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Julian Power

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Productivity

The power of home bases

The concept of digital nomadism fascinates me. However, it’s not a satisfying lifestyle for myself. I like the digital part, which means you work online and thus you are location independent, but I don’t like the implication of nomadism, which means you are moving around constantly. Semantically speaking, digital nomadism could mean that it gives you the option to move around, which you don’t have to exercise. But in my understanding you are also exercising this option as a digital nomad; otherwise, you would be location independent. I would call myself location independent, but not a digital nomad. 


I plan on living in different cities for an extended period (3-12 months) to find suitable home bases. A home base is a compromise between stationary living and constant traveling. You live alternatively in two or three cities. For example, six months in Barcelona and six months in Medellín each year. I think it’s also a good option for Digital Nomads, who have traveled the globe for a couple of years and got travel fatigue. Matthew Karsten has written an excellent article on this topic and his own transformation.


I have already found my first home base in Europe: Barcelona. Now I am looking for another home base in Latin America for some variety. My first destination is Medellín, where I am staying for four months. I am also interested in other destination like Bocas del Toro (Panama), Córdoba (Argentina),  Florianópolis (Brazil) and Lima (Peru). You could argue that these travel pattern also falls under the umbrella of digital nomadism, but I associate the term with shorter stays.

Entrepreneurial hubs

As a bootstrapped online entrepreneur, you are looking for a destination with a combination of low cost of living, high quality of life and a good internet connection. Many cities meet these criteria. Let’s say you additionally want to work in a city with an existing community of entrepreneurs, because of the network effects. This criterion narrows the lists of potential cities down dramatically. These cities become more and more attractive over time because of compounding network effects:

  1. Barcelona (Europe)
  2. Berlin (Europe)
  3. Buenos Aires (South America)
  4. Chiang Mai (South East Asia)
  5. Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) (South East Asia)
  6. Medellín (South America)
  7. Ubud (South East Asia)


The choice of cities is somewhat subjective, but I exclusively considered cities with a critical mass of online entrepreneurs. Some cities with a sizeable number of online entrepreneurs like Budapest, Canggu and Lisbon didn’t make the cut because they didn’t reach a critical mass of online entrepreneurs in absolute terms.

Stationary living vs. traveling

It surprises me that most jobs still require you to work in the same office every day. Increased employee satisfaction, decreased commuting time, a larger talent pool and no office lease are good arguments to shut down your office for good and switch to remote work. The main counter-arguments against remote work adhere to hindered communication and lower productivity. I do think that it takes extra effort to work in a remote work (clear communication, periodic company retreats, strong company culture, etc.), but the extra effort is rewarded with great flexibility in the long term.

A few companies like Automattic and Buffer embrace remote work and try new ways of collaboration, but the majority of firms holds on to traditional offices. The current job market dictates that you have to live a stationary life in most cases. As an online entrepreneur you are freed from these spatial limitations and new questions arise: In which city do I want to live? How long do I want to live there? Digital Nomads take this newfound freedom to the extreme and hop from one location to another and travel constantly.

I don’t think constant traveling is a sustainable lifestyle for your entire life, but I do think it can be an exciting phase when you are young. You have fewer responsibilities and you can see the world and experience different cultures. You also have to travel to test different home bases.


It’s not for me though, because when I travel longer than two weeks, I feel a growing sense of emptiness. I have backpacked one month with a friend in Thailand and one month on my own in Costa Rica and Panama and I experienced this feeling both times. I enjoy the experience of getting to know new cool places and people, but at the same time, it feels shallow. The richness and deepness of your travel experience depend on yourself, but whatever you do, at the end of the day, you are just a short-term visitor. While it feels like you are active because of your constant movement, you are still a passive consumer of local sights and attractions.

Another factor is the backpacking crowd. Backpackers tend to be interesting, positive and open, but often they lack drive and direction. That’s the whole point of backpacking after all; it’s a  form of escapism. Chilling at the beach in Ko Phi Phi and slurping cocktails is the opposite of getting shit done.

