Tales from a Nomad Software Developer in a hostel
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 😉
(mis)adventures in italy
Today I drove from Geneva, Switzerland to Milano, Italy. It was a really beautiful drive, with a range of different views and scenery. I started off going through the city of Geneva, and saw same of the Swiss country side. Then proceeded into France, and into the mountains. Stopped to take a few pictures of the Mont Blanc, and then drove through the Mont Blanc tunnel, which was actually kind of mundane; mostly long and slow.
Then I got into Italy and was enjoying the picturesque view of small towns, with beautiful churches and castles. I decided to pull over into one of the towns to see if I could find some food and to take a few pictures. At the highway exit, after paying the toll, the federal italian police were doing controls, checking every car. By “luck” they decided to pull me over and look at my papers. I rented my car (a lovely Audi A4 TDI) in France and have a Canadian Driver’s License. Apparently a combination that the Italian police didn’t really like. Specifically they requested I had an international driver’s license instead of just my Canadian one. I later looked into this, and turns out that they were right, Canadians are required to have that to drive in Italy, but not in France (where I had actually looked up the laws ahead of time).
Anyways… I spoke my best Italian (not that great) with them and tried to explain, but unfortunately they weren’t taking any excuses. The missing international driver’s license combined with a lack of snow tires on my car (something that again, is required in Italy but not France and my car had 4 season tires) landed me a very hefty 341 euro fine. Which I had to pay right away and in cash!! Can you believe that?
So the cops escorted me to the nearest Bankotomat (an ATM) and I pulled from two different accounts the money they asked for. They put it in a little envelope, delivered me an italian novel (my very detailed fine) and drove off.
Combined with some pretty expensive tolls along the way down from Switzerland, this has made my trip into Italy very expensive. I’m also nervous that I’ll run into police again — hopefully I can show them the fine and tell them I’m leaving Italy before I get a chance to fix the situation. I’ll be back in France Sunday night.
What’s really annoying is that the international driver’s license isn’t even that special, require any extra tests nor give you any additional benefits. It’s literally just a piece of paper you pay a little extra for saying you can drive abroad. Why does it need to exist?
So, lesson learned; take the train next time. Though I really did enjoy the drive.
Oh and by the way, I never even ended up getting the food or pictures in that town 😦
When I got to Milan, I (naturally) had trouble finding parking. Finally parked, then got lost trying to find the Airbnb I’m staying at. Ended up at the wrong apartment building, which just like my correct building, had a doorman named “Antonio”. It was all a bit confusing, and by that point I just wanted to drop my bags off and go have some pizza. Finally was able to reach my Airbnb host, find the right place, and get in; but the whole process took some time.
The night was finally made better by having pizza with my coworker Sara Rosso, who lives here in Milano. One funny thing was that earlier in the day, I texted her that “I had a not so fun run in with the italiano polizei”, and that line ended up in one of our work IRC (chat) channels.
PS: As I travel, I’m posting mostly photos on instagram (cross-posted to my photo blog) and a few personal updates on Facebook. But once in a while a story like this is better shared on this blog. Thanks for following along! 🙂