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Programming (for me) occurs at the apex of an extended Maslow's type hierarchy, and traveling often destroys the very foundations of it. The code I write when sleep-deprived, hungover, hungry, sunburnt, and sitting on a bumpy Thai train wondering if I missed my stop and wishing there was internet & coffee, is strongly inferior to what I write in a well-lit, quiet environment, fed, rested, fueled by engineering conversation and mental/real bandwidth, etc. That's not a proscription of adventure so much as an acknowledgement that the whole nature of adventure is disruptive: multiple variables in your equation are changing at rapid rates, and they are important variables: food, shelter, language, currency. Over our two-year stint in Asia, we usually found ourselves in one of two situations: 1) blissfully immersed in the culture and outdoor activities of <x> country but contending with unreliable internet, limited work time and near-nonexistent attention spans, or 2) sitting on a nice nondescript hotel bed somewhere with A/C, good wifi and our tiny MacBook Air screens, and feeling like we may as well have not left the US at all.



> Programming (for me) occurs at the apex of an extended Maslow's type hierarchy, and traveling often destroys the very foundations of it

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.


It is interesting that sometimes being in a new environment can promote creativity and even discipline (for instance, it's easier for me to work continuously on a plane--which I'm doing right now--than when I'm in our home office because I perceive I have less choice: not sure what that says about me). And I agree that if I'm doing performance testing or adding a mellow feature, then sure, throw me in the middle of Cirque du Soleil and I'll be fine.

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[1], temperature[2], 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.

[1] http://peterhancock.ucf.edu/Downloads/ref_pubs/Szalma_Hancoc... [2] http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1600-0668.2004....

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.





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