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Traveling, Writing and Programming (alexmaccaw.co.uk)
284 points by maccman on Nov 22, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 116 comments

The peculiar thing about programmers is that they're the one profession that can easily work remotely and travel, and yet they're the one profession that doesn't.

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:

  - marriage
  - children
  - spouse's job
  - pets
  - caring for elderly parents/others
  - community commitments
  - financial responsibilities (mortgage, etc.)
As one who is tethered to his home and family, I thank you, Alex, for allowing me to live vicariously through your year for the past 5 minutes. The stories were interesting and the pictures were beautiful.


The peculiar thing about programmers is that they're the one profession that can easily work remotely and travel, and yet they're the one profession that doesn't.

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.

I had this problem when I was living in Thailand. I just set up OpenVPN on my linode, problem solved.


Good idea, but I don't really feel comfortable building a business at constant risk of some new whim from Apple's security algorithms. I know quite a few other iOS devs have made this work but I feel like I've had the better part of a year's work yanked out from under me and I don't want to take a chance of that happening again.

Well if you're going to let a minor inconvenience like geo-restricted service access prick your plans maybe it's not for you.

I don't really feel comfortable building a business on a platform that requires me to break its rules to support it. Who's to say that whatever hacks I put in today will work tomorrow?

I will stake my entire years income that you still be able to access iTunes via a US-ended VPN for the entirely of it's existence.

Maybe, but one careless sync from a cafe WIFI might undo all that diligence.

Oh, that.

Always, always, use a ssh tunnel when interacting with mega-corporations abroad. Except when you book hotel nights or transport tickets at the last minute.

I thank you, Alex, for allowing me to live vicariously through your year for the past 5 minutes.

This comment made me perk up.

I've eliminated all of those things you mentioned from my life and replaced them with:

1. Alcohol 2. Traveling 3. Triathletics

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.

Hang on. You mean you've removed your marriage, children, pets and caring for elderly relatives from your life?

I guess I haven't necessarily removed them, I've just neglected to pursue them or don't have the burden.

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.

Definitely interested. It sounds like you're living the life I want to live. Damn this cube...

"Damn this cube."

I immediately had a picture of a mime.

Definitely interested. I would read your article/book.

Please do! I find these stories very inspirational, in a life hacking kind of way.

id love to read it!

Being a Programmer (specifically a contractor or consultant) actually solves a few of those problems for you, since it allows you to throw money at them. Here's what I've been doing since saddling myself with wife, kid and mortgage:

- 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.

> - Consult. Thus freeing your wife from needing to work (knocks off two items on your list).

Some people, freed from needing to work, still want to work. I would not give up my job even if I were independently wealthy.

Especially if that wealth comes from your SO and not yourself, making you totally depedent. That's even worse than just being bored without work.

Totally agreed -- my wife & I have both spent time financially dependent on the other, but we're best when we both have incomes.

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.

I have been travelling a lot lately because of my current work and would love to know more about these kinds of community. So you arrive at some country where almost nobody speaks English, how do you actually find anyone you can meet up with?

In my case, I tend to travel for rock climbing or surfing, and it follows that if you show up at a world class climbing destination you'll naturally find that a lot of other travelling climbers have beaten you there are are also staying for the season.

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.

A substantial proprtion of people are travelling alone and want to strike up a conversation with you, even though they're headed off somewhee else the next day.

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

It is easier to make friends from your own country abroad than at home, because ex-patriots are missing their friends from home and looking for other people to hang out with.

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.

Uh, "expat" is actually short for "expatriate", not "ex-patriot". The latter would mean something completely different, so that's quite a confusing usage, in my not so native English speaker's opinion at least.

See <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expatriate>.

I can see that being my problem since in the places I have been to I actually do seem to be a local. I also happen to stay only for a couple of weeks max and that doesn't help.

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.

Freeing your spouse from work, not your wife.

I agree with the sentiment, but the correction here is unwarranted. He starts the post with "Here's what I've been doing". Assuming the poster is actually married to a woman, it's not incorrect to use "wife" here. His use of the second person in the list that follows ("your wife" and not "my wife") looks like a grammar mistake, not a sexist goof.

Hmm, a lot depends on how you read the context of the list. It's always best to give the most generous interpretation, so I retract that.

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 =)

Are you, by any chance, from around Western Pennsylvania?


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.

Pittsburgh just made an impression when I worked there. :p

Yins all scary!

