Also - make sure you've got a nice view. We've found that our productivity increases substantially when we've got something nice to look at. Building product in basements is depressing and can really drain your energy/creativity/purpose. There's something about the ocean or the desert that can really drive you forward.
Though as far as i understood, they solved this with going out as tourists only on weekends.
Except it never happens. Seems my motivation / drive is so depleted that the best way to use the days off is to actually rest. Then I feel great (although generally a little miffed that I didn't get anything done on project X) and for the next several weeks I seem to have more focus and be able to get my everyday things done more effectively.
Sometimes the best way to utilise a break is exactly that - have a (complete) break and just rest the mind - I find some physical exercise (surfing) helpful with that too.
Again GTD is a good way to make your way through work.
Also: when you're on the road, you won't need to go and see family and friends. You'll miss them. But a lot of time is free to do other stuff.
As always though, everything is best in moderation. I'm yearning to be back in the startup/technology scene - and I will be come September. I'm sure that'll I'll do another trip like this in my twenties though (I'm 21 now).
I've sadly grown accustomed to fancier meals (restaurants over ramen) and softer beds (hotels over hostels). It would be a lot of mental work to keep my expectations down and readjust them to what they were in my student days.
It would be a very good exercise though.
How do I know if I have enough experience on a subject to write a book about it?
I started this as a response to the "how to keep productive" question, but I'll try to address the other questions people have been asking in the thread later on.
We also have the issue of taking some period of time to get back into the productive zone. What we do is spend the visa limit time in each country. For americans in the UK that is 6 months, for instance. So we rented an apartment for 6 months. In the Shengen zone (most of europe) it is 3 months, and last year we spent 2.5 months in berlin.
In both cases we spent most of the time working a normal lifestyle %90 of the time. After our 2.5 months in berlin we spent a couple weeks traveling as tourists (that's where the other 0.5 months went.)
I figure 2 weeks on either side of a relocation are not going to be productive, so might as well spend half of that time, or so, doing tourist stuff. By having such great breaks regularly, we are recharged and I think more productive when we are working.
The weird thing is, indoors, the only thing foreign really is the outlets... so it feels like we're still in the USA, but then you step outdoors and the language, accents and architecture are completely different. So you can "travel" across the globe every day. It is really hard to explain that feeling but it is pretty powerful.
Taxes & Visas-- As far as governments are concerned we're tourists. We present ourselves this way and we get tourist visas. However, for most visas "tourist" and "business" visas are essentially the same. We don't work in any country in the sense that we don't have a job, we don't participate in their employment schemes. We're taxed like americans (the US taxes your income no matter where it is earned).
As I mentioned we're doing a startup. (We did one and we're just in the process of pivoting so what the new one is at this point is a little vague.) I don't feel out of the technology scene at all-- I have all the same connections I did before we left, except that I can't go to local unconferneces, but I didn't really get much out of them.
There is one conference that I miss that is done in the USA only, but we started buying the videos for it. Spending hundreds of dollars on conference videos sounds expensive, but it is cheap compared to actually going there (Even from within the USA). I don't really miss the networking opportunities-- and we're now networking with a real international network. EG: we network with the locals wherever we are.
The technology scene really is global.
This is a big one. This inhibits a lot of people. However, if you've got an income from your work, and savings to get by in the USA, you can get buy longer when you're traveling. Even traveling in expensive first world places like europe, right now, we're able to live on the budget we were living on in the USA. Overall, we're actually spending a bit less, and we spend a lot less when we are living in lower cost places (even places in eastern europe, which are "expensive" compared to southeast asia, are cheep.)
So, we could have remained in the USA, and spent the same amount of money. I don't think we would have gotten any more work done, and we would have had a lot less fun. Plus, as our product is global, better understanding of other countries helps.
Health insurance: We have the health insurance we had in the USA. It covers us globally. There are specific health insurance plans that cover long term travelers and we might switch, we just haven't done so yet.
Neither of us are under 30, nor are we over 50.
Crazy? You hear a lot of people who knock this idea. Lots of people say "I'd love to do that but I've got responsibilities" or the equivalent.
That's fine... just don't presume we're not doing serious work, we aren't doing a "real" startup or anything lie that. These days startups often have employees spread around the globe... we don't have to carry the whole company with us.
I think people thinks this is harder than it is. Or maybe for some people the idea of living out of a backpack is tough.
Personally, I relish the challenge!
Between my laptop, camera, and assorted stuff, I've got about 7 pounds of clothes etc, and 10 pounds of electronics gear. Every time we-repack, we actually shed some unnecessary stuff. It is a process... but I love it.
