Simply Ultimate Guide to Global Home Hunting
During our early 30-something years, we had the honor to reach an important milestone: we took the leap into mini-retirement and reversed location inertia. As we stretched our location independent legs and explored our great wide world, we realized that freedom alone does not create happiness. The charms and challenges of being slow traveling nomads forced us to look inward, and around us. We discovered a new appreciation for the power of place.
But, an overwhelming case of decision-fatigue sent us to our (digital) journals where we tinkered and transformed our struggles into a strategy for choosing our homebases for long-term slow travel.
<<THE MOTHER OF INVENTION>>
Long before we even thought about leaving our hometown on a sabbatical, we recognized that maintaining a set of well-defined principles is essential to upholding ideals. Because, if you don’t take ownership of the values you deem important, others will do it for you. While the details of your convictions can (and should) change, they always serve as a beacon in everyday life.
We developed our commandments to keep us committed to our goals—as individuals, as a couple, as a family. For us, specifically, that means staying on track in our financial freedom journey, consistently pursuing meaningful connection to people and place, and accounting for the experiences that reward us with greater fulfillment. These principles are a guide we follow no matter what stage of life, level of financial freedom, or where we are on the globe. So, we thought, they should guide us around the world too!
Places are an incubator where people, traditions and culture meld to influence the way we feel and how much we spend (and save!). Where we dwell is shown to be directly correlated to our personal financial success and our wellbeing. So we took inventory of the environments where we felt most comfortable, connected and inspired. And we set out to find our ideal Interest In Life HQs!
Beyond the challenge of translating the metaphysical into measurable features, it quickly became clear that the vast majority of destination guides are not well-suited for slow-travelers or (temporary) expats. Most information is designed to help “bucket-list” tourists visit as many attractions as quickly as possible. Even the resources that are emerging for digital nomads are overloaded with details and reinforce swift circumnavigation. We kept getting stalled looking for where and how we could integrate into communities that make us feel at home and help us to grow.
Frustration had us feeling like there had to be a better way to uncover places around the world that best align with our guiding principles! Hence, the Interest In Life Community Capitals Index was born.
<<NATURE AND NURTURE>>
Our definition of travel planning is finding ways to cultivate many weak ties to communities that help make us richer in life. We target staying at least a couple of months in one town so we can get to know the local flavor, find inspiration and become familiar faces. Ideally, our homebases are well-situated to be a launchpad for regional destinations where we opt for shorter trips to enjoy specific experiences (hiking, history, off-the-beaten path locales, etc).
The Community Capitals Index (CCI) is designed to give a clear snapshot of the value of each location from the perspective (and priorities) of a semi-nomadic millennial couple who are driven to experience more and enjoy mini-retirements without breaking the bank.
We’ve evaluated and experimented with dozens of different criteria to create a manageable list based on real-life, on-the-streets experience and accessible reliable data. The final result is a powerful and flexible ranking system that can help determine where to spend your capital, no matter what point you are at along the ever-changing journey of financial freedom.
The CCI relies on five principal qualities that are valued, weighted and calculated in a formula to score each location:
Even with the financial security of having debt paid off and investment accounts generating some passive income, our lifestyle is guided by the early retirement mantra that it’s not how much money you make, but how much money you spend. So, cost of living has the most significant impact on how a “community capital” ranks. We value locations where anti-budgeters like us can get more bang for our bucks while simply spending on a rich quality of life.
There are a number of different tools online that can be used to evaluate cost of living. The existing resources are useful for a quick comparison, but we’ve found that they don’t really match our lifestyle (spending) habits.
2. Innovation & Entrepreneurship
Since our approach to personal finances is based on the premise that money doesn’t buy happiness, we seek out places that enrich us with creative energy.
Enterprising and innovative people often cluster together, forming the foundation of a robust and creative economy where the complacent class is outnumbered by the catalytic class. The vibrancy, pace of development and presence of progressive young people inspire self-growth while also keeping us grounded in gratitude.
To connect with these pioneers and fellow nonconformists, we prioritize being in places with an active start-up culture.
When it comes to travel—from short vacations to extended trips—most people go in pursuit of “perfect” weather. Climate not only determines how much we get to enjoy the environment we are in, it affects our overall mood. And, while we all have individual preferences and tolerances for temperature, the love of sunshine and the benefits of vitamin D are pretty universal.
Our ability to control the weather is even less than meteorologists ability to precisely predict it, but historical trends can help you plan to be in a place where the climate enhances your experience of your surroundings (rather than raining on the parade).
4. Food Culture & Quality
The popularity of blogs and trending Instagram posts dedicated to food is a modern testament to the age-old mantra that Grandma always reiterated: the fastest way to a person’s heart is through her stomach.
Food is a universal language that creates cross-cultural connections rooted in tradition. There is no better way to make friends than enjoying a meal together.
Since eating our way into the fabric of a community nourishes our bodies and souls, areas known for mouth-watering cuisine and fresh, healthy produce get an extra helping onto the top of our list.
5. Experiential Travel
The moments of greatest joy are almost always when we feel human connection. Research shows that strong relationships promote happiness; at the same time, weak ties matter too. More than just a picturesque setting, an ideal location is one where we can immerse in the history and habitats that define the diverse society we are today.
There is a magic quality in cities that are shaped by monumental events, formed from feats of architectural genius and steeped in heritage. These natural, man-made and intangible wonders draw us in and quickly give us a sense of intimacy with the people and place(s) around us.
6. BONUS: Tugs at your Heartstrings
There are a handful of other qualities that our favorite places have in common. For example, green public spaces that fill with people who feel comfortable openly displaying affection (looking at you Mexico!). While the CCI was conceived to narrow the search using a manageable amount of objective input, we also encourage following your interests when choosing a location. Judging a place by how it appeals to your principles and passions can be an effective tie-breaker!
<<HOME IS WHERE THE HAPPY IS>>
The Community Capitals Index has been developed to make deciding where to spend a sabbatical or discovering a career-boosting (geoarbitrage) homebase less daunting, and more like a form of organized chaos.
There is a growing community of people who want a better way to connect to a richer quality of life. The goal of sharing the CCI is to help you achieve personal growth by immersing yourself in new communities while reinforcing a lifestyle that supports financial freedom and greater happiness.
Hopefully you can take this overview and run with it or use it as a template and customize to better suit your preferences. Perhaps you might even discover somewhere you want to plant roots and make a real investment in your next home.
Financial freedom is a journey—enjoy it to the fullest.