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.
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
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.
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 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.