11 Fatal Flaws of the Newly Location Independent

Note from Sean: This is a guest post from Location Rebel member, Mike Harrington. Mike has made a huge transition in the last year, and is now living in Colombia. This post discusses some of the mistakes he made when first relocating – many of which I made myself when moving to Thailand.

With that, take it away Mike!

I landed in Medellin in early February of this year, 2 weeks removed from the shackles of my corporate life. While I had lived and visited Colombia in the past, much had changed in the years I was back stateside.

The digital nomad phenomenon had arrived.

Those with a bit more traction (and cash flow) in their enterprises had relocated to Medellin for the weather, quality of life, and it’s now-vibrant digital startup community.

I was no longer a backpacker, or just an expat looking for a job teaching English so I could scrape by. I had launched my location independent business months prior, in a carefully executed plan to escape from the 9-5 grind once and for all.

However, I noticed common pitfalls that many new digital entrepreneurs were facing. Even though I was prepared, these are the additional lessons I learned on the ground. I want to save you from these mistakes that led to lost time, lost clients and a sense of frustration.

I wrote this post as a reference guide to your pivotal first 30 – 60 days “in country.” I wish someone had written this guide for me, as I made every single one of these mistakes in my first month.

Below are the most critical actions and strategies you can take to ensure you:

  • Don’t go broke
  • Retain your sanity
  • Have a solid new peer group
  • Get your living situation and visa sorted with minimal stress
  • Hit the ground running

1) Cultivate a Digital Peer Group

You know those friends of yours in your hometown?

The ones that you know you’re going to have to, ahem, leave behind when you become a Location Rebel?

Perhaps you feel slightly embarrassed and gun-shy about discussing your plans for going abroad in order to bootstrap a business.

They don’t get it. They’re not supposed to get it.

Becoming a location independent entrepreneur is simply not for everyone, and you’re burning precious calories on trying to convince some people of the viability of your plan.

Instead, it’s time to step up your peer group.

You’ve heard the old maxim that your life is a direct reflection of the 5 people you spend the most time with. I’d take it a step further and say that you can get this same jolt from people you haven’t even met in the flesh…yet.

I like to refer to this group of people as my digital peer group. They are the people most willing and able to hold each other to a higher standard. These are the people you need to get around, in order to accelerate your progress and solidify your entrepreneurial mindset. They’re going after what I’m going after:

  • Working 100% online.
  • Starting companies.
  • Putting in the work, in the trenches.
  • Committed to continuous learning and growth.
  • Striving for long-term Location Independence.

So, where do you find them, and how do you establish enough rapport so you can forge an actual relationship?

Look at places you already spend plenty of time online. They’re there…and…they’re probably looking for people just like you.


Do you have a twitter account? In my experience it’s simply the best medium to join existing conversations. Create an account and start following other people that are in pursuit of this lifestyle.

Step 1: Create a twitter account. It doesn’t have to be fancy, and it doesn’t have to have a huge following. The goal is to simply put stakes in the ground to establish your presence and activity on the platform.

Step 2: Start following the people whose content and personality you jive with. Don’t worry about the “follow back” game, that stuff can come later, once you’ve already added some value to the conversations.

Step 3: Start replying and engaging! Like a tweet or a piece of content someone shared? Don’t be shy to thank them for it, and even add your own reaction. Twitter is a great place to start a short dialogue. I’ve found that previously “unreachable” people are much more inclined to respond to me on Twitter. Don’t overlook this great inroad to influencers.

Step 4: Focus on adding value to the conversation. Have a resource you can share? Do it. Know a person who can solve the person’s challenge? Don’t be shy, become a connector!

Step 5: Take it off twitter. Where twitter lacks, other social media platforms can close the gap. Whether that be a FB connection, a private message on Twitter or even a personal email, the goal is to build on that initial rapport. Think of Twitter as a solid introduction at a party, but it’s up to you to strengthen and deepen that relationship. Those that have the confidence to speak up and make themselves known (without becoming an ego monster) can really accelerate their influence online.

Retweet people’s content. Comment on content they post. It’s the best way to get access to the successful people you want to emulate, 140 characters at a time.

Facebook Groups:

In my adopted hometown of Medellin, Colombia, there are no less than 10 separate Facebook groups dedicated to expat entrepreneurs (fixed and location independent) that are hustling, building and enjoying the fruits of their digital labor. It’s been invaluable to ask for advice on visas, where to eat, sourcing local talent and interesting social events.

Don’t see any related Facebook Groups for the area you are moving to? Start your own! This could be the quickest (and cheapest) way to establish authority online. You’ve shown initiative and a willingness to connect others on a similar path. If you become a connector and a leader, you will never be at a lack for growth opportunities.

Online Communities:

  • Location Rebel – This one should be self explanatory if you’re already reading Sean’s blog!
  • Tropical MBA & Dynamite Circle – The flagship blog and private community for established digital entrepreneurs. While it’s not cheap, it’s jam packed with resources, contacts and people that want to help you get to the next level in your business – if you’re willing to bust your ass and do the work.

Blogs You Already Read

Already getting knowledge and a kick in the ass from successful entrepreneurial bloggers? Don’t remain a wallflower. Just like I mentioned for Twitter, the more you can engage and contribute, the better off you’ll be.

Comment on content that impacts you. Too many people remain in “lurker” status online, and are leaving a valuable opportunity on the table. That is, the chance to step up, get heard and gain digital street cred. Simply because they are willing to speak up.

Insightful, thoughtful and value-added comments get you on the radar of influential people. That being said, avoid the thoughtless “nothing” comments like “Great post!,” or “Awesome stuff, keep it coming!”

