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Far as I can tell, the argument here boils down to "can't concentrate on coding while traveling". When put in a simple statement like that it becomes very obvious that the statement depends entirely on the person. Many people have little difficulty opening up their laptop and forgetting the rest of the world for an 8 hour stretch, and this would be the type of person who would do well as a digital nomad. If you need peace and stability in order to code - and many, many people do - then it's a bad choice.

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.

How do you do an eight hour stretch? At best I can work for two hours without needing food or a bathroom break.

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.

I've never traveled overseas and worked, but I've done a bunch of work remotely in the US while travelling for business, and I've recreational spent a few months in places like ireland and thailand.

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 wish "hourly office rental"-type places were more common for this use case. It would also help with all the people hogging seats at Starbucks.

Personally I love the internet caf├ęs 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.

Keep an eye on Breather, they're making short term spaces you can rent. Still in the early stages:


Regus does it. Of course it's much more cost effective to get a monthly rental if you'll be using it frequently.

You can occasionally get a year's free use of Regas facilities via various promotions. Worth keeping an eye out for.

That's my life in a nutshell ;-)

There are two problems:

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.

I used to always use a 17" macbook pro and it was always very very comfortable moving from it to a 27" display. However, I found that since going from the 17" to a 13", that my level of productivity has increased greatly because I'm now forced to tackle problems that require greater automation and finesse with keyboard only navigation. Given OS X's horrible support for X-windows and the truly useful window managers like XMonad, dwii, dwm, awesome, etc, it's simply not that convenient moving between a 13" and 27" screen. There is too much setup and change to your workflow to make that switch regularly for any programming activity that involves user interfaces (e.g. HTML/CSS) beyond a terminal or ncurses.

I practically live the last 2 years on a macbok air 13" which I wouldn't switch for any other laptop, even if I'd had to install linux on it. However every time I go home and sit on my 27" iMac I feel blessed although the MBA is 2011 and has much clearer screen. However, as you said, my working and programming environment is setup on the MBA and I can't sync everything I need on the fly to achieve the same workflow on the imac. Hmm, but I if I could choose I'd take the imac any day.

One issue is that it can be hard to get an 8 hour stretch if your days are also filled with the minutiae of travel of decision-making.

I find it very hard to get substantial work done on certain projects when I have even a few interruptions in my day.

>One issue is that it can be hard to get an 8 hour stretch if your days are also filled with the minutiae of travel of decision-making.

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.

Pretty much agree with most of what you say above but this:

"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.

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!)

Well fwiw, I personally have pulled honest-to-goodness all-nighters in exceptional circumstances (debugging production problem, team (including management) expecting my code the next morning to start release-testing, etc. Of course it includes things like bio-breaks, snacks/coffee etc. But since "The night is a programmer's best friend for it is silent and expects nothing"(1), it's not that hard to get back into the zone after a break especially with a sword hanging over your head.

(1) Me. Just now.

Yeah, the adrenaline of sheer terror can motivate you to amazing things for a while...

I think you are making quite a few generalizations. I've on multiple occasions coded for over 12 hours straight. With regard to all-nighters, I've had them stretch to noon.

I'm not sure how 'in the zone' you mean, but i've done that many times (just getting up to pee, etc). I do suffer from mild-moderate OCD though so I think that's likely a symptom of it.

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