is it?!?
Benoît: Ohhhh yes!
For me and my future wife, 2016 is going to be the year of change.
At the moment, we both have a job that we love (she works 100% and I work 70%) and the first step and not the least is going to be to "quit our jobs". Once it's done, we will finally have enough time to work our ass off on all our projects - MP's note: at the time of publishing, Benoît and his wife actually already quit - it was on the 3rd of May - congrats to them!!!
We have a really clear idea of what we want in the future.
We will of course keep up working on our blog novo-monde.com (we plan to redesign it completely by the end of the year), spend some time to improve/optimise it's passive income and also continue to work with tourism boards on different projects. But we also want to diversify our incomes. We plan to create at least 2 new websites, one focused on the swiss tourism and the other one focused on passive incomes (I want to try a niche website).
As a personal project, I'll try to keep some time to develop a wordpress plugin that came to my mind recently (I still want to do some programming :) ).
MP: Quitting must be one of the hardest steps! Thankfully it's the first one to do.
And tell us more, is moving to another country already planned in 2016?!? Or you plan to stay in Switzerland the time for you to setup your projects' basis before moving abroad?
Benoît: Actually we still don't know :)
It will depend on a lot of factors and we will probably decide a little bit "last minute" in function of the priorities we will give to our different projects.
But there is a good chance that we will move for some time somewhere else in Europe to reduce our costs while we build up a solid basis for our business. But we will probably stay relatively close to Switzerland as we have a project deeply related with our beautiful country ;).
One of the place where Benoît and Fabienne would maybe like to work from: Taiwan.
MP: Once your business(es) are all setup and ready to rock, I was wondering whether what was the true meaning of location independent for you: do you plan to move every now and then? Like for instance switching country every 3 months to discover the world? Or even a more "freestyle mode" like in "we decided to leave a place tomorrow just because"? How do you picture yourself in your new way of life?
Benoît: The true meaning of location independence for me is to have the freedom and the flexibility to live at a pace that fits us, to jump on opportunities when we feel like it, to have more time to spend on crazy ideas that we truly believe in.
Both Fabienne and I are hardworking people and we love our actual job. But sometimes we feel a bit trapped in a corporate system that is not really made for us.
How many times we would have preferred to work on a rainy Sunday instead of the shiny and sunny Tuesday that we had to spend in the office. How many times have we been talking about some crazy projects but never had the time to actually realize them.
So why not create a lifestyle for ourself that would allow us to work from anywhere at any time of the day, that would allow us to jump on opportunities and realize some crazy ideas?
It would feel much more natural to me!
Hardworking couple everywhere, even with -10 Celsius degrees at an altitude of 3500m in Chile!
I already had this feeling during our round the world trip that everything was possible.
I felt really inspired, I learned how to code websites, I learned spanish...
That's why I truly believe that our way to happiness goes through a more flexible lifestyle that provide more space for creativity and I can't wait to live like this ;) To answer your question about if we will switch country every 3 months or not, I would rather say that we will just go with the flow, move where the opportunities are, go where we feel like going...
We might stay one year at some place, 2 weeks at another one. It doesn't really matter because we will have the freedom to do so :)
MP: And what about family? I don't want you to tease anything but how do you imagine such a lifestyle with one or more children? Homeschooling or not? Roots with a country and with family?
Benoît: I was kind of expecting this question and to be honnest, we already talked a few times about it with Fabienne.
The thing is that at the moment, we're not really ready to have children. But we also know that it might change in the future. So we decided we will start and try this lifestyle as a couple and that we will figure out some solutions later on.
During our travels, we met many families having a nomadic lifestyle. We talked with some of them and even if living like this require organization and some sacrifices, it is far from impossible.
And I have to say that the children of these families we met looked really happy and more curious than the average children (because people tend to think the opposite).
To me, homeschooling is a viable option even if, as I said, it requires some organization. But I can also imagine that with a young child, we will like to settle down for a bit at a place we like to have more stability. Anyway, we will see how we feel about it when the time comes.
MP: And what about cash/money. What banking setup do you plan to use? Some cheap and smart solutions such as Number26.eu?
Benoît: Well we have used PostFinance "Plus" account during our round the world trip and it was great.
We have been able to withdraw money for free all around the world with the "Plus" card and we don't pay any gestion fees as long as we have at least CHF 25'000 on our account.
It is really simple and we like the web interface. So we did not even look for another solution...
But I had heard about Number26 as very interesting mobile solution. I'll keep an eye on it but for the moment we'll keep going with PostFinance as well as Paypal on the side.
MP: Last but not the least, in order to know where you are and where you go financially while around the world, are you using YNAB (referral link) yourself? Or at least a budget spreadsheet ninja?!?
Benoît: To be honest, I'm NOT the budget guy in the couple...
It means that Fabienne takes care of the budget.
During our round the world trip, she has been a spreadsheet ninja. She wrote down everything we spent in a notebook and then summarized everything in spreadsheets.
After every visited country, she wrote a VERY detailed article about the budget needed to travel in that country (how much we spent in food, transportation, hotels, activities, extras...).
And these articles had a lot of success with our readers because they gave them a very good idea of the budget they would need if they travel backpack in that country.
Even now, some of these articles bring us more than 1000 visits a month each.
About YNAB, I never heard of it, but it looks quite interesting. We might give it a try in September when we start working for ourselves :)... Are you using it yourself?
MP: If Fabienne is the one, she must check it for your new life ;)
I wrote a post last year on how this piece of software changed our life: this might inspire you and get you started!
Thanks again to you Benoît for having taken the time to share your inspiring vision (and story).
If you, dear readers, are like me (i.e. passionate about travels or planning a round-the-world trip), I can only advise you to visit novo-monde.com (they blog in French), it's a gold mine of information!
What do you think by the way: financial or location independence? Or both?!?