Whenever you decide to start a company with your partner, you're making a big commitment. You're taking risk of future reward in exchange for giving up immediate high salary (but horribly no-fun corporate jobs.) Previously we'd done the corporate jobs and the startup thing, and it was time for us to do our own startup.
For anyone out there considering doing what we're doing, the budget is what matters. If you can do this for the same cost of living, or less, than living in the USA, then why not do it?
What I didn't talk about is how much income we're currently making. And I didn't mention whether we were profitable or not, or whether we've passed the income we would have been making if we'd stayed in our corporate jobs. I don't want to go into that, because it isn't really useful for anyone considering this, as you have to make your own determination, but I feel safe in saying that I expect to live more comfortably in "retirement" than I would have if I hadn't done this startup.
Finally, I'm not sure what retirement is, really. I took a long break before, and travelled, and within a week of being on the road I was exploring ideas for starting a company. I had set aside 6 months for myself, didn't have to do anything (and when I came back, I got a job quickly, with the interviewers seeing my "employment gap" as something to be jealous of.) I don't expect I will ever stop working.
But, in my "later years" I do plan to travel more luxuriously.
We missed the date by a year-- exactly the year it took us to get ready for this.
Takes a lot of time to get rid of a couple decades of accumulated junk. That's one of the bigger inhibitions. We didn't put anything but a couple small boxes in storage with friends, we got rid of everything.
Sort of our "burning the ships" moment, but also, the thing is, it was mostly unnecessary.
Like in fight club - we thought we had the sofa thing covered. Forget that. There will be more sofas in the future.
Here are some warnings, learned through experience:
As a foreigner you will often be treated as a second class citizen. That may or may not matter much, depending on where you go, what you do, whether you speak the language, and how many quality contacts you have in your host country.
I found it disheartening but eye opening just how poorly I was treated sometimes just because I wasn't a native, didn't speak the language, or was just being a respectful tourist.
Dealing with the bureaucracy in foreign countries when you're not a native could be a nightmare. It's even worse when you don't speak the language.
Again, speaking the language is also really important if you want to have natives as friends. Far too often expats socialize within a cocoon of other expats. And it's very easy to become very isolated in a foreign land, especially if you're not naturally very social and outgoing.
Flying and various other mechanics of travel might seem fun when you first start, but they'll become routine and maybe even onerous before too long -- especially with the ever increasing hassles of going through security and customs.
As a native in your own country you can frequently get away with a lot of things and talk your way out of many situations that you can't when you're a foreigner.
Foreigners and tourists often get taken advantage of because they don't know the rules, because they're afraid of getting kicked out of the country, and because they get little sympathy from some natives who look at them as nothing more than walking cash machines.
Of course, sometimes foreigners can get away with stuff that natives can't.. especially in the realm of social faux-pas, where a foreigner can be forgiven for being ignorant of local customs. But even here, not everyone is equally tolerant.
That said, I've benefited greatly from travel. It's been a very educational and mind-opening experience. Through it I've met many wonderful people and seen and experienced things I could not have imagined had I stayed in my home country my whole life.
I definitely encourage everyone to travel. But doing so long-term takes a special kind of person who's able to put up with a lot of inconvenience, hassle, and insecurity that you just wouldn't need to deal with if you'd just stayed home. (Of course this last bit wouldn't apply if "home" is some war-torn or economically depressed place compared to the countries you're traveling to.)
Some of the other companies we've heard about are mentioned in this article, but we don't have experience with them:
Sorry, I can't give a definitive answer on the solution, but this is an area where we're still learning.
Note that doing what the OP did is far more difficult if you have children, although it is possible to work stable jobs in a single country for longer stints with kids.
It is absolutely no coincidence that the vast majority of people who do these sorts of things have no children. This is not to say that I don't think it's commendable to get out in the world like this, because if you can it's a great thing. However, I get annoyed with folks who seem to think there couldn't be any possible reason that someone wouldn't do the same.
Is the ultimate advice "be from a wealthy country that lets you travel on welfare"? :)
Next to that there are several ways to do what you want to do: like studying abroad, volunteering.
We're not saying what we did should be 'copied', we're saying 'figure out what you want, and find a way to do it' A way that fits you.
And that's not the other thing mentioned on the comments.
It almost seems more unique to hear about a hacker from NYC documenting a summer working in New Paltz, rather than another story about social media experts working from cafes in Buenos Aires and Thailand.
Why not be rich and live rich. I get the "Live rich" part but that "Don't be rich" is unwarranted.
