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No office, no boss, no boundaries – rise of the nomadic rich (cnn.com)
183 points by chriscampbell on Jan 7, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 128 comments

Anyone else have their "sketchy" filters activated after reading this article? Author mentions how he travels around the world and how he's meeting up with friends / colleagues at this conference (and that he knows them from email lists / online forums), but there's no talk whatsoever in the article about what businesses any of them run.

That's usually a red flag to me -- feels like the scummy side of the Internet.

Doesn't take away from the point (mostly) - that the Internet is enabling a new type of remote-working lifestyle - but I can't get over my spidey senses tingling about the underlying...

I did this for about 5 or so years, earnt great money building corporate web services, general business automation stuff, and web sites. I stopped as I grew bored of dealing with large enterprises and general depression from the repetition and changed tact. Seriously considering returning to doing though just for the amount of freedom you get.

Just yesterday I was feeling jealous that a friend posted on facebook he has locked in a contract with the Tonga tourism board and is currently sailing his yatch to Tonga to start the contract. After sailing to New Zealand for the Hobbit premier. I met this guy wiring up financial web services between banking mainframes in Singapore and some reporting companies. Not exactly what I'd call scummy side of the internet.. unless you have a very low opinion of financial traders LOL.

Once while on a diving boat in the Red Sea I was chatting talking to the others divers before our next dive and it turned out 3 out around 7 of us where free lancer software developers. I have been told by people that Britain does have an unusaly high work from home rate for IT workers (never verified that statement though).

As for rich though... I used to get paid a hell of a lot, but in all reality I burnt a hell of a lot of cash really quick. I think the aforementioned diving trip was £2000 for 8 days for example. And there was a lot of down time as well. I had some contracts that took over a year to finalise.

Loneliness was never an issue either. I was doing all this around the age of 25, and particularly working in London you could literally waltz down to a pub, use the free wifi and chat to the locals. If you choose a decent pub the culture there is amazing and the local bar flies will introduce you to every person in the neighborhood.

The only time I ever suffer from loneliness was living in Northern Ireland, anyone that knows the history of NI can piece together why that place can be a harsh on strangers.

Being from Belfast that last line makes me pretty sad. For what it's worth there are plenty of good people and somewhat frequent meetups/tech talks etc. Usually organised through various groups like ruby users. There's also Laverys..

Its all good I definitely don't hold the place or the people to blame. I was living in Cookstown at the time traveling around meeting long lost relatives. I met more than a few good people, but also some of the worst (a few fisticuff incidents stories not appropriate for here, and being questioned as to why I had just wandered into a local pub). It just took a long time to gain peoples trust after that you where treated like royalty.

Ah, Tyrone. I had stupidly assumed you were in Belfast.

You can google him. He runs a site that focuses on relationship, fashion and related issues, catering to men.


It's popular, and provides value within that niche.

There are TONS of legitimate business possibilities that are entirely remote. Software is a big one. I've met lots of developers who travel and work remotely.

I personally have a pretty decent side income in book royalties, from Amazon and a couple of affiliates. If I can ramp that up a bit, I'd consider traveling.

One of his blog posts was actually posted on HN ~6 months back and attracted a lot of discussion: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4214480

I can attest that it is indeed the 'scummy side of the internet'.

I'm developing a real online business in Medellin (mentioned in the article as one place becoming popular) - and have run across a bunch of Timothy Ferriss groupies that spend their days perfecting the art of SEO, for businesses that they fully know bring in cero value to society.

They consider the internet a fool's playground, and their mission seems to be that of profitting from its fools.

"They consider the internet a fool's playground"

... Well, to be fair, it is.

It may be, in the most darwinian sense. In the same sense that warlords justify genocides.

FWIW: You could have written essentially the same (fairly value-free) article about a buddy or four of mine, who have roughly the same lifestyle, with the financial support being a software business.

It's a useful data point, but owing to patio11's unique situation, his friends are probably very non-representative of the general population.

Though, it's also important to keep in mind the opposite bias: if someone happens not to live the described lifestyle, it's also fairly possible that that non-transient person also doesn't have a representative sample of the general population among his or her friends.

It seems difficult to even design a way to scientifically study this and how widespread it is, too.

The idea that Patrick's situation is unique is one of the dumbest and most damaging emergent memes on HN. Patrick is literally the textbook story of how to get to this point without having a unique circumstance. He started from the worst job in software, and clawed his way out with (all due respect to Patrick) possibly the least technically ambitious product in the history of commercial software development.

Cut it out. The difference between you & Patrick is literally just "desire to be like Patrick".

> He started from the worst job in software, and clawed his way out with (all due respect to Patrick) possibly the least technically ambitious product in the history of commercial software development.

I don't mean to disagree, per se, but I don't think this is exactly a fair statement. Making a successful business out of selling bingo cards to teachers on the Internet is actually pretty ambitious as far as I can tell. Yes, the bingo card production itself is basically RNG on Rails, but that isn't what made him successful. I could put up a precise clone of Bingo Card Creator and it wouldn't even pay for its hosting.

Put another way: If I picked some crappy niche and put up "Hello World" attached to a built-in algorithm, do you really think I'd do as well as he did? (I don't think desire is the difference, as I certainly desire for that to be true, in much the same way I desire for ice cream to not have any calories.)

He did an amazing job with practically nothing — do you really disagree with that? It's obviously not impossible, but it's certainly not normal or the preceding statement wouldn't be true. Painting it as impossible is wrong, but trivializing it has the opposite effect of what you want: It makes it look more impossible than it is, because it isn't actually trivial.

Put another way: If I picked some crappy niche and put up "Hello World" attached to a built-in algorithm, do you really think I'd do as well as he did?

    $$\     $$\ $$$$$$$$\  $$$$$$\  $$\ 
    \$$\   $$  |$$  _____|$$  __$$\ $$ |
     \$$\ $$  / $$ |      $$ /  \__|$$ |
      \$$$$  /  $$$$$\    \$$$$$$\  $$ |
       \$$  /   $$  __|    \____$$\ \__|
        $$ |    $$ |      $$\   $$ |    
        $$ |    $$$$$$$$\ \$$$$$$  |$$\ 
        \__|    \________| \______/ \__|
You missed only two extra details:

* Keep at it for a year or two, in your scarce spare time, and

* Carefully study how best to present your offering to your target market

Oh, snap. I just got ASCII-arted by tptacek.

