The theory of decision fatigue -- that you get exhausted by making a certain number of decisions -- seems to be true to me. And the thing is that when you are in a new place, there is a large number of decisions to make about petty things like where is the nearest supermarket, where can I work out, how do I get proper internet etc. Whenever I've set up in a new place, my productivity suffers severely for a week or two. After that, I'm okay but if you travel a lot, that becomes a real price. And it's not rewarding the same way that other guilty pleasures are, it's just annoying.
I remember walking to the "office" in Bangkok one day, having been there for three weeks. I pulled out my iPod for the first time since I arrived. It struck me that this was a sign that I was familiar with my surroundings. I didn't need the full mental capacity just to navigate, I could run that process in the background and allow myself to listen to music. I am not sure what you can conclude from this but I think that it's likely that I had consumed a lot of energy up until that point, which I then didn't have for programming.
It gets old. And expensive. And the business takes a major hit every time we move just because of the distractions - and it's a continual stress when we don't move, a stress that normal people don't even think of having.
One alternative is having two fixed locations and moving on winter.
I live there, I know how it is ;)
There is almost no technological nor entrepreneurial growth in the area; although pioneering in diffusion and disruption of internet technology (Tiscali), and although many well-intentioned, huge (and ultimately empty) technological poles graciously built in the area, there is little interest in investing, outside of just grabbing the inviting national/european development grants and then leaving the island.
There is no real service or attraction to speak of. The very few attractions (mainly wooden kiosks at the beach) have been made close down or subject to numerous certification delays for "sonic pollution" in maybe the most frequented beaches in Cagliari proper. Endless diatribes consume most of the land in similar way, even though you'd think this place could otherwise easily top many of the most famous places worldwide.
Sardinia is a dream place if you're a scholar, or like cities full of down-to-earth and warm people; it's a microcosm of influences and it's hard to take even just a few steps outside the most modern places, and not be able to recognize traces of the many cultures that walked that very soil. The tradition is rich, and every few steps you encounter a different dialect or new colorful customs. It's a magical place.
I would get back there in a moment if I could. But it's the epitome of Italian waste. I had been so angry at it, and everyone, but it also seems that the majority of the people really prefer to just soak it up, and then forget about it, or else spreading outside of the city to start the n-th unauthorized small town in the middle of nowhere, which is of course in a bad location that puts a strain on the few available transportation resources (almost entirely buses), with majors that play for power with/against neighboring towns, derailing the plans for highways (the "new" 125 anyone) which however is nothing compared to such jewels as the "A3 Napoli-Reggio Calabria".
Sorry for the impulsive rant but this touched a nerve. I would really, really love to go back to
: I am happy for those. I worked there for some time, and these were nice, big buildings, with a nice internet connection, space for growth, and they were immersed in that classic beautiful bitter-sweet sardinian splat of vegetation. But while they were built for grandeur and all, no-one really came there, then various powers competed in the area, which resulted in this temple being connected to the rest of the world by a small dirt road which floods periodically with almost no public service to speak of.
From an economic standpoint, I couldn't have come to Budapest, for that matter. Finding a well-paying job here would be very difficult. (Not impossible, but difficult.)
If you do want a technical community around you in meatspace, I agree that these sleepier corners of the world are not for you. But they are definitely for me. I'll consider Sardinia. (I know a really nice Sardinian lady in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico - she loves it and hates it simultaneously, just like you.)
We bought a house in Richmond, Indiana (more or less where I'm from) for $8000 - that was actually a mistake because it needed too much work, but the principle was sound.
Now we're looking for foreclosures in reasonable neighborhoods in Puerto Rico, we're probably going to build a house here in Budapest, and maybe we'll find something in Indiana in a few years. If you have modest houses in your places instead of putting all your real estate money into a new garage and a pool, it's totally doable.
A lot of not-so-wealthy people have a house in the North and one in Florida, after all.
In the States, these people are called "snowbirds". They declare permanent residency in some low-tax state state, then migrate to the sun in the winter and the cool in the summer.
I'm in a very similar position and just thinking about the endless possibilities of choosing a new place to live can be very overwhelming.
But if you haven't been in this position, you won't know how it feels I guess.
I figured it is very similar to everybody joking about how they want more free time to do "their stuff". And if you ask "So, what stuff would you do, if you had all time of the day and still get your monthly paycheck?", the answer is often much less clear. Everybody dreams of having all day off, but when it comes to that situation, too much leisure can be frustrating as well.
or perhaps Digital Nomads Anonymous. I feel like it's in my DNA.
Neat venture you have there, by the way - social reservations, I like it! I just did the Craigslist thing in Budapest a couple of years ago (before we moved more permanently) and it worked out nicely - but I think we got lucky. A little more triangulation would have been nice, and it looks like that's what you're doing. Neat!
It's funny you label it as social reservations.
Did you see this page? http://www.adormo.com
because we also launched a test project (italan only for now) http://social.adormo.com/ where it's much more social.