After this rain, the car needs washed, too.

And the lawn needs mowed!

I've been traveling the world and running my site, Scribophile, for a few years now. I just spent 3 months in Germany living with my girlfriend, and now that my EU visa is up I'm in Colombia for a few months enjoying the warm weather in Cali.

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.

Hyup. We definitely make a lot less money. But you can drink and smoke and talk to animals on the job. Guess it all depends what's important to you =) http://www.unplggd.com/unplggd/working-from-the-road-082513

Maybe it is just the crowd I hang out with, but I know a lot of technically inclined people who didn't quite get the memo when people were told to a) work for a big megacorp b) close to where they went to college.

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."

+1 for traveling and working remotely.

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?

There's no trick to technical publishing. If you write a solid proposal and sample chapter and there's a market for the book, you'll get an offer.

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.

You don't have any contact information listed

Updated. Sorry about that!

On your last question -- and first I want to say I'm not implying anything negative about Alex, he could totally kickass -- I suspect traditional book publishers are getting increasingly desperate and/or talent-seeking due to the state of affairs of the Internet. It's never been easier for a talented writer to write and control and market and sell their own work, without a traditional publisher being in the loop. Even the old argument about, "Well, write a book for us on the cheap and you win because of increased eyeballs and prestige," doesn't have as much weight if you look at the alternative paths authors can choose, such as what Zed Shaw is doing. Speaking in general, publishers are just not needed anymore for writers to find readers and make money.

Awesome post. And you can kind of do this even working for Megacorps - in fact if you are working for a Megacorp, have a desire to see more of the world, and are _not_ taking full advantage of the ability to internally xfr to another country while remaining in full employment... well you're missing a trick.

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 ;)

> 5 weeks corp leave, 2 weeks public holidays and weekends

Thanks for rubbing it in :(


I spent the summer road-tripping with my wife and have been working remotely. While we didn't travel around the world, we saw so much beauty in America. We bought an $80 annual national park pass, got a copy of the book "National Parks of the American West", and took off. So if you aren't quite ready for the round-the-world trip, try going to Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Arches/Canyonlands, Crater Lake etc.

The $80 national park pass is perhaps the best deal of anything I've ever bought. Loaded family in car, visited 13 national parks this summer. (Nice accommodations inside or near those parks are less appealingly priced, but worth it.)

Lovely post. The only thing I don't buy is the implied sentiment that if you're not traveling, you're a dummy. Call me jaded, but I can think of many more interesting, fun things to do with my life than visiting one pretty artifact after another. Live your dream, yes, as long as it's your own dream.

I'm not big on travel either, but I think you can get something more general out of the post, which is summed up in the last paragraph:

> 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.

It's about people, experiences, fresh-air, and knowledge as much as artifacts... an inoculation against stupidity if you will. For example, when you hear someone bashing European healthcare, you'll not wonder but know they're full of shit. Simply put, if you endeavor to be well-rounded there is no substitute for travel.

There's something in what you say, but I've spent enough time in youth hostels to know that the connections you make with people while traveling, even if they appear very meaningful at the time, often turn out to be superficial. Travel is one way to end up a well-rounded human being, but there are many others. For example: http://russelldavies.typepad.com/planning/2006/11/how_to_be_...

That's a pretty nice hack :)

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 :)

Maybe, maybe not. I still keep in touch with most friends I've made and find them valuable. Also, travel doesn't have to equal hostels, the piece itself talks mostly about hiking, surfing, and writing. I think the superficial-boozing aspect comes from youth, which is common but fades as the years take their toll. As I'm pushing forty I find myself in nightclubs much less and museums more. For example, I've spent a few days in the Louvre and Archaeological Museum in Athens. I've lived with a family in the Himalayas ... there is no book that can do these experiences justice, sorry.

The choices we make while traveling are as important as the travel.

European here, I think there are plenty of good reasons to bash European healthcare, chief among them being the long queue you end up in when you have health problems, people die waiting, this is not an opinion it's a fact, and here in Sweden, we're looking to cut down the wait as best as we can, but people keep falling through the cracks.

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.

I used that as merely an example, but was afraid of it taking over the conversation. Sure nothing's perfect, but I'll share one of my experiences. Had the misfortune of cutting up one knee in Greece, one in California a few years earlier. Got the same great care in both places, a few hours in the hospital, some bandages, and antibiotics. Bill in Greece $50, bill in California $1600. Bill collectors showed up in CA to get paid a second time.

