What FIRE Bloggers, Long-Term Travelers and Digital Nomads Have in Common (and a Call for Solutions)
Last year, I had this grand idea that I would write a monthly money review to talk through some of what I’m learning as I try to be more intentional with my money. Since I wrote a grand total of one monthly money review last year, I can’t say that grand idea was successful... but that one post I wrote did mention one of my most important money discoveries of the past few years:
The FIRE movement.
Over the past few months, you may have seen one of several splashy articles or podcast interviews about FIRE. In case you didn’t (because you are a more productive human being than I am, no doubt), here’s the quick rundown.
FIRE stands for Financial Independence Retire Early. Call me naively positive, but when I first ran across this group of bloggers and podcasters who were basically saying “Hey, find your passion may not be a thing, but you still need a plan before you just up and quit your job, and the way we are addressing that problem is by saving up a literal boatload of money”... I thought it was cool.
It also reminded me of some other bloggers and podcasters I follow.
Long-Term Travelers, Digital Nomads… and the FIRE Movement?
Although I’m not sure either group would like this comparison, I find a lot of similarities between the FIRE movement and digital nomads or long-term travelers at a high level.
Both groups are looking for a way to address the same problem, and the problem is that at some point we ended up with a system that prioritizes work so heavily that there isn’t much time left to do things like... live.
Digital nomads and long-term travelers have chosen to address this problem by figuring out ways to make money somewhat passively, generally online, either by working for themselves or someone else, so that they can leave the confines of a full-time show-up-in-person work environment and travel or live wherever they want to around the world. Our FIRE friends have chosen to address this problem by compiling enough cash that they can leave the full-time show-up-in-person work environment a lot earlier than they could have otherwise and do whatever they want for the rest of their lives. Both groups also tend to like some combination of the following: passive income streams, side hustles, real estate investing, travel hacking, geoarbitrage, minimalism, frugality, and blogging or podcasting about their journeys.
Both groups also tend to have a problem with being painfully realistic. I get it: when your blog and/or podcast income comes from traffic, and that traffic comes from telling everyone that they can support long-term travel with an online income stream or that they can become financially independent, it is hard to say, “Actually, neither of these options apply to everyone who may be reading or listening to this content.” A comment like that could hurt your traffic (aka, your bottom line).
But even without the income conflict of interest in play, a disclaimer like that is tough for a content creator who genuinely wants to encourage, help, or motivate people. Because that line between genuinely impossible and just don’t want to take responsibility is a fine line... and balancing on that line is difficult. There are people in the world who will never become financially independent, digital nomads or long-term travelers, because none of those options are available to them for a host of reasons. But there are also people who will never become financially independent, digital nomads or long-term travelers because both of those options require hard work and choices that they don’t want to make. To make matters more confusing, that second group of people generally tend to think they are a part of that first group of people.
And here’s a group we tend to forget about: some people just don’t want to become financially independent, digital nomads or long-term travelers. They aren’t genuinely unable to, and they don’t think they are unable to... they just don’t want to. Maybe they are the ones still making a “find your passion so work won’t feel like work” argument. Maybe they found their passion and are happy to spend most of their life working in that passion. Who knows what they are up to, but they are out there living their best nine-to-five lives.
With all these groups in the audience, what is the right way to have this conversation?
For every article out there about becoming financially independent or retiring early or becoming a digital nomad or just quitting your job to travel the world, there is going to be some backlash. FIRE people are going to get roasted about making six figure incomes so duh they can retire early. Full-time travelers are going to get roasted about having trust funds or other sources of financial support so duh they can travel. Funnily enough, there is even some backlash between the groups: FIRE people roasting travel bloggers because travel is the new materialism and whatnot. Here’s a question for everyone I see doing the roasting online:
What’s YOUR solution to the problem?
A Call for Solutions
I’ll be the first to agree that it’s important for people who create and share content online to be as truthful as possible about their financial situation and the rung of the ladder they started on (aka, their privilege). Because “you can do this too!”, whether it’s in the FIRE space or travel blogging space (or arguably any space), comes with some caveats. I’ve written about this problem within the travel blogging industry in particular, where “you can do this too!” may not only be untrue but could also be dangerous. Overall, we need to be as authentic as possible as content creators, because even if telling half the story drives traffic, it isn’t as helpful as telling the whole story.
That being said, I have some news for the people bashing the content creators because they are in some way different than you (generally whether they disclosed their situation or not).
There's only one way to ensure that your exact situation is represented by a content creator: go be one.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find someone creating content online who is EXACTLY like you in every single way... because no two people are alike. So instead of bashing the content of someone who isn’t exactly like you, why not use it to your own advantage?
Adapt the ideas of the FIRE, long-term travel and digital nomad movements to your situation. Come up with your own solutions that would work for someone in your situation. Add those solutions to this conversation, so that more people can find a content creator that they feel represents them.
(Also let me know what you create, because I want to follow along.)
It’s always going to be easier to bash someone else’s solutions than it is to come up with your own. That’s why we’re always going to see more hate for content creators online than we see actual content creators. But the world needs a lot more than your backlash... it needs your ideas.
So share them.
What’s your solution to the problem that we all have to earn money to live, but we still want to have time to live outside of earning money? Do you think this is even a problem, or just an unalterable part of life? Let’s hear it in the comments.