I believe that the ease with which one "can easily work remotely and travel" is affected far more by life situation than by profession. Modern technology has made it just as easy for non-programming electronic workers to do this, too.
"Life situation" is another matter. Just a few of the things that make it difficult for some people to do this:
- spouse's job
- caring for elderly parents/others
- community commitments
- financial responsibilities (mortgage, etc.)
Just don't try to build a business as an indie iOS dev if you want to travel. I've been trying to do this for the last year but this week Apple disabled my iTunes account, insisting that I'm not allowed to access it from Asia since my credit card account is a U.S. account. They've categorically refused to budge on this so now I can't even update apps I've bought through iTunes or the Mac App store. Since the apps I write have to be able to interoperate with other music apps, they've effectively shut me down.
This comment made me perk up.
I've eliminated all of those things you mentioned from my life and replaced them with:
In the last 3 years I've been to over 20 countries, been to every continent (except antartica), boot strapped two companies in NYC and have completed a half-ironman (and on my way to do a full next year). I realize I couldn't have done any of that if I had any of those aforementioned responsibilities.
Random, but honest (meta) question: Would people be interested in reading more about this? I always feel like if I blog about these things it would just sound like bragging.
Marriage - I've been single for 5 years, and adamantly stayed single, to the point where I've been in a couple of longer term "relationships" that I've simply cut off in pursuit of other things in life. In reflection I feel this may be a quite cynical outlook on life and will probably change in the near future.
Children - I wrap it.
Pets - Don't have the time nor want to spend the incredulous amount of money required to maintain one.
Elderly Relatives - All of my grandparents have passed and my parents (who are almost in their 60's now) are generally in very good health. I guess I'm very fortunate.
I immediately had a picture of a mime.
- Consult. Thus freeing your wife from needing to work (knocks off two items on your list).
- Consult from the road. Thus taking care of those financial responsibilities.
Other ways those problems go away if you're travelling and working most of the year:
- Travel. Thus turning defining your community as "Travelling Rock Climbers", "Travelling Surfers", or simply "Travelers"
- Kids might be hard. I chose to have them this year instead of 10 years ago, thus meaning I can bring them along
- Pets are harder. Maybe a really big bowl of food and leave the toilet seat up?
But the short version is that if you want to make travel a priority, you can. Pretty much any excuse you come up with is for your own benefit. I've met plenty of families on the road with school-age kids who weren't planning to go home any time soon.
It's all doable. We'd love to run into you out here.
Some people, freed from needing to work, still want to work. I would not give up my job even if I were independently wealthy.
There's a kind of fresh air that gives to a relationship -- the unspoken undercurrent is "I could leave but I don't want to" vs. "it would be incredibly difficult for me to leave, so I really hope things keep going well". The dependent spouse has far more skin in the game, in every interaction, whether the earner takes advantage of that or not.
If you're both comfortable that you're capable of making a good income at short notice, that would have a similar effect (and one of you can take some time off when you have a kid, travel the world, etc.), but you'll need a solid career first to give you that confidence.
After a few years of chasing rocks around the world, you start to notice that you keep running into the same people time and again. Even if you never actually talked to them when you were both on the beach in Thailand a few years back, and only said hi when camped at Ceuse (Southern France) last summer, by the time you run into them again in Kentucky you might as well introduce yourself because you'll certainly be seeing them again some time.
Over time, you tend to gather lots of friends this way. And when you come back to spend another winter on the beach in Thailand you can guarantee that at least a few old friends will be there as well.
Beyond that, most countries tend to have a few spots that attract travelers. Next time you talk to somebody who's been to Peru, ask where they went. They'll answer Lima, Huacachina, Nazca, Arequipa, Puno, and Cusco. In that order. Go to any of those places, find a comfy looking bar, walk up to a table full of scruffy looking people and ask where they're from. Next thing you know you'll have a half dozen new friends and a bunch of good stories. And if you ever go to China, you'll probably run into one of them at a similarly comfy bar in Yangshuo.
