Location Independence and Other Words

I’m slowly learning the vocabulary of people who don’t go into an office every day. Remote Worker. Digital Nomad. Digital Expat. Van Life. Slow Travel. WWOOFER. And then there is my new favorite, Location Independence. There’s a whole verbal world in here that I was formerly oblivious to.

A Remote Worker is simply someone who doesn’t work from the office. “I work remote” can mean that you work from home just up the street, or in a rented shared workspace because you want the comradery of an office, but the people you work with aren’t close by. You can do this a few days a week, or a few days a month. It just means that you don’t see your co-workers every single day, but it doesn’t imply that you travel.

A Digital Nomad on the other hand, is someone who takes advantage of the remote work situation to move around. There are a couple of different ways to approach this, and it depends a little on the work that you do. Some people travel constantly for work anyway – photographers, travel bloggers, riggers, outdoor education instructors – and so it makes sense to cut ties to a home base and just travel full time. The #vanlife community would fall into this group, spending a week here, and a week there. Maybe it’s someone who is on an extended road trip, but managing to find time to do a bit of freelance work, or managing an online business as they go. So far, my favorite bloggers in this space are Tamara & Chris, who have been traveling in their mini-van, Red Delicious, since 2013. I love all the travel and lifestyle tips on their site, and their positive, enthusiastic but never saccharine or sugar-coated perspective on what that lifestyle involves.

If the stress of constant travel becomes a bit too much, you might instead choose to engage in “slow travel”. Slow travel involves choosing a spot, and deciding to stay put for at least a few months – maybe a year. The first slow travelers I’ve come across were Jacob and Esther who spend a year in each city they live in, exploring the best the location has to offer, and not letting themselves become complacent, because if you only have 365 days to explore a place, you can’t rest on your laurels.  You have to get out there and do it. These guys are a great resource for adventure trips.

Nora Dunn is more spontaneous in her style of travel, though I think she also falls under the label of slow traveler. Nora is also a travel/lifestyle writer, former financial planner and future shaman (probably), but makes her way around the world depending on what opportunities arise. She’s a wealth of information on things like how to find accommodations for free – via house-sitting, care-taking gigs, or by WWOOFING. Even Google isn’t sure if this acronym stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, or Willing Workers On Organic Farms, but the idea is that you trade a bit of labor in exchange for a place to stay. There are Organic Farms all over the world you can work at.

Then, there is the Digital Expat, who takes advantage of being free to live wherever she wants to in order to settle down in some other country. I recently browsed a forum where someone said he wanted to be a Digital Nomad, but he didn’t really like travel all that much. He just wanted to get out of his country. That guy was promptly labeled a Digital Expat and booted from the Nomad forum.

The thing that all these people have in common, in my mind at least, is that they are location independent. Thanks to the digital age, there are many paths to being free of location tyranny. Video conferencing, screen sharing, email, chat, and the good old telephone, has made communication easy enough, ubiquitous enough, that you can still be in touch with a team of people regardless of where you work. But, then what you do with that freedom? There are so many options!


Planning Time

Can you believe that there are only 4 weekends in February? Only 4 chances to get out for a long something without worrying about squeezing it around a long work day as well. Four more weekends in March, though perhaps the high country skiing this season will extend into April and May. June, even, in the high places if we’re lucky.

Rick was the one that got me thinking about this when he mentioned the promise of spring desert blooms given all the rain we’ve been receiving. If it spilled into the desert, the wildflowers this year could be amazing. And for a retired couple, desert wildflowers mark the end of the ski season and the beginning of spring travel. He wasn’t optimistic that he would even really ‘get in shape’ this season with the late start and road/weather closures. Could it really be that the ski season, barely started, is already nearing its close?

Years slide by to a gentle beat that fades into the background, like the sound of your own heart. Can a sense of urgency span several years? How do you fit everything into such a short life, crowding personal ambition in around professional responsibilities?

Back in college, Mike first introduced me to the idea of “Failure to Plan is Planning to Fail.” That was following a climbing road trip that many of us were unprepared for. We hadn’t read the guide books, didn’t know what we wanted to climb. Spent a lot of those precious days wandering aimlessly instead of firing off items from a tick list. Those who had prepared were weighed down by those of us who were clueless.

And now, all these years after that lesson that should have seared itself into my mind, I am once again waiting to see. Watching the weather, instead of making things happen and taking advantage of the gear that I’ve spent hard earned money on to get out regardless of conditions, regardless of weather.

And plans can change. Tom has stories of climbers so intent on their climbing objectives that when the weather refused to cooperate, they were unable to flex to something that would have been a better use of their time. They simply moped about the refuges staring out at threatening skies and gnashing their teeth in frustration.

Mid-year resolution: There is a balance in all things, and planning is no exception. Refusing to furl the sail and seek shelter when a storm is blowing in is as foolish not charting a course and allowing the wind to blow you where she will. Begin.


I live in a beautiful place.

Every year, people travel from all over the country, and around the globe to come visit my little corner of the world. Right now, there is this amazing event going on that gets press coverage every year, and attracts so much visitation that they have to close off one lane of the road to provide supplementary parking for everyone that comes.

Photographers line up shoulder to shoulder with their expensive camera equipment. Multi-thousand dollar lenses attached to multi-thousand dollar camera bodies perched atop multi-hundred dollar (maybe more?) tripods to capture the image. That one image from that one place (actually a couple of discrete places) that everyone captures every year.

I remember the thrill of the first time I witnessed the event. VIP and I were driving along, came around the corner and our jaws fell open. We pulled into the nearest (empty) parking space – no traffic control, lane closures back then – and proceeded to gawk. Truly phenomenal.

Is it the same now that you have to queue up hours and hours in advance to get a clean line of sight?

I suppose it’s different, but equally wonderful. It’s transformed from a natural experience into a social one. You plan weeks, maybe months in advance, bring your camp chairs to the popular spots and coolers and swap stories with the people around you. Is this your first time? How was it yesterday? Last year? What size lens are you using? What settings?

I haven’t been down to see it in years.

More Vacation Please


Yesterday, a friend suggested that with all of these winter rains sweeping across the country, the desert blooms in the spring might be exceptional this year. Of course “it depends”, but it’s promising. According to him, Death Valley and Joshua Tree are both over-run with wildflower viewers at this point so you have to find a more out-of-the-way desert. Desert wildflowers have become a “thing”.

That much-missed precipitation and snow has fallen locally as snow. Perhaps this is finally my chance for that long ski tour that I’ve been meaning to get to for more than a decade now. It would be easy to take a whole week, but could possibly be crammed into less time.

A Glacier National Park visit has been on my hit list for a long time. I thought I was going to go last year, but then circumstances foiled those plans. When we cancelled those plans, we swore that this year would be the year. At least a week.

My closest group of college friends almost got together this winter for a reunion in Colorado. That’s a few days’ journey just to get there, plus time to hang out. Call it a week.

And I’d like to visit my parents, and VIP’s family out east. And I have a long list of want-to-dos over on the east side of the Sierra, most of which require substantially more fitness than I have now. So, exercise needs to be on the to-do list as well as the event itself.

Backpacking trips too… too many to count.

I have a lot of vacation by American standards, but clearly I need more.


Happy Valentines Day

I won’t do anything particularly special today with my special someone. But un-special includes extra long morning cuddles, having a delicious meal cooked for me, a wonderful and slightly sneaky few hours at the local ski area (in the middle of a work day), and lots of hugs, kisses and being told I’m loved.

I am so grateful that every day is Valentines Day.