Most people enjoy traveling, myself included. A relatively recent trend gaining populartiy however is turning travel from a vacation- or business-oriented experience to a general modus vivendi.
Having lived all my life in the San Francisco Bay Area I decided I should expand my horizons and try living elsewhere for a change. Anywhere. Because my work making software involves computers and the internet, I can work from anywhere as long as I have a computer and the internet, so why not take advantage of that?
Turns out it’s really not so hard. Traveling light is the key, really. All I’ve taken with me is one carry-on sized backpack with some clothes and a laptop, and mostly just stayed at Airbnbs. It’s that simple.
Oddly enough many of my friends, themselves often computer typers and Linux janitors living in the Bay Area, express a desire to travel around as well. They say “oh I could never afford that though.” To which I respond “fool, I can’t afford to live in fucking San Francisco, how the fuck can I afford not to travel?” I spend a lot less money seeing the world than I did suffering through the bleak dystopian dysfunctional morass that is modern-day San Francisco.
SF was a good deal more functional and cooler when I moved there in 2005 but now it’s beyond repair and hardly worth the astronomical cost of living there. Maybe the subject for another post sometime.
Because I’m not on vacation, I don’t do a ton of sightseeing. I try to hit one or two famous things in each city I go to but really I’m working most of the time. It’s like if I were at home, except that I’m not at home. Just working from different cities all the time.
Turns out plane travel can be extremely reasonable when you can be flexible about dates and destinations and can plan a couple months in advance. Plane tickets around the globe can be had for a song sometimes, and intra-Europe flight costs can be in the low double digits if flying by Wizz or Ryan Air. I wrote before about flying on the cheap, including my $116 one-way ticket from SFO to Amsterdam. And I haven’t even gotten in on the rewards cards and miles redemption schemes that are out there.
If you’re self-employed attending conferences is a solid plan for a few reasons. For one, if they are related to your work, you can claim conference-related expenses as deductible business expenses. Also it gives you a good reason to go to new destinations, meet new people, write articles covering the talks, and of course learn new stuff.
A few websites make the itinerant lifestyle much simpler. One is the Nomad List community, which has the most relevant list of destinations, measuring things like air quality, internet speed, safety, weather, friendliness and more. Also there’s a wonderful Slack chat associated with it where you can ask anything at all that’s travel-related, and even meet up with other people doing the same thing you are in basically any major city in the world. A couple weeks ago I met up with some very nice folks from there in Chiang Mai, Thailand, which is something like the digital nomad capital of the world if such a place can be said to exist.
Wifi isn’t always the greatest, but I’ve had fantastic luck getting local SIM cards wherever I travel. They almost always provide good speeds and decent latency, at a decent price. There’s even a helpful wiki that has everything you could ever want to know about data SIM cards anywhere in the world. One important thing to know though; even if you have an awesome free roaming plan like say, T-mobile’s, your normal SIM will be slooooow if you leave the continent. I learned by way of a telecom engineer at the IETF conference that your carrier tunnels your IP traffic through their network when you’re roaming. Meaning that all your traffic goes to the USA (or wherever your carrier is) and back. Get a local data SIM.
Airbnb, well, it’s just awesome. I’ve stayed at 40 of them so far, and it’s been mostly problem-free. The worst case has been a couple of times when I got canceled on last-minute, something a bit annoying but hardly the end of the world. You just take it in stride and get a new place to stay. I always make sure to get a place with a washing machine, so laundry isn’t a big deal. Sadly most countries aren’t into dryers like the USA, but you learn to live with these setbacks.
Actually, come to think of it, dealing with foreign washing machines is extremely challenging sometimes.
I think taking things in stride is really key to exploring the world. Maybe some places have traffic lights that change every ten minutes or so (I don’t know what’s up with that in Thailand), or people for whom communication, verbal or otherwise is an impossibility, or you leave a bank card in an ATM, or a million other things that can go wrong. I’ve had the good fortune to not encounter any catastrophes, and anything else can be dealt with by a generous application of calm and just asking yourself “okay, well what should I do now?” It all works out fine.
Above are the places in Europe that I’ve been in the past few years. I’ll write more about them in subsequent posts. (I wrote about my previous travels in Poland and Ukraine back in 2015 here).
Summary of Europe: Budapest is probably my favorite. Lviv and Kyiv in Ukraine are excellent and quite easy on the pocketbook. Berlin and Amsterdam are also great but definitely far on the pricier end. Serbia sucks don’t go there. Paris is Paris. Dublin has shit weather and bad food. Wasn’t that into Northern Italy but still want to visit Southern Italy pretty badly. Skip Warsaw but check out Wrocław, Prague and “Bohemian Switzerland” in Czech Republic. Brussels is boring and a bit too frenchy for my tastes but they got good beer and fries so can’t hate too much. Barcelona is hot. Croatia is a nice getaway that isn’t in Schengen if you’re running up against the limit of days you can spend visa-free in that part of Europe.
At the end of 2017 I veered off to new waters – Asia and Oceania.
Sydney and New Zealand are great places to go in December if you’re like me and hate the cold; ’cause it’s summertime in the Southern Hemisphere. Also they’re pretty great places and people speak English, though the timezone difference really complicates things if you’re working with other people or trying to keep in touch with friends. New Zealand is UTC+12, which puts you on the exact opposite of Western Europe, though it’s damn pretty there. Japan I wasn’t into so much; serious language barrier, hella cold, wack food, complicated getting around, expensive, tiny apartments. Hong Kong on the other hand is a fantastic place I plan on returning to as soon as I get the chance. I stayed in six different cities in Thailand and they were mostly very agreeable. Great food obviously, as well as a warm and pleasant climate, prices and exchange rate comparable to Ukraine, lots of smiling, friendly people, some of what’s probably in the top tier SCUBA diving in the world at Ko Tao, massive expat community in Chiang Mai, and plenty of great nature, temples, night markets, and things to see. Just be sure to not throw shade on the monarchy or the junta running the country while you’re there and you’ll be fine.
I’ve come to the end of this leg of my travels and will be heading back to Europe shortly. As you can see from Google Maps I’m writing this from the most perfect civilization ever created by man – Singapore. More on that later.
More posts to come, so stay tuned!