My favorite destination in Thailand was Ko Tao, where I got my PADI Open Water Diver certification. It was the only time during my month in Thailand when I was doing shit. I need some form of mission. My mission in Medellín is to improve my Spanish and to learn Salsa. I prefer to travel for short periods and then I don’t work at all. I schedule these trips after I hit an important milestone because it’s nice to execute towards a goal. The vacation is the reward for your grind and therefore you can appreciate it more. For example, I went to Porto for a long weekend after submitting my master thesis.

It’s also difficult to feel a sense of community and develop meaningful connections with other people when you stay in each location short-term. Modern technology facilitates communication, but nothing beats weekly face time with friends. Constant traveling also impacts your productivity level in two dimensions. It’s harder to stick to your work habits and routines and you have to find a good working environment with reliable internet in each new location.


Home bases

The stationary life is dull and constant traveling is exhaustive. What alternative do you have? The answer is home bases. They are the perfect compromise in that you get the best of both worlds while eliminating the downsides. You can be part of a community in your home bases and you can optimize your workspace while enjoying different cities at the same time. Each city has different strengths and weaknesses and with two or three cities you can cover all your needs. It’s unlikely that you can cover all your needs with one city.

Barcelona is my favorite city by far, but it lacks a sense of adventure because it’s located in Europe. I can balance this downside by having another home base in Medellin, which offers a different culture and climate. This way I am living partly in an international metropolis by the Mediterranean Sea and partly in the Andes Mountains. The location of both cities allows me to take short trips to other cities in Europe and Latin America.

How to choose home bases?

I have already recommended books, which help you find your perfect city, in my Barcelona article:
1. The Flight of the Creative Class: The New Global Competition for Talent
2. The New Geography of Jobs
3. The Rise of the Creative Class-Revisited: Revised and Expanded
4. Who’s Your City?: How the Creative Economy Is Making Where to Live the Most Important  Decision of Your Life

Conclusion

You don’t have to go from one extreme (stationary living) to the other (digital nomadism). It’s a false dualism. Instead, you can choose the middle way, which is home bases. Now you know everything you need to know about choosing home bases.
The rest is up to you,

 

 

Recommended books

1. The Flight of the Creative Class: The New Global Competition for Talent
2. The New Geography of Jobs
3. The Rise of the Creative Class-Revisited: Revised and Expanded
4. Who’s Your City?: How the Creative Economy Is Making Where to Live the Most Important  Decision of Your Life

Alcohol vs. Productivity

Alcohol is widely accepted in the western world and part of its social fabric. While tobacco is increasingly passé, alcohol is still going strong. More often than not people frown upon smokers while enjoying a brew. If you ace your exam, you drink alcohol to celebrate. If you fail your exam, you also drink alcohol to soften the pain. The decision tree ends with a cold beer more often than not. You meet your colleagues for a couple of beers after work, you watch football drinking beer and you have a BBQ with beer, to name just a few occasions.


Culture

The alcohol consumption is dictated for the most part by culture. Beer is an essential part of German culture and we take pride in the fact that we have strict regulation of the permitted ingredients (reinheitsgebot). As a result, you can buy a wide selection of high-quality beer for a low price everywhere. You can buy beer at age 16 and hard alcohol like rum at age 18 in Germany. I can remember sipping some beer from my grandfather as a child. Drinking alcohol is the norm and more often than not you have to justify yourself if you don’t drink. This is especially true in the context of university life. In a way, drinking alcohol is the way of least resistance. It’s the default mode of life in Germany.


The annual Oktoberfest in Munich is a reflection of German beer culture. It’s the world’s largest Volksfest and millions of visitors pilgrimage there to enjoy the liquid gold. Personally, I haven’t been to the Oktoberfest yet, but I have been to the strong beer festival, which is the second big beer festival in Munich. I also went to the Wasen in Stuttgart, which is the world’s second-largest beer festival. Both festivals are slightly cheaper and less touristy than the more well-known Oktoberfest.


Alcohol

Not all alcoholic beverages are created equal. The alcohol concentration ranges from 5% in beers to 30-40% in spirits. A couple of years ago I quit spirits and since then, I am only drinking beer (preferably Astra, Flensburger and Krombacher) because I prefer the taste of beer and the lower alcohol concentration. Now it’s time to for the next step: quitting alcohol altogether.


