The Traveling Developer

In Santorini, Greece.

The joys of being a software developer include being able to work from anywhere. You’re liberated to travel the world, if you desire.

This was one of the reasons I became a web developer. I did my first web development boot camp while traveling through Europe. The key to my success was doing a long stay in a quiet place.

I spent two winter months coding on the island of Crete. There were virtually no other tourists because the island is mostly local Greeks at that time of year, so it was beautifully quiet. I had an apartment to myself. It came with a strong Internet connection, even during storms, and hosts upstairs who made sure I was well-taken care of.

I eliminated my distractions from home, and had few needs, so I could usually code all day. My host mother would often find me in the same place on the couch as when she saw me one or two days before. Yes, I did get out and hike and play at the beach. But inclement weather often forced me to stay inside and focus.

The time difference wasn’t a big problem because I was mostly doing the program on my own. I had to meet with my mentor at Bloc weekly, and we coordinated that easily online. I finished the program in Crete, and then spent the last month before my visa expired traveling around Europe.

That’s when things got difficult. The word traveling comes from travailing, and I referred to that fact often. Once, after traveling almost 24 hours, I was looking forward to getting some good sleep in Athens. I was exhausted and had bizarre stomach spasms on the metro while heading to the AirBNB apartment. You know what they didn’t mention in the reviews? That this apartment was above a club that didn’t get started blasting music until after 10pm and didn’t let up until after 3am. I hardly slept for three days because even with earplugs, my room was pulsing with the beat of the music.

I was moving around at least every week, and lodging varied. Sometimes I was comfortable, and sometimes I was miserable. Once a host was in another country when he was supposed to be receiving me. I remember sitting on his steps in Lisbon, desperate for an Internet connection so I could reach him. I was coming off a week-long illness, and trying to take care of myself. I felt raindrops on my head, and then my nose started to bleed. Just great.

Don’t get me wrong. It was magical to be in Santorini one week, then in Bordeaux a few days later, then in Lisbon because why not? I was also diligently coding to further my skills, and applying for remote work.

After bouncing around for that month, I was tired down to my bones. The idea of being a traveling web developer is nice. Now I know that if I go for it again, I will do it slowly. I’ll do long stays like I did in Crete, where I was in an area for so long that I was adopted by a local family and had the time to foster a stray dog (Lucy! the love of my life).

But I might wait until I can figure out how I can take a huge monitor along with me because professionally coding on this MacBook Air is a pain in the butt.

Quick wrap-up of places I visited in Europe:

  • Athens, Greece: People say it’s only worth a quick trip to see the Acropolis. I didn’t feel that way. I loved the vibrancy and diversity of the city. Surprises were around every corner.
  • Chania, Crete, Greece: Maybe the greatest place in the world? Definitely on the short list. The water is so clear. In the winter, you can be frolicking at the beach with snow-capped mountains behind you. It’s healthy cuisine, chased by irresistible pastries and raki. Always raki.
  • Santorini, Greece: Magical. Might be another realm. If Chania isn’t the greatest place in the world, this probably is. There’s a dog living in Atlantis Books. I miss him.
  • Bordeaux, France: Supposedly beautiful and great. I was mostly cold and confused there.
  • Lisbon, Portugal: Awesome. Go for the food, drink, the passion, the beauty. If someone tells you there isn’t a beach in Lisbon, they are wrong! It’s my favorite gathering spot there. It’s also tiny.
  • Seville, Spain: Has my favorite building in Europe: The Plaza de Espana. Seville is gorgeous, delicious, and fun.
  • London, England: Cold and dreary. Expensive. Hotels are often expensive and miserable. The Wimbledon Tour is SO FUN! I can’t tell if I love London or hate it.

Shout outs to places I previously visited in Europe:

  • Cambridge, England: My academic heaven. I studied abroad here one summer and it was aggressively delightful. Can’t say enough good things about this place. Do not walk on the lawn at the colleges!
  • Iceland: Raw and real. I was cold and wind-whipped, and totally alive. The people are deeply kind. I hope I can spend a lot more time here.
  • Edinburgh, Scotland: It’s as charming as an Alexander McCall Smith novel. Great place to be in the summer.
  • Paris, France: Surprised you haven’t given me gout yet. The catacombs are a must. I don’t understand how they have cheese masquerading as yogurt.

Thank you to Joe Cumins who inspired this post!