These pseudo-comments might as well have come from robots, and miss the mark at what you are trying to do – join the conversation and cultivate your own brand of online influence.  It shows that you haven’t taken the time to digest the content and add anything of value to the conversation.

Don’t be shy.

Email the writer what specifically made an impact on you, and how you applied it to your life.  Ask them a simple question. Most high-profile bloggers like engaging with readers – as it keeps them on the pulse of what their audience wants and needs.

A focus on reaching out and connecting with others can be a real game-changer in your quest for Location Independence. You’ll have an established network of friends and colleagues that will save you a lot of stress in your new location, and you’ll never be lonely.

Look at location independence as a team sport, you need more experienced people in your corner.  You’ll grow faster by getting around them, and focusing on how you can possible help them. Remain focused on serving others and you will quickly build trust and respect.

2) Locate the Closest Bustling University Zone

The beauty of living in developing countries is that they usually have a high ratio of students in the population, especially in some of the faster growing areas.

This can be great for you, the newly location independent entrepreneur on a budget with a set amount of cash runway for these reasons:

  • Plenty of Inexpensive Food – Some of the best, home-cooked meals can be found in areas with lots of students. Follow the other students around lunchtime to see where they flock. This can easily save you 50% or more on your food costs. Remember, in many developing countries it is cheaper to eat out than to cook at home.  It’s counterintuitive, but it’s because labor costs are so low.
  • Shared Furnished Housing Options –  Here in Medellin, you can find fully furnished rooms in shared houses for half the cost of other areas in town. Typically, these home shares will provide you with a private furnished room, private bathroom, shared kitchen and shared common areas.
  • Wi-Fi should be a given –  Be sure to check out the speed on Speedtest.net before deciding, especially if you’ll be working from home.
  • Fitness Facilities – Regular exercise should be important for both your physical and mental wellbeing.You need to be at your best as you continue to grow your client base and business. That being said, some of the best fitness facilities can be found on university campuses. Often, you don’t need to be an official student there, and can make use of the gym for a reasonable monthly fee.  Spending an afternoon looking got me access to a comparable campus gym for 1/3rd of the price of near-by commercial gyms.

A baked-in social circle

Depending on where you choose to start your location independent journey, you might value the full cultural immersion experience, in order to master the local language. If this is the case, the university environment can be second to none.

People you meet here can be a great addition to your entrepreneurial social network – educated people that might also be interested in doing language exchange with you, that can introduce you to more of their friends and contacts.

3) Avoid Backpacker Mentality

I’ll keep this short and sweet.

You’re not a backpacker, and you’re not on vacation.

Backpackers are after a different experience altogether. And, if you fall in with that crowd, you can find yourself spinning your wheels in your fledgling business.

Backpackers employ the “short timer” mentality.  This means they’re trying to pack in as much fun and experience before loading up their packs and moving on to the next stop on the backpacking trail.

Let’s look at a case study of a new entrepreneur falling victim to backpacker mentality, Brian from Minnesota.

Brian sold all of his stuff and wanted to make a go of location independence. He was teaching himself web development and coding, and really wanted to build a sustainable income from his newly acquired skills.

Yet, Brian has a growing problem. He had been bouncing around Latin America, staying in hostels throughout Costa Rica, Panama and Colombia. Each time he almost established a solid work routine, he found himself pulled on to new adventures by his hostel peer group. They didn’t see the long game he was playing, and were only concerned with partying, beaches and live-for-the-moment fun.

By the time I had met Brian, his funds were low, and he was frustrated with himself for not making more progress on building his freelance business.

He was unaware of the existence of other people with similar goals, and that he could connect with them. He was instead trying to do this in a vacuum, and surrounded by a peer group that didn’t support his long-term vision for building his business and lifestyle.

There can be a lot of lost time and productivity if you’re partying too much, something a lot of hostel-bound travelers are known for. This works for them because they are on a limited time schedule before they go back and join the “real world,” with a real paycheck.

Keep in mind – you are on a path of building a new lifestyle business from the ground up. You’re not going back to work for someone else, right?

Hostel life seems attractive at first due to its cheap rates and abundance of instant “single serving” “friends. However, you should steer clear.

Hostels are typically noisy, crowded and full of people on vacation. Focus on finding people who are staying put for the next few months at a minimum. You’ll be more likely to get into a good living and working routine, devoid of hangovers, distractions and general buffoonery.

I make the distinction between expat entrepreneur and backpacker because it’s an important one, especially for those of you that have never lived abroad before.

The lesson: You must choose your peer group wisely, and they’re usually not staying in hostels!

4) Hire a maid (and chef)

I admit, at first blush this might seem like a total luxury splurge, but it might be one of the biggest entrepreneurial hacks out there for hitting the ground running in a new destination.

In the United States, I simply don’t have the budget to pay a maid or cook.  However, in developing economies this can be much more affordable than you ever thought possible.

We hired a maid that comes once per week, and stays for 8+ hours. She thoroughly cleans the apartment and washes, dries and folds our laundry and even cooks for us. We pay her $20 per week. Between 2 or 3 roommates in the house, that is dirt-cheap and keeps us focused on the task at hand.

As a new business owner, where are you getting the most return on investment (ROI) for your time?

Are you focusing on getting initial clients and developing skills, or, are you getting sucked into the rabbit hole of grocery shopping, cleaning, cooking and organizing?  Exactly.

Focus on your business and growth first and foremost, and outsource the rest of these daily tasks as soon as possible.