You know what? I'm going to do this, just so I can settle this once and for all and be right on the Internet. I'll throw up a crap product, work on it like five hours a week, and we'll see how far in the hole I am from hosting costs.

Incidentally, it's the second part ("Carefully study how best to present your offering to your target market") that I believe to be tremendously difficult and that I don't believe I will have much chance at. From where I'm standing, one of three things happens:

1. You get lucky and happen to be very good this.

2. You get lucky and happen on the right approach without actually being good at this in general.

3. Your product earns back nearly 10% of its expenses.

Curious: apart from methodical patience, what super power do you believe Patrick was "very good at"?

I'm confirming too many people's biases by commenting on a 'patio11 thread about 'patio11, but the deliberately assumed helplessness of HN'ers when it comes to business is one of those things that drives me fucking bananas. In this case, so bananas that I have deployed ASCII art on HN for the first time ever. :)

There is a lot of money out there for hackers who want to make stuff for non-hackers; but I think a lot of HN'ers have problems figuring out what those things are.

Lots of hackers like to build things relevant to their own hobbies, but the problem is that if you make (say) a WoW character builder, some other hacker will build another one for free. (I don't play WoW so I don't know if my example made any sense, but you can fill in the blank for one that does.) They need to find something non-hackers want.

I don't think there is any list you or 'patio11 has of these things, or else the niche would already be filled. But I think that's what HN'ers want: "tell me what to build!" And they don't know what to build.

1) Identify a market that you know something about - not necessarily much, but something - and where a medium-sized number of people spend a fair amount of money with minimal resistance, regularly.

2) Talk to those people about their problems. Find out what really scares them, pisses them off, or simply takes too much time.

3) Build something to fix that problem. Keep talking to real people who have the problem you're fixing as you build it.

This is the methodology I've heard quoted by a dozen successful entrepreneurs, from Jason Cohen to Naomi Dunford. It's also extremely close to Tim Ferriss' recommended approach in Four Hour Work Week.

I make money in slightly different ways to this - at present - but as far as I can tell, it works. If you follow all the steps.

(Note: building something for WoW players fails at step #1. The market simply doesn't support spending a lot of money regularly.)

Doesn't elementary school teacher fail at #1 too?

You might think so if you know schoolteachers only by reputation, but actually, they spend a ton on teaching materials. They will go to Barnes & Noble, scour the educational section and plunk down $200 without blinking.

Well, my wife is an elementary school teacher, and I promise she doesn't spend 200 at BN without blinking. She does spend some money, but not tons.

Most people in every profession fail at #1.

Hence why you need to find the ones that don't :)

Although once you start evaluating, you'll rapidly find there are plenty of markets that fit the bill. Golf. Soccer fans. Airplane enthusiasts (RC, amateur pilot and planespotter alike). PC building enthusiasts. Almost any business. Martial artists. Re-enactors and RenFaire enthusiasts. Almost all the alternative medicine areas. And that's just off the top of my head without mentioning any of the markets I'm actually considering entering one of these days.

If you're only willing to build things you like, I've got no help to offer you on microISV product businesses. For what it's worth, I have the same challenge. For people like us, my recommendation is: find a way to align what you like with something that is lucrative as a service. You can make a lot of money wanking around with suave ways to get pixels onto an iPhone screen.

Having competition, even free competitors, doesn't have to be a deal breaker. If you have a superior product you can still make sales.

Even if you don't have a better product, you can still make sales by being more visible, being the first product people find/try when they begin searching. If they like the product, they might buy without even knowing there was a free competitor. It's a less noble strategy than having the best product, but more profitable than having a perfect product no-one ever finds. (Ideally you should have a great product and high visibility, of course.)

I'd go further - having competitors is a very strong sign that you're onto something good. It's when you enter a niche that should be teeming with competitors and isn't that you should start being concerned!

I ran across a rather good quote on this subject the other day - "Don't worry too much about being different. Just be good. Good is different enough."

Having competition, even free competitors, doesn't have to be a deal breaker.

Exactly. Just look at Google & Facebook. Both were late comers to their respective businesses (search engines & social networks). Both now have oodles of money.

And therein lies the rub. If hackers build things relevant to their own hobbies, and "hackers," as a group, tend to have really similar hobbies...

They'll build the same products. Over and over and over again. Not bad, per se, but a massive opportunity for someone with development skill and a different set of interests.

I meant was that hackers build those things because they are familiar to them. Patrick had some interaction, somewhere, that led him to realize that people need bingo cards.

Ask the non-hackers in your life what little pieces of software they occasionally have a big enough desire for -- big enough they'd pick $30 at the time. Then tell me. :)

My auntie was telling me this weekend that she has to keep running Windows to keep an old Quilting application running. There are newer/cross-platform ones available but they can cost thousands and she doesn't want to change.

the problem is that if you make (say) a WoW character builder, some other hacker will build another one for free.

Nonsense! Just look at bottled water. The definition of selling something that everyone (not just hackers) can get for free.

The success of bottled water is the result of a, eh, educational campaign. Namely, that tap water is full of yucky stuff.

Without this market conditioning, I don't think many people would have been interested. So they are selling something valuable to a lot of people: water that won't make you sick, which is much different than the alternative.

True. Every domain I've ever worked in, I've seen huge opportunities. Alas, I suck at seizing those opportunities. I code something up (the fun part) and then lose interest at the startup / marketing & sales / money stuff.

> Curious: apart from methodical patience, what super power do you believe Patrick was "very good at"?

In a word: marketing. Finding the right ways to efficiently reach his target market. I've tried marketing before — it's hard! Many BigCos seem to have the same problem. I can write whatever software I want, and I can study people for hours on end, but that doesn't mean the study will actually teach me the things I need to know to get the people to use the software.

I think the marketing you're thinking of when you think about Kalzumeus --- blog posts, year-end summaries, podcasts, email newsletters, video courses --- is stuff that did not matter when he was bootstrapping. There you'd be confusing cause with effect: the adept marketing you see today is a product of his nuts-and-bolts execution selling a product as a microISV and paying close attention to what was working.

There is a super power at play here, but it doesn't take a radioactive spider to get it. People who can simultaneously speak "customer service" and "technology" are rare. Many of the world's most successful software businesses have noticed that and achieved billions just by arbitraging a trivially corrected ineptitude common to programmers.

