Live local, think global


The curse of the internet is binary thinking.

Sometimes we have to choose between alternatives: we can only marry one person (at a time) and we can only vote once…either for party X or party Y. 

In these situations, binary thinking helps spur us to action even if it’s wrong.

But, in reality, life is more complicated than that.

Nothing is all good or all bad. There are pros and cons to everything. And it’s a sign of intelligence to be able to hold 2 seemingly inconsistent ideas in your mind at the same time.

Sometimes we have to choose between 2 alternatives. But other times you can have both. You can eat strawberries and cream. You can be in favour of women and men. You can be in favour of capitalism and social justice.

And today I want to talk about the benefits of living local and thinking global, two concepts that might seem as if they conflict but which on closer examination turn out to be complementary.

Live Local

One of the ways you get your spending down (and so save more) is by living a more local life. Cars are money incineration units: the more you use them, the more money you burn. The same goes for aeroplanes.

I know that travel can be fun. But spending too much time in airports and hotels is soul-destroying.

I think we should be living as much of our life as possible within walking or cycling range of where we live.  I live within walking distance of my gym, schools, the train station, post office, a garage, pubs, parks etc etc. I do use my car sometimes but, everytime I do, I think of it as if something’s gone a little bit wrong.

We live in a world where there is no need to go to a shop. I happily buy my clothes from the internet: if it doesn’t fit, I return it.  Even if I have to pay for postage, that works out cheaper than the hidden costs of driving to a shop: the cost of your time, car parking, depreciation, risk of accident etc etc.

To cut your spending, you should be replacing costly distant entertainment (e.g. driving to a theme park ) with free local entertainment (e.g. going for a walk in your local countryside or park).

Obviously this depends on where you live but the best situation is where your walks start from your front door. There are several benefits to this. 1.You save time that’s otherwise spent either driving or sitting in a traffic jam. 2. You save money on petrol and lower maintenance costs. 3. You get to know your local area and local people better.

The benefits of this go beyond saving money.  By spending time in nature, you improve your happiness and significantly reduce anxiety and the risk of depression. These are the inestimable advantages of living a more natural life.

There is more to The Prison Camp than just office wage-slavery. The Prison Camp represents mass scale, industrialised society. It represents corporatism. It represents conformity and thought control.

So, where possible, I choose small and local over big and mass market. For example, I’m a fan of farmer’s markets. Not because the food is cheaper: it isn’t. But farmers markets have soul. They represent the partial de-industrialisation of the food industry.

Yes, economies of scale in the food industry have driven down costs and spread abundance. That’s a good thing.  But there have been downsides in terms of the environment, animal welfare etc. Its impractical to expect farmers markets to replace the big supermarkets but they complement them and are a step in the right direction.

The Prison Camp likes us whizzing around, stressed and broke all the time. Take those property porn shows on TV that encourage a hapless couple to buy 2 homes, one in the city, one in the country so they can spend their life commuting between them. They’re selling the idea that we can have it all.  We can’t.

We under-estimate the true cost of commuting. The whole concept of commuting is built on the self-delusion that we can live in suburb A and be painlessly whisked to City B every day without the whole system often grinding to a painful halt when a lorry overturns on the motorway or there is the wrong type of snow.  Even when the system works, there is something soul destroying about being on the 6.30am commuter train on a Monday morning.

Then there are the property shows that encourage you to buy a holiday house in the sun so you can spend more of your life trudging through airport queues.  But only by living somewhere full time do you get the full benefits of living in a community.  All the time you’re waiting in an airport lounge, you’re not benefiting from that local community.

Think Global

Having said all that, we don’t want to be provincial peasants who never leave the village, burn witches and go quiet when outsiders walk into The Slaughtered Lamb pub.

Most of the people you will be thrown together with growing up or at school or college or where you live will be unexceptional people. That’s fine…but the trap is unthinkingly accepting their social norms and attitudes without thinking for yourself.  Every culture has its biases and blindspots.

Even if you stay all your life in the place you were born, that’s no reason why you can’t think global.

If I want to listen to conversations with some of the world’s smartest people I listen to podcasts where I hear people at the top of their field being interviewed in search of the reasons behind their success (it ain’t just luck).