I just wonder what site you did visit :)
The language you are using here - specifically the word "suffer" - is indicative of a certain type of (generally Western) mindset where productivity plays a big role in a person's happiness and satisfaction.
I went on a two week vacation to my home country of Turkey back in July. For the first few days, it felt really odd to not work. I would wake up in the morning, have breakfast, fire up my laptop on the patio of my parents' house, and then... stare at the screen. After screwing around on HN and other sites, I would realize that it was 2pm and that I had "wasted" half my day. And I would feel bad about that.
After a few days though I realized how absolutely ridiculous that mindset was. I was on vacation and I was not supposed to be producing anything. I was supposed to be relaxing. It was like flipping a switch - I made a paradigm shift and spent the rest of my vacation "doing nothing." It felt great!
If I ever find myself in the author's situation where I have sufficient savings and am sitting on a beach in Thailand, instead of trying to continue working and getting stuff done, I'll just check out mentally and enjoy life.
If you go for holidays, you can tuck away your laptop and just rest, but if you plan a year long work&life scenario where you work remotely from another country, your productivity matters.
It's almost like you should get together with a travelling companion who's job is to just figure out your new location and you'll pay for food, fun and expenses. Maybe they're an FWB too :) ? It's like a deluxe travel agent "arrangement" for nomad geeks. This could be a thing if it got going. I can see the 2015 New Yorker Headline now "FWB gets upgraded to Personal Concierge and Travel Agent W/ Benefits for wandering nomad supergeeks in surprising new trend".
Frank Reynolds is not supposed to be a role model, people: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1028239/quotes?ref_=tt_ql_3
For me, it varies with my mood. A lot of the time having some stress and interesting surroundings spurs my creativity and I've written some of my best code in a park, on an airplane or at a café. Other times I just want to lock myself in a familiar room with all my comforts and shut out the world.
That's why when I do the travel-and-work thing, I stay for 2-3 mo in a place, and I can mix things up depending on how I feel that week. I've also decided for myself that it's never a failure of travel to not be in local's dining room every night living the "real experience". I'm not on vacation, I'm still working, so I'll never see #2 as an issue.
But I would challenge the idea that complex programming problems (cloud sync, NLP, etc, choose your poison) can be solved equally well in a suboptimal environment. Here is my "hypothesis": unregulated noise, temperature, and other travel-centric environmental factors (such as the need for vigilance in a new environment) distract from cognitive performance in the majority of people, if not all people.
To be clear, I don't think it is possible to write my best code in a park, an airplane or a café, regardless of mood. But I would be curious to see relevant studies which demonstrate otherwise. I agree that changes in environment are stimulating and that stagnant workplaces hold their own dangers.
I also agree that 2-3 months is a good baseline for getting to know a place: you don't feel as jostled about by your schedule, and there may even be time for cursory grasp of the language (w/some prepping beforehand) and making a friend or two. Plus you don't have to cram your (potentially expensive) excursions into as short a block of time.
I've also found you need to be very comfortable with email and text communications, and you probably need to be good at getting your point across and discerning the point of others as it's more difficult to communicate technical issues without being in person - but obviously very possible, as the number of very good technical blogs can attest to.
Imagine you're working in public space. To take a break you have to pack up your laptop, power adapter, water bottle, phone, headphones, go put them in a locker (or just carry them), visit a wc, eat, take a break, go get bag out of locker, find another place to sit with power, set up computer, power adapter, etc.
It's a lot different than just walking away from your desk at home for 5 minutes to relieve yourself, grabbing a banana, then getting back to work.
Personally I love the internet cafés in Japan - you get a private booth, free drinks, some even have showers. They're well-equipped enough that some people down on their luck even live in them permanently. I wish that model was more widespread internationally.
I hate working out of hotels when I'm traveling for business, so I usually post up in a library, or coffee shop. I also end up doing spending a lot of time in airports where I have to be able to get up really quickly and stow everything. After a little optimizing, I never had a problem getting up in a few seconds, walking off to use the bathroom and grab a soda, and coming back. You just can't splay your stuff out everywhere like you might at an office. It also helps a ton to have a laptop that's got a solid battery life.
Getting up to go to the bathroom for me usually mean: close laptop and slide into bag > Put bag on shoulder > holster drink bottle in side pocket while walking wherever.
It's kind of fun figuring out efficient and quick ways to unplug quickly, but it really doesn't add that much overhead, especially once it's a rote thing. I also just don't plug in the majority of the time, if I can help it.
ymmv, and that doesn't counter all the other myriads of problems you would encounter being abroad working, but at least for that little part, I think it's a pretty solvable problem
I find it very hard to get substantial work done on certain projects when I have even a few interruptions in my day.
You settle down somewhere, even for 10 days or a week. After the first day there's no more minutiae of trabel or devicion making. Work 8 hours in your hotel/hostel/place/, go around/sleep the rest.
