I was 27 when I left Canada to see the world. It is very easy to give up everything and move abroad when you have few obligations, no family and little career experience. However, now that I am married, have a business with customers relying on me and I am approaching 40 years old, those drastic changes are harder to make.
This interview is with DeeAnne White, a financial professional of my generation. DeeAnne has been traveling across Europe for the past six months and is proof that a dream lifestyle is possible if you have the courage and desire.
Please tell us a little about your background.
I’ve been in the investment business all of my career, starting as a stockbroker in the 1980s, and my most recent position was Executive Vice President of the Financial Institutions/Independent Planner Channels at Allstate. I ran the internal and external wholesaling in the US of their fixed and variable annuities, as well as their short lived mutual funds. Our clients were banks and planner firms, including HSBC, Citibank, Chase, Wells Fargo, SunTrust, etc.
I began college with a major in Political Science, and a minor in International Relations. I never graduated, and didn’t begin my career until both of my sons started elementary school. I was extremely fortunate that someone was willing to take a chance on a completely inexperienced 26 year old.
I’m in my late forties, divorced, and have grown sons that are 28 and 26. I now also have a lovely daughter-in-law, and a soon to be 5 year old grandson. I was born in Dallas, but have spent most of my adult life in Southern California. I also lived in Chicago in 2008, and now have my temporary home in Naples, Florida. This was primarily done to be near my grandson in between trips and deciding what the second half of my life looks like.
Please tell us where you are now?
I’ve just returned to Naples, Florida from Scotland in the past week, and will spend most of the holiday season in the States with my family, but I have a trip back to England planned in early December. After that, South Africa, France and Barbados are the next booked trips.
Why did you decide to go to Europe?
I decided to go to Europe for a few reasons. The first was that I had traveled there before, but I was always on the typical one week US holiday or on a long weekend, and never felt I had time to really come to know a country. The second, was that I had fallen in love with the game of cricket, and wanted to follow the Ashes this summer in England. I had also begun writing for WisdenCricketer, and it was wonderful to be able to watch as much live cricket as I wanted. Lastly, my dream vacation had been to attend Wimbledon and The Open Championship, with a break in between. I did just that this summer, with my break in between being time in Cornwall, one of my favourite places in the world. I also saw the end of the Tour de France in Paris, so it was a dream come true for a sport lover like myself.
I am traveling alone. This presents many benefits, but a few problems. The benefits are being able to go anywhere, anytime I want, without worrying whether a companion is wanting to do something else. I also find the theory to be true that you meet more people when travelling alone than when you have someone with you, and I’ve met some of the most amazing people imaginable this year. The downside is that it does get lonely at times. You really need to be very independent and happy on your own to travel solo. There is also still occasional prejudice against a woman traveling alone. I had an unexpected incident in Rome that was very disappointing, but I refuse to stop traveling simply because I’m single.
Do you have a EU work visa?
I don’t have an EU work visa, but I’ve only been staying in each country for short periods of time thus far. I was recruited last year to move to the UK with another investment firm, but when the economic downturn began, all jobs were put on hold. I’ve recently begun exploring EU work visas, but I haven’t decided if it will be the direction I pursue.
What does it cost to travel like you do?
My expenses are similar to what they would be in the States for groceries, eating out, entertainment, etc. The only additional costs I have are lodging and transportation, since I do have my villa and car in Florida. If I didn’t have that, my budget would be no different from renting an apartment and living in any city in the US, it would just be mobile. I think this is the most misunderstood concept of being location independent. Most people don’t keep a house in their home country, so it’s more like they’ve just relocated, and they should be able to keep their expenses equal to living in their home town.
For the most recent trips, I wasn’t on the budget I will be going forward. I gave myself a bit of latitude to travel and enjoy myself for the first six months I was away from my +/- 60-70 hour workweeks. I have alternated between renting apartments (the most budget conscious), choosing my next hotel destination based on the best deal I find, and going to certain spots that I really wanted to visit regardless of what it cost (yet another advantage of having no real itinerary, and traveling solo). There are places for every budget, but I’ve tried to average about 150 Euros per night. I could have easily cut that in half, just by staying on at the lovely new apartment I had in Arzello, Italy, which would have been comparable to what I’d pay for an apartment in Southern California.
How do you earn an income?
As far as income goes, I think this is the more difficult proposition, but only in deciding HOW to make an income, not IF you can. After a great deal of research, there seem to be as many different ways as there are people. The missing ingredient, as John has written about several times, is the misconception that it will require little effort at first. I think most paths will require as much effort as any corporate job I’ve ever had, but I’ll be working where and in a way I’d prefer to. For now, I was fortunate to get a severance package, and that’s allowed me to take a bit more time exploring my options and really thinking about where I want to put my passion to work. I’ve made money writing and doing web concept work, and I am also writing my first book. I’ll be adding affiliates to my website soon, and have gotten several inquiries for lifestyle design coaching that I intend to accept. I also have a new website in development, that I hope to launch the first of the year. Past that, I can see myself consulting, doing interim management work to satisfy my primary motivator which is pure challenge. I’ve also considered doing individual financial planning again, for a limited number of clients, as it was my first love in the investment world. I could focus on the location independent demographic, and how to help them achieve their dream lifestyle.
What advice would you offer for others thinking of moving abroad and supporting themselves online?
The advice I would give to others is to put your plan together, and execute. Don’t worry about all the what ifs. I was someone who did everything “right”,, and the what ifs happened anyway. I’d also say to plan to live a location independent life, staying in each destination for at least 3 months, rather than being a nomad at first. I found it much too difficult to stay on the move and get enough work done.
Most long-term travelers seem to be in their mid-20s, Is it harder or easier for (a little) older travelers?
I do realize that most long-term travelers are in their mid-20s, and I’m nearly twice that age, but I don’t see much difference in how easy or difficult it is. Each age, and each person’s situation, has its own challenges and benefits. I may have had a bit more money to start, but I also have a family that I want to stay close to. On the other hand, someone else might not have the children, but have less money. There will always be reasons not to do something, but if you don’t try you’ll never know. Flexibility, patience, resilience and hard work are the keys at any age, I believe.
How long do you plan to stay in Europe?
I’m not really certain how long I’ll stay in Europe, or keep returning. I also love South Africa, and the Caribbean. I’ve yet to visit South American or Asia, and they’re on the top of my list. I’ve also considered averaging out my living expenses by spending a portion of the year in South Africa, a portion in Barbados and a portion in Europe so that I make the most of exchange rates while living in the places I’ve come to love. Perhaps coming back to the States in between for extended visits. I also hope to use museums, golf courses and great wines to entice my family and friends to visit me around the world!
What are your future plans in the short and long term?
My plans for the short term are to take coaching/corporate/consulting assignments, while continuing to get my startups profitably running. I’ll also continue to write, and to travel. The latter for both adventure, as well as, to help me determine where I’d like to call home. In the long term, since I have no plans to ever retire, I’ll position my business to allow me to work less when I get older, while still having ways to challenge myself and contribute. I’ll also finally decide where I’d like to live, and how my time will be split up between those places, but that may be something that changes throughout my life, as I fall in love with other new and wonderful spots.