I’m not a Facebook power user but still, lately, I haven’t much liked going to the site ever since they changed the design (again!) and now the About section on the upper left side of the page keeps demanding the answer to this question:
That’s not an easy question. Do you mean today? Next week? In two months? Because it changes. In the photo at the top of this post you will see the place I live right now. It’s not a city. I suppose you might call Marsh Harbor a town — it is the biggest settlement in the Abacos with a population of 6,283, not counting the boaters in the harbor. But I don’t think I should tell Facebook I live in Marsh Harbor because that’s likely to change next week.
It isn’t only Facebook. Since I am here on the dock, I decided to go up for the JibRoom’s famous Rib Night last night. The ribs really were great and I got to listen to the Rake and Scrape and watch Desmond do the limbo. I also met lots of new people who asked me the same question. In all the years I’ve been coming to the Abacos, this was my first time at the famous Rib Night. I’m working here – not partying.
In the Abacos there are locals, cottage people, and boaters. At times like last night when meeting cottage people for the first time, they will ask, “Where are you from?” Then they look at you funny when they see you’re not sure how to answer that. To them, it’s not a trick question.
Now the cruisers are location independent but sometimes that’s only for the short term. Cruisers can be divided up between those who are traveling — the retired folks, those who are taking a sabbatical from work, and the seasonal snowbirds who return north to work when things thaw — and those who are still working while they cruise. I fit in that category and there are n’t very many of us.
In the last several years it has become very hip to claim to be location independent. These folks call themselves digital nomads, and they make a living by blogging or web design or affiliate marketing. They work as they travel the world. Just try Googling “location independent” and you’ll get close to half a million hits. These blogs and books and websites will offer to tell you the secret to only having to work a four hour week or how to live off your laptop while traveling and sipping tropical drinks in Maui. Frankly, I think most of them are in the business of selling a myth.
But wait, you may say. Isn’t that the same dream we are selling here with our motto “So you want to quit your job, move onto a boat and write”? I don’t think so. You see, we try to tell you here that writing is work. I would much rather do that work here with the beautiful water, where I can watch the turtles surfacing around my boat, where the world moves at a slower pace. But I still have to work. The myth is that digital nomads can travel (and spend) like vacationers and also get work done, or that sailors can party like cruisers and still write their books. Without that retiree income or that half-season job, we have to work if we want to eat.
This afternoon I met some folks on the dock here and they invited me over to take a tour of their boat. I mentioned that I had been considering returning to the Carolinas this summer, but that given my fast approaching deadline, I’d decided not to go. I explained that I couldn’t afford to spend all that time sailing. But it only takes a few days, he said. But they are lost work days. Here in the Abacos, I can travel for a couple of hours and still get work done. I can’t work at sea.
So while I do live a location independent lifestyle and I can’t give Facebook the simple answer they’re looking for, neither am I just a nomadic traveler who can “do the Bahamas” in a matter of weeks. I’m a working writer — but the view from my office is hard to beat.