You're not supposed to travel EVERY day to a new place.
"Many people have little difficulty opening up their laptop and forgetting the rest of the world for an 8 hour stretch"
I haven't come across anybody who can in-the-zone code a straight 8 hour stretch during the daytime (nights are obviously very different). I'd love to hear from people who've managed to do this.
Anecdotes about how "hardcore" people are in this regard usually wind up being worthless. 9 times out of 10, when I ask someone about an "all-nighter" they just pulled, it turns out they actually stayed up until 4:30 and slept until 9.
I expect most people who talk about how they can stay locked in the zone for 8 hours, in reality take breaks for coffee, browse the internet, and break for lunch.
(There's nothing wrong with taking breaks!)
(1) Me. Just now.
1) You might very good with text communications, as all hackers are. But your clients, especially big corporate players from which you'll land a $$$ job, might not be. And they will not level with you since they can have someone that fill their requirements.
2) Theoretically you can open your laptop while snowboarding at the French Alps and write the Linux Kernel. But it's certainly much more comfortable to do so in front of a 27" iMac sitting at home, with your cup of tea on the side your ergonomic chair and keyboard etc.
There was one time that I thought it was cool to being able to do all my payments and everything via ebanking while I was on vacation. Then I found it that it sucks big time, having to do job while others having fun.
However that's just me, it's like it's an absolute truth or anything. I'd just prefer to hand a job over to someone who I know has an office. Give him more chances to have established a decent work flow.
Trying to do it all at once is mostly a killer. That's not to say you can't do maintenance and smaller tasks while actually traveling, but really building anything meaningful actually requires a lot more concentration in my opinion.
If you've got a job to do, do it. Don't go wandering around exploring the city for half the day, or lie on the beach chatting with backpackers. No. Sit at your desk and do your job.
Once you've done your work, in your properly setup work environment, then go explore your new and exciting surroundings.
Then get to bed on time, and work a proper day the next day.
Whenever I see people in hostels, lazing back on couches, tapping away on a laptop and saying they're a digital nomad, what I see is someone who's not serious. They won't last.
I kinda suspect you're looking on the wrong continent or as you say you're just not suited to it.
I found a nice (enough) apartment for 120$/month that is extremely close to the largest market in PP and Olympic stadium, where I exercise daily. Right outside my front door I can find excellent meals cooked by my friendly neighbors for less than a dollar. I'm here for at least a year, but probably longer; I love this place.
And this is what I've also found. In order to be able to do anything of any significance you need to make the rest of your life as routine as possible in order to minimise distractions. Continually moving around requires you to do a lot of extraneous work merely to reproduce your labour.
That removes a lot of the problems discussed in this blog post, like not knowing if you'll have internet access tomorrow, and not being able to guarantee you can spend 8 hours tomorrow on a project.
It's also how I personally prefer traveling, even just purely for vacation purposes: have a relatively stable temporary base where you can leave your stuff, and then explore the local area for a while (both the city you're in, and day trips to nearby places). When I spend only a few days in a city I never feel like I really see it or understand it, so I don't like doing the whirlwind backpacker-style trips where you're moving to a new place every day or two.
Next, get a local SIM card with pay-as-you-go plan and use the invoice with your apartment address as "proof" of residency (for the next step).
Finally, hit an ATM and draw equivalent of a couple grand USD in local currency and create a bank account using your pay-as-you-go invoice and passport as proof of identity.
Have bank accounts in Canada, France, Brazil, and the States, only one of which charges a monthly fee.
In SW France now, the 2-bedroom apartment I'm renting is 5 minutes walk from the beach, and runs me about $750/month, high speed internet included.
SE Asia may be cheaper, have yet to venture that far from EST where my clients are based. Might check out Sri Lanka though this winter, have heard there's decent (enough) surf and not super pricey.
Cheers to fellow code warriors ;-)
TBH, I've really come to the conclusion that borders are bullshit and I can't wait until they are increasingly viewed as an anachronism like they have come to be viewed within the EU. They create a number of inefficiencies in many many systems and the truth is that the only necessary system that really needs them to function under the current model is taxation to support public infrastructure within a region. However, even that can be solved by only taxing everything that is immobile, such as land, buildings, businesses that need to exist in a certain physical location for prosperity, such that both those that live in a place and those that visit a place, pay directly for the use of all the public services in that place via the infrastructure that accommodates them (places to sleep, eat, work and be entertained).
Don't stay there in the winter though, the lack of people and activity can be a bit depressing.
I tend to come here in the autumn and spring now, weather is beautiful and the living is nice.
Dead of winter, if the waves are pumping, it will be packed all day (surprising how everyone manages to be unemployed when the waves come).
January/February the vast majority are in a 4/3 wetsuit with booties (to protect the feets), but really it's not _that_ cold, nothing compared to northern Europe (where the poor bastards rub vaseline on their faces) or northern Cali in the winter, which is not only colder, but has a much larger issue, the man in the gray suit.