I'm actually thinking more of his bazillions of well-chosen targeted landing pages (e.g. "Dolch sight words bingo"), his ability to rank highly enough in search engines for the right words that interested visitors flow into his site (you can't be profitable with 40 uniques a day) — that sort of thing. In essence, yes, you need to pay attention to what is working, but first you need to find something that works in order to pay attention to it.

> There is a super power at play here, but it doesn't take a radioactive spider to get it. People who can simultaneously speak "customer service" and "technology" are rare. Many of the world's most successful software businesses have noticed that and achieved billions just by arbitraging a trivially corrected ineptitude common to programmers.

I agree, this is one thing that really benefits him. But from the standpoint of someone starting out with nothing, I'd say shoddy customer service is a pretty good problem to have — it means you have customers who need serving! If you can't do customer acquisition, customer retention becomes a moot point. Dutifully serving two people who each pay $20 a month will not make you billions of anything.

Patrick actually mentioned this on his blog some years back: He had a tiny customer base and knew he needed to find a way to grow it. The conclusion of the story was something along the lines of "I did marketing and then it was OK." That's where a lot of people's stories would have gone differently.

you can't be profitable with 40 uniques a day

No, that's the awesome thing about software sales: You absolutely can be!

Step 1: Price software at $20

Step 2: Assume hosting costs of $10 per month

Step 3: Convert at a ratio of 200 views to 1 sale [1]

Step 4: Profit!!!

Admittedly, your profit for the first month will be $40 - $10 = $30, and your hourly wage will be $30 divided by however many hours you worked on the thing.

But let's say the software, like BCC version 1, is basically "a random number generator attached to a GUI" (as I vaguely remember patio11 describing it once), so you didn't put in too many hours. Now if you can manage to maybe triple your daily uniques to an entire 120 views a day and keep converting at that ratio without putting in too many more hours, you already have a business that'll pay for your pizza, forever, without really all that much effort on your part.

Now, if you assume an opportunity cost at google salary for working on this, of course it'll never be profitable. But if I assume google salary opportunity cost for my work, I'm losing money at an incredible rate by being a doctor, too.

[1] Someone who actually sells software for a living could probably give you more realistic numbers here, but these don't seem entirely unachievable to me.

I don't sell software (yet) but I do Sell Things On The Internet.

200 views to 1 conversion is a little high, but not completely impossible. 1000 views to 1 conversion may be a bit more realistic. However, if you've got 40 uniques a day, that still means you're selling more than 1 copy a month, and are thus in profit!

(This is why SEO plus software or other product sales work so well, btw - the CPM you're getting off your views with a well-targeted match between content and product is far, far higher than you'll ever see anywhere outside of poker blogging. )

I have a certain amount of expertise at the type of SEO Patrick used to bootstrap BCC - I've used a similar technique to get my last public web project to 400k-ish uniques/month.

It's not rocket science, and most people on HN could do it. As tptacek has said several times, it just takes a couple of years' worth of persistence and willingness to look at what's actually happening and adapt for it.

For a lot of programmers, or at least for me, there is a mental wall that comes up whenever attempting to analyze the responses of other humans to one's own creations. Scaling that wall is not impossible, but it's difficult and draining, and the same mental effort has to be expended every time the wall is approached. I think when people are saying that Patrick is uniquely good at marketing, they're saying that for him, the wall is not there, or at least he's a lot better at climbing it repeatedly to iteratively improve his marketing.

So Patrick did not throw up a crap product--it was just a very simple product.

If you are serious about this, start reading his blog from the beginning. He gives a blow-by-blow account of how he got there.

And I predict that having a self-defeating attitude will greatly impede your success.

I really hope Patrick won't mind me saying this, but... that initial downloadable Java version really was quite bad. You could resize the Bingo window smaller than it should be, causing all kinds of bugs that made the bingo cards completely unusable. Only quitting the program & restarting would fix it, resizing wouldn't. I remember this because I kept looking at his program at the time, wondering why it was successful, how those bugs slipped through whatever beta testing he did. I assume the marketing (especially SEO) is what filled that gap, as well as understanding what his customer demographic would tolerate.

Of course, the product improved greatly over time as well, so I really don't mean this as a criticism. If you want an example of a true minimum-viable-product, Bingo Card Creator 1.0 had to be it.

You're not nearly as harsh about the Java version as I am. The relevant comparison, though, is not "BCC as released" versus "BCC as could hypothetically be implemented by someone with a Jobsian level of attention to detail", it is "BCC as released" versus "45 minutes with a straightedge, construction paper, and incipient carpal tunnel syndrome."

I totally missed the resize thing for the first several versions for the same reason my customers did: I don't resize things.

> So Patrick did not throw up a crap product--it was just a very simple product.

Fine, it's a poh-tah-toh.

> If you are serious about this, start reading his blog from the beginning. He gives a blow-by-blow account of how he got there.

I've actually read his blog for years. I've learned lots of useful lessons from it, but one of my takeaways is that Patrick is just very good at marketing.

But yes, I am serious. I'm considering setting up a blog documenting the process so everyone can point and laugh, but I'll have to figure out whether my ego can take it.

> And I predict that having a self-defeating attitude will greatly impede your success.

What a great hedge! If I succeed, you can say you told me so, and if I fail, you can still say you told me so.

But no, really, tptacek just said desire and a modicum of effort were the prerequisites. I can do those. If pseudo-religious faith is required as well, then I guess I will fail. But there's nothing to be done about that, is there?

Reading this "challenge" unfold here has been interesting and perhaps oddly, inspiring. If you do go through with something, please pass a link my way :)

I really hope you do try this out, and blog about it - it'll be REALLY interesting for all concerned.

If you do decide to do this, I'd be more than happy to offer help and advice if you think that'll be valuable. I'm not patio11-level successful at this stuff yet, but I have a certain amount of knowledge, particularly about marketing. Email's in my HN profile!

You should see what he can do with ANSI.

I guess it might be a little bit more complex. For example I have todoteria.com (shared todo lists service + app). It is up for 5 months. I doubt that extra 7-19 months will change anything for me. I have ideas/plans but it would be interesting to hear your opinion on that.

It's not like Bingo Card Creator let him quit his job overnight. In fact, if you look at the profits from BCC (not revenues) it's far from his main source of income.

