Asking Why You Do What You Do
The past couple of weeks was a good time to do some reflecting as things were much slower than usual. I spent a lot of time thinking, reading, and asking myself why I'm doing what I'm doing.
When things are really busy, it's easy to get lost in the day-to-day tasks and not have the headspace to think about why you're doing the things you're doing. Sometimes, you just get into the habit of doing certain things that may not really be adding value anymore or helping you reach your goals.
For me, the two main things I'm doing are building a small software business and traveling.
Why build this business?
I've been working on this tiny Shopify app business with a friend of mine for the past 3 years. The goal is to own a sustainable, fully-remote, lifestyle business where:
- We can pay ourselves a good full-time salary where we can live a comfortable lifestyle almost anywhere in the world.
- Running the business shouldn't take more than 20 hours/week of our time (which is how we've been running it since the beginning).
- Eventually make ourselves completely optional in running the business by hiring a small team (no more than 5 people) to handle the day-to-day operations.
The main reason I'm doing this is for the freedom and flexibility. I like being able to set my own schedule, work from anywhere I want, and have control over the projects I'm working on.
If/when the business reaches a point where we have a team in place to handle the day-to-day stuff we'd rather not do (such as customer support), we'd probably be pretty happy with that and may not see much of a reason to grow the business further. At this point, most of our time will be freed up so we can just work on things we like doing (i.e. coding, building, optimizing the products, experimenting). We've actually talked about starting projects using technologies we're not that familiar with (such as AI/machine learning) as experiments and not care so much whether it will get anywhere or add value to the business. Just do it for the fun of learning.
We also don't want to run a big business. While more money is nice as it gives you more options, the trade-off doesn't seem worth it to us. We like how simple it is to run the business right now and how we can run it part-time and still see slow and steady growth. We don't want the additional headaches, complexities, and attention that come with running a big business.
Maybe in the future that will change and we'll get more ambitious, but for the time being we're pretty content with how things are moving. :)
Why keep traveling?
This is something I ask myself every year. I've been doing the digital nomad thing for almost 5 years straight now and do think about whether it still makes more sense to keep going or if it's better to just settle down somewhere for a while.
After weighing the pros and cons, I've decided it still makes more sense for me right now to continue traveling, mainly for the following reasons:
- lower cost of living in my preferred cities (vs living in the US)
- I like changing my environment every 1-3 months and it's very easy to do so thanks to AirBnB
- simpler lifestyle/keeps me from accumulating stuff
While it's of course possible to find a place in the US where cost of living is low, it would most likely mean living in a small town somewhere and not in a big city. I find that I currently much prefer living in big cities and I often look for an apartment where I can find everything I need within walking distance or where public transportation is nearby without breaking the bank. In my favorite cities outside the US, I can usually find a nice, modern, fully-furnished apartment on AirBnB that matches these criteria for less than $1,000/month. And I'm not stuck with a 1-year lease contract.
Because of this lifestyle, I'm also forced to keep the stuff I own to a minimum, basically one carry-on bag. I see this as a good thing as it protects me from impulse purchases of things I probably don't need or won't get that much enjoyment from after the initial use. This saves me additional money and time from the distraction of shiny new things.
The main downside that most people think about with this lifestyle is being away from family and friends. But to be honest, it's actually not a big deal at least for me. I remember when I was living back in the US that I didn't spend that much time with family and friends anyway. Everyone's busy with other things going on in their lives. And nowadays, it's so easy to keep in touch with anyone that it doesn't even feel like you're away. If something important happens that requires me to be home, it's just a flight away and I can make it back within a day or two.
Living this digital nomad lifestyle feels very natural to me now and I don't feel like I'm sacrificing much by choosing to keep traveling. I do want to point out that I tend to go back to the same 4-5 cities , so it's not like I'm starting over every time. If I meet people I really like, I make an effort to keep in touch and catch up with them when I come back to their cities.
I'm sure at some point I'll get tired of doing this and eventually decide to stay put somewhere, but right now this is still working well for me.