The hosts are two guys who have created a million dollar business in the last three years while traveling. Their business is not some bullshit "blog"/earn money by selling tips on how to make money thing, it's a real business that actually sells physical products.
Everybody should check it out. It's a shame that they're charging for the first episodes since it makes it kinda hard to recommend to people (I discovered them before that), but their content is definitely worth paying for. It's probably the best audio-only business content I've heard.
For example, look at the difference between Lausanne, Switzerland and Bangalore, India (the indian silicon valley!) -> bit.ly/ltwXUf
Berlin is far cheaper than NYC. It is considered one of the cheapest big cities in Europe. And numbeo says that it is only 10% cheaper than NYC: http://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/cpi_explained.jsp
I find that the estimate on Expatistan seem much more reasonable:
Expatistan: NYC is 43% more expensive than Berlin
Perhaps this is because Expatistan provides more emphasis on the entertainment category?
p.s. Please don't use shortened links on HN.
I once spent a few months in Spain, where I devoted 30% of my time to developing a C++ application, 30% of my time to learning Spanish, and 30% on touristy things. This was before the Internet era, and I sent in my work each month on a floppy disk, along with an invoice (just as I did from home). I think they never noticed the Spanish post stamps ;-)
I did freelance for a while, and I came to the conclusion that I don't really enjoy doing client work, so now I'm working on a startup instead.
Does anybody have experience doing a startup on the road, as opposed to the more common freelancing/blogging/consulting?
My aim is to get my SaaS product(s) to the point of requiring almost zero work. (Everything automated, effective 'help' section to keep the amount support emails as low as possible, etc.)
This seems impossible with freelancing/blogging/consulting, as you'll only be able to lessen the workload so much (i.e. it can't be self-sustaining), whereas depending on the startup you can theoretically get by on just a few hours work per week, while your revenues are still increasing.
I.e., if we have to fly somewhere, we don't fly together. Phones on multiple networks capable of tethering, a wireless broadband card and a router that'll use it are a must-have (our Cradlepoint's been a champ...the Mifi's cool, but the ability to plug a card or Ethernet or both into the CP rocks).
We've had a blast and we're still going gangbusters after almost two years on the road - so it's totally doable.
My advice would be not to be too disappointed if your zero-work aim is never achieved (maybe you could get away with this if you didn't have users or a server component...hah!); we pretty much work around the clock, but we love it.
We have an old blog post from our first month mobile about reducing burn rates while doing this sort of thing if you're interested - http://voxilate.blogspot.com/2010/01/reduce-your-micro-start... - it could stand some updating, but still pretty much applies (plus, the user comment was spot-on).
Since in all my travels, I've never found a country with a clear explanation of what is & isn't allowed wrt remote work, I think of it like this: If you are on a trip and somebody from home calls you to ask you to make a decision on an investment, would that country tax you? No. If your investments back home made lots of money while you were on vacation, would that country tax you? No. What if you wrote emails telling other people what to do? What if you did a little bit of it for them? Etc. The thought experiment goes on.
VRBO & HomeAway have been pretty solid senders, we've tried a bunch of other options, but I don't think we've ever managed to book via any other site (except for one rental straight through the condo complex in an area not well-served by HomeAway/VRBO). Searching VRBO is a pain in the neck, but the owners tend to be a lot more experienced.
But there's a startup idea--someone should get on it if they haven't already--"Priceline for VRBO/HomeAway/AirBnB."
You absolutely have to haggle. Every time. Even if you're only staying two days, ask for a discount because you're a quiet computer programmer who knows how to clean up after themself. Other good reasons include last-minute offers and long stays. I've knocked 50% off of ~50 nights so far, the usual discount for even trying anything is 25%, and only once has none of the half-dozen places I've contacted not taken something off the price.
Always, always, always, always, always check visa requirements. If you need one and don't have one, you will be buying a very expensive plane ticket when you get turned back at the border. Default tourist visas for American citizens is 3-6 months most places, but you always have to check. Don't trust any website that's not the official government, and call an embassy if you're at all unsure.
We are chattel.
In practice just pay taxes in your country of "residence" not the country you're in temporarily. Many countries have 60-90 day visas for visitors from first world countries.
I've received many different explanations over what's acceptable and, of course, many government documents will seem to contradict each other. However it is not beyond the possibility that one would run into a problem with this when dealing with some local authorities.
The other thing to keep in my is that residency is often tied to a minimum number of days spent within the country you are filing taxing in. They also can take into regard your "intent" of where you plan to be living next year. You can be judged to not actually fulfilling the residency requirements and be taxed on foreign earnings.