Did I mention that reading the right books is the ultimate life hack? The beauty of reading these books is that you’re getting the concentrated wisdom of the smartest people from around the world and from any point in history.

The idea of thinking global also provides some clues about one of the most important decisions we can make: where to live. To get to financial independence, you need to do whatever it takes. And that means you should be prepared to move.  The world is your lobster.

In discussions about the best place to live to pursue financial independence people often focus on house prices / rent.  That’s understandable.  But income matters. If you can’t get a job that pays well, its no use living in some rural backwater or post industrial wasteland just because the housing is cheap. The decline of the coal mining industry was a lesson in how important it is to move somewhere where the prospects are better than where you are now.

Remember: earning more is not cheating.  And living for a while in a world city like New York or London or Hong Kong is a great way to earn more and think more globally.  Those places are melting pots of people with hustle and ambition. Humans are sponges: we naturally absorb some of the attitudes and mindsets of those around us.

When people (understandably) complain about the high cost of housing in these global cities, remember that there are good supply and demand reasons for that high cost. High house prices reflect the greater ability to earn higher incomes (as well as supply shortages).

And if you later choose to sell your city apartment or townhouse and move out, you can release some capital back into your freedom fund. Contrary to popular belief, there is nothing that says you always have to buy a more expensive house everytime you move.

The wonderful thing about the internet is that wherever you are, you have access to the best knowledge and information in the world.

If other people are gonna influence your thinking (hint: they are), why not get influenced by the the smartest / most successful / most sensible people in the world…wherever they happen to be?

Live local, think global.


  1. Do you get the occasional dissenting comment about living life like a church mouse, to build enough income to continue to live like a church mouse but without the work, as I do?

    Everything comes at a price, I respond. Live like a church mouse now to live like a King in retirement.

    Sure, I work 75 hours per week and save/invest over 60% of it, but when I’m sat on my 50’ Beneteau yacht in Gibraltar harbour, it will have been a price worth paying

    1. AAJ - clueless investor - · · Reply

      Someone could write a FI article on brand loyalty …

  2. “its no use living in some rural backwater or post industrial wasteland just because the housing is cheap” hey – this is my committing to FIREdom plan at the moment – so don’t pooh pooh it.

    Great article. I think that there is a lot to be said for enjoying a simpler life with more local connection.
    This is even more so the case since we started a family. You realise that somethings are more important than others.

  3. Working in a global city and then moving to the countryside once you are FI is a great example of geoarbitrage.

    We would like to enjoy a more local life post-FI but I also want my future kids to have a global mindset. I’m still thinking if moving to the countryside would make this trickier.

  4. Very interesting thoughts here; I generally agree with living locally entirely, but i believe u can do this while traveling also. I do practice living locally but I have been traveling to over twenty countries per year since 2006 when I started my past career – these days I sometimes to thirty a year. I also only ever read a single book: the PADI Dive Master Manual. I learnt most traveling abroad surrounding myself with smart people across thousands of bars across the globe. I met with prime ministers and billionaires in my last career and my most important lesson was that i never wanted to become like them. I believe in endless traveling, being a nomad, the adventure of life, and yes there is costs associated with this but if you do it smartly it is cheaper than taking the tube in London for a month. When I travel I live like a local – it amazes me to see tourists in Tokyo go to McDonald’s when the choice of the most amazing food is literally staring in your face (for the same price or less!). Global travel is the best education one can invest in in my view – I often wished people would travel more so they wouldn’t be so ill spoken, ignorant, intolerant, and completely unknowledgeable about our beautiful world.

  5. How about “Think mobile, live global”? There are lots of people out there who’ve cut out the huge expense of maintaining bricks and mortar and are trundling round the globe in motorhomes, yachts, or just with rucksacks slung over their shoulders…. It’s not just a hippie thing; many have followed the traditional route to FIRE, but just choose to live global and spend on travel rather than living local and spending the same amount on housing costs.
    (admission: we’ve only gone halfway as we still have a home base in the UK, not that we cast eyes on it all that often. It’ll still be there when we get old and crumbly and decide it’s time to live local 😉)

    1. Yes, I would call that Live Mobile, Think Global…travel is a big motivator for many people shooting for FI and I’m not knocking that 🙂

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