As I understand Patrick's story (someone please correct me if I'm wrong):

  * He accidently found something that produced small profits.
  * He built on that and iterated.
  * At no point was BCC insanely lucrative.
  * But at every point, it made sense for him to work on it.    
  * He didn't need to put in many man-hours to increase returns. 
  * If BCC's ROI for time invested ever became negative, he could have stopped. 
  * Once he hit that point, he put it in maintenance mode
  * Based on his BCC case studies, people wanted to hire him.
  * Consulting is where he makes most of his money.
Steps for someone wanting to replicate:

  1. Find a niche where you can make some amount of money.
  2. Work at it, intelligently, until you hit a maxima.
  3. Talk about the good stuff you do.
  4. Look for logical extensions of your business where you can leverage your new
  experience (more lucrative niche, consulting, better job, etc.)

> It's not like Bingo Card Creator let him quit his job overnight.

That's true, but it was consistently making about enough to pay my rent one year later. I would consider that to be an astonishingly good return on just a few hours of work per week.

> 1. Find a niche where you can make some amount of money.

I suppose that "some" there is the important part. I don't think finding a niche where you can make $500 a month profit right out the gate is that easy. It's not a ton of money, but I'd consider that very encouraging.

There is a world of difference between saying it's impossible to accomplish what he has and saying that he, at this moment, has developed a place for himself that relatively few people, even here on HN, have. The former is obviously wrong, just as much as the latter is obviously right.

The point is that if Patrick can do it starting as a Japanese salaryman, you can most probably do it from whatever position you're starting from even more easily.

Obviously, most HN'ers haven't established for themselves the career Patrick has. My point addresses why that is.

I'm arguing here with the same mentality that says 37signals advice only works for 37signals, "because they got to start with a hugely successful blog".

I suspect that there's not much difference between what you're saying and what I believe: I also suspect I didn't phrase my original meaning clearly enough, because I think we're speaking at cross purposes. No disagreement with what you're saying, but I was attempting to talk about who Patrick is likely to know given A, not how difficult or easy it is to achieve A if you commit to going down that route.

I think Patrick's point is that his friends are not some kind of transient scam artists.

The Lifestyle Business and Tropical MBA podcasts give some insight into this world. Basic idea is to set up "lifestyle business(es)" that provide you enough financial freedom to travel, etc. Downside is that the lifestyle is your passion, not the work you do, and it has a definite non-hacker approach.

I could see taking a hacker approach to it if you do periodic technical work that does automate things. I don't necessarily think you need to work constantly on the technical thing to be a technical person doing interesting things. But I do agree that most of the examples I find aren't along those lines. The guy in this story is a self-help/lifestyle blogger afaict. But maybe that's because the lifestyle bloggers are more likely to blog about their lifestyle, whereas the people doing it via technical work are more under the radar? No idea.

I don't like this idea that "lifestyle business" != passion.

A lifestyle business is one that you build to improve peoples' lifestyles (including your own) rather than to make billions. You can give one a 70-hour-per-week effort, or you can automate yourself out of necessity and get passive income.

You don't have to burn lots of hours and take degenerate risks to be passionate about something. I see Valve and Github as lifestyle businesses (proving the culture, not making the global rich list, is part of the goal) but I'm sure the leadership is quite passionate.

I agree with you and wrote about it more than a year ago: http://www.novemberwest.com/blog/2011/07/02/lifestyle-busine...

The short version: "I Love Lucy" was a lifestyle business dreamed up so that Lucille Ball and her husband could have children. It was easier to revolutionize an industry than have a two career couple and family, so they did. In terms of technical innovation, the show was the "Star Wars" of its day, which is part of why reruns of it still get played to death to this day.

I tend to agree, but I was latching on to the commonly accepted definition, as Wikipedia defines it: "A lifestyle business is a business that is set up and run by its founders primarily with the aim of sustaining a particular level of income and no more; or to provide a foundation from which to enjoy a particular lifestyle."


> A lifestyle business is one that you build to improve peoples' lifestyles (including your own) rather than to make billions.

Nope, you're mostly just concerned with your own lifestyle. That's fine, of course. But there's no need to try and make it sound any more noble than it actually is.

What would make you think this is not possible?

As I write from the rooftop pool bar at Bangkok Hotel.

I pretty much live this lifestyle, though I wouldn't say I'm all that connected into the nomadic community. For instance, I was not aware of the Tim Ferris conference. I tend to socialize completely outside this scene actually. Perhaps I should get more connected.

Loneliness is indeed the major issue, fortunately for me often sated by my adequate social and dating abilities.

I hosted a similar conference for digital nomads in October and the basic breakdown off the top of my head:

1) 50% Web Services Providers (Owners of firms or freelancers) - Devs., PPC, SEO, Graphic Design and Similar. 2) 20% Owners of Hard Goods or Software Products 3) 20% - people with larger businesses who have "made it" and now pull salary and travel full time (or part time) and invest in new biz or projects. 4) 10% - Consultants or remote work arrangements.

Like attracts like and all, so the fact that nobody at our conference was sketchy might not mean much, but I didn't feel uncomfortable about anyone's biz and there were 80 or so attendees.

Mark isn't representative (in my experience) of this new digital nomadic class because his business model is so difficult: he makes money from his writing. Which is fantastic (I love reading his articles), but it would be a lot easier for him to provide paid for PPC services.

My business, by the way, is selling custom designed products (like cat furniture) from ecommerce stores. I'm now started a new biz throwing these types of conferences for this growing remote-working scene.

I don't share Mark's lament in this article, but I enjoyed reading it.

If you scroll to the bottom, you will see this bit:

"Mark Manson is an entrepreneur, writer and perpetual world traveler. He writes about unconventional living and self development at his blog Postmasculine.com."

Read the Four hour work week, where Timothy talks at length about the kinds of businesses they run.

I think there's an exponential return on efforts for a lot of this work. Most people can't take away enough time from their day job and responsibilities to get good at it, but people who do and take an investment mentality (investing their surplus time back into their skills and contacts) can take off.

For example, if I spent 6 months on an app, I doubt it would pay rent, because there's a lot I'd have to learn and it would probably (?) be amateurish. On the other hand, if I cut out 18 months and kept iterating, I'm sure I'd do better, financially, than I'm doing at my day job.

