Does the concept of doing the same thing, in the same cubicle, next to the same people for X amount of years until you retire or get fired terrify you? Then perhaps you should consider the five unconventional options below!
1. Start Your Own Business
Even while keeping the realities of starting your own business in mind, it’s hard to deny that it does allow you some extra freedom compared to a traditional career trajectory. There’s freedom to work with something you don’t have the experience to get a job doing. And the freedom to fail miserably again and again, without worrying about getting fired. You only have to worry about failing some more until you find what works. Then there’s the freedom to stop doing meaningless things that just don’t have any real purpose.
And while you might still be working the same horrible hours (or worse), at least it’s your own choice now, dammit!
2. Volunteer on Your Own Terms
Instead of being forced into an internship, volunteer on your own terms. Choose a country you’ve always wanted to visit, or a cause you’ve always wanted to contribute to, and dedicate your time, and yourself, to helping others. For a few months, a year, or forever.
WWOOFing is getting more and more common, and is probably the easiest way to choose a location you’re specifically interested in visiting and still having the free time to explore and enjoy it. If you’re more interested in making a difference to a certain place or for a certain group of people, feel free to pursue other avenues. Some options are very much ill suited for the person who just wants some free travel. And if you end up going with that mentality, you’re likely to make a lot of enemies and probably enjoy yourself a lot less than you thought you would.
3. Take Odd Jobs and Live as a Nomad
Some people spit in the face of the ideas of “being responsible,” “settling down,” and “job security.” They choose travel first, and take temporary odd jobs to finance their travels. If they’re down to their last few dollars (or cents depending on the country) they might stay for a while, but only long enough to finance the next part of their endless journey.
You can become one of these modern day nomads quite easily, but what follows is in all likelihood not going to be easy. On the other hand, trying to debate whether or not this is a real option for you from the outside looking in is probably not going to yield any real answer, so going for it might be the best decision if you’re tempted.
4. Choose an Unconventional Career
I remember thinking to myself when I was a kid that I wanted to be a writer. Not because of any need for fame, or that I felt like I was some sort of unprecedented literary genius (okay maybe a little bit of the latter), but the idea of being able to work from anywhere in the world appealed to me. A lot. And it still does.
In this day and age, while going into journalism or writing might seem like a bad decision (although it doesn’t have to be), there are plenty of new options for people who want more control over their daily lives. Freelance designers, developers, programmers, consultants, cinematographers — the list goes on.
And then you have people who make a living doing exactly what they want to do. People who build an audience on YouTube, for example, can make money doing virtually anything, as long as they capture it on video or whatever format they use. If you can entertain people, there have never been more ways for you to make money from that ability. So go out there and make a name for yourself if you can.
If you’re not interested in going out on your own, volunteering, living as a modern nomad or suffering the stress that often comes with freelancing, telecommuting just might be your best choice.
Even standard office jobs are starting to become available for telecommuting these days. While this way you’re most likely still forced to go through the standard procedure of getting a job, and you will most likely have to deal with management too, once you have a telecommute job, you will have increased flexibility throughout your workday, and will save the time you would usually spend on commuting. And of course, you can move far, far, away if you feel like it. Telecommuting can be a way to make ends meet by moving out of an expensive city center, without having to endure a long and torturous daily commute.
The downside is that you can only rely on your own willpower and focus to get things done. You don’t have any of the social pressures, or any of the watch-dog managers to force your butt into action. To make sure that you don’t stray too far off course, it’s good to maintain a workday routine, even at home, and avoid fitting in a “short” Netflix break here and there, tempting though it may be.
If any of the options appeal to you, but you feel like it’s too difficult, you can always start with baby steps. In fact, it just might be the very best way to tackle it, as gradually building momentum is a lot more motivating than always trying your best every day and never getting anywhere (because these things take time).
Ultimately, freedom is subjective, and if your vision of personal freedom aligns with a “normal job” or “normal life,” great. I’m not here to tell you that’s a bad idea for you. How could I possibly know that? I’m only pointing out ways you can add some freedom for change and movement on the work side of things, if that’s a priority for you.
Featured photo credit: Nagesh Jayaraman via flickr.com