If you could live anywhere in the world... would you let the internet decide?
Colin Wright is living this crazy dream and it goes by the name of Exile Lifestyle. On his site, readers can vote on the globetrotter’s next home base, sending him to live anywhere in the world.
By combining his varied interests and skills in the creative branding of Exile Lifestyle, Colin supports his endeavors as a writer, blogger, entrepreneur, and traveller, linking his projects in publishing, design, and business development in one smooth interface.
For a glimpse into the life behind Exile Lifestyle, check out my interview with this man of many talents.
1. Colin, your work seems to fuse your interests so seamlessly. As you were finding your way through studies and start-ups, did you ever envision yourself doing anything like what you’re doing now? What ultimately led you to the decision to make a lifestyle change?
You know, I never really saw myself getting into writing, except for possibly journalism, which has been a longtime interest of mine. But writing books? Fiction? Things of that nature never really popped up on my ‘lifetime goal’ list, so it’s strange to find myself here, making my living from such things, thrilled as can be about it.
What actually led me to shift from the traditional entrepreneurial world into the one I’m living in now — which is a lot looser and a lot less focused on earning as much money as humanly possible right now, to the exclusion of, you know living — was realizing that I was missing out on a lot. I took a step back and realized I was spending my 20’s in offices and dealing with contracts and clients, rather than out in the world, learning and growing and challenging myself. I was growing, sure, but not in the same way I am now. These days, much of my effort is spent becoming a better version of myself, rather than growth being interpreted as just bringing home more cash each month.
2. How did you gain the financial freedom to travel and create, exile-style? How did you promote Exile Lifestyle when you were first starting up?
I was lucky, starting out, to have paid off all my debt and to have a little bit of money in the bank when I left LA and started traveling. From there, I continued to do some of the work I had been doing (branding work for clients), but eventually phased that out to focus more on my own work, primarily my writing.
Initial promotion of the site and brand of Exile Lifestyle was strange, because I really didn’t know what I was doing, so I tried just about every trick and strategy I could. Eventually I was able to hone in on a way of interacting with people that didn’t seem too gimmicky or markety, and allowed me to build relationships with people, rather than treating my readers like a bank account I had to trick out of their money. I much prefer working this way, and I’m glad I can focus more on the words, rather than silly banner ads or whatnot, these days.
3. How hard do you work? In total, how many hours do you work every week? Do you have a fixed work routine?
I work pretty much when I want, on whatever I want. Sometimes I have deadlines, but usually they’re self-assigned (I give myself difficult deadlines, though, as I work better that way).
I don’t have any routine, generally; I find I work much better when I want to work, rather than trying to force myself to do something my body and brain aren’t calibrated for. Thankfully, I’m pretty good at getting into the work I need to do, and seldom do work I’m not excited about. Sometimes it’s all I can do to pull myself away from my writing so I can go grab a bite to eat!
4. Has travelling changed your productivity or your creative vision? In what ways does your recent work reflect your exile perspective?
Traveling has changed and informed everything I do. It’s giving me a far wider perspective to pull from, and challenged me in a way that has made me far more confident; when you can cope with the discomfort and difficulties of the road, there’s not much that you can’t come back from, not many challenges you don’t feel comfortable meeting head on.
My writing especially has been informed by my travels, giving me the chance to build characters around people I’ve met, tell stories about things I’ve actually done and places I’ve been, and derive philosophical guidelines based on the ideas that government people and their growth all around the world.
5. What sacrifices have you made in order to be an entrepreneur? What advice would you give to anyone considering the entrepreneurial lifestyle? What are some of skills and abilities you see as necessary for someone to succeed as an entrepreneur?
The main sacrifice you have to be willing to make as any kind of entrepreneur is that of comfort and perceived stability. I say ‘perceived,’ because you actually have a lot more control over your own destiny as an entrepreneur, than if working for someone else (who could fire you whenever they like). But you have to work like crazy, and that makes means a lot of tough choices. Being very aware of what you’re doing, and very cognizant of every small detail. It’s rare that an entrepreneur can afford to space out and specialize and leave their work at the office. It’s a lifestyle rather than just a job, and it’s not an easy one; if you’re looking for quick bucks, you’re better off trying to win the lottery.