I haven't won this game yet (I have a fairly typical day job for a top-5% programmer of my age) but it seems like the trick is to find an avenue where you can rapidly get better, invest heavily in yourself when you find it, and eventually be independent.

> On the other hand, if I cut out 18 months and kept iterating, I'm sure I'd do better, financially, than I'm doing at my day job.

This is exactly it. At his last job, my (now) boss started a project on the side. Eventually he had to quit, not because he was making lots of money, but because he didn't have enough time to support the side project. It was bringing in money at this point, but not enough to match his previous salary. He kept at it though, and eventually the revenue grew. Twelve months later, there are 15 of us and money in the bank :)

i've come to realise that there are people whose passion is figuring out what to do, and people whose passion is figuring out how to do it, and that as a "how" person i will probably always need/want a "what" person or company to be working for.

having no boss is nice in theory, but i suspect that in practice it'd become a drag because i'd have to personally fill in for all the value-add that my boss (and her boss, and so on up the chain) now provides.

May I ask what this project was? How did he know it was worth it to leave his current job?

It seems to me that the scary part isn't the month or few without income, but the risk that you can't get back into your old gig (or something comparable). That's a very small risk of course, because developers are in high demand, but enough to give pause.

One month to try something cool is a small cost, but quitting your job usually means you can't go back in the same standing.

If you really can't get a job anywhere as a good developer, or as a freelancer, you probably should check what you are doing wrong.

You aren't likely to go back to your previous job, but even a failed startup should qualify you for a better job.

If you have the oppertunity, go for it. You regret the things you didn't do more than the things you did do.

What you say is all true, but there's one thing that probably hasn't hit most HN readers yet: the job-hopping stigma. It sucks that it exists, but it can catch up with people after a certain point.

Yes, good programmers can generally get better jobs quickly, but there is a point some people get to where the "job hopper" image starts to hurt them. Most people, if they see a string of 6-month jobs, assume this person is constantly getting fired.

On the one hand, if you are in need of work (maybe you quit to do a startup and then your startup failed) and you do you have a resume that is starting to throw the "job hopper" flag, it might be time to ask yourself why you're even applying for another company and if you'd be better off reinventing yourself as a freelance consultant instead.

On the other hand, "Because I'm broke and need a paycheck right now" is probably the most common answer, and those are exactly the people who get bit by this stigma. Because no company wants to permanently hire someone who is only applying out of temporary financial need.

I think that as a society we need to create the political and economic conditions necessary to make freelance consulting a more viable career path for skilled individuals. There are a lot of obstacles and frictions that could be reduced.

I don't think employeers worry these people got fired. I think companies are concerned whether you're just a hired gun (not that there's anything wrong with that). But if I'm a young company and I want someone to come on board, I'm not making the decision lightly. I want a long-term partner. So yes, a lot of short term employment would be concerning.

At 6 months, literally "fired" is unlikely because most companies don't act fast enough. But the assumption people make based on a lot of short job tenures is that the person was unsuccessful at all of them. Most unsuccessful people don't stick around long enough to get fired, but that's irrelevant.

It's somewhat self-reinforcing, I'd imagine. Because of the stigma, people are less inclined to leave jobs, and therefore a higher percentage of departures are negative.

There's also a "can't win" dynamic from short job tenures. If you're obviously moving up, you're a mercenary. If you have a lot of lateral moves, you're unsuccessful.

Additionally, I think few people actually want to be job hoppers. I'd love to find a 10-year fit. On the other hand, it's uncommon that a I find an environment where I keep learning for long enough to justify more than a year or two.

If it's something you want to do, my best recommendation is to save a large percentage of your income.

I started without a savings buffer, and have managed to do alright. But there were many moments where having spare cash could either have let me outsource certain work, or avoid having to do work to earn money in the short term.

Yes, working for yourself over the Internet can bring you financial security and scads of free time, which will let you avoid conventional life indefinitely. There's no need to take on the responsibilities that come with marriage, children, and community, which admittedly can be a huge drag. However, there's also a lot of deep pleasure in that conventional, normal life, pleasure the nomadic traveller is forgoing - wandering around the world indefinitely comes with an opportunity cost.

If this was just a temporary choice of one thing over the other, I'd say 'go for it, and enjoy yourself', but I wonder if this sort of lifestyle, done long enough, can really be put down. By the time you want a spouse, a family, and a place to put down roots, will the temperamental changes brought on by your nomadic living even make this possible? The guy at the end of the article who's lonely and wants a home - he might want it, but I'm not at all sure he'll be able to get it or keep it.

Perhaps I'm completely full of it. It certainly wouldn't be the first time. But I'm sure I'm not the only one who knows a long-term womanizer who can't manage to settle down, even though he now claims to want to. These guys might be setting themselves up for the same sort of problem, with 'new experiences' taking the mental place of 'new partner'.

As a former military spouse, I find it sort of amusing that people think a nomadic lifestyle is somehow inherently in conflict with having a family. If you also have a good income and scads of freetime, I can't see what the problem is. It sounds like an ideal family situation, where you can be a good provider and also have time for both the wife and the kids. What's not to love about that?

Surely I can't be the only woman on the planet who ever viewed my husband's "nomadic" career choice as a feature not a bug.

This could easily go both ways, though. After enough time settled down, you may no longer be capable of the nomadic lifestyle, but decide you want it badly. Seems to me that either way is a risk. Is there any reason to think that the conventional path is less of a risk, other than the fact that nearly everybody takes it?

I know a few people who live like this but most of them are semi-nomadic rather than totally rootless. They have a home city where they live for half or so of each year, the ones who are richer / picked a low-cost city own or rent a home there permanently, others pick up a new rental contract every time they come back.

There's also people who aren't strictly speaking nomadic but do take long (multi-month) trips and work from there.

The only quibble I have with this article is the use of the word "rich". No-one I know with this life-style is really rich, they have good upper-middle class incomes doing jobs that are easily done remotely and they leverage that to live in a way that other people cannot.

I think that as these guys get older most will start to move from nomadic to semi-nomadic to "takes long working vacations", but some may indeed live like this forever.

