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Ask HN: Have anyone traveled the world while working as a freelancer?
83 points by jajahallo 7 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 50 comments
If so, what kind of work did you have? How was it? Do you have any tips or suggestions?

I’ve done it for around 3 years. My only tip would be for you to ask yourself why do you want to do those two things at the same time. From my personal experience doing both, you don’t actually work productively, nor do you immerse in local cultures and get to enjoy the travelling part. Eventually I realized that I need to choose one, travelling became a distraction.

So my advice would be: don’t do both at the same time.

I've thought about doing this myself. I don't have quite that level of revenue yet however. I was thinking of traveling the country and visiting various sci-fi conventions, living out of the discounted hotel rooms that often accompany such events, and spending my copious free time enjoying the entertainment of con-life.

Travel is a pain tho. Especially if you have pets. I've got a cat who hates traveling, and we are best friends, so it wouldn't be right to leave him alone constantly. Ah well.

> I've got a cat who hates traveling, and we are best friends

Awww! I'm in a similar situation. Have you considered getting a small camper van and customizing it for the cat (litterbox, water dish, food station etc) and travelling around the country in that. Would save on hotels also and once you are done, you can sell the van and made back most of your $ invested in purchasing it. I'm toying with this idea.

That's a really great idea! Thanks for the tip.

Yeah totally this, my travel intentions are usually more along the lines of living in a new culture for at least 6 months and setting myself up to see if I could live there long term, whilst keeping the options open.

Have been in NZ for 6 months but I'm still young so I have lots of working holiday visa options available still, which makes it easier to get bank accounts and stuff in a new country for freelancing. I feel like the logistics of moving around often would get annoying quite quickly

Came here to say this. I've worked while traveling and it leads to doing worse at both of work and traveling.

Work, then enjoy the benefits of disconnecting from it as you travel.

I've been nomadic for the past two years. I quickly learned that travel is a lot of work. Every time you move, you need to figure out where to go, where to stay, how to eat, what to do, etc. if you do this every week, it consumes much of your productive working hours. Much better, for me at least, to stay in the same place for a minimum of 2 to 3 months.

One bit of advice. Traveling solo gets rough after a while (say 3-4 months) because of the loneliness factor. Easier to do in 'bursts' in my opinion. In fact, I think a model of going on sabbatical every 1 to 1.5 years or so makes more sense. You could easily do that in between jobs.

This is true, a lot of short term "friends" you make along the way but a few days later each one goes their way and also it becomes a bit of a repetitive process and can be quite exhausting. It'll depend on your personality mostly but for an introspective it can get tiring. Helps if you visit friends/family from time to time.

What do people do with their homes and stuff? As a renter I don't know how I could possibly pull that off.

You do have to live with an intentionally light footprint. One thing a backpacker learns quickly is we don't really need that much stuff :)

Subletting is a good option. Most leases in major cities are year-long so you could time it around that as well.

Bottomline: most potential roadblocks are solvable.

I would put my things in storage when I went travelling, and leave the lease. Usually quite affordable, even with the big brand name storage firms.

Finding a new rental every time sounds like too much of hassle for me to have it on a schedule like that.

I found it rough almost immediately. And I'm someone who likes a lot of "me" time.

I recently did a family holiday where I had the day to myself to ski, but evenings with company. That worked well for me.

I think my ideal is the classic work at home, go on holidays model.

Is the idea here that you find a company that agrees to a start date 3-4 months in the future? That seems like a good idea that could work for larger companies. Most startups I've talked to wouldn't go for that.

Yup that's true. Another possibility is taking a bit of a risk and securing the position upon returning. I know a bunch of people who have done that without issue. This might come at the cost of some career advancement, but I'm assuming that's not a top priority for someone asking this question in the first place.

I've been doing exactly that for exactly that reason. It's worked pretty well.

I freelanced for a while in Australia, it was a wonderful time. Worked at a startup, and a larger app agency. The pay was WAY better than here in Sweden, also the much lower taxes did wonders for my economy.

I had a great plan, just got a temporary working visa, booked a flight and a crappy inn in the middle of Sydney. A week after me and my partner arrived at Sydney I started looking for some short 1-3 months contracts and got a few (20+) opportunities. I did a couple of interviews and found a nice startup that had a good vibe, and that wasn't _cheap_. Did a little bit of work, a lot of travelling and had a great time throughout.

I'd say go for it, the worst thing that can happen is that you go back home with the feeling that you appreciate your home a LOT more!

Can you say more about how you found contract work? I've heard bad things about ODesk and similar sites.

You can get contracts that are just like normal jobs on sites like seek.com.au in Australia. My family and I moved to Sydney in February when I got offered a 3 month contract. It's been extended twice now. Once it finishes, we'll do some travelling before I take another contract.

One of my early startup hires was remote, started remote and is still remote. Over three years he's stayed all over the world for weeks/months at a go. Five continents! Makes his daily reports no problem, handles his stuff well. Gets to really experience a place when you there for four weeks.

I see it being easy for him, single, job that don't care, AirBNB.

