Brian Shaler

Occasionally Interesting

Gravity is for chumps

2013: A year of working from anywhere

It would be nice to recap the year using photos and a map, but for now a list of places and events will have to suffice.

January: I booked a flight to Amsterdam for a couple weeks to couch surf with a friend I met at SXSW years prior. While there, I noticed 3 of the most intelligent and interesting people I know from around the world were converging in Switzerland to attend the World Economic Forum and figured, what the heck, why not swing by and try to crash some parties? I found a cheap flight from Rotterdam (less than an hour from Amsterdam by train) to Geneva, where I rented a car and drove across the country to Davos. Turns out you can’t really crash parties at the World Economic Forum; there are too many fully-automatic assault rifles. Driving through the Swiss Alps made the entire trip worth it. Incredible.

February: I attended a small tech conference on a boat in the British Virgin Islands. I figured if I was going to spend all kinds of money to be on the boat for a week, I might as well make a trip of it and spent a week with a friend who coincidentally lives a stone’s throw from where the conference’s boat was docked. There’s not much to do on Caribbean islands when you’re not on vacation or spending money, so I tend to be very, very productive. I remember making excellent progress on a Node.js CLI app to render videos of cars spinning around for my client.

March: I didn’t leave the country, but I went to Texas for SXSW, and that’s pretty close. I stayed with an old friend (since 5th grade!), who recently had a kid. Oh, how fast life whizzes by when you spend your life on the go and only check in with someone every year or two.

April: I went back to New Zealand, and this time I reserved a campervan in advance and spent most of my 3 week stay gallivanting around the kiwi country side while working from wifi-enabled commercial camp sites (“holiday parks”) from Auckland to Queenstown. Two weeks in 2012 wasn’t enough. Three weeks in 2013 wasn’t enough. I desperately want to go back as soon as possible for a greater number of weeks, which I’m sure will also not be enough.

May: I attended another tech conference, this time in Belize with 27 CTOs, investors, and startup founders. It was only a few days long, so I hopped over to Ambergris Caye, which was recently in the news as part of John McAfee’s saga.

June: I spent a week in Germany tending to a 2 year old physical installation I worked on at Volkswagen’s Autostadt.

July: Upon getting my passport back from the Chinese consulate faster than expected, I was free to leave the country during July. I wanted to keep my streak of leaving the country every month (except for March) going, so I hopped up to Vancouver for a week. First time to Canada! I napped in my third hammock of the year, which made me realize I had napped in hammocks in three different countries in 2013, none of which were in the USA.

August: I slowly made my way to Beijing, with a multi-day layover in Hawaii to visit friends. After a couple days in Beijing, I met up with a couple friends from NYC in front of a coffee shop, where we were swooped up and taken to the DPRK.

September: After a week in the DPRK, we returned to Beijing, where I stayed an additional 10 days before slowly making my way back to the Arizona with a 10-day stopover in Hawaii. I didn’t know where I should stay in Beijing, but after reading a summary of some of the districts, I booked a hotel in “the Silicon Valley of China,” Zhongguancun.

October: I wanted to visit a friend of mine in London, but he had to go to Dublin to speak at Web Summit. He was able to secure a spare ticket, so I darted off to Ireland and then England—first time anywhere in the British Isles!

November & December: I ended up just shuttling back and forth between NYC and PHX for Thanksgiving (PHX) and Christmas (NYC).

What an exhausting year! The only downside of my travel in 2013 was that almost every trip was about 2 weeks long, which is not very practical or economical when leaving the country or crossing an ocean. Instead of boomeranging out of the country and back many times, I would prefer to wander more slowly and go to more places when visiting a region. Hopefully I can make that happen in 2014.

8 Responses to “2013: A year of working from anywhere”

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    Hey man, sound like you had a fun year of travel. I’m curious, how were you able to work while traveling so much? Were you doing full time hours or something more like 5-10 hrs a week? Also, how did you manage getting new work while traveling? Was that hard to manage and keep the pipeline full?


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