Aside from the bit about loneliness, which I regard as his personal problem, this is the lifestyle I aim for. I don't want to be on the road constantly, but my life and I love travel. I'm early on the path (see: http://smoothspan.wordpress.com/2013/01/06/a-solo-bootstrapp...), but it's totally doable. With a laptop and an Internet connection, I've run my business from an Alaskan Cruise Ship Cabin, a Cozumel Mexico dive trip, and a recent trip to Waikiki. Met one of my co-conspirators in Waikiki for dinner.

It's good stuff.

The flip side is I work 24x7. When I'm on a push to get a product out, I've been known to forget what day it is. And I have had to limit myself to doing all my marketing work after 7pm. I do customer service from about 8am-9:30am. So that's a lot of hours in a week.

Wait. How's that different from a startup where I own only a small equity stake instead of 100%?


>> "For the first time in three years of non-stop travel, I wish for a home."

Something I had to learn myself. Something, I did learn and it centered me, gave me context and a lot more happiness.

So I am happy for everybody living that way. If it does please them and does not hurt anyone else. But I know for me, that this is not my style of life.

Yep, same here. I'm currently sitting in a University library in Germany, working on some projects for my clients. I have an apartment in Texas, but haven't hardly seen it in three months.

I'm so, so thankful for the experiences in travel that this lifestyle has afforded over the last three years. I also think that in some ways, being constantly on the move has made me a better worker, but it's time for a change. I start a full-time sit-down-in-an-office position in February, which I chose to do for exactly the reasons that the article outlines. I echo the parent comment - it's a cool lifestyle that you should try if you can, but it's not for me any longer.

A few years ago, I was emailed by a firm that billed itself as being located in London but the IP address was in the Philippines. The correspondence indicated that it was a native English speaker on the other end of the conversation. They had some interest in one of my blogs. Through discussion (always email, the London phone number went to voicemail) I determined that they wanted to add link-filled pages to my blog in return for $125.

I suspect many nomads are following similar SEO consultant/"passive income" schemes, but I also know from previous HN threads that there are a fair number of members (many of whom I assume are programmers) living an expat life overseas:


I would like to take my skills on the road, but I have a wife and two kids. My wife does not work. Is this lifestyle practical for me? Any advice would be appreciated.

No. This lifestyle is basically a scheme to trick yourself into believing that you're still living the youthful college dream.

Do you want your kids to grow up in hotels and short-term rentals, never having been in one place for too long? If the answer is "sure", talk to people who grew up in military families who were shipped all over the world -- it's not fun.

If the idea is that you're going to travel, and the family stays put, understand that the cost is that you won't have a family at some point. Road-warrior consultants generally aren't the happiest people.

> Road-warrior consultants generally aren't the happiest people.

So true, I did similar kind of "on-the-road" consultancy for a 9 month period in a previous role and that was enough. Saved a load of money though as I had no accommodation expenses of my own in those 9 months.

I've meet plenty of people who grew up in military families or one's that simply moved a lot for work and loved it. They have friends all over the world and a much broader perspective on life than stationary folks.

This lifestyle is awesome when you're single or don't have kids, though.

It depends how you feel about moving your kids. Because your skills are mobile and your wife does doesn't need to find a job it will make things much easier. I'm living a compromise version of this lifestyle. I have lived in three cities in four years. Instead of constantly traveling, when the urge to ride on to my next adventure strikes I book passage on a plane and rent a furnished apartment in a new city.

Of course you can.

Here [1] is a family of 7 driving from Alaska to Argentina... because they want to.

I met many similar family expeditions during my drive [2] and it was always a joy to meet the kids - who were all bi or tri-lingual.

One of my favorite quotes from a ~10 year old was "I don't like homeschooling.. I like WORLDschooling".

[1] http://www.discovershareinspire.com/ [2] http://theroadchoseme.com/

Any discussion should be framed in terms of what you and you wife decide is best for your family and your children. There's no "I" or "me" in that conversation.

It is if you two can handle home schooling the children

I wonder what tokenadult would have to say about this, but I don't think that that's a good environment for homeschooling.

Sure! I moved from my family from the States to an expat beach community last year. Being jetset with a family of 4 is expensive and not how I wanted to raise my kids, so we just settled down here. Maybe we'll move again next year, maybe not. The experience has been incredible and I'd do it again in a heart beat. Get in touch, I'd be happy to provide more advice/encouragement.

I'd like to ask some questions if I may.

* Where did you decide to live? * How do you support yourself and family? * What do you do for school, is it expensive? * How's it working out? Any regrets?


One possible option is to move aboard a sailing boat. You will be able to move from place to place and work at the same time. Most marinas have Wifi and if you stay close to the coast you should be able to get internet over your mobile. There are many families that do this, just search for liveaboard.

Yes! A live aboard (catamarans are great) is the way to go.

Haha, don't ask us. Ask them.

oh well, look at the core of his site: http://postmasculine.com/10-best-ways-to-make-money-online


Really not a very good article. The title suggests it's going to be a glowing appraisal of a new set of people. All it really accomplishes is describing a particularly sad-sounding circle-jerk "conference" for people who write about writing about lifestyle, etc., and otherwise (I presume) contribute very little..

Lifestylists. (Not people doing businesses around users' and customers' lifestyles, but people doing businesses FOR their own lifestyle). Also known as dilettantes.

How does this work with visas, etc? Maybe Asian countries are less strict but in the US and EU you'd need to jump through many hoops or lie to immigration officials about intent.

In my experience, most countries want you to have a working visa when you intend to do a job that someone else in that country could be doing. Immigration law/policy hasn't really caught up with the Information Age in this respect... But as long as you aren't in a country working for clients in that same country, the country isn't going to care.

I guess it's similar to how visas work for writers. There are artist visas for writers, but they seem to exist so the artist can stay longer.

The test of your first paragraph is if the visitor says that when questioned on entry. It seems some countries don't care but if you said to a US immigration officer that you were planning to work in any form while in the country, you'd be on the first plane back without a visa, alas.

People I know doing this work only for clients outside the country they are currently in. Whether this is 100% legally ok seems to be an open question and depends on the country but I've never heard of anyone having a problem.

Many countries grant citizens of wealthy countries 60 or 90 day visas pretty easily.

TL;DR Life as a nomadic-broke founder is fun and possible if you want to and will reward you with life-changing experiences.

I personally find the topic interesting for various reasons. For once, because i've been living a "nomadic-founder" lifestyle for the last 17months (sidenote: rather "nomadic broke" than "nomadic rich" :) and because my startup creates a platform that tries to free more people from classic employment and enables them a global "workdesk".