One thing I try to do ASAP, if the city is accommodating, is get a bike. It's one of the best ways to get around and discover new things in the process. Also gives you a lot of freedom to adjust plans on the fly.
A good office provides a suitable environment for almost anyone to work in.
This will cover a lot of seemingly minor stuff - a desk, an ergonomic setup, sufficient clean bathrooms, a coffee machine, a place dedicated just to work, a dedicated telephone line, comfortable temperature/atmosphere, a motivational working culture, etc.
If you're working-from-home you need to set all that up yourself and do it properly. It will take some time to set this up and get it right, but you just need to do it once. You might end up with a situation that's better for you and benefits everybody - but if you don't do a thorough job or if you can't motivate yourself to work then you're simply not going to be as productive as you would be in an office. (Worth it? It depends)
If you're working-while-travelling - this is now a whole different level of difficulty - you need to set this up in every place that you stop. A fancy hotel normally has most of this covered for you, but a mate's floor probably has none.
To manage working-while-travelling, you need to learn exactly what is important to your work environment and how to find it - so that you can set it up each time that you move.
(Worth it? It depends but it's hard)
My experience is .edu is not any different than .com. The main problem is in .edu everyone logically works/studies/thinks in complete silence at libraries and study tank rooms, but in .com everyone is supposed to do their best, most important work in open plan offices where its so noisy you can't think.
A nice room is great advice too - makes a huge difference to your happiness if you can wake up each morning to an amazing view & sunshine in a good location, compared to a small cramped hotel room in a sketchy area. Obviously you have to go with what you can afford, but a cheap AirBnB can be dramatically better than a hotel sometimes.
The downside of getting a 'real job with an office' is that you might not be able to negotiate that 2 months annual vacation, or to get the vacation at times that suit you. You'll have to prioritize what you really want.
Cities of large sizes and big populations also create other problems such as with locomotion, quality of public transport, number of modes of transport needed to get to various points, etc. In essense, it came to preferring to live in a crappy, cramped yet centralized place vs a larger, more comfortable 'far away' place (from the city center). In São Paulo, often the time I would spend in transit would be double the time I would actually spend with a friend (versus smaller coastal cities where I could reach my friends in 10-15 minutes tops).
Visa hassles come into play if you're travelling more than 3 months though. Country hopping on a 3-month Visa Waiver with automated income is one thing... I'd love to stay longer overseas (especially Berlin), but I never really got my head around the visas that would be required. Maybe I'd need to line up contract work in Berlin first & then apply for a longer duration business visa... but I never really got that figured out.
I've clocked time in South America (Ecuador, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay), Mexico, Taiwan, India, China, and Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand) and the list goes on. I'm not dropping these locations or the info above to show off, I'm simply lending perspective.
I slow travel - meaning I usually set up for at least 3 months, if not longer. My most recent stint was on and off Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam for 6 months+ where I was lucky enough to get embedded in the local startup scene.
The biggest flaw with the article and the idea of the digital nomad as presented in general is prioritizing lifestyle over business.
It makes being a "nomad" seem like a wandering soul hopping gig to gig taking advantage of low cost locations without much strategy or purpose. Additionally, I sense the job or employee mindset in the tone of the article, which is fine, but I wouldn't hit the road with that mindset.
If you're going to take on this lifestyle you can't have an employee mindset. It won't work, and most will end up broke or bored trying to sustain the lifestyle and scrambling to try and find remote work.
A whole point of being location independent, which the article neglects is how you can be more strategic about your location, expand your network by being exposed to serendipitous opportunities that would have otherwise not presented themselves, and grow your business.
The opportunity to expose yourself to places and people on an upward trajectory, and how you can add value to those situations and take advantage of them should be a priority at the top of the list. Not just a beach hammock, backpacker ghetto or a cool place to work and Instagram.
Otherwise, what's the point.
I am not a "nomad", and my experience is the opposite -- I am much, much more productive working remotely. I did actually enjoy the article for the useful information it can provide others considering this, but (as many of the comments in this thread point out) the author is clearly Doing It Wrong. I don't think it has much bearing on working internationally.
1. 'I changed a massive part of my life and, 2 months in, I feel less efficient!' Gee, really? 2 months is just about long enough to investigate a new location, but it pales in comparison to the amount of time you've spent optimizing your life in your old locations.
2. Home base. Living. Everyone here is saying the same thing: you need a solid, stable home base. Maybe there are rare butterflies who can flit from hostel to hostel and feel good. The rest of us typically have more of a relationship with our surroundings.
I hate traveling. I love living in great parts of the world, though.
I have a modest 2-story house I bought, one block back from the ocean in an 800-person fishing village. It's my home base.
I am fantastically productive when I am there. Far, far, far more so than when (maybe close to launch date) some clients request that I sit in their lovely, stylish, noisy open-plan offices, where you cannot take a nap and where you have the mental barrier of a commute bookending your days.