Steps for Hiring a Maid or Chef

  1. Ask fellow entrepreneurs on Facebook Groups for referrals.
  2. See what the more experienced expat entrepreneurs are doing to most effectively leverage their limited time.
  3. Always go on a recommendation. This is someone that is going to be IN YOUR HOUSE, with close access to your valuable items (laptop, cameras, electronics, wallets, passports, etc) Choose wisely!
  4. If you find someone that goes above and beyond, do what you can to keep them loyal. The ones that can cook you healthy meals and keep your place in tip top shape will have a net positive effect on your life and business. Pay them well, think about all that extra time and focus you’ll have for productive tasks for growing your business.

5) Get your VISA handled

The dreaded visa can be a headache for even experienced location independent entrepreneurs.

Fortunately, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel.

Find out how long you can stay in country based only on your initial entry stamp at customs, otherwise known as a tourist visa. In Colombia, for example, they give you 90 days, no questions asked. After that, you can extend it up to 6 full months for a modest fee and visit to immigration.

Some countries, like Brazil, require that you secure your visa PRIOR to entering the country. Do your research and work your contacts to get the most accurate information.

If you’ve done a good job of developing your digital peer group and building your social circle of expats on the ground, you’ll have access to the most up-to-date intelligence on what it takes to procure a long-term visa. In case you’re coming to Colombia, I can’t recommend the expat blog Medellin Living enough. It’s saved me tons of time (and cash) on getting my visa and other expat issues sorted.

The best advice comes from people who have gotten their own visas, and the connections and shortcuts they learned. Take someone out for a beer or lunch, and pick their brain on the most efficient ways to get a visa, so you can stay in your location of choice, long term.

Another great option to secure a long-term visa is studying at a university or private institution.  There are many options here, and what you study is totally up to you. I believe the best bang for your buck would be to study the local language, especially if you plan on making this your newly adopted home.

Other options include:

  • Studying music or music production.
  • Taking an online course through a local company.
  • Interning for a local company, perhaps someone in your digital peer group can take you on as an intern or employee, and can help you with the paperwork required. I’ve done this multiple times, as have other friends.

Here are some additional resources to solving the visa issue:

6) Get Your Smartphone Up and Running

One of the best moves I made prior to departing for South America was getting in touch with my cell carrier (AT&T) and informing them that I was leaving the United States for work.

I politely inquired if it was possible to terminate my contract early (and waive the Early Termination Fee) due to my changing employment circumstances – I’d be living in a country where they couldn’t provide service to me!

I was pleasantly surprised when they said yes, that was indeed possible.

One phone call saved me well over $300, and meant that I now owned my smartphone outright.

Speak to your provider about getting it unlocked, so you can pop in a local SIM card in your country of choice.

Another choice is to simply wait until you’re on the ground in your new country. Ask locals where the cell phone district is (usually a mall or commercial area) and ask to get the bands opened (unlocked) on your phone. This typically will cost between $5 – $20.

Once you do this, you’ll be up and running on the local networks. For convenience, most developing countries allow you to top up your credit at grocery stores, ATMs and newsstands. Just ask.

An added bonus!

Data and calling plans in developing countries are much cheaper than in the United States and Western countries. For example, my rates for similar data and minute consumption were less than half of my monthly bill back home. These countries are on to something. =)

Check out the new phones from up-and-coming Chinese manufacturer Huawei. Their newest smartphone models are getting reviews on par with the latest iPhone and Samsung Galaxy models, for a fraction of the price.

You will own this phone outright, meaning you’re no longer beholden to any telecom provider via contract. This is a must for any Location Rebel.

Check out the Huawei Ascend P6

7) Map Out Your “Ideal Day”

A good friend and fellow location independent entrepreneur, Matthew Newton showed me a fantastic tool that has saved me a lot of wasted time.

He calls it the “ideal week tracker,” and he created it on a simple Excel spreadsheet.

The idea is that you have your ideal week scheduled out in advance, including what projects you want to move forward, which skills you want to learn, fitness routines and even social activities.

The value of having a tool like this at your disposal is that it keeps your from drifting and simply reacting to the demands of others.

As a newly location independent person, you’re going to have an abundance of what seems like free time. And, it can be easy to let your priorities slip while you sleep in, get distracted by adventure and let daily structure fall by the wayside.

Be careful!

You have finally bought back control of your time and life. Be proactive in how you will be investing your time. The productive habits you build today will dictate your progress, or lack thereof!

8) The Power of Focus

I learned first hand that it’s very easy to spread yourself too thin.

At first, you’ll be feeling exhilarated with your abundance of free time and control over your schedule. However, you can actually become greedy in terms of what you want to learn and take on.

In my case, I thought I could:

  • Take salsa dance lessons
  • Practice mixed martial arts 5x a week
  • Maintain a cardio/gym routine
  • Cook all my healthy meals at home
  • Build my business and
  • Maintain a semblance of a social life.

Nope. I crashed and burned within a month.

Thanks to some coaching, I got clarity on what my true priorities were, and cut out the non-essentials to focus on what was giving me the most energy, as opposed to what ended up feeling like and obligation.

Tough Love from the Trenches:

It is tempting to say yes to every new activity with newfound friends. Saying “no” is an essential part of becoming a highly effective entrepreneur. Don’t be a people pleaser and feel obligated to participate in every invitation.

You’re not a tourist, and you’re not on vacation.

You’re here building your lifestyle and business from scratch. Remember what you’ve sacrificed to come this far.

Pick 1-2 main business objectives that you want to see to fruition, and jam on those. Every day.