Youmight not even need to find a bar: the popular sights and major cities of the world are full of hostels geared towards encouraging their guests to meet fellow travellers (some more overtly hedonistic than others). They're easy enough to find in travel guides and hostel booking websites
You'll also be surprised just how many local people speak English in the rest of the world, particulary when affiliated with the tourist trade (Latin America being something of an exception, but basic Spanish isn't the most difficult language for an English speaker to learn.)
Posted from Puno
Ex-patriots tend to hang out together, and are relatively easy to find, particularly in a country where your face makes you stand out as a foreigner.
One curious thing I have seen is that some ex-pats don't want to meet other ex-pats from their home country. I tend to agree with that since not doing so decreases your chances of meeting new local people which can be really interesting.
I'm amused/interested in how your comment changed the upvotes and downvotes my original had. Before it was positively received (+11 at the point I checked), but that was enough to drive it down to a +1 (no, there's no grave injustice here, no one should think to re-upvote it out of some misplaced sympathy). I can definitely see how your point would nullify it, but actively driving almost a dozen downvotes? HN folks are a fickle bunch =)
You deduced that from 4 words in a closing tag? Scary, en at.
Maybe you can help me with the text parsing logic that feeds the Business Intelligence for Email app I'm writing.
Whenever I tell people about my lifestyle, they 1) are shocked and awed, 2) enthuse about how jealous they are, and 3) assume I'm a millionaire. I wish I could just grab people by their collars to shake them and say, "We live in a marvelous time! With internet access everywhere, you too can do what I do! Plus, you don't have to be rich to do it--I probably make much less money than you do at your desk job!"
Nobody believes me, and if they do, they don't want to take the risk. (To be fair not everyone is able to do so, even if they wanted to.) So they stay jealous. It always makes me a little sad that people stay stuck in their situations often because they can't even envision an alternative, and a little happy that I somehow managed to make it happen myself.
There are a variety of ways to do it. They really do work. Plenty of normal, sane, well-adjusted people take advantage of them. There are avenues forward from them to either standard middle class career paths at home or continued success abroad, for a variety of values of "success."
I was lucky enough to spend 2 months in Australia and Africa this year, and a lot of that time was 1/2 work and 1/2 fun. It's a great combo: working stimulates the body and exploring new places stimulates the spirit. (Ugh, that sounds way cornier than I hoped.)
I have a ~50 hour/week job, and I was I was surprised by how effective and pleasant it was to go do outdoorsy things from 8am until 2 or 3pm, and then work until 10 or 11 at night.
On a completely unrelated note: Alex, I'm really curious, how did you manage to get a book deal with O'Reilly at the age of 20?
Edit: If you're actually interested in writing, let me know. In a past life I worked for a publisher distributed by O'Reilly. Happy to point you in the right direction.
And it's never too late - I did the above from Sydney to London at the ripe old age of 33, and have seen tons of Europe and the Nordics over the past few years - with 5 weeks corp leave, 2 weeks public holidays and weekends, you can do lots of travel if you plan it a little. Sure it's not quite the same, but it's a bloody good compromise if you're more tied down / risk averse than an intrepid 21yo ;)
Thanks for rubbing it in :(
> The point of this post isn't some self-aggrandizing narcissistic pontification, but rather to demonstrate that setting goals works, and to inspire people to do likewise. Work out where you are now, where you want to be in a year, and set-down a series of concrete steps that will get you there. Follow your dreams.
I believe the point of that article is: Get out of your comfort zone.
When we get out of our comfort zone, we learn :)
Same with traveling I guess :)
The choices we make while traveling are as important as the travel.
Anyway, it's important to remember that it's hard to get a deep understanding of everything in a country just because you've traveled there / lived there for a short time. Most information you get while traveling is important, but ultimately a lot more shallow than the information you have on your own country/culture.
You also seem to be taking the position that, since living in a place for a short time does not give perfect insight, that it is not valuable. I would disagree.
Not for someone from the US there isn't.
US health care is not "much higher quality" than Europe regardless of income. That's a Fox News myth. Like anything, it's not black-and-white. US health care has some things that are very good, but for most everything they are no better (and often worse) than any other first world country. What we can say is that they're much more expensive than anyone else.