When we hired him I was nervous about that pattern. But he demonstrated his skill and tenacity so quick. Remote workers get a touch more scrutiny, remote+travel, from this employer view, gets even more scrutiny.

Really, tho, solid members of the team can basically live how they want, IDGAF, just deliver.

Yes, I did it for about 8 years, all solo. For a few years I did rent a cheap house, which I used to travel back to when I was in between trips, but then I redirect all my mail to my moms house and went full hobo and lived out of tiny backpack.

Any tips? Just go for it. Dont plan for staying 5 years, just do one month and see what is it like, then return back and plan another trip. Experiment with various length of your trips and various locations. Find what works for you.

I did settled down in 2013, so how did I see that in perspective? It was fun and interesting, but memories did fade out a bit and it feels like it happen to somebody else now. My work went ok-ish, I did good amount of work, earn some money and spent it all on travelling. Basically all friendships back home went away and I had to start again at 30.

I would do that again in heartbeat, but ask yourself why you want to do it. It is not like you are helping yourself in areas of connections or career and you will have to live with it for the rest of your life.

There's a pretty big community of people that are doing this. There's a lot of Facebook groups, subreddits, and slack groups. Check out Nomad List [1] and /r/digitalnomad [2].

[1] https://nomadlist.com

[2] http://reddit.com/r/digitalnomad

I'm in the UK and when I graduate I'd like to eventually become a remote developer in London (or somewhere else if the money is good). I plan to establish basecamp in my dirt cheap (relatively speaking) hometown in Poland B and live my life on a UK salary, eastern Poland living costs and frequent multiple-week working holidays to places with an acceptable timezone difference.

Is there anyone here who's done something similar or can comment on what difficulties I might face?

I'm currently working remotely for a London-based company. Incidentally, also from PL (Warsaw). Difficulties? The usual with remote work: a bit of loneliness, in 2017 video still sucks, and text is bad at carrying contexts, requiring more careful communication. Oh, and EU VAT is a minefield in PL. Otherwise the plan is sound, if the employer can be convinced to hire you as a remote worker.

In my experience it's much easier to get a remote job for a company that you first do non-remote work for, if only for a trial period of a month or something. Even non-remote firms will agree to this if you're good enough, and live close enough to come over every once in a while.

I actually spent the first month with the team.

Yes, we are traveling full time while freelancing and building http://MoonlightWork.com. We just finished spending the summer in Mexico City, and are continuing onto Denver, LA, and Buenos Aires over the next few months the.

Our tentative plan to avoid travel fatigue is to stay places for three months at a time. While both working and traveling, it's important to stay longer so that you have enough time to explore.

We are also stopping back in the States fairly often, which is helpful for maintaining professional contacts, meeting with clients, and avoiding burnout.

Some tips in no particular order:

- if you rent an Airbnb for multiple months, you get billed monthly (like rent). Monthly discounts vary a lot for listings, so pay attention to them.

- we like having coworking separate from our apartment in order to have some work/life separation and a daily routine

- if you want a second monitor while traveling, an iPad with Duet Display works great

- A vpn like Cloak is helpful while abroad. Turns out that many sites, eg CA DMV, are limited to IPs in the States!

- We use Google Fi for cellphone plans. It has great global coverage

I did it for 15 months. I had a consistent gig that would pay the bills that I expected to be working on 4 hours a week so I decided on the following:

- Move to each city for 1 month (allow immersion in culture)

- The place needs to have privacy & wi-fi (no shared hostels)

- Use meet-up/expats/dances to meet people

- Research each city before hand on things to do/currency/language barriers/transportation (Austria, for instance, doesn't use Google maps)

It was one of the best times of my life, but it wasn't just pure happiness. It was very introspective, most of my time was spent alone, but I made so many life-long friends as well.

Loneliness/homesick is definitely a factor.

As nnd mentioned it's pretty difficult to do both at the same time (freelancing and traveling).

A few notes from my past experience that may be useful:

1) My first real remote working gig was as a dev/tech writer for a software company. I worked out of an apartment in BKK initially before relocating to Malaysia and then Philippines. You feel like you have a base rather than constantly moving around. As I was a remote working I didn't have to look for new freelancing gigs. This approach worked really well for me. This was not a freelance gig though.

2) Career break. I've had a few of these over the years. I saved hard, then quit my job. I then took a year out, travelled etc. before coming back to look for another job.

3) What I do now. I work for three months of the year on (freelance) contract in UK. I then take 9 off - that's my target anyway. It does vary a bit as sometimes the length of a contract does vary. During the 9 months off I do travel. The great advantage of this is when I'm on a freelance gig I focus on that, but when I'm off I can travel without having to think about work - at all. In order to be able to do this I had to make some pretty big changes - I sold my house, my car, I live on less than 1K a month. It's not for everyone but I love it. I would not go back to my old life in a million years.

There have been a few threads of this nature recently - I guess you could check my comments to find those other threads.

Good luck!

I went freelancing to Mexico for a couple months and ended up staying 8 years (so far) and getting married.

