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Today we're chatting with Natalie Sisson of The Suitcase Entrepreneur about her location independent lifestyle.
Hi Natalie! Tell us a bit about your business and how you keep it location independent.
My business is my brand- The Suitcase Entrepreneur. I help entrepreneurs create freedom in business and adventure in life. I do this through my blog, videos, podcast, paid digital products and programs, workshops and events.
I personally have lived out of my suitcase full time for almost four years and run my business entirely from my laptop and smartphone plus a Wi-Fi connection. I choose freedom so this is how I purposefully set up my business to run. I definitely work at it and it can be challenging, but I like challenges and I love what I do and have created.
What does an average month/year look like in terms of your location (we assume there's no average day!)?
I actually did a podcast episode on how I structure my "typical" non-typical day. This year and last have been pretty nuts on the travel side, visiting up to 15 different countries. My travel is usually based around 3 decisions- is this a country I’ve never visited, is there an event/ conference/ great group of friends where I’m going, is there an Ultimate Frisbee tournament. If it’s all three then it’s won the trifecta.
I don’t stay for any fixed amount of time, sometimes a few days, a few weeks or if I’m going a bit more long term a few months. I try to chase the summers so I’m not in the cold- which my suitcase is not really prepared for as I pack light and a lot of layers.
I attempt to do my most focused and important priority work in the morning, go out and discover during the day, check in early evening if need be, then enjoy the night. When I’m launching something or needing to do interviews or coaching calls I make sure I’m in a place with reliable internet and staying put for a day or so.
How do you handle the logistics of working while traveling (finding reliable internet, being available, time differences, etc)?
Some of that I spoke to above but essentially I plan my work around my travel. So I travel a lot when I’m not launching anything or doing major important work, hosting webinars, calls or live events. During those times I plan to stay put in one place where I know I can get reliable internet. For timezones- I’ll admit that’s still tricky but I love using Time and Date meeting planner and ScheduleOnce- my calendar scheduling tool of choice to block out times I’m just not available so I can concentrate everything into a few set hours or days.
How do you balance making the most of travel while still staying on track with your business?
It really depends on where I’m going. I just spent 7 weeks in Japan where I’d never been so I spent 70% of my time being a tourist. I hired a few more team members and started diligently handing over to them so that I was working just a few hours a day, and some days not working at all. It also helped that my dad came over for 2 weeks to visit me so I was forced into way more play time which I loved. It’s all about your vision for life and what’s important to you. I love my work and when I work I’m very focused and productive. When I play, I’m all play (although I do have many great creative ideas while out exploring).
Any location independent myths you want to bust?
Yes, I wrote about them in my bestselling Suitcase Entrepreneur book actually, but for me it’s that it’s not all about working from a laptop on a beach in the South Pacific. It’s about living life on your own terms and doing what you want, when you want, with who you want.
To achieve this kind of lifestyle you have to be wiling to work hard but smart, and be very disciplined- which is the key to freedom. You also have to build the right type of business for you and your skill sets and your level of active vs residual revenue streams.
It’s definitely not for everyone as it can get lonely, you have to be open to constant change and planning your next steps and you have to be open to new cultures, languages and things being harder than expected.
In my mind, it’s all worth it but it can be tiring and also make you less tolerant or more lackadaisical if you’re not careful.
What are your business/travel must haves?
Oooh, too many to mention as I love my online tools and smart products. I love Rimowa for lightweight sturdy suitcases; mine is the Salsa Air and it’s taken a beating and has stood the test of time. I love Skross for an awesome travel adaptor. I dig Scottevest for a super useful travel jacket with hidden travel pockets that can reduce a lot of weight from your luggage.
I love my new Chase Preferred Sapphire card for earning me points through my business and travel spend. I’m digging Regus lounges for being able to access a business lounge in tons of countries and have an office anywhere I choose.
What are some of your favorite resource sites for affordable travel and/or location independent business?
My top fave for travel are Skyscanner.net for finding great flight deals and Airbnb for fun accommodation options. I love Dropbox as my online cloud storage solution, SaneBox for managing my inbox like a charm and Asana for project management with my team.
What do you think the future holds for you (staying in one place, periods of travel, being a full-time nomad, etc)?
For me, this question is top of mind right now. For 2015 I’d like to have 3 bases and spend the first quarter of the year in the summer of New Zealand or Australia, the next quarter of the year in Europe- likely Spain, and then a few months in the US for conference season and to spend quality time with friends. I’m definitely looking to travel less and have a base…but famous last words.
I’m also going to reduce my time focusing on the Suitcase Entrepreneur now that it’s running like a finely tuned engine, and once I’ve launched my flagship program for online entrepreneurs wanting location independence, I’m looking to start 1-2 new businesses, using all my knowledge gained in new niches just to diversify.