Most people who do this won't have issues but I've witnessed had one border agent mull over whether to deny entry or let them through, based on answers to questions about activities in other countries.
Disclaimer: this is not legal advice
Besides, if you have kids, traveling is much harder / expensive.
For me advantages of electronic communications (speed, easy accessibility, various tools such as HN, conversation logs) outweigh "in person" communication most of the time.
I've notice that nobody is interested in remote C++ development, and the few people I meet who are doing something like this are in some branch of web development.
This lifestyle might be appealing for some very short period of life, under very specific circumstances. You have to be young to not worry about health insurance. You have to have the job that is simple enough to be outsourced and complicated enough to be at least reasonably paid. You have to not worry about "career" or "experience" (which are just different words for "future"). You have to be from the first-class country to take advantage of the visa requirements with your passport. It is also interesting to note that things they can afford in certain countries, like going to the beach every day, would definitely be prohibited for them in their home country given their occupation (note their remark on costs in Argentina, which, I assume, are lower than in Belgium).
I can elaborate much further as few of my friends live this sort of lifestyle in South-East Asia. From what I know about it, it's definitely (a) not for me, (b) doesn't make me think that the future knowledge workers will work that way. I work on my own projects in one of the most expensive cities on the planet and it's hard for me to see how can I relocate anywhere without losing the advantages I'm getting from the infrastructure and population here.
UPDATE: Though seeing the world is awesome, I'd personally prefer saving 10-20K and taking a year off work for that.
I used to be big on the idea of leaving belgium and going to "nice" places to live there. Over here the weather always seemed to be cold and rainy, the people inhospitable and narrow-minded, and the cities dull and lifeless. Travelling sort of brought me back home. The weather is cold and rainy at times, but it's also totally unpredictable, and appreciating that has made me realize it's not as rainy as I thought it was. The people may not be as warm and welcoming as they are in thailand, but they also respect your privacy and they are more honest with their emotions. As far as the cities go, I've really come to love Antwerp, where I live now. When I go on vacation to thailand now (went once a year for the past few years), it's amazing, and I get to do things that are impossible in belgium (I got married with nothing but green fields between us and mountains on all sides), but after a few weeks I always get homesick.
In a way, I think this sort of on-the-move lifestyle is meant for people that haven't found a home yet. Once you do find a genuine home, not just a place where your bed is, and come to appreciate it, you simply don't need to do this. I still like to travel, but only to satisfy curiosity, not because I think other places are nicer.
That's why so many people go to Thailand: health care is inexpensive and very very good when compared to the costs related to it in their own country.
We had to go once: the total costs medicines included: 37 euro. I never took the bill to my health insurance to be reimbursed...
So the insurance thing is nice, but you have to compare it to the real costs.
As far as what you're saying on Belgium: we totally agree:
We came back to Belgium in Feb, when it was rainy and people where still complaining...
And suddenly it was Spring and well, heaven.
I myself have been living for 2.5 years abroad before this one year trip.
Coming back to Belgium, Ghent, is always superb.
We love it.
And we found our home quite a while ago. It's Ghent. One of the most beautiful cities in the world.
But we love travelling too.
And that's why we decided to do this trip: we didn't want to wait until we're retired to do what we love to do.
In our ideal lifestyle we'd do this each year for 3 to 4 months.
Just like grandparents who skip winter in Spain, but our destinations would be a tiny bit different :)
That said, If I were to take off 12 months, I too would prefer to save 10/20K and take off a whole year. I traveled for 6 months after college on ~$5000. Pro tip: if you're paying taxes before and after your trip, then spread it over two tax years (i.e. June - July in US). I calculated that doing this in the UK (where there is a big jump in tax rates) could net you several thousand pounds.
From experience, I can say that this is simply not true. Obviously you have to get the right channels to find interesting assignments, and be able to build trust (have a good portfolio/CV) but a blanket statement like yours doesn't make sense.
BTW, even if it pays somewhat less than having a full-time corporate "career", some people just like a more adventurous life than just sitting in an office all day. Now, and not at some non-descript time in the future when "retiring". It might not be for you but don't pass value judgements.
One doesn't have to be a programmer or designer to lead a lifestyle like this, though those professions are more location independent by their nature.
That's not my point. My point is that, regardless of what you do work on, it will be rather inconsequential (by the norms of SV perhaps).
Let me be more clear about significance. My statement is that people don't do what is done in SV by trotting around the world, working from their laptops in internet cafes. What is done in SV?