But if you’re passionate about something and have good ideas and are not afraid to work your ass off, it’s definitely rewarding. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Skill-wise, it’s best to be a generally capable person; someone who can learn what they need to learn, and who doesn’t need permission from someone else to do things correctly and well. From there, it doesn’t hurt to know how to communicate well (vocally and in writing and visually, with graphics and such), and knowing a little code doesn’t hurt, either. Like I said, if you can learn things when you need to, you’ll be best off, because the requisite skills that are vital to have change almost year-by-year. You’re going to spend a lot of your time learning new things, if you’re an entrepreneur.
6. Have you ever encountered failures? How did you cope up with them? What motivates you to keep going when times are difficult?
Constantly. Not big ones very often, thankfully, but I’ve had those, too.
The thing to remember is that failure happens to everyone, and if you’re trying really hard, and really pushing the envelope trying new things, rather than just toeing the line, you’re going to fail more than most people. And that’s fine. Failure isn’t the end of the world, not so long as you stand back up and keep going.
That’s the hardest part, I think, because every time you fail in a big way, you want to just say ‘screw this’ and do something safe, instead. If you can make it past that moment and try again — try something else that might fail — you’re golden. Nothing can stop you from succeeding eventually.
7. How do you manage to juggle so many ongoing projects (publishing, branding, running small businesses, consulting, teaching, etc.)?
Oh, it’s not the difficult, actually. Everything I do plays well with everything else I do, and a lot of it actually improves the experience of the other work.
For example, I write books, which I can do from anywhere, even on a bus in the middle of nowhere. My branding work helps me design and market these books, and the knowledge I gain from doing so allows me to systematize parts of the process so I can help others do the same, allowing me to provide that service to others, essentially taking a share of the profits from the work I help them produce and sell (this is the essence of the publishing world). While on the road and not writing, I can stop in at universities or conferences or businesses and give talks or put on workshops, which not only earns me money, but also helps me sell books, and producing work that I share online (cheap or free) helps promote all the other things I do, while also being a business activity unto itself.
The idea is to make sure that, first, you enjoy the work you do, two, the work you do is a net positive for the world, helping a lot of people and not hurting people, and three, that the work informs other work, and that you’re able to scale without having to start from scratch in each new field you enter. Do this, and you can continue adding on ventures and activities without it requiring a complete reboot of your life.
8. When you were teaching yourself about how businesses work, what experiences did you seek out? What could you have only learned on your own?
I mostly just read a lot and ran a business; that’s how I learned business. This also meant I failed a lot, of course, but it’s amazing how much you can learn by reading a lot of books, asking a lot of questions of people who have been in business longer than you, and trying a lot of new things. The internet is an incredibly valuable resource for this, too, but you have to be careful, because there are a lot of truly dumb ideas out there, too, posited by people who either don’t know what they’re talking about (beware taking business advice from people who have never had a successful business, as tends to be the case with many blogs and ebooks these days), or people who had very individual experiences (it’s fine and good to take business advice from a billionaire, but not if he runs businesses funded by money he inherited… not an experience many of us can learn from).
The things I learned on my own were very focused on my industry, though there was plenty I learned about myself, too, that I couldn’t have learned in a book. I know how I approach business, how I deal with people, how I respond to failure, and how I respond to success. These are all key findings!
9.How does your experience working in a range of media and styles (painting, comics, journalism, print, digital arts, etc.) enrich what you create?
It gives me plenty of perspective when working on anything. I know one tool can be used for many things, and I know painting informs design and writing; creativity is creativity, and all you have to do is learn new tools and techniques along the way.
It also means I have an appreciation for aesthetics and the ‘whole package’ when it comes to business. I don’t want to create an ugly or half-assed product, because I wouldn’t buy such a thing. Could I potentially make more money selling half-assed products to people who don’t know any better? Perhaps. Would I feel good about it? No. And I’m not willing to sacrifice quality for a quick buck. I don’t want to be that kind of business person. Working in creative fields has solidified that.
10. And finally, where does it look like you’ll be living next? 🙂
Not sure yet! I’m finishing up my time in Iceland, where I’ve spent the winter, writing, and will be headed back to the US for a month or so before tallying the votes. From there, I’ll go wherever the votes take me 🙂
Colin Wright is the author, entrepreneur, and full-time traveler behind the blog ExileLifestyle.com, where he writes on topics ranging from philosophy to publishing, long-term travel to all-in entrepreneurship. You can also find him on Twitter @colinismyname