When I moved to Mexico and started working as a “location independent” business owner, my friends and family had a vision of me beachside, in a hammock, sipping a margarita and “working hard.”
(Or, if you would have asked them…hardly working.) At the time, I resented this idea. First, I relocated to the mountains of Chiapas. No beaches for hours. Second, I had no money for margaritas. And third, I was working hard, dammit! Right?!
After a while, I started to resent the idea they had of me for different reasons. I resented it for not being true. I felt like I was doing something wrong for not living that irresistible adventure story of “quitting the grind” and swapping it for a life of passion and hammocks and margaritas. What’s the point, I thought, of being “location independent” if I’m sitting all day in a concrete room with no windows, writing $5 articles about the difference between mace and pepper spray. (True Life: I was a crappy content writer.)
So I found my way to the beach. Not to stay. Just to say I did it. I worked in paradise. I lived the dream. I took a selfie with my laptop in the sand. Fine, family. You got me. I’m in a freakin’ hammock, sipping a ‘rita, and hardly working.
It felt good to claim the life other people thought I was living. I felt cool. I might have had -$50 in the bank but dammit, if I wasn’t the envy of every 9 to 5-er with a desk job and a seasonal depression. So, I kept finding my way to beaches.
Any time I left town, I made sure to capture a hard working hammock selfie for posterity. Other popular shots included: “What?! I’m just bangin’ it out at the airport! No big deal!” or “Hey! It’s me! Hard at work by the hotel pool. Hashtag blessed!!!”
Here’s the thing, though, I was hardly working.
My “office view” was hot. My productivity was not.
I didn’t make money on the beach. I spent money trying to look like I was making money. Once I got back home to my concrete room in the mountains, I’d have to make up for the hard work I didn’t do at my “beachside office.” But Instagram didn’t need to know that.
You see, the fantasy of quitting real life and swapping it for sun soaked work days and margarita soaked nights is just that – a fantasy. The dream is alive for as long as it takes to snap a selfie and then you’ve got sand in your keyboard and the glare on your screen forces you inside.
It is technically true that I can work “anywhere there is internet.” And I have. Kinda. If shouting a voice to text email at your phone five times in a row is working. Or waiting 25 minutes for a single file to upload. Or rewriting a blog twice because the Wifi dropped again. Yes, I can work anywhere. But I am by no means “location independent.” In fact, I greatly depend on having a stable place to get work done. (And that place is definitely not on the beach.)
In the days of social media, where it can seem like we’re competing against each other for “coolest life,” it’s hard not to go the way of the sun soaked work selfie, even if it’s a lie. “Location independence” is in, maaaaan. Quit your job. Live your dream. Fill your laptop with sand.
The truth is, for most people – myself included – there is no “quitting” the reality of needing to pay bills, be productive, wear sunscreen, avoid hangovers, and protect your laptop from sand because your warranty does not cover that shit. (I checked.)
Looking back, I can understand why my family scoffed when I relocated, especially once I myself started contributing to the Margaritaville illusion. I can also understand why they might have resented me. If it really were true that I traded hard work for hardly working – that I somehow gamed the system to luxuriate in the sun “making pesos in my sleep” then what the heck is wrong with everyone else?! Just quit your job and live your dream, man!
The truth is, while I am guilty of cropping reality of out of my selfies, I am writing this today to debunk the myth that there is some sort of “shortcut” you’re just too afraid to take with a hammock and a margarita waiting for you on the other end.
And, while some people do make “location independence” work better for them than it has for me, I can guarantee you that most of them have also intimately known the insides of a windowless concrete room or two.
After the sun soaked selfie, work is still waiting. Hashtag blessed.