* Start or work at billion dollar startups.
* Create disruptive technologies and build businesses around them.
* Network with the most brilliant minds in business, engineering, etc.
Creating an app that can pay the bill for a bungalow in Phuket (for example) is a great achievement and congratulations on being able to do it. You deserve all the awesome titles that you've listed in your profile.
However, it's not what I would call significant, by these standards. I'm sorry if you feel offended by my choice of the word significant, I really am, but I am saying that there is a difference in scale between what a globetrotter can do and "the rest of us" -- and there is a limitation on the former.
HN is about news that happens mostly in SV, or is relevant to it. It's about startups -- high-risk, scalable businesses -- and SV is where they are (at least, many, many of the successful ones are). I'd expect that a solid majority of the readership is based in this area too.
My premise is this: people who choose to live and work in SV have huge opportunities that exist (almost) nowhere else. Sure, you can setup a consultancy and dabble in a few side projects while you make your way around the globe and have remarkable experiences.
But let's not pretend that, if you choose to do this, you are exposed to the same opportunities as the rest of us -- you're not.
What we meant to say by the presentation is that living the life as it is preached in modern (capitalist) society can be questioned.
For us, travelling is far more important than building that big career and earning a lot of money. Instead of living the life expected and waiting until we're 67 to do this while retired, we decided to do it now.
For someone else their dream might be totally different, and the solution to that too. That's exactly what lifestyledesign is all about: designing your life as you want it.
Check out the Ted video of Stefan Sagmeister on mini-retirements. It might give you a different perspective :)
So I totally respect you view on travelling: I can imagine that many people think 'I don't want to work on a vacation'. But the main thing was: when you like travelling, and you want to do this now, it can be done.
*Saying webdesign or online communication is not 'serious stuff' is in a way hurting a bit. Ouch :) I mean: I've built my experience over the last 11 years. Saying it is not that valuable is, well, cannot really give a good reaction to it.
Usual response I have for my friends who work and travel in South-East Asia is in the vein of "make sure you don't postpone to start your career until when you 67 -- it might be too late already". No more no less.
Someone's willingness to work now and travel later, just like doing the opposite, deserves equal respect. That's the story :)
Finding someone with extensive .NET experience, both web and desktop development history and a deep understanding of web security is enough of a challenge in itself. When you add in the GMT+0 work requirement your working pool of remote workers is even smaller still.
Regardless I imagine that for any work with a distributed team the problem of finding highly specialized talent with the willingness to work remote is universal.
Actually right now even GMT+0 is optional as we now more time zones in the team -5 to +2 and I'll update the jobs page accordingly.
I am sure that it's not for you as you say but it sounds like you are rationalizing it.
You're just flat-out wrong about "serious stuff."
Also, a couple of my friends - Romanians - have spent more than the past year traveling around South America, so you are mistaken about having to "be from the first-class country to take advantage of the visa requirements with your passport," as well. Finally, health insurance from many countries covers emergencies overseas -- and for Americans, there are several specific options for travelers.
Sure, you say it's not for you and I believe you. It's not for me either, I've learned from experience. But a lot of the other things you say aren't factual.
Also, I could not agree more with the points about "working needs discipline." If you're staying in hostels, I would basically say forget it. I found it INCREDIBLY difficult to sit down and code when I was traveling around in hostels (like a tourist) and surrounded by fun people and things to do. In BA, I an apartment like the OP, which made getting work done a bit more tolerable (but still very challenging given the surroundings...)
Our trick was: arrive in a city/location and stay in in hostel/hotel for a few days. Meanwhile drive around/ask around/do couchsurfing to get to know places/check the local craigslist. And find yourself an apartment to live in.
Couchsurfing helped us a lot to get to know locals.
A co-office did the trick in Buenos Aires.
It costs money, but sitting in a coffeshops costs a lot of lattés too. :)
there is a lot more to the world then silly websites
For example, I am a researcher at a university (an employee, not a grad student). I don't want to go into details, but basically I do a lot of numerical modelling-type work and model development. I use lots of different technologies to do it (including C++ at times). I work on the opposite side of the planet to where my university is located and it works well.
Meetings are the only slightly problematic area. Skype is ok, but really not ideal for more than one on one meetings.
That calendar is way out of date now (it's on the TODO list to update tomorrowish), but spending time programming with people has done wonderful things for my network, my skills, my exposure to tech I'd otherwise ignore, my social skills, my vertical leap...
What you are comparing is complexity. Yes, it is easier to parcel out the typical web app than a database engine.