My whole journey was inspired by someone's travelling-story on reddit, which is why i'd like to share mine here. Maybe someone thinks about doing something similar, in which case i hope my story can give insights/inspiration as well.

I'm in my mid-20s, IT-guy for >14years, YC alumni, don't have kids, speak 2 languages (english & german) and in the process of learning spanish (thank you duolingo!). When i started, i moved out of my apartment, gave away all my belongings but a backpack of clothes, my camera and thinkpad. I had only little money on the side and apart from my role as a startup founder, not really any perspective on regular income in the near future. Never had plans for more than 1 month ahead, sometimes plans would completely change in matters of hours. I was expecting to be living very low profile and in case money runs out completely, find some simple job to get by. Money and materialistic belongings became my lowest priority pretty soon. On the upside you gain a completely new sense of freedom. (A particular quote from "Fight Club" immediately comes to mind)

So moneywise, in the first few months i was still employed and working remotely for a befriended company as a programmer. But that ended soon, because i wanted to focus more on the startup. One of my co-foundes had some funds from his former startup with which he could support the team for some time. Not overly much, but enough to get by without much luxury. Earlier that year i got the opportunity to build a funded art-installation[0] that won a price and some money. But to be honest: I'm constantly broke, but somehow there's always a way if you want to.

You'll learn to enjoy your life with the little you have. You get creative eating healthy for little money (have never eaten so much good fruit in my life) and finding places to stay. Mostly i stayed in hostels or i could live with people i met on my journey. Sometimes only due to their hospitality, sometimes in exchange for work (small IT stuff, built a hostel, crafted a "designer locker", gardening and so on). When you stay in inexpensive hostels (my only requirement was wifi), you'll also meet interesting people that are in a similar situation and learn new ways to get by.

For the last 6 months i've been in south america. Life here is comfortably cheap. Most of the time you can easily get by with 10$ a day or even less. And if you're schedule is flexible and you're not in a hurry it's easy to experience some of south-america's incredible nature for little or no money. And you will meet interesting people and life-changing moments travelling outside the usual touristic way of moving around these countries.

What i'm trying to say: If you feel your situation is similar and you maybe even have some money on the side for the beginning: do it. You will not regret it. Don't be scared and never give up. Just always remember that, even if hard times come, there's always a way and surviving those will only make you stronger. You'll find a simple way making money on the side for food & shelter (heck, here in south america you could just be making and selling bread or cake on the street for some hours a day and get by).

Needing only your laptop and wifi to work is an incredibly enabling gift. Pretty much everywhere i went i had access to wifi and could work on my startup and communicate with my co-founders. Take use of that gift and you will have a life-changing experience. Founding a startup in such a globalized way _is_ possible with some coordination skills. Our whole team is spread around the world for the whole time being and we successfully launched a couple of months ago.

Shameless plug: We[1] are building a plattform that enables many many more people to live a location-independent lifestyle like ours. Our vision is that you'll be able to work directly on our site, offer your expertise and/or being presented with jobs directly targeted at what you're good at, always knowing how much money a finished job will make you. We're still in the process of collecting feedback and iterating. Getting a two-sided marketplace off the ground is hard :)

If you have any questions about the story or feedback on our startup, i'd be happy to answer them here or contact us at hello@workio.com

[0] http://www.ffaloox.com/wiremap-principle/

[1] https://www.work.io

> What i'm trying to say: If you feel your situation is similar and you maybe even have some money on the side for the beginning: do it. You will not regret it. Don't be scared and never give up.

I'm in a slightly different situation and wonder what advice you might have.

I'm not on the border of going broke. I work for myself from home, alone, and have a comfortable income that I expect will continue for a while. Definitely enough to travel with. So I'm not afraid of not having enough money.

But I am afraid of simply not knowing what to do. Typically when I take vacations it's pre-planned, a week-long thing with a specific destination or event, and then it's over.

A part of me really wants to go "nomadic" and travel lots of places, but I just don't know what I'd do with myself. How to choose where to go to next, how to get the most value out of where I'm at, etc. It seems like constantly moving and trying to get something unique out of each place would take so much consistent planning and work as to be a second job, sucking attention away from where I'm at so I can plan where I'll be.

I don't work with anyone else (even remotely) and I don't have friends scattered across the country/planet. It's extremely unlikely that I would be receiving random calls from people I know, deviating me from my path and pulling me into unexpected interesting places or scenarios.

So my fear is that I'd end up wandering aimlessly, missing the good bits for the obvious ones, not getting a whole lot out of it, and wondering what I'm doing. Is this a legitimate fear? Is there a way to prevent this?

My 2c from personal experience:

  1) Pick a place. Let's say Paris.
  2) Go to hostelworld.com, sort by highest review, choose the first hostel in your price range, book a week stay.
  3) Sit at a large table in the common room, nurse a beer or coffee, work on your laptop, wait for others to wander by.
  4) Strike up conversation, ask about where they've been, what they've done, and what they recommend.
I traveled for 3 months in SE Asia in this way. Everybody is in the same frame of mind as you, ready to meet new people, share stories.

It really is that simple.

As someone who has been doing this for the past six months, the folks here are right. You kind of learn as you go. The beginning of my trip was in Barcelona, and I had no idea what to do.

Talked to a few folks at hostels, found out what was cool to see in Spain, and used the web to figure out how to get there. Ended up traveling all around Spain for a month, just by getting somewhere, spending time, plotting my next step, and then going.

It might be a little intimidating. It should be. The uncertainty is what makes the journey so much more worth it.

Why not take a look at http://www.lonelyplanet.com/ then find a couple of places you like and buy the destination guides. They're a good start. I did this when travelling around Australia and New Zealand and found the books extremely useful.

> So my fear is that I'd end up wandering aimlessly, missing the good bits for the obvious ones, not getting a whole lot out of it, and wondering what I'm doing.

> Is this a legitimate fear?

Perfectly legitimate fear. But none that cannot be overcome. Yes it takes some time to get into it, but the only way to get there is to jump into the cold water and get out of your comfort zone. Realize the fear but have the courage to just try it.