I'm a Software Engineer in my late 20s and just spent 2 years driving from Alaska to Argentina, purely because I wanted to. Along the way I continued to develop / create which helped supplement my bank account immensely. Keeping an up-to-date blog helped keep me focused and my head in the game. (theroadchoseme.com)
I'm back working a desk job right now, to rest and recuperate and bolster the bank account enough until I can set off again.
If you want to do something like this, you totally can.
Everything turned out well for us too - my wife was headhunted by Facebook (thanks to the Content Strategy work we started doing freelance during our trip), so I'm now in San Francisco, creating apps for myself.
If you have the chance, do it.
Typical programming is team work, with milestones and deadlines. Deadlines which are set in one time zone.
So, while I applaud this young man for doing what he did, it really is normal travel porn. If you have no obligations, great, do it. I bet in most cases you'll be under 30 if you can pull it off.
I do travel somewhat -- I left the US for France (but basically settled there), and periodically spend up to a month or so back in the US, or Malaysia (where I am now... hence the sim card). But keeping working is always a hassle (even though I'm almost always staying with family, and I know my way around), and each time I switch locations there are days of productivity down the drain due to jet lag, internet issues, actually seeing all of the people I travel to see, let alone time spent on planes, in airports, trains, etc., where I can get little bits of work done, but never much.
We probably could travel more (and to more new places...), but it wouldn't be worth the stress of figuring out the same damn things all over again for each new place. Leaving your comfort zone is great, but leaving the same comfort zone in the same way over & over -- shifting to a new & strange place and sorting out the same basics -- isn't wonderful indefinitely. :)
I hope there is a second edition.
And there is something about developers/hackers and being on the road. I spent 10 years from '00 till last year living out of a suitcase on 4 different continents and 7 different countries (living in fulltime, visited over 50). Loved it, brilliant experience and I can't wait to get on the road again.
Edit: I was homeschooled my whole life (grad 2005) and homeschooling via Khan Academy and other online education sites seems like it would be especially effective. Exposure to tons of cultures at a young age seems like it would be awesome.
Life gets exponentially more complicated as you get older -- something very hard to see before it happens to you.
Yes life gets more complicated with partner/kids/mortgage and yes its really hard to see before it happens. But now we've been back in the 'real world' for a year we realise just how abnormal the real world actually is. So we are doing it again next year and hopefully every year (with an extra kid this time).
ALso we did consider homeschooling but the kids really react differently when its someone else than their parents teaching.
With respect to the "travelling programmer" meme, I think it's less common for the older (say > 40 years) among us. As one who falls within that category, my priorities are far different now than ten or twenty years prior. I enjoy the stability of a permanent home, of watching my children build relationships in their schools and neighborhoods, of participating in my children's amateur sports teams.
Occasionally, my wife and I will fantasize about travelling the world, living experiences with our kids unlike those living "normal" lives, but we never do. I suppose for us, the "normal" life is good enough. We are together, and we laugh, and learn and live as a family. Not to say that our choice is right for everyone, but it's right for us. For us, uprooting our children from the only lives and friends they've ever known contains an element of selfishness that we're not prepared to swallow.
For me personally, I'm just as happy holed up in my basement office fiddling with BeagleBoards, or soldering together little electronic projects as I'd ever be doing anything else. I guess I'm simply a geek homebody.
But for those like the original poster and those that strive to attain similar, more power to you.
Over the last few years I've worked from home or on travel a few times. I was able to make it work but it never felt very sustainable. As to working from home it is getting easier as the kids get older (they are able to control the urge to interrupt and they are able to understand that I am working). I remember I was on a phone meeting with about 20 people once and my son kept coming to knock on the door and shout, I was very worried everytime I was off "mute".
On the other hand, when we travel (a month or more during summer vacations), they get so excited that they tend to be very loud or litteraly out of control.
I totaly relate to feeling selfish about uprooting your kids.
I, also, never ran into another programmer doing this. I live in SF now (moved from the midwestern USA) and work for a startup. Let's grab a beer sometime! Or maybe I'll see you at one of the weekly CouchSurfing meetups. They're pretty big here- 50 people a week is not unusual.