Good point. This is my view as well, though I've moved many times in order to try out new places...in order to find those great parts of the world. I'm on my 2nd country and I'm a lot closer to what would be ideal for me. The nomad life I live is, in reality, more of a nomadic mover than a nomadic traveler. The hard part is when the grass is always greener.
I'm not looking to sustain a working vacation--I'm interesting in experiencing day-to-day lifestyle in different cultures/suroundings. I'm thinking of staying around in terms of months or years, not weeks.
Also, I probably will only try it if I have my own enterprise I can run on the road. I'm currently working as a freelancer but wouldn't think about hitting the road until I have more direct control on projects.
And while I get my ducks I a row I would love for someone to do an airbnb for digital nomads. If it would be easy to find a place to work and place to live I'm sure I'd me more likely to try it. And I wish some countries would see the revenue opportunity of this! (I'm looking at you Spain, Italy and Greece.)
While staying in Krabi last year, I wanted to go back during the cheaper off-season, when the SCUBA diving is less awesome than normal. Beaches and climbing are still spectacular though.
It made me dream of having a listing of such places that are guaranteed to have a great internet connection, chair, desk and secondary monitor.
In terms of co-working spaces, they're often way more than I'd want to spend for a simple internet connection and a place to sit.
Also its not a binary decision. Its a big planet and you can select whatever tradeoff you'd prefer in a nearly pure analog fashion, its not exclusively binary "Poland OR Vietnam". For example there must be tens of thousands of places to park a RV in the USA that are similar enough not to be strange but different enough to be an adventure on time off.
Some people set the thermostat to 72F and leave it alone 24x365 (that's me!). Some people alternate setting the thermostat to 85F and 60F every couple hours and complain constantly of freezing or burning up (I work with people like that, it is such a pain to be around). That doesn't mean a third option doesn't exist of setting the thermostat to 67F, or 77F, or randomly varying from 70F to 74F from week to week, etc.
My wife and I live, work and travel from a 25' Airstream and can definitely relate to a lot of the point the post has made as well as the "decision fatigue" mentioned in other comments. It is tough to keep focus for 8 hours when your scenery is changing from week to week and there are so many new awesome places to explore. That said.. We are currently loving it with no plans to stop or slow today. Todays adventure is mountain biking in Bend Oregon.
Decision fatigue comes in with route planning, trying to figure out if that cool forest road everyone talks about will have cell service, where to fill up with water, where to dump the tanks... all of which are near constant. We could slow it down a bit and stay in an RV park a month or so, but we enjoy moving and don't enjoy the atmosphere of most private RV parks.
All I remember of his advice on this topic was private parks are completely deserted during the week during the school year, and there are public parks in the middle of nowhere for the weekends.
I have been to private campgrounds (as a tent camper) and even in season during the summer, the difference between 3pm Thursday and 3pm Saturday is spectacular.
The airstream sounds like fun, have a good time! As an adult child I had to drive to my parents house many a time to take care of the mail, check the place out, etc. In fact I watched the 9/11 attack reports on their TV, I happened to be there that day. I would imagine snail mail and stuff like that (vehicle registration?) is quite a challenge for a true nomad.
In some countries, you just put a jumper on or wear cooler clothes. Personally, I like to be near the weather. It is all tradeoffs.
It's certainly an intermediate stage, between backpack and putting down roots somewhere.
I'm location independent and change base-cities every year or so. I also spend maybe 6 months per year on the road.
Honestly, I get more coding work done when I'm at my home-of-the-time. But a lot of the soft stuff: running in to people in related industries whose brains I can pick, spotting new potential hires, thinking up powerful bizdev ideas, etc. all happen far more on the road. I often stop for extended periods .. a week is typically the minimum.
I've found the most important thing to manage is my own motivation: if work is getting in the way of relaxing, I can it for awhile. If relaxing is getting in the way of work, I can it for awhile.
Being in a stationary, fixed environment with ongoing overheads and investments in random rapidly depreciating junk (like vehicles) is personally not a good situation for me. I get demotivated pretty immediately. On the other hand, sometimes transient living feels like it's getting long in the tooth, too. If that happens, I tend to switch it up a bit and pop cultures, rent a place longer term. The grass is always greener, right? As it turns out: often it is. And when you go back to somewhere you'd been before, both you and the place have changed.
Bonus poem excerpt (sorry to those scrolling!):
They'll allow me to choose,
Where to settle anew,
Be it in east or west.
But with dollar now sliding,
And frequent poor tidings,
The orient does rather seem best!
Aye if USA visas,
Berkeley feminist divas,
Could yet warrant a tired "may-be"...
With all due respect,
Most are pains in the neck,
And I love a good foreign lady.
So at present juncture,
(Passed global acupuncture)
I dream happily now of returning...
To the rhythms of life,
Of an eastern respite,
From the world of democracy burning.
My advice for S.E. Asia is don't get a hostel for AirBnB room. Get an actual apartment or even a house. Where I'm at you can get either month to month for $100 to $200 per month easy.