I kept doing web dev for a few clients back at home, and started doing a lot of interactive stuff for museums which was super fun (Flash, Arduino, Cinder, OpenFrameworks, Unity3D, etc) although not very well payed. Now I'm back at web and mobile dev at an education company but I always get the itch of moving somewhere else.

It's comforting seeing the same response in this thread (maybe this thread is attracting birds of the same feather?).

I could as well (my team even encouraged it), but I enjoy being in my hometown with my family and friends. I've been to Europe a few times, so it doesn't seem as adventurous.

To be completely honest, I would rather save that money and put it in a mutual fund, and I'm only 28 lol.

If you are doing it right you can put _more_ money in your mutual fund. The idea for lots of people doing it is to earn, for example, a western european income but have eastern european/south east asian living expenses. I live in Zurich and will spend way less money travelling next year than staying at home.

It all depends how you live. You can live frugally, also in Zurich.

I did this for a bit over 10 years while selling software online. It was wonderful. A few tips:

1. When you try a new place out, initially aim for a cheap accommodation that you can instantly move out of. Sometimes this literally means a shitty hotel with cockroaches, and that's fine. Get a feel of the place's vibe. Sometimes it's a few days to decide it's not where you want to spend time in; other times it takes a few weeks to decide to settle (or not). (Aside on this: don't forget that hotels can't sell empty rooms from yesterday; arriving at 10pm gives you serious leverage to get a huge discount.)

2. As you're deciding whether to settle, go out. Often. Your initial set of contacts will usually be people you meet in bars, incubators, meet-ups, etc. Whatever your thing is, by all means don't stay at home in your earlier weeks. You're going to be living there for the people and the location's vibe much more than for the actual city.

3. Once you decide to settle, consider a flat share over a private flat. This allows to meet locals much faster. If you prefer a private flat for any reasons, don't hesitate to go through real estate agents if you can sensibly afford it. It costs extra but it'll spare yourself from visiting random crack shacks - work out how much you earn per hour, and contrast it with the time wastage due to visiting places you'd never want to live in.

4. Forget about long-term relationships unless you plan to settle. Every date you'll have will tell you they love to travel, but in reality nearly all will actually mean they love to go on vacation while having a nest somewhere, and can't fathom not having a nest that they call home.

5. You'll meet your future spouse some day or another. It's probably time to settle (in a private flat) when you do.

I run a Machine Learning consulting business. Been fully remote without a 'home base' for about a year. Really loving it so far and plan on continuing for the foreseeable future!

My advice would be to spend at least a month in each place - it's also a discontinuity point in accommodation pricing. AirBnB snaps into monthly discounts and it's the minimum period for short term rental. Definitely just google "city name short term rental" and look at the local sites - you can find some amazing apartments for a month at a time.

I'm traveling with my girlfriend who works in online marketing. I believe it makes it a lot easier but we've been together the entire time so I can't make a fair comparison. I can see how it might get lonely but I really enjoy hanging out with the girlfriend and go to meetups while traveling so haven't felt lonely at all...

I could ... but for some weird reason I'm still sitting in my hometown.

I occasionally do trips but I'm not traveling the world, maybe next year I'll spend some time in other countries.

"Digital nomad" is far from the only lifestyle enabled by remote work. Another example (which strongly appeals to me) is being able to move somewhere you can afford enough agricultural land to get a smallholding off the ground.

I image that will translate into less, rather than more, long-haul travel. But definitely tempting should the right opportunity arise.

Would you then keep the land and move permanently to that location, or would you just sell it after a few years?

For me, ideally permanent. I'd like to get the chance to know one place, really really well.

Same here...I've done a month at a time traveling (in February I went to Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia), but most of the time I'm in my hometown of Los Angeles, CA. The limiting factor is my wife's job and my daughter's school.

I don't like to be on the run all the time, a nice homebase with regular travels is just fine for me, I guess you could do the same, even with your fam.

That's kind of the same situation I'm in. I have a developer job where I think it would be very possible to travel and work remotely. It seems like such a nice way to experience the world without going bankrupt.

Totally and it's also cheaper in the long run.

I don't know if you are aware of this group on reddit.com/r/digitalnomad but there are lots of info about people who 'did it'.

I was not aware, thanks!


The cloud is your friend. Try to keep important things available via internet.

If you can take family, SO or friends with you, it helps mitigate the loneliness factor people are talking about here. Also: online forums can be a good way to keep in touch with a consistent group of people as well.

As others are saying, traveling a lot can seriously cut into work time. So, one important trick is to ruthlessly cut expenses.

Get a virtual mail address. It doesn't solve everything, but it is a nice thing to have.

Just got done doing this for the last year. Worked for myself + my own business (not really a freelancer), but maybe you'll find the lessons helpful.


5 years. Documented the story + transition from freelancer ==> digital nomad blogger ==> Travel Channel host ==> Wearable Tech CEO on my older site http://hackthesystem.com (no longer updated).

I do since 4 years ago as a developer :)

Did it for the past year.

IT takes a toll, a toll.


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