Maverick Traveler

Location Independence, Geo Arbitrage, Individual Freedom

Location Independence Can Be More Of A Curse Than A Blessing

It’s hard to remember when my life was better in terms of my living situation—OK, maybe back in Brazil when I lived in an amazing flat with a bunch of cool guys and partied all the time—but, aside from that, it’s pretty damn good here in Kiev right now.

I’m living in a sick apartment, no, not in one of those Soviet-era places with a rug on the wall, but in a nice, modern apartment in a very cool building a mere block away from Kiev’s main street, Kreshyatik. That main independence square where that big Maidan revolution happened? That’s just a mere few blocks away, and I wouldn’t want to be any closer anyway with all the mayhem.

Not to mention the numerous coffee shops, restaurants and all kinds of parks all around me.

It’s the best living situation that I’ve had in probably all of my location-independence life. Although I can become mobile in an instant, there’s nothing that’s motivating me to give up everything I have now and move somewhere else.

Honestly, even if I had all the money in the world, I wouldn’t live anywhere else in the city. My current living situation is that freaking ideal.

Of course, there’s the omnipresent little voice in my head that’s whispering sweet things in my ear and telling me how nice it would be to start all over again in a new city in some new country. Maybe pack up my suitcase and fly to rural Brazil, maybe grab my shit and fly to some small city in Mexico or Colombia, or maybe keep it simple and just catch a one hour flight north to Minsk, Belarus. In fact, one of my friends and my business lunch partner recently left everything here in Kiev after three years and moved to Minsk.

That voice that’s whispering to me to leave everything and move somewhere new becomes especially louder when you don’t have any close contacts, no roots and really nothing that’s making you stay. I don’t have family here in Kiev, no close friends, and combine that with my overall detachment to any physical location and even, for that matter, people, leaving any city becomes as easy as packing up a suitcase and heading to the airport. It’s amazing and sad at the same time.

However, the real benefit of starting a new life somewhere is psychological. When you leave a place, you leave behind all those failures, the rejections, the bullshit, the pain, the suffering all those negative emotions that might’ve tormented you and left a mark at some point in your life. There are positive emotions though, but nobody leaves a place when things are at their peak. That’s because when you arrive at a new destination, you start as a brand new man. Nobody knows who you are and where you’ve been, and what kind of bullshit you’ve experienced, so you can become pretty much anyone you want.

There’s also a certain level of confidence that comes with that. When I arrived in Ukraine four years ago, I was no longer just some regular guy. I had a past. A vibrant past that included 7+ year stint in Latin America, multi-year stints in European countries (Spain, Denmark, Lithuania) plus I knew how to speak five languages with varying degrees of fluency. That makes you special and automatically raises your value with the people you interact.

But there’s a limit how many times I’d want to start over regardless if it’s fast-paced traveling or multi-year sojourns in different places around the world. After a while that shit just gets old.

One of my friends is currently trying the whole digital nomad thing for the first time. He’s like 35, did the whole Silicon Valley thing, burned out and realized that, hey, life isn’t so bad outside the US after all. He spent the winter in the Canary Islands and will now spend a month in Ukraine before returning back to Spain for a couple of weeks, followed by several weeks in Asia and then, well, some other random country.

Just looking at his travel plans makes me nauseous. Yes, he checking out new places. Yes, he’s also building a successful online business (a SaaS app), but, man, I wouldn’t trade places with him and zig-zag around the planet if you put a gun to my head. Although he’s spending at least a month in some of the countries (e.g., Ukraine and Bulgaria), even a month is too little for my stable ass; those four weeks would fly in a blink of an eye and then you’re once again packing up that suitcase and heading to a new airport to do things all over again.

Not to mention making new friends that last few weeks, getting to know a gym that you’ll visit only several times and a few sex-only relationships with a woman or two if you’re lucky. No, thanks.

Last year, around this time, I flew into Kiev from the US, spent a week there and then caught a train to Dnipro, a 2nd tier city in Eastern Ukraine. After spending a month there, I extended my stay by another month and a half and then returned back to the capital in September. While I was mostly alone, I had the benefit of hanging out with a good friend who I’ve known from before, and who just happened to be working in that city. If that wasn’t the case, I would’ve been pretty much on my own trying to make connections before starting all over again once I made it back to Kiev.