My work takes a lot of my time, so I don't travel much. There is no way I could move around a lot. But with a good gig it's easy to take some time off and travel to another place for a couple of weeks. Flights are cheap to anywhere in the region and there are a lot of interesting places nearby.
So, use your house or apartment as your home base and then take lots of vacations.
Even just living abroad can get old though. After a number of years you wonder why you are doing it. What's the point? You begin to find out what really matters in life, which to me is family, my craft and... food! I haven't had real Mexican food for far too long. I would kill for a Subway sandwich. Even worse is that the Philippines isn't known for its food.
But then, there are good reasons to stay as well. I think there is a lot of opportunity in S.E. Asia. I feel like I'm not missing out on opportunity in the U.S. because most of my work is there anyways and I already know the culture.
ETA: I don't see how you could go out 5 nights a week. Even with just a few drinks and going to sleep later than usual, I feel it the next day. It's not even hangover, I would feel the same the next day just from screwing up my sleep schedule. If I did that 5 nights a week I would get nothing done. I generally get up crazy early to be available towards end of day for the U.S. though (12 hour difference from New York.)
It was what I had for lunch almost too often when living in Makati. A bit expensive compared to many of the local offerings, but always fresh and you know exactly what you get.
Constantly traveling and working won't work for most. But settling in one place for at least 6 months, finding a good office or co-working space with fast internet, and getting into a routine (like the article states) CAN actually work for many people. It does for me.
Also since you're in a new place, you also have plenty of opportunity to do weekend travels to other countries, as well as local leisure activities. In case of Thailand, that means you can be on the beach in 2 hours from anywhere, or if you're not into that, enjoy the wild nature. And life is cheaper in many of these places.
Not for everybody, but definitely do-able.
I have one small piece of constructive feedback: your use of commas was a little confusing at times, and it slowed down my reading.
Commas can be tricky, and I sometimes struggle with them as well. Here's a quick guide that I find useful:
"at times and it slowed"
"can be tricky and I sometimes struggle"
Granted, you might want a dramatic pause or the comma might break up parts that could be misconstrued as together. Chiding Alex with superfluous commas? Generally speaking I recommend dropping commas where you can. Like you said, they're speed bumps.
There's no need for either of us to be snarky. I told Alex that I enjoyed his writing and respectfully offered feedback.
Commas can be tricky, and I sometimes struggle with them as well."
I'm not saying you're wrong. Yes the sentences are complete but how self-sufficient are they? It's a sliding scale from no comma to comma to period. Some of these rules are not hard and fast. The art of writing is slowly evolving and to a degree it's a matter of taste. Some people love hyphens. In this case there's a strong enough correlation, conceptual link between the sentences such that the reader doesn't need a comma to read what you're saying in one breath. If it sounds good in one breath, that's a strong signal you don't need a comma. Knowing the basic rules is just the beginning. I'm dead serious.
I've experienced this as well, it was my main grief with working by myself and on the road and ultimately led me to join a company again part time. Sadly the team I joined isn't really what I expected from a team, so I'm already on the lookout again :(
I wonder if you could build a business serving the Digital Nomad. Basically offer a place to live + a coworking space. The traveling hacker gets the benefit of having a good place to work, plus the benefit of hanging out with other hackers whom you can chat with, maybe even pick up new work.
This is coming from a US citizen who loves his country despite all the fucked up shit that it's government does sometimes, so maybe I'm bias, but I definitely think the life is possible.
It won't be the same as travelling overseas & experiencing different cultures though... part of the fun is returning to your home country after months overseas and seeing your home culture with fresh eyes. But it could be a good start.
I think you're overestimating the difficulty of finding WiFi & internet, though. I've often found better internet connections while traveling through Europe than in the US. But if you're a US citizen, travelling just through the US will simplify visa concerns, which helps a bit.
In any event, I wasn't one of these people as I could take a break when I wished and hit up the beach, etc. It was great...until the project that kept me financially stable went under. Instead of looking for more work, I sacrificed the need to work more for the free time (and ability) to very cheaply or freely enjoy myself in my surroundings, eventually tiring of demanding little of myself after a few months (you can only be young-ish and 'hang' for so long). It's great living in a beautiful place, but even better when that place is very affordable (or, in the least, when you've found a way to make it affordable...almost an art in itself).
In the Bay, I almost never went out because everything cost money and therefore my friends only did things that cost money. Being poor in US standards was social suicide.
In Brazil, I was going out 4-5x per week! My average night out in Rio I'd spend about US$5, maybe $10 (drinks included, try doing that in SF!). Plus, there just so much to do for free, from hiking to beaches, to free concerts and art exhibitions...you name it. Things that other young people are also doing, mind you. In developing nations, or even economically strained ones (I'm in Portugal now), where most people are on a budget, I find the amount of fun and interesting things to do, for free or cheap, increase. Not only do the events and activities increase, but the number of people doing them increase, too.