9) Attend Local Meet-ups  

You never know where you’ll meet a potential business partner, client, someone that can save you tons of wasted time and money on a project, or someone that is already working in your niche that can refer you more work.

Don’t try to live this lifestyle and build your business in a vacuum.

Just like the book Sean Ogle recommends: Never Eat Alone. If other entrepreneurs want to meet up for coffee or invite you to a dinner, by all means go.

10) Find the Best Cafes and Co-working Spaces

Having a go-to workspace is essential to hitting the ground running in your new home.

I wasted too much time dealing with unreliable Wi-Fi, distractions and inconvenient cafes. If you find a reliable café where you can be comfortable and focus, that’s great.

Sometimes, the better solution is a co-working space. They typically have much faster Wi-Fi, as well as a collection of other entrepreneurial types you can meet. Mine was affordable and worth it, at a price point of $125 USD per month.

When I’m in Medellin, I work at Espacio.

The idea is to develop a set routine, so you can get into a nice working groove, day in and day out. Do whatever you can to remove excess friction that prevents you from getting into your productive zone.

What’s your speed?

Download the Speedtest app to your smartphone. This is great not only for choosing where to live, but also evaluating cafes and co-working spaces for their productivity potential.

Nothing is worse than internet speeds that slow to a crawl when you’re trying to have an important Skype call, or submit a client project before a deadline. If you do this legwork ahead of time, you’ll know where to go so you don’t get caught off guard.

11) Factor in Noise Pollution

Excess noise is a fact of life in most developing countries.

I was completely unprepared for how noise would affect me, and my productivity. I found myself mostly doing work in cafes, so I could get out of the house.

The downside?  Developing countries are notorious for having more street noise, and worse yet, nobody seems to care! The locals just accept it as a fact of life.

Whether its taxis honking, brakes screeching, a neighbor’s yappy dog or street vendors hollering at the top of their lungs, disruptive noise comes at you from every direction and kill your focus for the day.

The best solution I’ve found is two-fold.

  1. Invest in some decent over-the-ear headphones, or even the pricier noise-canceling models.  (Bose, Sony & Sennheiser are the leaders of the pack)

Your improved focus, productivity, decreased frustration and preserved sanity will more than make up for this initial investment.

I just bought the Sennheiser’s as I’m gearing up for the upcoming launch of my Red Flag Clients course, and wanted to invest in my focus. Sure, they’re not technically “noise canceling,” but the sound quality is epic, and the over-the-ear nature of them means I am hearing NOTHING but my selected working music.

  1. Find your go-to music or ambient noise to stimulate creativity. As far as what to listen to while working, that’s entirely up to you.

Focus@Will is the best resource I’ve found to really get into the “flow”. This free service is based upon neuroscience, coupling classical soundscapes with binaural beats infused into the tracks. It coaxes your brain into alpha state faster.

Other options are:

  1. YouTube DJ and instrumental mixes
  2. Café del Mar – www.youtube.com/user/cafedelmar
  3. Chill Out – www.youtube.com/user/ChillOutKingIbiza
  4. BBC Essential Mixes – www.youtube.com/user/bbcradio1
  5. Classical Music – www.youtube.com/user/jabig

Going location independent is a defining moment in your entrepreneurial journey. It’s an exciting time, filled with new opportunities and challenges you’ve likely never faced before.

Your time and ability to focus are your most valuable resources – guard them accordingly!

I’ve met many people attempting to walk this path, but they lacked a solid, sustainable plan to keep them focused and productive.

These same people end up running out of money, have to take side jobs, or worse, end up going home feeling defeated because they failed to have an effective strategy for building a lifestyle that supported their business efforts and professional growth.

Avoid these mistakes and you’ll be miles ahead of the pack.

About Mike Harrington:

Mike discovered Sean Ogle and Location180 in 2013 – and his life hasn’t been the same since.

Within 3 months of joining Location Rebel he quit his corporate marketing job, started an online copywriting business and moved to Medellin, Colombia – the city of eternal spring. More about Mike’s Transition.

Mike’s is currently building a digital course serving creative freelancers and entrepreneurs that want to increase their perceived value and massively raise their rates – with a focus on providing killer value over bargain-basement hourly rates.

You can find Mike on his personal site: Career Deviant

And, as a special gift to Location 180 readers, grab a complimentary copy of Mike’s new guide to handling “Red Flag” clients, all while getting paid what you’re truly worth here: Red Flag Client Playbook

Kara Lane August 11, 2014 at 9:20 am

Hi Mike. I’m not yet location independent, but I’m working on it! I’m particularly interested in the technology that enables us to live and work anywhere. Your information about getting your smartphone up and running was helpful. You also mentioned Skype, the speedtest app, and the ideal week tracker. Are there any other software tools you recommend that make it easy to safely and conveniently work from anywhere (like Dropbox? Evernote? Todoist? etc.)


Sean August 11, 2014 at 10:04 am


A couple things you might find interesting that I personally use:

1) 64 Essential Tools for Location Independent Entrepreneur: http://www.seanogle.com/entrepreneurship/essential-tools
2) Location Rebel Arsenal: All the Tools I Use to Work from Anywhere http://www.locationrebel.com

Also interested to see what else Mike uses as well!


Mike Harrington August 11, 2014 at 1:22 pm


I didn’t include ALL the tools I use (there’s a lot) – b/c I didn’t want to overwhelm the readers!

But yes, I couldn’t run my biz without both Evernote, Dropbox and Google Docs.

Another piece I love is Sublime Text. A developer friend of mine turned me on to it. Turns out, Microsoft word puts in a bunch of (hidden) formatting when you’re writing, and it turns into a mess when you want to put it on your website or in another format. Sublime rocks!