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.

> I think there are plenty of good reasons to bash European healthcare,

Not for someone from the US there isn't.

Based on what I've heard about US healthcare from people I know, it holds a much higher quality than European healthcare for those who can afford the best insurance. European healthcare fluctuates between bad and adequate, US healthcare fluctuates between terrible and excellent. Neither solution should be immune to criticism.

Steve Jobs had over 6 billion dollars. When he got sick he went to Switzerland for care.

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.

Correct, they aren't. The level of discourse I was thinking of was the "it's socialism!" type. And it's always great to be rich, no doubt about that.

Planning on doing a post about the O-1 visa at all, Alex? If not, you should. There's not a great deal of info about them from a developer's perspective (I know DHH got one back in the day) and it'd be interesting to hear how the process works.

I'm not sure if "me too" comments are welcome here...

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.

I'm loving all the "me too" comments. thanks for sharing :)

Mine is a similar story; spent 10 years building a web agency in the UK, burnt out, then went traveling for a year and wrote a Web App book - http://www.fivesimplesteps.com/products/web-app-success - during the process. I wrote a little about it here - http://atrampabroad.com/the-trials-and-tribulations-of-writi...

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.

This lifestyle is ok for writers, not programmers. As the author states, he was writing a book, which is not a collaborative effort.

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.

Agreed on this -- my work is all-remote and quite flexible, but I have to make it to conference calls 3-4 times a week, and I just missed most of one because the prepaid mobile broadband sim card wasn't all the way set up (and to finish it I had to figure out some Malay text in minuscule print). And the call was at midnight for me, because we have developers scattered across 16 hours of timezones, and that's the best time, all things considered.

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. :)

"Javascript Web Applications" is a must-read for all web developers. I have recommended or sent the book to dozens of people.

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.

This doesn't help me at all at this point in my life, but I think I'll print it to PDF and save it for my son when he gets older (he's 8 now).

Why couldn't you travel and take your family with you?

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.

Just for starters, the 2 year old and 4 week old wouldn't handle it so well, nor would my wife's medical condition.

Life gets exponentially more complicated as you get older -- something very hard to see before it happens to you.

I packed up the house, wife & 1yo last year to spend 6 months skiing in the Alps. Best thing we have done in many, many years and it actually cost less than the 2 week holiday we had their the year before.

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).

Yep I have a 3 and a 6 years old and working from home is VERY difficult. Its usually worse when we travel.

ALso we did consider homeschooling but the kids really react differently when its someone else than their parents teaching.

I have a 6 & 10 year old and I work from home. I'll be the first to admit that it's not always easy, but with practice and realistic rules, it can be done.

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.

Thanks for the post.

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.

Hey man. I'm a programmer who's done a similar thing twice, both times sticking to just Europe. I didn't go the "write a book" route but rather just programmed here and there while CouchSurfing, hosteling, seeing new places, had a couple flings with gorgeous European girls, etc.

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.

Can you elaborate on "programmed here and there"? Does everyone who talks about doing this mostly do freelance web design?

Awesome, yes see you at a CS meetup - I'm planning on going to them.

Whil etalking about traveling on Peru you wrote;

"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.

yeah, that's no Peregrine falcon! Some sort of condor sounds about right

Oops, yes you're right!

What is the best way for someone who has been in a reasonably successful corporate job for about 10 years to get into this 'on the road' sort of consultancy. I'd love to do it, but the idea of just quitting work scares me - I've no doubt I am good enough to be a consultant in my area of expertise (which is Oracle databases), but knowing where to start is the issue. I do blog a bit, and have experimented with a few app ideas, but haven't managed to get anything serious off the ground as yet!

I guess you're the perfect candidate for the "4-hour Workweek". No guarantees but there are some good ideas in there. One of them gave me the courage to talk the boss in letting me work remotely. That's the first step, I think.

Thanks for charging my battery a little. I've tried it for the last year and failed so many times with all sorts of projects and clients. Do you other working travellers actually find your clients online, or is it really all about having enough friends who stay at home and are happy & well-integrated there?

If things go by my new plan, I'll spend the next year in Taiwan, China, Russia, Korea and some other places :)

Hey, would you mind talking a little about the details of how you manage your work/in-front-of-computer time while travelling? Like do you tend to spend a couple of hours somewhere pleasant and do some hacking, or is it more structured? Do you allot time everyday for working and adventuring?

