By Leigh Shine
The freedom instigator for corporate prisoners
Bali has captured the hearts of many Western expats, including a growing community of solopreneurs and nomadic businesspeople. This new lifestyle: wherein entrepreneurs live abroad, and oftentimes travel, while consulting and working with industries continents away, is what Lydia Lee calls “location independency” and is quickly growing in places like Bali, where living is cheap (compared to cities like Vancouver, NYC and London where many companies are based) and coworking office spaces are available for a realistic fee.
Lydia Lee, self-described “escape coach” for 9–5ers all over the world, started her journey in 2011 when she left her cushy job in Vancouver to redesign her lifestyle and start her own business. She realized that having success on paper and in a typical 9–5 job doesn’t necessarily translate to having a fulfilling life. After all, how can you only allow yourself to live after 5pm?
Now Lydia is a solopreneur based in Bali, living and working her own lifestyle and helping others escape their own 9–5 traps and start businesses. Three years ago she started “Screw the Cubicle” as a personal blog to document “going through the identity crisis that is leaving corporate” and how she accomplished her dream of being truly independent
Location independency means doing away with a brick-and-mortar store (which, seeking success, oftentimes demands locations near big cities where living expenses are double or triple many other options) so that the business owner can avoid taking on clients that they don’t want just to pay the bills: a practice that can make anyone hate their job, and give up on their dream entrepreneurship. Instead, living in an area (like Bali) where living expenses are one-third of North American metropolitan areas frees new business owners from this pressure and allows them time to get on their feet, and figure out their business for themselves. In exploring this Lee is far from alone. This lifestyle of pursuing freedom is shared by many, including the almost 14 thousand who are part of the “Unconventionalists” Facebook group: “a place for unemployables and non-conformists seeking an alternative way to live and work,” where many share advice and accomplishments: a good way to find your allies while making the huge leap out of your 9–5 job.
Spreading the Word
Lydia’s blog Screw the Cubicle began to grow as she picked up new clients: one being Claire Harrison who she met through the expat community in Bali, and who helped her begin to market her blog posts to bigger publications, such as Huffington Post and Forbes, which have now published posts of hers. She also has been interviewed by such major media outlets as Elle Canada and CNN Philippines, and for a time hosted her own podcast. She continues publishing advice and interviews on the Screw the Cublicle blog and her Youtube channel, and over the past two years has grown Screw the Cubicle into what it is now, offering online courses and soon: a book.
It is through these interviews and over the course of her journey to sustainable location independence that she has encountered (and coached) so many others through their own journeys, collecting stories and varied experiences along the way.
“I wouldn’t want my first book to be about me anyway… I want to show different escape routes other than mine,” she says.
Lydia has met successful corporate escapees from all over and spanning many demographics, including those with families and children and people of all ages. She plans with this book to combine their stories with the lessons she has learned over her journey to inspire others and bolster people who want to make serious changes to their own lifestyles.
The Road to Publication
The goal of this book is first and foremost to inspire: Lee intends to debunk myths and fears, and take the air out of all the excuses with which people so often derail themselves. Lee has observed that “people are usually quite afraid” especially regarding expenses, and understandably so, but Lee says “There’s a lot of opportunity out there I think if we start to look at different doors, to make that leap a lot faster than twenty years down the road… the ease of starting a business for the everyday person [in this increasingly digital age] is so much more feasible now.”
This book will serve as a good introduction to people searching to escape their 9–5 lifestyles, much like Tim Ferriss’ The Four-Hour Work Week was for Lee. This August she is launching her Publishizer campaign, where anyone can contribute, so that the stories she has collected over the years can begin to be compiled, edited, and eventually, published through a traditional publisher. She says “the point of me going to Publishizer was looking to get matched with a publisher… to get a bigger scale audience than what I could do on my own.”
In the meantime she is busy building her Screw the Cubicle audience and spreading the word about location independency and escaping the corporate lifestyle. Coming forward she is excited to begin attending more conferences and workshops worldwide to introduce people to her ideas, and eventually retreats to show people that these kinds of change are possible. “for change to happen for certain people that are craving this big change in their life, they have to remove themselves from their environment and things they know and be plunked into a new environment to kind of see the light… and also for them to see what it’s like to live abroad, and to make it more real for them,” she says, and the logic follows. Leaving the 9–5 lifestyle is a leap many are too fearful to take, but for Lydia, it remains the choice for freedom and a more fulfilling life, wherever she may be.