Freedom is a cheap word. It gets thrown around, particularly by politicians and their accomplices, in ways that cheapen and corrupt the concept. One thing people have in common in Venezuela, UK, America, China, North Korea, and the Islamic State is they are all told by their political leaders that they live in true freedom. Obviously, they are all using different definitions of the word.
When I think of freedom, I use a clear definition. Freedom, for an individual, means having complete control over your life and property. When everyone has that, it’s a free country. That country does not now and has never existed. I hope it will exist in the future and I also hope it happens before we destroy the future.
One of my favorite quotations if from author Christopher Morley:
“There is only one success – to be able to spend your life in your own way.”
As individuals, we can work towards engineering our own personal freedom as best we can under this era’s limitations. Inherent in “complete control over your life and property” are a massive range of choices. Where do I spend my time? How do I earn income? How do I invest? What do I want to do every day? Who do I want to spend my time with? What is the ideal lifestyle for me?
When we spend time thinking about these questions it doesn’t take long to realize most of us are hemmed in by political forces. Americans, in particular, are getting increasingly restricted in their options with personal banking regulations, foreign investment restrictions, onerous reporting requirements, and now even passport confiscation for a mere allegation of an outstanding tax bill.
The basic problem all of us have is living, working, playing, and investing inside just one country. It’s proverbial “all the eggs in one basket.” And frankly, no matter where you live you can’t exercise maximum control over your life and property if you are, by definition, restricted to artificial boundaries. In plain terms, other people own your life and property.
Liberty Outside the Cave
It’s difficult to explain how liberating it is to live outside these restrictions. It reminds me of the allegory of Plato’s Cave. One of the most common questions Connie and I get from people we meet is after we mention living all over the world is, “How do you decide where you will live?”
I find the question somewhat telling. Because most people are conditioned to have their “choices” dictated to them by circumstances and by other people who exercise control over them. It’s a foreign concept for those people to grasp that a couple could start every year with a clean sheet of paper and decide what they want to do and where they want to do it. Connie and I just talk about what we’d like to experience and then we design our year to do that.
For example, in 2015 we wanted to investigate living in Spain as legal residents. So we moved there and spoke to a lawyer. We didn’t like the terms and conditions we would have to satisfy so we left and went to a favorite place, England. While there, our expat daughter visited us from Ethiopia and we had three marvelous weeks together.
We had never spent time in Eastern Europe so we decided to visit Romania next. It was a wonderful surprise and now is on our favorites list. We’ll be returning. We had the opportunity to meet a couple of our kids in Las Vegas when all of our schedules lined up, so we did that. We hadn’t seen two other kids for awhile so we moved to China for a few months to be with them. After that, we spent time in Thailand and then moved to Ireland to acquire citizenship there.
It’s difficult to communicate how liberating all of this feels to a person who only gets two weeks vacation per year – and even those weeks are subject to approval and cancellation by others.
It’s difficult to communicate how liberating it is to earn a living online in ways we own and control to a person who has a conventional job somebody else owns and controls. (See? There’s that thing again about freedom and who owns your life and property.)
Don’t Just Look at Today, Look at Tomorrow
Here’s another great quotation that resonates, this one by Robert Louis Stevenson: “Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”
It’s no accident that Connie and I live the life of freedom that we do. We reap this harvest today because of the seeds we planted in previous days. And we continue to plant the seeds because we want our tomorrows to be as free as possible.
If you want a life full of choices, full of owning your life and property, full of personal freedom, I urge you to look at what seeds you can start planting. Take action.
Global human freedom is yet to be built, but you can build your own personal freedom starting today.