Advantage

I think the main advantage of alcohol is the more relaxed and upbeat mood in a group setting. Like I said before, alcohol is a central part of social life in many countries. Of course, you can go out without drinking any alcohol, but certain activities are less fun when you are the only one, who isn’t drinking. I prefer to skip these events altogether and consequently, your social life takes a hit.

Disadvantages

Alcohol consumption is accompanied by several negative side effects. This isn’t a scientific health study and therefore I am focussing on the most important ones and their impact on my life.


Productivity

From a business standpoint, this one is most problematic. The consumption of more than one or two alcoholic drinks has an impact on your energy level the next day. When you have a hangover, you either don’t work at all or you work less productive (maybe 60%). As an entrepreneur you try to align your lifestyle with productive working hours and each working hour you lose hurts, especially if it’s spent curing a hangover watching Netflix (check out Hoop Dreams) instead. I came to the conclusion that drinking is a luxury I cannot afford. It’s one thing to drink as a student, but it’s a whole new ballgame if you try to get a business off the ground as an entrepreneur. Everything has its time.


Fitness

It doesn’t make sense to eat clean and exercise four or five times a week and then fuck up your fitness level with alcohol on the weekends. When I haven’t drunk alcohol for weeks and I start drinking again, I can observe my decreasing fitness level in real time, especially my endurance. I have to pay the price for my debaucheries on the basketball court. This decline becomes more and more obvious as I am approaching my thirties.


Health

This effects are linked to the overall fitness level. Alcohol harms your health on many levels and I am going to explain how in a second. But more importantly, if you want to rock a six-pack like Brad Pitt in Fight Club, you should stop drinking right off the bat. Five reasons drinking  alcohol makes you fat:

  1. Alcohol has a lot of calories.
  2. Alcohol makes you eat less healthy.
  3. Alcohol damages your stomach, kidneys and liver.
  4. Alcohol lowers your testosterone level.
  5. Alcohol increases your appetite.

Costs

Another factor, which is often overlooked, is the cost of alcohol. Alcohol is expensive, especially in clubs, and the costs add up over time. The money you spent on booze is missing in your budget and would be better spent invested in your business.


Strategy

If you strive for greatness you can’t make mediocre choices. If you do the same like everyone else, for better or worse, you are going to get the same results like everyone else. Your lifestyle is a big part of this equation. I like a cold beer as much as the next guy, but the cost-benefit analyses is horrible. By all means, you can drink alcohol, but it should be an informed choice with the negative consequences in mind and not an unconscious habit. You have three options:

  1. Keep on drinking. Business as usual. Not really an option.  
  2. Mindful drinking, one or two drinks max. It’s alright, but it’s kind of a half-assed compromise.   
  3. Stop drinking altogether. The Julian Power way of life. You have to pay a price for greatness and I think it’s a reasonable price in this case.

Option three is easier than option two in my experience. With option two you always have to think about when to drink alcohol and how much. It’s also more difficult to stop drinking when you have started. One beer leads to another, which leads to another and so on. It’s much easier never to drink alcohol because the decision-making process is fairly straightforward. You don’t waste mental energy on your alcohol consumption.

Once not drinking alcohol has become a habit it’s smooth sailing from there. Your energy level is higher and you can destroy the competition on the basketball court.
These three books are useful, if you decide to quit alcohol completely:

  1. The 30-Day No Alcohol Challenge: Your Simple Guide To Easily Reduce Or Quit Alcohol
  2. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business  
  3. Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength

Sometimes people are surprised when you don’t drink. Don’t digress into lengthy explanations, just state that you don’t like the taste of alcohol or prefer not to drink because of fitness considerations. It’s hard to argue these points.

Conclusion

As you can see, the disadvantages of drinking alcohol far outweigh the advantages. But quitting alcohol is easier than you think. Give it a try and you will see the positive results. Now you know everything you need to know about the negative impact of alcohol.
The rest is up to you,   

 

Recommended books

1. Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength
2. The 30-Day No Alcohol Challenge: Your Simple Guide To Easily Reduce Or Quit Alcohol
3. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

 

 

 

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