I've done some travelling and working (though not overseas), but feel like I haven't figured it out.

I think this is awesome. I've bookmarked and I will share it all the young people I know.

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.

I am in a tiny minority here, but I just don't care to travel.

You have a friend in Emerson: http://www.ryanholiday.net/emerson-on-travel/

Nice post! How much did the around the world ticket cost?

Old data so probably a bit useless, but I did a 24-country around-the-world trip in 03/04. We eventually had 37 flights all up, but the backbone was a 17-flight ticket which was about $3300. That gave us something like 4-5 continents including Australia, plus 3-4 flights within each continent.

i just tried it on oneworld.

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.

This is exactly what I want to be doing in my placement year starting june!

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'm also interested in knowing how he afforded it at age 20. I'm 21, and just now finishing my M.Sc, and I feel like I would have to work a few years in a Megacorp in order to be able to try something like this.

Been doing something similar myself - Germany, China, North Korea, drove across America and launched a startup.. loving life!

Great post!

I was considering doing this in Germany next year. Where did you stay? Any tips?

How was the firewall in China? Did it inhibit work at all?

It sucked. I set up a personal VPN before I left, but even then, the connectivity there is really spotty. Wouldn't recommend it. It's only really good for getting email, responding offline, then reconnecting to send it.

To the OP - thanks for that post! It's a very humble post and I hope people won't take it as self-aggrandisement. It's hard to make choices because we all only have one life. Make the best of it and I hope you use the perspective you gained in your travels to make twitter a better place for us users.

To all those thinking about doing something like this, I would encourage you to give it a try. Honestly working and travelling isn't that hard and it's incredibly cheap to live in many places in the world. I have personally been doing this while working on artsumo.com for the last 8 months.

I've been seriously considering this for ages.. I wonder what his setup for travel working is? I'm thinking a 17" Macbook would be too much of a pain / risk to travel round Asia with? A follow-up post on the logistics of the work side would be amazing!

When you are in South Africa again, drop by Stellenbosch (40km from Cape Town)! Would love to hear some more stories.


I also travelled from Singapore to Bangkok (not all the way to Hanoi) this year. Great trip. Took the train. Beautiful countryside.

He was travelling writing, programming and having the best time of his life. Now he is just programming....Is that supposed to be a happy ending or sad ending? I couldn't tell from reading his post.

He's working on the other side of the world, story continues. In a few years he'll be on the next adventure.

Not everyone has a job that pays in dollars/euros/pounds...

I'll do this some day anyway :)

Well, we have to add to all that stuff a step 0) get a freelance / remote job that pays in dollars, euros or pounds.

That's what I'm looking forward to, at least :)

Could you tell us what gear your where schlepping around? backpack, electronical equipment (cam, laptop, batteries,...)

what did you actually do about health insurance, if you don't mind me asking?

One of the most attractive things about being a dev/designer to me is the ability to work pretty much wherever there's an Internet connection. Great Article!

I'll just chime in, albeit two days late, to say that: Africa is a continent of 53 (54?) countries, experiences vary.

Oh. My. God. This is the best thing I've seen on HN since I first discovered it!

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.

"The peculiar thing about programmers is that they're the one profession that can easily work remotely and travel, and yet they're the one profession that doesn't."

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.

I did this for a year in Brazil, and it was the best year of my life, and my clients and I were happy. Then I went to Thailand, and the time difference just totally fubar'd my whole working arrangement, and I ended up losing a very lucrative contract. I took 6 months off after that and travelled around SE Asia, but now I'm broke and my freelance career is dead in the water and I'm basically starting over from scratch. There's really no way to communicate how crushing it is to go from that lifestyle to living in my mom's guest room (I'm 31 years old for crying out loud) for the last 3 months trying to scare up some contract work.

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.

Well, take solace in the fact that you've lived more than most of us who are stuck behind a desk.

Thanks for sharing your story and giving a different angle.

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.

I've only done this within Canada, yet, but have lived in five cities in the last four years. It's fun, and not too much work aside from packing a bit more securely to move. It's surprisingly cheap to parcel-mail your belongings, if everything fits into boxes.

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.

Great writeup, and fantastic adventure.

Do I understand correctly that the story currently ends by working on location at Twitter?

This man has lived.


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