I am beginning a grand adventure. Well, for me, anyway. At the end of this year, I will be flying to Bangkok, Thailand to start a 6 month (or longer) trek abroad. You know, like Caine in Kung Fu. Well, not exactly.
This isn’t a vacation. It’s an experiment in nomadic living, inspired by the likes of Expat Software and The 4-Hour Work Week. Even after the success of Tim Ferriss’s book, this is a pretty foreign concept to most people. Upon hearing it, they think I’m going on a really long vacation, and by extension, I’m some secret millionaire. I’m not (yet). Or that I’ll be backpacking and living in hostels and villages. I’m not doing that either.
I’ll simply be living in other countries, much like I would here. The countries I’ve chosen are more affordable than Southern California (I know, not saying much), although that does get offset by renting fully furnished apartments in major cities, as well as airfare. My goal is to spend the same or less per month than I would here, while making things a lot more interesting – you know, meeting people and getting in adventures. But for the most part, I’ll be coding and learning new things.
Why now? What prompted this? There are several factors:
- The real estate agent who surprised me at my door asking to see the place I’m renting, MLS listing in hand. Turns out the owner decided to sell or foreclose and just hadn’t gotten around to telling me. I had until the end of the year to find a new place.
- My latest consulting project is wrapping up.
- I began a bootstrap startup with a couple other people. Being able to work on it full time will be ideal.
- I’m not rich, but I did save up a 2 year runway before I quit to start consulting, and preserved most of it by remaining employed and living reasonably.
- I picked up a frequent flyer credit card in 1998 and never used any miles. A friend had clued me in on how bad international flights can be, especially if you’re, ahem, larger than average. So I said I’d only use it on an first class upgrade or ticket for an int’l flight. 240,000 miles later…
1 + 2 + 3 made getting into a mortgage a bad idea. The rest void any other excuses I might have. There just isn’t a better time than now.
My tentative itinerary is:
- Jan-Feb: Bangkok, Thailand – I know the most people there and it’s one of the most tourist friendly countries on the planet. It also has great public transportation.
- Mar: Cebu, Philippines – I don’t know anyone here, but Filipinos speak excellent English and are also friendly to tourists. Cebu City is one of the safer ones, with less traffic and air pollution than Manila, and I’ve seen some very nice vacation photos from here.
- Apr: Tokyo, Japan – My one indulgence. Like all geeks, it just seems magical and I can’t pass it up while already in Asia. If only I hadn’t forgotten the Japanese I learned in college…
- May: Kiev, Ukraine – This is the one place where everyone knows my name. Well, my last name, at least. A few programmers I know are from the Ukraine, and Kiev is a major hub for software developers. I expect a lot of networking with fellow techies here. I can’t speak Russian, but my pronunciation of the food is pretty spot on (Baba taught me well), so at least I won’t starve.
- June: Prague, Czech Republic – When I tell people I’m going here, the reaction is universal: “Oh, wow. You will love it.” This includes all the people who have never been there. I’ve no doubt they’re right.
Here’s the general logic behind it:
- Major cities maximize my chances of getting good internet.
- Staying a month in each city gets me a big break on rent. You’ll find that 10 days in a hotel costs roughly the same as one month in a furnished apartment. There are some differences, like paying for utilities in the apt., but you also get a kitchen. In most of the cities listed above, that doesn’t save me much, but will be vital in Tokyo.
- I’ll be warm (often really hot) throughout the trip, which is nice because I’m not a fan of winter (one of the reasons I live in SoCal). Luckily, winter is the dry season for Thailand and the Philippines, so I won’t get soaked, either. This eases the wardrobe significantly. Bangkok has excellent prices on clothes, including custom tailored clothing in fabrics meant for hot, humid climes.
After that, things are a bit up in the air. By then, my startup should be live, and there’s a chance I’ll need to come home for that. While in eastern Europe, I’d like to hit Warsaw and Sofia. However, there’s an excellent chance I’ll pick up a couple consulting gigs while abroad (especially as I expand my knowledge of retail ecommerce, analytics, and business intelligence). That should fund some pricier destinations in western Europe, namely Paris and London. That’ll give me a chance to relearn the college French I forgot and explore the land of Monty Python and Downton Abbey. If I get knighted, there’s little chance I’ll return, but I don’t think the odds of that happening are better than 50%. But sooner or later it’ll start getting cold, forcing me to migrate like the majestic turkey back to Southern California.1
If you’re going to be in my area (or more likely, I’m going to be in your area), contact me and we can get together. I’m especially interested in networking with ecommerce professionals and web developers. I’m looking forward to meeting you!
- I know, turkeys don’t migrate. They handle winter like a boss. [↩]