Tales from a Nomad Software Developer in a hostel

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Aloha,

I’m currently staying in a hostel in Maui. I’ve been here for 6 nights, and am here for 5 more. After that I’m going to the island of Kauai where I’ve also booked a hostel. I actually think they are great as they allow you to meet awesome people and become friends almost instantly in a very relaxed and casual, traveler-friendly way. And because everyone is always on the go, there’s not really a strong pressure to be or do anything at any particular time or place. The particular hostel I am staying in offers free amazing tours everyday which is great for seeing amazing stuff whit a great group of people. They’re also really really cheap. Staying here costs me less per night than it would be to pay rent back in Vancouver :) — in other parts of the world they are even cheaper.

They are not for everyone. If you need a lot of personal space, or like things to be clean, or don’t like sharing a kitchen/bathroom and in most cases a bedroom with others, you won’t feel comfortable at all in a hostel. It’s worth the sacrifice though.

That being said, it’s definitely tricky to be working while staying in a hostel and to remain productive. So I thought I’d share a few tips (some of these are not hostel specific necessarily):

  • Security should always be in mind at a hostel, both for the physical gadgets you have and for the digital electrons you send into the cyberspace. So proxy your traffic always and use https everywhere. For the physical stuff: keep everything in a single bag, always keep it with you, sleep cuddling your bag if you need to. I don’t trust common safes like the ones they have in the lobby here. Despite everyone being super friendly here, there’s assholes and thieves everywhere; and you don’t want your multi-thousand laptop to get stolen.
  • If you can, get a car. They are super practical for several reasons: the trunk is a safe place to keep your stuff when you don’t want to carry your bag around; they are a quiet place you can take conference calls from; sometimes you just need to get far away from your hostel, so you get in and drive somewhere else.
  • Work anytime you have a free moment and try to plan ahead a few days. There’s always something going on at a hostel: a party, some joke being told, a hike somewhere exciting, etc. You will want to do all of it. There’s some FOMO (fear of missing out) and you may want to do everything. Set some hours aside to work; get up early to work; stay up late to work; whatever it takes. My hours have not been consistent while here, but that’s OK, that’s why I work at Automattic :)
  • ABC: always be charging. If you are near a power plug, charge. Buy a couple portable chargers for your mobile devices too. Seriously, you never know when you might be next to a power plug (and an available one at that!) again, so it’s important to always be as charged as possible.
  • Have a good pair of headphones with you. With them, I can work almost anywhere, and just block the external distractions. This post comes to you from the loud patio at my hostel, but I’m listening to music and in my own bubble.
  • It’ll be impossible to always work from the hostel, so find a cafe, a library, a coworking space — whatever you can to get away and focus for a few hours.
  • Enjoy it; Most of us web workers have the flexibility, the money and the ability to travel, so just do it! I get annoyed when I tell that to friends who have the same opportunities as me and make up weird excuses and then say they are jealous of me. I think traveling and adventuring while working is amazing, but it won’t come to you; you have to make it happen. All in all, Hostels are a great way to do it. I won’t always do hostels when I travel. Sometimes I just need a quiet space of my own far away from everyone with a super clean bathroom; but in a lot of cases hostels are just fine and provide a great environment.

If you want to travel & work like I do, Automattic is always hiring ;)

5 thoughts on “Tales from a Nomad Software Developer in a hostel

  1. Enjoyed this! Trying to fit in as much short travel to places round the UK that I can whilst our visa is sorted out. Can’t wait til next year when we can hopefully do similar round Europe. You’re right – you have to make it happen!

  2. Hey Joey

    Thinking about going digital nomad for a few months, but wouldn’t want to live at a hostel. Would find some private / AirBnB accomodation instead for a little higher quality of living.

    Such can be found relatively cheap, so why not spend the extra money? Just curious, as I can’t help wondering. I mean, you make a living at a typical western wage anyway, while travelling, so… ?

    But it seems many digital nomads live on hostels, so I’m wondering whether I’ve missed something:)

    PS: That follow pop up on the right is quite annoying on iPad, just so you know;)

    Oliver

    • Hi Oliver,

      I have, and continue to do a lot of AirBnBs and private accommodations. I like having the mix of hostels in there too though. Despite making a good living, it’s not always affordable to do AirBnBs. For example, here in Hawaii, I haven’t found many private apartments for under $100/night. I can do that for a few nights, but not for a month straight; especially when you factor in a rental car as well. The reality is that even making a good salary, it’s cheaper to have a lease on a place than to do short term rental. So part of why I mix in hostels, is pure cost. The other reason is to meet people, specifically fellow travellers. Staying in an apartment can get lonely :)

      I think ultimately, like most things in life, it’s about having a good balance!

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