Being a digital nomad, with at least one stable project, in places like these is where the 'good life' is. But when that stable project goes bye-bye, the sense of the good life goes with it, no matter where you are.
As an aside, having just read the article, I saw that it's a minimalist blog (post) on github.io, which I'm not familiar with. From their landing page, I don't see any offer for blogging.
On Wordpress, I couldn't find any theme like this but on HN I come across these types of entries somewhat often, though this is the first I've seen from github.io. Anyone know how I can get a free one like this, where there's just a white page and words, via any blogging service?
That is certainly not nowadays... Even though yes, this may be doable in some places still (if you keep yourself to drinks and maybe some food for sharing)
For example: Buses that run most of the night (roundtrip) - about US$2.75, Beers (four Skols from supermarket) - about US$3. That's US$5.75. Meet your friends near the beach, in Lapa, at someone's home or at some predetermined free event (of which Rio has many). Even if the beer is bought while out, the night's bill upon returning home would be no more than US$10. Plus when I lived where I didn't have to take the bus in order to meet people on most occasions, it was even less. In places where there were nicer bars, there'd usually be many people hanging out on the sidewalk in front of the bars and inevitably, there'd be street vendors selling food and drinks.
Props on the portmanteau/compound username. I suppose your name as an action would become malandrewgem, then.
One of the interesting parts of living here is the African diaspora. It's really nice to get my fill of African culture in a language I can understand. Speaking a few words of criole is even considered cool among Portuguese teens.
Do they know that you are living in places where most of them might even can only dream of going to for vacation? Or do you just simply "not tell them"?
How do you handle call requests then? Or situations where the customers just invites you over to discuss the project in detail in person?
And what are their reactions like when you tell them that you currently are living just a stone's throw away from a beautiful sandy beach? What is the quota of lost jobs due to that?
Otherwise really insightful article. I enjoyed it :)
And being a frequent traveller myself I would recommend you to stay longer in predefined places.
Like you said...catering for the logistics (accommodation, internet access, checking out the neighborhood, finding grocery stores/restaurants) all that is yet interesting but really tiering and time consuming.
It is a better choice to stay somewhere for 3 months, plan ahead for the next location during that period and use weekends or other "time-slots" of your choice to explore the region. If you want to travel to a place that would require you to have more time than a regular weekend offers, you should take a vacation. Which would require you to work the time on weekends the weeks before and of course one should stick to a set number of days off per year in addition.
It's the student-dilemma...when there is no one micro-managing you, people tend to slack-off. So you should keep yourself accountable towards yourself in that situation. Like you were employed, but by yourself ;)
Oh and another question:
What is your girlfriend doing that she has the time and financial backup to do this with you?
Is she working in the same field?
During the two month period of the 'experiment' I didn't actively hunt for new leads, so I can't relate to the lost deals part.
Call requests are done via Skype if needed.
Regarding my girlfriend, during this two months, she's on vacation, although she actively helps with prototyping and concepts.
We both had savings from day one of the trip and my freelancing gigs make up for a source of additional income that makes this thing less scary :)
Awesome travel blog as well...went straight to my feedly! Cheers
2. every long flight i've been on has had screaming babies
3. especially the ones to/from asia
If you're trying to get stuff done though, I think a good strategy is to pick a place and stay there for a few months, rather than being 'on the road' and traveling around from place to place. You can still be 'location independent' by renting an apartment for 3 months in a foreign country (like the Costa Rica example that was on HN a few weeks ago). But at least then you'll have more of a sense of routine, waking up in the same place every day, and because you have a full 3 months to explore the place, you won't feel as obligated to rush out and see the sights all the time.
It also really helps to be able to set yourself up in an office with an ergonomic chair, external monitors, and proper mouse/keyboard. That might be a bit more difficult to do if you're in a foreign country, but you can definitely buy used and sell again when you leave.
I only know of various expat community forums and sites which anyone can find with a Google search and a few subreddits (like /IWantOut).
Edit: I found this via Google http://www.digitalnomadcommunity.net/
I'm considering building a platform for a self-organized digital nomad community. I am currently exploring ways to provide initial value to have it grow organically and would love to get other people's perspective.
Hanging out having cigarettes and chatting about development, that's where the value in being together is it seems.
We are hiring again now. Anyone know the best forums to find digital nomads (term is getting worn out) looking for work. It would fit our company's culture to bring on another traveling developer.
This is assuming you're switching locations every 1-2 months. If you move locations every week it's a huge drain in productivity as it takes time to get set up and to travel etc.
Have now fixed in one place just because I have a baby, but otherwise would be possible to keep traveling.
I think a bigger problem of constant travel is the lack of a regular community.
This got me into a nice rhythm where I could be as productive as at home.
The hardest part was meeting new people in the beginning, but meetups quickly changed that and I had a blast. I would definitely recommend going to a new city for a month or two (a month is a bit inconvenient, you have to go right when you're making new friends and enjoying yourself).