If you’re on a Mac, I also like “Alfred.” Think of him as your digital butler that keeps your digital life tidy and efficient. You can open just about any app on your computer with just a key stroke (or two) – all customizable.

Finally, I use SoHelpful.me (another Location Rebel member helped launch it) to book all of my appointments with clients and partners. It syncs automatically with Google calendars, and takes care of emailing reminders to both parties. Game changer!

Additionally – I started using Rescue Time – in order to track how much time on my laptop I’m being productive vs. messing around on social media and other time sucks. They have a free version (that’s what I’m using!)


Kara Lane August 11, 2014 at 3:22 pm

Thanks, Sean and Mike. I’m familiar with a number of the tools you mention, but certainly not all of them…I’ll check them out. Just had two follow up questions:

Sean, I was leaning toward MailChimp for email marketing, only because I’ve used them before so I’m already familiar with them. Is there any feature in particular you like better on Aweber?

Mike, I’m actually on a PC (I was a CPA before I was an author, so using Excel on a PC is pretty much the law ;-)…do you know if there’s a PC equivalent for “Alfred”?

Mike Harrington August 11, 2014 at 4:49 pm

Ask and you shall receive:



Sebastian Aiden Daniels August 11, 2014 at 11:49 am

These are some solid tips. The most important ones for me are focus, meetups, and finding a cafe to work at it. It can so easy to become isolated when you work for yourself and then your mood drops and then you work becomes lackluster. It is important to be around other people even if it is just at a coffee shop. I also tend to get more done when I have to go somewhere outside of the house.

I think focus is so important. Your list was ridiculously long. I wish I could do stuff like that too, but I have found that I just don’t have the energy to do everything I’d like to. It seems hyperfocusing is the way and then once you are crazy successful you can then branch out.

Thanks for the tips man!


Mike Harrington August 11, 2014 at 1:24 pm


Your growth lives and dies by your ability to focus.

Looking at my list now makes me scratch my head and ask what the heck I was thinking. I got greedy and wanted it all…=)

You’re right, once you become successful / gain traction with 1-2 main things, THEN you can start branching out, as you become more efficient.

Glad you got value from the post, Sebastian.


Lillian Pierson August 11, 2014 at 12:29 pm

Great advice here – much of which I learned the hard way! Other stuff in this article was a good prod to get me going on things I have been meaning to do. I think the maid idea is the best one. I recently hired my maid / cook / errand runner here in Cusco. I think that I will try to hire a person like this as the first thing I do when I move, because they could help me with finding a good place and getting settled in quickly. For $3.75 an hour, its def worth it!


Mike Harrington August 11, 2014 at 5:10 pm


Not having to worry about cleaning, groceries, cooking, planning, etc.

Frees up so much time (and mental focus) to really come out of the gate swinging. It’s not to be overlooked, and really makes a big impact.

How is everything in Cusco?


Ryan August 11, 2014 at 12:30 pm

Some great tips in here, Mike. Greatly appreciated as I really sit down and focus on trying to build my income streams online and not just enjoying life in Medellin as a backpacker as I was–definitely need to find a local peer group to help me beyond the weekly mastermind/accountability internet calls. Maybe I will eventually run into you in town here, thanks again for the cleaning lady recommendation!


Mike Harrington August 11, 2014 at 1:25 pm


I only put it in there b/c I failed in that mindset capacity as well – it’s an important distinction, for sure.

Drop me an email or on twitter @themharrington and we’ll have a beer.


Bob R August 11, 2014 at 1:11 pm

Some excellent tips and real world examples, many thanks. I’ve got a plan in the works as well and really find these posts not only helpful and practical, but motivational –in terms of keeping reality in check– as well.


Mike Harrington August 11, 2014 at 4:50 pm

Awesome to hear, Bob.

When does your plan come to fruition? First stops planned?


Bob R August 12, 2014 at 3:05 pm

Yes, taking off in mid February, heading first to Ecuador, where I plan to stay for 4-6 months. Then likely Colombia for roughly the same period.

Soren August 11, 2014 at 1:20 pm

Hi Mike,
Thanks for all the great tips.
Having tone through the process, how many months worth of savings would you recommend stashing away before leaving the cubicle?


Mike Harrington August 11, 2014 at 5:08 pm

I’ve seen people do it with virtually NO SAVINGS and make it – to others that have maybe a year’s worth of savings.

The sweet spot will depend on your own risk tolerance. I actually get motivated more when my back is against the wall – a bit of the entrepreneurial fear…lights a fire under my ass.

That being said, if I had to give a range, I’d say have 3 – 6 months expenses and you’ll be quite comfortable. Esp. if going somewhere where you can leverage Geo-arbitrage- where the cost of living is substantially less expensive.

Just don’t get TOO comfortable. =)

Good luck and keep us posted, Soren.


AESC August 11, 2014 at 2:09 pm

Hey Mike… You need to check your website… the links for instagram and twitter dont go to your accounts…


Mike Harrington August 11, 2014 at 4:51 pm

Thanks for the heads up.


Jody August 11, 2014 at 2:18 pm

Great advice Mike.

Have bookmarked this page for future reference and to remind myself of your great tips once we get back on the road.

Thanks for sharing your insights and lessons learned.


Mike Harrington August 11, 2014 at 5:05 pm

Anytime, Jody.

Happy the stories of my failures and eventual successes can help to inspire and educate.



