How a world trip made a programmer’s career

A man sitting on a couch and working at a laptop

A man sitting on a couch and working at a laptop. Photo: hobvias sudoneighm / Flickr

Planning a round-the-world trip can seem as complicated as a space shuttle launch.  There a million things to think about: plane tickets, visas, money, etc.  The hard part is that everything seems important.  Where to begin?

Alex MacCaw wrote a helpful, in-depth post titled, “How to travel around the world for a year.”  Although he’s mainly talking to a Silicon Valley audience, his insights and practical advice would appeal to anyone.

What struck me about his post was that MacCaw’s trip was actually a boost to his career.   Anyone who’s considered a career break has probably encountered some nay-sayers around the office.  They often say things like, “It’s a tough economy, better hold onto your job,” “You’re so close to getting a promotion!” “Don’t throw away your career!”  (Spoiler alert) By the end of the trip, MacCaw got a sweet job at Twitter.

How did the trip impact his employment prospects?  One of the decisive benefits was that travel afforded him a lot of free time, a scarce commodity in today’s fast-paced world.  He wrote a programming book, did some coding for open-source projects, and joined e-mail lists of other developers that he met up with on the road.  All of these things contributed to his resume.

On a personal note, reading that post reminded me of the many computer and tech professionals I’ve met around the world.  There was one memorable occasion at a hostel in Hong Kong: every one of my roommates was either a university student majoring in computer science, or already working in information technology.  That might have rubbed off of me, since I later became a Linux user and studied web design.

Do you work with computers?  Do you work during your travels?  Please share your stories in the comments.

Posted by | Comments (4)  | February 3, 2012
Category: Backpacking, Notes from the collective travel mind, Vagabonding Advice

4 Responses to “How a world trip made a programmer’s career”

  1. Marco Ferrarese Says:

    Oh yes I do work on my travels… and I am proud to say that these days I can finance at least part of my budget by typing away for blogs and other websites…the problem is to find the right work/travel balance, as of course when hitting new destinations, we all want to enjoy the sights and soak up the atmosphere before starting to type away at our laptops!! My advice on finding web work to finance your trips is: find your niche, and be irreplaceable for someone. This way, they will give you freelance work even if you are backpacking across Asia. And get yourself a smartphone to use as your modem, thus avoiding a virus infested computer!!

  2. Scott Says:

    The key here is that Alex did some work while he was traveling. He didn’t let his skills stagnate.

    I did the same thing. I developed a few websites as a UN Online Volunteer while I traveled for a year. Additionally, I forced myself to use some different technologies so I would be more marketable when I got back from my travels.

  3. Rolf Potts Says:

    This is a great example of how, with a little focus and awareness on the part of the traveler, a long-term journey can diversify (instead of compromise) one’s employment prospects. I’d reckon Silicon Valley types aren’t the only ones to have found this to be true…

  4. Jason Morrison Says:

    Absolutely. My wife and I are traveling in Asia for a year. I’m a developer and consult for a handful of people back at home as I go, programming and writing. It’s a blast meeting folks in grand new places, technical or not. Our cost of living is lower than before, so I have more free time – it’s almost a challenge to structure it sometimes, there’s so much!

    I find the remote work a little lonely, same as I did when I was remote gigging in college. It’s good to have folks to talk shop with in person, and local user groups and conferences do a great job for that.

    I’m sure we’ll be happy to return to the US after a year, but for now it’s a blast!