I somewhat disagree with your first point (I've been getting good and big projects), but I completely agree with the second one. There is a lot of mental baggage when you have not "settled" down and don't have established habits. I am starting to think that a more effective way would be to do several weeks of focused work, 1-2 week travel, rinse and repeat.
Regarding the first point - I guess it's a matter of commitment. From day one this was mainly a travel project first and remote working project second. I believe that if I found a place I really would love to stay at for longer than a month, my view would be slightly different. But still, I tried to describe honestly what I thought about the past two months.
That's kind of the best of both worlds. It's actually pretty tiring travelling AND working at the same time. You will have a large amount of context shifts which will destroy your productivity.
I also wish remote work is more common. While it usually works when you know a company really well (e.g. small company with known, trusted colleagues), not many companies are actively trying to make remote work possible.
However, like I said, I loved every minute of it! I initially left for my trip with only $600 USD in my account. Working online allowed me to stretch what would have been a 3 week trip into an 8 month trip where I was able to visit 6 different countries! When I found my 'office' to be a hammock on a beautiful beach in Brazil, I knew I had accomplished something very special.
Also, since Skilljet is a website designed to help travelers find amazing adventure around the world, I was able to contribute to its development from my personal travel experience. This really helped me unite, both the virtual world of working online, with the physical world around me, which made my experience much more meaningful.
Now I have some time to think and strategise on my long term plan - and act! Anyway good luck to all looking for something different.
Is it possible to do hardware projects on the road? Maybe rely on hackerspaces for tools and such?
One thing I'm curious about is if some of you have tried finding local clients in destinations you visit?
This is obviously easier in big cities than in Kho Phi Phi, and will most likely pay less than a US-based client. Nevertheless, I'd imagine it to be a great way to get immersed in the local lifestyle and solves some of the issues mentioned in the post (eg: timezone, workplace).
But what you suggest has merit and I'd be interested to hear what the nomads' take on it is.
By that I mean, for some of us, you get to the point where yes, you want the advantage of multiple locations - but you also want routine.
The problem is when you start traveling around enough, it gets harder and harder to "get it all" in one place.
For me the solution is, as one person mentioned (or rather, several)
1. establish a home base(s)
2. get second homes or rentals you've been to before in familiar places (you can get to know AirBnB landlords many of the have multiple homes)
3. coworking spots around the world
4. start connecting with nomad communities - like a diplomat, you'll start running into the same people over and over again - forums, private/paid communities
5. tap into your alumni abroad community (if you have one)
6. establish daily routines (for me, it's a morning call with several other location independent founders)
7. meet ups
Eventually you'll have a set up where you have say "home bases" in 2-3 countries/continents....places you can go back to sleep in your own bed, say Hi to the local butcher, grocer etc, read your own books.....
...then you can travel several times a year (conferences, random hot spots, etc) - for the excitement, because one starts to miss the thrill of traveling.
I definitely think though that multiple home bases + coworking spots + connecting with the location independent community + a codified daily routine is the way to go!
Anyone who can enjoy this life should be totally grateful for the options it affords one.
The biggest challenge I've found (someone tell me if you can relate) is that often I find myself hanging out with:
1. trust fund babies (born into having the time, income, location freedom)
2. retirees (have the time, income, location freedom but had to work for it)
3. people on welfare (have the time and often times the money too, lol)
4. location independent professionals/entrepreneurs (perfect match but still quite niche)
...in my age group. Man when you walk around during the day, outside of the traditional corporate/9-to-5 set up, that's rarefied air.
Someone who really establishes his/her community as the penultimate resource for connecting location independent founders and professionals with homes, coworking sports almost like a done-for-you social network, will be solving a huge problem.
Travel is nice, but not when you do it just to brag about having gone to X countries in Y days. Then it just becomes a status thing, and is, as the author notes, "kind of douchey." The internet, good news sources, and documentaries can broaden your horizons even without leaving the house.
Besides, travelling by train is much more fun.
(Compare to Russia, where traveling anywhere remote by train means you might be completely lost to the world for a few days.)
When all of your business trips become taking the Amtrak in a Roomette to your B&B, business travel becomes a lot less stressful.
You broaden your horizens by interacting with what's around you when you travel, whether that's physical, social, cultural, spiritual etc. Nothing in print or virtual can replace that, just as when you learn a new martial art. If you take some time to actually travel for the sake for the experience and not for the bragging rights, you'd realize how ridiculous that statement sounds.
On the other hand, programmers are notorious for their binge-coding-marathons, living off less-than-optimal nutrition and little sleep. I can imagine that this type of person could sustain to have a few bumpy days when settling into a new location (of course, even if one can manage to sustain some binge-coding now and then does not mean that you can do it often. So I guess you still might have to find a comfortable setup and routine while away from home, eventually).
But to me there's nothing worse than someone whose only way of adding value is criticism something they weren't creative or proactive enough to do themselves.