‘People from the place where I’m from are forever putting the things they would very much like, but cannot allow themselves to have, quite nearby but just beyond their grasp.’Free Man in Paris, Jennifer Hodgson.
Often, we see places like Paris or London or New York through a pair of rose-tinted glasses. If only we could be there, we’d be creative. Or, if only we could be there then. When some great artists or writers or other creatives made it their scene. Then we’d become creative too, almost by osmosis.
The fact is, people like Hemingway and Orwell didn’t live in Paris because of the creative types. Or because of the fabulous bookstores and trendy cafes.
They lived in Paris because it was cheap.
Affordable locations attract creative populations
The Paris of Hemingway and Orwell was far from luxurious. Hemingway lived in a two-room flat ‘that had no hot water and no inside toilet facilities except an antiseptic container’. He describes pretending to have been asked to lunch, then spending hours wandering the Luxembourg Gardens, hungry.
Orwell writes about life in rooms filled with bugs, sweaty kitchens, and prison-like homeless shelters.
Hardly the image of champagne and eclairs, arranged by a typewriter or easel for Instagram.
As Andrew Gallix points out in We’ll Never Have Paris, the Paris of A Moveable Feast was ‘above all, a cheap-as-frites backdrop for the Lost Generation, which is one of the reasons why the city could be construed as a moveable feast.’
Geoarbitrage: the modern movable feast
Today, creative and free individuals make use of ‘geoarbitrage’. The ability to earn money from one place, and spend it in another. Geoarbitrage exploits the differences in currencies and costs of living.
Some do this by investing
If you happen to live in a country with a high cost of living (or at least, high rents), you can rent out your home. Then, move to a country with a lower cost of living. There, you may be able to find a place to live, and buy food and all the other necessities, for the price of your incoming rent. (You will, of course, need to consider outgoing expenses on your property. And what you’ll do in case your property becomes vacant or unleasable).
But you don’t need to live in a country with a high cost of living, or own a house, to take advantage of geoarbitrage. There is another way, which is suitable no matter where you come from.
Working to support your art
Another method of taking advantage of geoarbitrage is by actively working. You might run an online business that caters largely to clients in a country with a relatively high cost of living. Meanwhile, you live in a country with a relatively low cost of living. This allows you to cut down the hours you need to work. For example, you might need to work 40 hours a week to survive in the US. But if you earned US wages while living in Thailand you might be only need to work for 20 hours. Or even 10 hours.
Cashing In On The American Dream, a valuable guide to retiring early and enjoying life, suggests living in the country you’re interested in before making a long-term commitment. Paris, for instance, has been so romanticized that many who visit suffer “Paris syndrome”: The realisation Paris is not all sexy people in stripey shirts and berets carrying baguettes on their bicycles. Instead, it contains real people with real aspirations, frustrations, idiosyncracies, dreams and irritations.
As Hodgson points out, Paris – or any fabled destination – can represent another in a long line of ways we’ve come up with to procrastinate. That is, we can use the fact that we’re not in Paris (or Portugal, Patagonia, or Peru) as an excuse for not working. A ‘life lie‘.
Living as a Free Creative
A Free Creative has the opportunity to create what they like, when they like, and how they like. By developing your financial freedom and leveraging geoarbitrage you can also live and create where you like. This is part of the physical freedom that results from your developing economic practices (learning how to live within your means, invest, and/or earn an income from your work), and your artistic practices (learning how to find inspiration and to work wherever you are).