If you visit Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s masterpiece of a home, you will most likely come away with a favorite memory. While the gardens are spectacular and the house filled with clever inventions, my favorite is Jefferson’s office, which adjoins his bedroom. He could roll out of bed and get to work at his desk. Of course, in Jefferson’s time, home-based businesses were more common than long commutes. But still, he must have created the shortest commute ever. During the decades following World War II, home offices all but disappeared as people went off to work in someone else’s office.
It’s easy to look at the 19th-century writer, artist, and social activist William Morris and wonder how he got so much done. During his lifetime, he produced a dazzling body of work not only in writing but also in architecture and textile design. His intricate textiles and wallpapers are still sold today.
I first met Tom Linzmeier when we were teaching self-employment seminars in Washington, D.C. Tom had a career as a stockbroker before becoming a full-time investor. Then he reinvented himself again as a teacher. For several years, we continued to bump into each other at adult education centers around the country but after a while we lost touch.
On our recent trip to France, my family and I rented a charming house in the countryside near St. Rémy. When we moved on to Paris, we settled into an apartment owned by an American expat currently working on a project in Seattle.
Few places are more excitingly diverse than the classroom of an international school, and this is where many expats choose to earn their living while exploring the world. There are now thousands of such schools offering opportunities to live and work for an academic year—or longer—overseas. Your position will typically include a housing allowance… travel back to your home country at least every other year… bonuses…work visas…sometimes health care…a nine-month work schedule…free education for your children…and other perks.
When we took our lunch break during a seminar I was teaching recently, our group walked a few blocks to the student union. Nicole Relyea, the youngest member of our group, turned around to face me, but kept walking—backwards. “I’m thinking about being a tour guide,” she said. “I gave campus tours when I was in college and I enjoyed it. I can walk backwards for two hours.”
Although Alexander McCall Smith had a successful career as an expert on medical law and bioethics, he was not well-known outside of academia until he began writing charming mysteries that have brought him fans from around the world. His best-known series, The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, features a self-taught sleuth who sets up shop in her native Botswana.
Recently, I struck up a conversation with the man sitting next to me on a plane. When he told me he’d been traveling on business, I asked what he did. “I have my own consulting business,” he replied proudly. “How long have you had your business?” I inquired.
At the end of the calendar year, we hear a lot about goals and resolutions. Television reporters with slow news days on their hands take to the streets to inquire about changes folks are planning to make in the coming year. A few weeks later, the same reporters will share statistics of all the health club dropouts and other abandoned resolutions.
For some time now, I’ve silently wondered if I am the only one who winces at the frequent admonishment to “go big or go home.” Why, I muse, would folks smart enough to abandon a large working environment want to replicate that? Why is millionaire status still flaunted as the pinnacle of success? Or home ownership the epitome of the American Dream? It all seems so…well…20th century.