The other option is to pack everything up and to start a new life in a new city. While rural Brazil is a stretch, one practical option is Minsk, a city where everyone speaks my language (Russian) and where I can immediately feel confident as someone, who, unlike most of the locals, has seen his share of the world and achieved various things in life.

But that euphoria of “the mysterious man with a past” wouldn’t last very long. Before long, I would just be another dude trying to make his way in a very Soviet country, one that even lacks the vibrancy of Ukraine and its capital, Kiev.

Moreover, my current problems wouldn’t just go away. They aren’t going to disappear into thin air. All the issues that I’ve experienced here in Ukraine (and elsewhere) would follow me to whatever was the final destination on that one-way ticket, whether it’s Minsk, rural Brazil or an island in Southern Thailand. If I had trouble building close contacts in Ukraine, you can bet your ass that I would experience the same problems in Belarus.

A year ago, I was bouncing around various apartments here in Kiev, never committing to one for more than a week or a month. The flexibility that came with it felt simply fantastic. How could I commit to any single apartment when I was so damn location-independent when I could just grab a train and head to any city I wanted and stay there for as long as I wanted before heading elsewhere.

Nowadays, I can’t even fathom not having some kind of a base, an apartment where I had a signed rental agreement that I know will still be there whenever I return from some quick or long trip abroad, one with my own bed waiting for me to rest on. It’s a radical feeling knowing that for the next year or so, I know exactly where I’ll be.

Thus, I find myself in an interesting predicament. I view people who criss-cross the world as some kind of maniacs and just knowing that I’ll need to spend a week here and a month and then another week there makes my head spin. 

Why the heck would I want to spend a week in Spain and another week in France and another week in Estonia? What’s the gain from spending so little time in these destinations? So, that I can brag to my friends that I ate tapas in Spain and drank wine in France? So that I can have more material to post on my Instagram? That kind of traveling holds no appeal to me any longer.

A scenario that I’ve always preferred is to have a base and combining it with numerous short vacations around the world. This past New Year’s, I took a trip to Lithuania for a week. Then, several months later, I flew to the Republic of Georgia for the weekend. Next month, I’m gearing for a trip to Barcelona for about a week to visit an old friend. Of course, all of these trips come with a round trip back to my lovely apartment in the heart of Kiev. At this stage of my life, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The psychological benefits of starting a new life somewhere new are now outweighed by the reality that things might not even be better once the euphoria of being somewhere new dissolves. Who says that my life in Kiev would be somehow topped by my new life in Minsk? Who says that moving to rural Brazil would somehow solve all the problems that I’m experiencing by my present monotony here in Kiev?

About five years ago, I left Denmark and flew on a one-way ticket to Bulgaria. Instead of settling in the capital, I chose a smaller city on the Black Sea coast.

For the first couple of weeks, everything about my new city felt new and exotic. The leafy neighborhood was awesome. My huge apartment on the third floor of the house was awesome. Being in sunny Bulgaria after spending a couple of years in boring Denmark felt like a godsend.

But once the euphoria dissolved, I realized that there was really nothing special where I was and, with few things keeping me there, I boarded a bus to Istanbul, Turkey, where I continued my adventures.

Right now, I have very few things to complain about. The summer is here. The sun is shining. The birds are singing. The pool clubs and the beaches are calling my name. A week in Barcelona is very tempting, especially since that’s where I spent an entire summer before boarding a flight to Moldova and a train to Kiev, where I began a new life four years ago. That time I left Spain for good, but this time it would be a vacation with a roundtrip ticket back to my comfortable abode in Ukraine.

But, yet, the eternal call of the adventure hasn’t ceased at all whether it’s rural Brazil, rural Thailand or Vietnam or starting a brand new life in a developed megapolis a short flight away.

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  1. Kharkiv in the East also seems like a slightly smaller version of Kiev. Have you visited that city yet?

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