"The picture below is of one of the Colca Canyon's fabled Peregrine Falcons, taken whilst I was climbing down the canyon, the world's deepest."
it looks like a Condor to me.
If things go by my new plan, I'll spend the next year in Taiwan, China, Russia, Korea and some other places :)
I've done some travelling and working (though not overseas), but feel like I haven't figured it out.
One thing that bothered me a bit: "My message to fellow programmers is stop making excuses, man up and do it."
I am in a tiny minority here, but I just don't care to travel. I know in the day and age of Tim "Superman" Feriss we're all supposed to be pumped up supermen bouncing around the world with a supermodel in each arm. But honestly, I really enjoy the things I do where I live: reading, enjoying time with friends, working (yes I don't view work as something to be avoided - dare I speak heresy against the cult of the 4HWW?).
In summary I just wanted to offer a counterpoint to this author (and others in the "travel at all costs" cult) that some people simply don't enjoy travel compared to what else they could be doing. Sometimes it's not about "manning" up and doing it, it's just about doing what you enjoy regardless of what bloggers and bestselling authors recommend.
You have a friend in Emerson: http://www.ryanholiday.net/emerson-on-travel/
route: frankfurt - johannesburg - hong kong - tokyo - sydney - new york - buenos aires - rio de janeiro - frankfurt
cost: around EUR 5000
not claiming this is the cheapest rate though.
Traveling and programming. How did you afford the trip Alex? Savings or working on the go? If you don't mind, how much did it cost too?
I also travelled from Singapore to Bangkok (not all the way to Hanoi) this year. Great trip. Took the train. Beautiful countryside.
I'll do this some day anyway :)
That's what I'm looking forward to, at least :)
what did you actually do about health insurance, if you don't mind me asking?
I'm in my first year of business and after reading your post I see that I've made one huge mistake. I'm not working to reach a goal like you did. I'm working for the sake of working. It doesn't matter how successful I am because in the end all my work will still have been for nothing.
I think you make a great point (maybe you don't realize you made this point) about how we should be working to live and not living to work.
This has inspired me and touched me so deeply I cannot even describe it. This is going to sound lame and cheesy but your post hit a nerve with me and from this moment on I am going to set out to make a goal to live. Find what I love besides my work and go out and live. I'm going to work my ass of because I love my job but after the work day is done I must be able to tell myself that this work day has brought me just one bit closer to being able to go out and live. No more working 12 hour days so I can wake up and work another 12 hour day and pretend like work in and of itself is an end. It's just a means to an end. I'll always program and love it and I'm sure others are the same but im also sure that all of us also have other external motivations that make us human, not just our work. Just thank you for this. Thank you for reminding me why I'm doing what I'm doing. I feel like I sound like an over emotional... person. You're younger than I am by a few years and seeing you do this and the sentiment behind it really just lit a fire under my ass.
Thank you so much for this post. I hope everyone here can one day write a blog post along these lines. You are truly living. Congratulations and I wish you continued success.
Not true! My gf and I have been doing it for 5 solid years (she's the designer). So far we've lived in Argentina & Uruguay for a year, New Zealand & Australia for a year, Thailand, Vietnam, France and Spain. I have met a few others on my travels. We never plan to go back; there's no point settling down when there's so much to see and experience. Yes, a lot of people get angry or jealous and say it's the dream life, but it's also hard work -- not just coding and keeping in touch with clients 24/7, but also travel itself. It's exhausting. But I wouldn't have it any other way.
The moral of the story is, never lose your momentum, and always tell your clients how much you love them. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go get drunk and cry.
Don't give up and don't let yourself get down by a momentary setback.
If you were good for that contract, you probably still are as good or better now, and you'll get another one as good or better hopefully.
I'd advise against getting drunk but that's me.
Currently I find new clients in each town (or, try to) but if I looked for less physical income (sys/network admins often need to be nearby) I'd be set.
Do I understand correctly that the story currently ends by working on location at Twitter?