Jody August 11, 2014 at 6:40 pm

Yes, sometimes the best teaching moments come from the failures we all endure. Keep up the great work. No doubt you have had many successes as well.


neale August 11, 2014 at 6:05 pm

Mike great post, you have covered all the main points and more. The first about establishing contacts in your new location is without doubt the most important, I had never thought about the university angle “probably cause I’m old” it makes sense though and will be one I remember. Lastly I loved your thoughts on the “backpacker lifestyle” and how it can be detrimental in the long run. Like many I too made a lot of mistakes and still do.

Anyone that is seriously thinking about going it alone in the near future should take note of the above and put it into practice right now, or you will make all the mistakes we have made.


Mike Harrington August 12, 2014 at 8:23 am

My pleasure, Neale!

And age doesn’t matter – the university sectors are killer for saving money and getting into a groove quickly. Instant community!

Glad the post resonated, and you could relate to the backpacker mentality – it’s a doozy to watch out for, especially for those who are on their first adventure outside of their home countries.


Dan August 11, 2014 at 6:19 pm

Thanks for the very kind shout Mike…. aaaaand now I’m on to see about this ideal week tracker thing.. 🙂


Mike Harrington August 11, 2014 at 7:23 pm


Thanks for building the DC! (Shout out to Elisa also)


Katherine Wright August 11, 2014 at 8:14 pm

Great post and excellent timing. I just dusted off my old twitter account thanks to this article. I’m having trouble linking to “A fantastic resource for finding out what visa you need for any country, depending on what passport(s) you currently hold” – looks like it might need to be updated. Thanks!


Mike Harrington August 12, 2014 at 7:44 am
Liz Froment August 11, 2014 at 8:28 pm

Mike is an awesome LocationRebel success story, not to mention this is a great post with a ton of really good advice.


Mike Harrington August 20, 2014 at 9:38 am

Boo yeah!

Remember to call AT&T and get that pesky ETF waived. Good luck!


Chas August 11, 2014 at 8:51 pm

Thank you for sharing the story of Brian. It is easy to get distracted when you are traveling to unfamiliar lands and lose focus on your own goals. Just a trivial question about choosing a twitter handle- can you incorporate your domain name into your twitter handle? What are your thoughts on this? Also, do you belong to Medium? (You must have a twitter, or Facebook account to join). Thank you.


Mike Harrington August 11, 2014 at 8:57 pm

Hi Chas,

I think the story of Brian can be a good wake up call for all of us – and our long term goals that we’ve sacrificed so much to go after.

You can change your Twitter handle into anything you want, I believe, as long as it’s not already taken by someone else.

I do have a Medium account, but haven’t posted much there, just a few articles I wrote in the last year.




Christina August 12, 2014 at 5:24 am

Hi Mike,
Your article was packed with so many goodies and 3 points in particular spoke to me – The Power of Focus, Map Out Your Ideal Day, and Cultivate a Digital Peer Group. My 2 biggest hurdles to a location independent career have been improper planning due to lack of focus and not surrounding myself with supportive people. It is a lifestyle change and you laid out clearly defined steps I can take to jump these hurdles. Thank you for the Ideal Day excel sheet, I will use that today.


Mike Harrington August 12, 2014 at 6:57 am

Yes, I know lack of focus and the wrong peer group all too well. If you get these two things in order, there will literally be NO STOPPING YOU. =)

Feel free to reach out to me anytime – Twitter: themharrington

And kudos to Matthew Newton for the Ideal Day Worksheet.

All the best, Christina!


Christina August 12, 2014 at 7:15 am

Thanks Mike, I will create a twitter account so I can contact you and join the conversation!

Liz August 12, 2014 at 8:01 am

“You’re not a tourist, and you’re not on vacation”. Yup! This is one of my mantras. After reading #8, I’m taking Ukulele lessons off the list. 🙂
Thanks for all the great tips, links and resources in this post!


Mike Harrington August 12, 2014 at 8:24 am

Happy to help.

The power of focusing on only 1-2 main priorities is SO important and really accelerates your progress like nothing else I’ve found.

Take care!


Matt August 12, 2014 at 11:15 am


You already know how I feel about this article. You and I discuss this weekly. Such great advice, particularly around The Power of Focus and Map Out Your Ideal Day. Focus is soooo crucial. It truly is amazing how much we get bogged down with cooking, cleaning and running errands. Ironically, those things are dream killers. They look meaningful and send dopamine to our brains because we feel accomplished for getting stuff done, but in actuality, they take us away from having impact.

As far as planning out your ideal day, I really like to visualize. I actually print out my ideal day, month, etc., as well as my goals, and then I plaster them all over my walls. No joke!! On top of that, I keep a list of things I’m grateful for and visuals that motivate me for my purpose literally taped to the ceiling. The are the first things I see when I awake and they are the last things I see when I go to sleep. Very powerful!!!!


Mike Harrington August 12, 2014 at 5:07 pm

Thanks, brotha Matt!


Zachary August 12, 2014 at 1:05 pm

Terrific stuff, Mike. Saying “no” is so crucial… Difficult to be productive, and a social butterfly at the same time, at least for me. Enjoy the rest of your time in Medellin.


Mike Harrington August 12, 2014 at 5:10 pm

Thanks, Zachary.

Saying “no” was easily the hardest hurdle to overcome, especially in the face of peer pressure from other people that don’t work for themselves.


Dave August 12, 2014 at 8:10 pm

Thanks for the kind mention of Medellín Living.

I can relate to a lot of what you wrote, especially the need to escape the backpacker mentality.

I still stay at hostels when I’m traveling, but when I’m at rest in Medellín (6 to 9 months a year), you’ll rarely find me at one, even the ones that are known to be social and open to expats and Colombians.