When relocating somwhere without knowing anyone, i usually start off by just checking wikitravel (now probably wikivoyage) and check the "Sleep Budget" section. Pick the Hostel that sounds nice (kitchen, wifi, artisanias, friendly personnel) and head there. Plan nothing more (well maybe just checkout some stuff you want to see eventually, while you're around the area.).

When doing so, the most important thing is to have confidence, that a flexible schedule and your freedom to move whenever and wherever you want will help you get where you want (wherever that shall be). Unplanned and spontaneous trips have been way better and fulfilling than any planned stuff. That's something you can only learn by experiencing it yourself. And in case you really end up somewhere without finding contacts or get bored, just relocate :) Pick another stop and do it over again, don't ever get frustrated and keep in mind that there are tons of people doing the same as you and are happy to connect and share good experiences with you.

E.g.: At some point i was in peru and planning to visit bolivia. Looked up a really nice guy on couchsurfing (who ended up hosting me for a week). In his respond to my CS request he recommended a festival at lake titicaca that was going to happen soon. Went to the festival alone and immediately met incredibly nice and interesting people (with whom i spent a lot of time in bolivia and peru afterwards). This one clueless couchsurfing request ended in 3-4 weeks of fun and many new friends that i'm looking forward to meeting again at some point.

Another time i met a guy who was travelling with his '94 chevy van from the states down to SA since 2 years. We ended up crossing the salar de uyuni and the bolivian andes towards chile together in his van (and lost the muffler along the way on the rocky mountainpaths...).

So my advice is: Just plan the first step, be open for things to come and then spontaneously choose what looks best. Freeing yourself from the idea that you _need_ plans for a good time will give you the freedom to be open to what comes and lays the way for unexpected adventures :) The people you meet (travelers and locals) are probably the best "tour-guides" you'll find.

I've never had a lonely planet on the whole trip, so dunno how useful they are for this kind of travelling. Found the reviews on wikitravel/wikivoyage to be reliable enough, so far.

Interesting read. I've been doing some reading on starting 2-sided marketplaces. Here are some resources you might find useful:




Good luck!

Thanks a lot! Yeah we've been digging through a lot of resources on the topic already and talking to like-minded startups. Our current approach is to mainly target one side (buyers) and mentor the provider-side for now, which iirc is a strategy we stole from oDesk to gain initial traction. :)

While I'm not running a startup, I can vouch for your method. I did the same for 3 years in South America, except instead of hostels, I rented rooms on a month-to-month basis. I was also never rich doing it, nor did I come close but I must say it was pretty sweet.

I'm currently working on the details of my next stint abroad.

You're right, forgot to mention that. If you're staying somewhere for a longer period (>1month) it's usually better to rent. In peru e.g. you can get a room in a good location for 100-150usd/month (except for lima problably which is pretty much the most expensive area around peru according to my experience).

Seems very similar to Fjord's 'Digital Nomads' report, released in March 2011...


Whenever I read articles like this I just read it as these people thinking "Thank god I have rich parents, because lol at any actual human being living in the real world doing this." Pretty much exactly how I felt watching the Bravo startup show as well.

If I don't have two kids and the wife (I'm glad I have) I can do that too, although I'm not rich at all but I can afford the travel while working on my software products.

How does this work for people with families?

I'd really like to see someone turn a cruise ship into a moving, floating tech city that would move about the world (possibly spending a week in each port, allowing inland travel) so people can travel but also have a stable support network. It'd even have a school for people with kids. It'd probably be cheaper than living in New York or the Bay Area.

ResidenSea did this, but it was priced at a point where only the super rich could afford it, and those people were so rich that they treated it as a part-time vacation residence.

I've looked at this (from even the mid-1990s), and it's really hard to make the economics work. Ships are expensive, both in capital costs and especially in operations costs. You can buy used ships, but they're never very efficient or suitable, and retrofitting them is expensive.

People who would be comfortable living out of a tiny cabin with limited services are almost always better off just renting a place on land for a period of time and flying in between destinations. It's only if you need a large, constant space that it makes sense, and doing that with a ship is expensive.

There's also a horrible scale problem -- you could maybe make this work on a per-user cost with a $10b world's largest ship, but a $100mm ship is probably 10x less efficient, and a $1mm boat is another 10-50x less efficient.

There's also the loss of freedom with a large ship. I'd rather just make enough to buy a $5-10mm boat of my own (or, ideally, $100-200mm), and have some guests sometimes, vs. try to coordinate when people get on or off or where it goes as a collective.

There's the regular cruise ship industry on the low end as competition, too. You can get deals and just book 90 days on cruise ships if you want, and get the scale advantages of a large ship; the downside is boredom and being around a bunch of old people (usually) or sometimes drunk college students. Block-booking (how most "gay cruises" or other special interests are done) works. Geekcruises did some of this.

What might make sense is a bunch of ships going on a specific route, with transferability across them, or big fixed platforms at sea where people can go to/from by air, boats, or bigger ships. Of course, now you're looking at many billions of dollars in capital and a very large minimum scale; it's really hard to be incremental in this market.

I went and lived for 2 years in France with my wife and 8yr old step daughter.

Recently I also took my kids to Kathmandu for a couple of weeks and mixed working with holidaying - so it's definitely possible. Of course in almost every major city in the world there are plenty of expat families raising kids successfully.

I guess you need to decide how nomadic you wish to be. Personally I think it's nice for kids to feel like they have some kind of home base so I'm more in favour of longer stints in places (e.g. not moving every 3 months) but that is only based on a hunch, and also depends so much on the personalities in your family.

Plenty of people live aboard and travel via the ocean. Not sure how many are in the tech field (one comes to mind: the MicroStrategy CEO - Michael Saylor.. from what I understand, the guy lives aboard some massive ship and travels the globe that way). No idea on family lifestyle, but I suspect having kids would be much more difficult with that setup.

There's Blueseed (http://blueseed.co/) and recently, I read about a planned kind of entrepreneur cruise (I can't find that one right now, perhaps it's organised by Blueseed as well). Neither is intended for families, but in the long run, they might offer that.

This couple is in their 50s and have been traveling / working with a child for years: http://www.soultravelers3.com

In today's news, companies all over the country scramble to replace their freelancers who all have norovirus simultaneously.

This guy is yet ANOTHER self help guru sort: http://postmasculine.com/

Just shows how big demand for such stuff there is, similar to "making money from writing about making money from writing" ;)

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