I like Matthew’s idea about creating a weekly planner in a spreadsheet. I’ve found it increasingly hard to juggle different blogs and projects at the same time, and I’m a visual person so this might be a strategy I can use in addition to a whiteboard.


Mike Harrington August 13, 2014 at 9:28 am

Yeah, the weekly planner from Mat is great, I’m glad I was able to share it.

Yep, you won’t find me at many hostels when I’m here in Colombia – just a totally different crowd!


Jan Koch August 13, 2014 at 2:09 am

Hey Mike,
what a great writeup, I love it!

Even though I’m necessarily traveling the world, my web design and coaching business would allow me to – and that’s why I’m getting a LOT out of this post.

Meetups and basic technology (stable, fast Internet, leveraging software) probably are the main points for me, as those have helped me grow my business. The power of likeminded people working together can’t be valued highly enough, and technology simply is mandatory to run a location indepedent business.

LOVE your headphone recommendations! I personally use Audio Technica headphones for a few years and they really became essential in my daily routines. Good that you recommend high-priced products, headphones is one of few areas where high price most often equals high value.

Keep up the great work buddy!


Mike Harrington August 13, 2014 at 9:27 am

Jan –

Glad to hear you enjoyed the piece.

Dude, my Sennheiser headphones are EASILY the best business purchase I’ve made this year. No question. $130 DAMN well spent. I recommend em for anyone that works on their laptop – really gets you in the zone.

Looking forward to your talk with Chris Brogan, dude.


Andrew Elsass August 13, 2014 at 1:59 pm


Great piece! In it though I noticed a small contradiction which deals with something that I’ve been struggling with as I begin to build a remote-business for myself.

In point 8 you mention that “it is tempting to say yes to every new activity with newfound friends” and that “Saying ‘no’ is an essential part of becoming a highly effective entrepreneur.” However in point 9, you go on to say “You never know where you’ll meet a potential business partner, client, someone that can save you tons of wasted time and money on a project, or someone that is already working in your niche that can refer you more work.”

As someone who has met potential clients and partners in the most random places, how do you personally toe this fine line? Is there any sort of rule of thumb you follow when deciding to accept or deny a social invitation?



Mike Harrington August 16, 2014 at 8:30 am

Excellent question, and something I could have clarified a bit.

When it’s an invitation from another hustler / entrepreneur that is doing interesting things…DEFINITELY GO. You just never know where those kinds of relationships can lead.

However, if it’s just an invitation to go partying, endless coffee dates, etc – that’s when you need to learn how to better flex your “no” muscle.

Does that help?


Andrew Elsass August 16, 2014 at 3:17 pm

Absolutely, seems like a good rule of thumb. Thanks for clarifying!

Ellen Bard August 13, 2014 at 7:26 pm

Great article.

I think the noise pollution is one of the factors that really surprised me when I came to Thailand. I switch my bases between Chiang Mai and Koh Phangan, and even on the island, it can be really noisy.

Two things I’m really glad I started using? Ear plugs and an airplane eye mask to sleep. No more disturbed nights! And I’m definitely more productive with sleep 😉



Mike Harrington August 18, 2014 at 5:17 pm

Oh man, don’t get me started all over again on noise pollution!

Ear plugs and eye mask – great to have in the tool kit.

A great night’s sleep is an entrepreneur’s best friend – definitely. 😉


Basti August 14, 2014 at 2:03 am

Hi Mike,

Excellent article as usual and I saw a new article on your blog as well I will read in a few minutes. (I really need that newsletter option 😀 )

I really like those listings of important things although it seems that I am doing many things quite good on intuition. (Never wanted to be a “Backpacker”. For me the image of a backpacker is a broke guy traveling around and has to pay attention to every cent. I dont want that. I dont like worrying about money.)

What is a really good new tip is the University hack. I also will try to work at the local Uni for testing working not at home and stuff but it seems they will not get my access to Wifi 🙁

But do you think I neccessarily need a smartphone? I am thinking about cutting it for cost reaosons.

One weird advice from me for focus is cutting porn and masturbation. (At least for man) There are some tantristic and taoistic theories backed up by science out there.



Mike Harrington August 18, 2014 at 5:18 pm

Yeah, that was one of the biggest reasons I started distancing myself from backpackers. They were only interested in spending money on beer, clubs and cheap hostels.

They were counting every penny, and that mentality really drains on you. I’d rather channel that energy into building business and projects that really get me moving.

No, you don’t need a smartphone. Plenty of my friends here have “Dumb” phones. That being said, you can pick up a pretty basic Android smartphone for under $200 on Ebay…maybe even as low as $100 for a bit older model.


Kevin Hassett August 14, 2014 at 5:58 am

Hi Mike. Great list, thanks for this! While my digital nomad journey begins in October, I did do a quick practice dry run, if you will, for a week after WDS last month and now after reading this I see where I went wrong. It was the hostel/backpacker mentality that was holding me back from getting as much done as I had wanted. Glad I recognize this now before I go location independent for real soon!


Mike Harrington August 18, 2014 at 5:19 pm

Oh yeah, try your hardest to really consciously pick your peer group. Seek out other entrepreneurs that are hustling, and you can’t go wrong. =)


Lisa Eldridge August 14, 2014 at 8:32 pm

I am so glad I was referred to this article. Everything you say makes complete sense and I have found myself allowing others to encroach on my time . “You’re not a tourist, and you’re not on vacation,” resonated with me.

I need to get myself into a proper routine and stay away from those backpackers. It’s time to take back my time!


Mike Harrington August 18, 2014 at 5:20 pm

I love Sunday nights because there is nothing distracting me from laying out my ideal week.

My top 3 -5 outcomes I want to see happen – the stuff that is actually going to move the needle for my business, my website and my customers.

I recommend an accountability partner or mastermind group – that’s been one of my biggest secrets.


Basti August 15, 2014 at 12:02 am

Hi Mike,

Excellent article again. I really need that newsletter option on your blog 😀

Unfortunately it seems my first comment got lost. (Maybe because of inappropriate advice)

Anyhow, many useful advices but regarding #6 I am thinking about cutting smartphones completely.



Mike Harrington August 18, 2014 at 5:22 pm

Newsletter (I hate that term!) –

Is in the works, figuring out the email software over the weekend. Drop me a line with your email address, and you’ll be surely added.



Casey Ames August 16, 2014 at 7:22 pm

Great Post! Unfortunately I just came across this and am 2 months into my first location independent living in Rio de Janeiro. I could have used this exact list coming down here. I spent most of my time nodding and laughing, realizing I learned most of this the hard way.

The biggest thing I agree with is that we are not tourists, we are not backpackers, we are not on vacation.

The hiring a chef or at least someone to buy groceries is a great take away tip, though. I feel like I am spending way too much time making sure my fridge is stocked.

As for dealing with the noise pollution, which is really loud in Rio de Janeiro, I recommend 10 hours of time: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LqRZ2_w56U0

Probably not for everyone, but for some reason puts me in the zone.


Mike Harrington August 18, 2014 at 5:22 pm

At least you realized it, and have course corrected from the mistakes.

Nothing teaches like experience. 😉


Rich Peirce August 18, 2014 at 8:23 am

Useful tips for anyone spending a lot of time abroad including the non-entrepreneurial amongst us. Some great ideas for an old gaffer like me who wants to chill more than party with the backpackers.


Mike Harrington August 18, 2014 at 5:24 pm

Yeah, find the people who will be staying around for more than just a week or two. That’s your peer group!


Danniel Rolfe August 18, 2014 at 1:40 pm


Nice work!

I really enjoyed the section about ‘The Power of Focus.’ I naturally struggles with this area of my life. I have a lot of interests and hobbies, and in addition, people who count on my time. I like your focus “Pick 1-2 main business objectives that you want to see to fruition, and jam on those. Every day.” I find that I over think the big picture and often become over whelmed. I’m currently working on focusing on three action items per week that will get me closer to my dream life style.

Thanks again for the great article.

~Danniel Rolfe


Mike Harrington August 18, 2014 at 5:24 pm

Danniel my man,

The power of focus is often underestimated as the linchpin to an entrepreneurs success.

In our case, less really IS more. Focus on the 1 -2 most important things for your week, and don’t go down the rabbit hole of other “shiny objects,” and you’ll be amazed at the progress you can make.


David Anderson August 19, 2014 at 9:28 pm

Mike, great tips for the newly location independent.

I especially like how you point out the importance of who you surround yourself with and starting a digital peer group.

When you’re location independent, you no longer have access to those “old buddies” you’ve been friends with for years. Instead, you need a core group or mastermind that will stick it with you and hold you accountable.

Love hearing about your experience so far. Keep it up!


Mike Harrington August 20, 2014 at 9:37 am

David, my man!

You nailed it, amigo – That’s why it’s great to have guys like YOU in my mastermind.

Inner circle, baby.


Jeff Bronson August 24, 2014 at 11:18 am

Point #7 mapping out your ideal day and #8 focusing on that plan is so freaking important.
I’d venture to say without that , everything else takes a backseat.

I’d so easy to let ‘whatever’ demands of the day keep you from doing anything productive, like producing content or creating systems.

Anyway, keep it up!!


Mike Harrington August 25, 2014 at 10:41 am

It’s deceptively simple. If you don’t take control of your day/week, someone or something external will!

I only look at email after I’ve knocked out my high priority task for the day – something that is moving MY business forward. The demands of others (clients, etc) come next.

I think that’s the biggest mindset shift – growing from a “freelancer” mindset, to that of an “entrepreneur” mentality. Servicing clients and projects is important, yes, but you have to treat yourself, your education, your brand and your growth as Client #1!


Mike Harrington September 9, 2014 at 4:06 pm


Absolutely…without mapping it out in advance, you’re just winging it, and playing with fire.

Lessons learned the hard way, in the trenches.

Hope you’re well.


Jeff Bronson September 11, 2014 at 8:09 pm

For sure Mike. And I certainly agree that if you don’t take charge of your time, someone else surely will.

Jeff September 14, 2014 at 3:02 pm

Hey Mike, great post! I will be in Colombia in November and was wondering if you could point me to some of those expat entrepreneur groups of Medellin. Also, if you have the time, it would be really cool to meet up while I am there. I am currently on a quest to start my own location independent business and move abroad as well. I would love some advice and to talk to people already living the dream.


Mike Harrington September 16, 2014 at 12:05 pm

Sure thing, Jeff.

Drop me an email: mike@mikeharrington.co and I’ll get you all hooked up.


Peter Clifford November 13, 2014 at 8:40 pm

I realise this is a late comment but only just getting active on Sean’s site again. I loved this post. As of 24 Dec 2014 i go Location Indie and cant wait. This article has inspired me (as have lots of others on the site.

Thanks for sharing your knowledge


Jay June 25, 2015 at 5:08 am

Hey Mike! A bit late to the party here, but brilliant advice that still rings true even after 6 months on the road. Especially the part about not being on gorram vacation. People just don’t understand it.

Great article!


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