Digital Nomadism

Step into my office

Step into my office. I’ll be able to work from wherever I can get a cell phone signal.

Hating on cubicles is my favorite dead horse to beat. I have held onto the hope that I would never have to go back to one again. That’s why it thrills me with joy to write about a positive development in my work life.

I’ve accepted a part-time (4-hours a day) support engineer position that will involve JavaScript programming. It allows me to telecommute. I can live anywhere, so long as I have an internet connection and am available during the work hours. After taxes, I’ll be lucky if I am making more than $1000 per month, but that is enough to cover my moorage, food, medical insurance, and upkeep – my cost of living. I’ve successfully merged frugality with technology in order to maximize my leisure time.

Anacortes friends

I didn’t waste any time getting together with close friends in Anacortes. Our favorite activities are hiking with the family. Who needs money for that?

Time spent not working will be spent however I want. However, I feel moved to write books and build open source inventions, which may or may not make me money and may or may not make the world a better place. By continuing a lot of the cooking and provisioning practices I’ve adopted in my voyage, I can live frugally while eating healthy. I’ll barely have any disposable income if I subsist on this small salary, but I can always pick up odd jobs around town or freelance jobs on oDesk. I’ll have the time! And I can choose to spend it however I wish.

Most importantly, I’m content and happy. I’ve never been as content and happy as I have been these last three months. The personal infrastructure I’ve assembled, combined with this new job, will allow me to continue this liveaboard/cruising lifestyle indefinitely. I will get moorage in the San Juan Islands this fall in order to have a home-base to weather out storms, charge batteries, and take on water in-between three to four day cruises.

I like programming. I like the intellectual challenge of it and the raw creative power it can tap into. But too much and it becomes a terrible, soul-killing job. As I sailed south, I began to wonder… “What if I only worked part time?”, I thought. Enough to cover my basic cost of living, and short enough that I could look forward to work instead of dreading it. Is that even possible? If so, why don’t other people do it?!?

A few days after being back in the States, I started looking for just such a job. Part-time telecommuting jobs are not common and very competitive, and yet there was one waiting for me on StackOverflow when I finally pulled up the website. It was as if it was written just for me. It nailed all my requirements for an ideal working situation. I nailed every requirement they needed. They were thrilled to receive my application and within a few days we began to finalize our terms. The free, online programming courses I’ve been completing at Code School certainly helped me stand out as a good candidate.

Motley crew of sailors

I wasted no time in getting back together with this motley crew of sailors either. We all catch up aboard Sookie as she swings on the travel lift.

Mastering True Wealth

With the acceptance of this job and completion of my voyage, I feel that I have truly mastered the four pillars of True Wealth: time allocation, true materialism, self-provisioning, and social capital.

There is no part of my tiny floating home that I can’t repair. From outboard to anchor and keel to mast, I’ve learned how it works and how to recover quickly in the face of a malfunction. I’ve mastered the art of self-provisioning in the San Juan Islands. I know where the wild food is, how and when to harvest it, and how to preserve it. Over the last few years I’ve consciously and conscientiously grown and bolstered my social capital. I have a network of friends and family I know I can count on if I need support, just as they know they can rely on me.


Ayn Rand QuoteWhen I turned around in my voyage north, it was due to a strong urge I couldn’t explain. It wasn’t homesickness or fear or nostalgia. Something deep within me just knew it was time to return. I couldn’t explain it to myself, so I don’t have much hope of explaining it here. All I can say is that listening to these urges have never steered me wrong, so I’ve learned to trust them.

Is there no connection between my urge to turn back and my luck at nailing a unicorn of a job? Is there really no connection between my deep desire to see a dolphin and my escort by a lone dolphin last year? Was there no connection between that home-coming and the reception by Orcas I had this year?

Perhaps I’m connecting dots where no pattern exists. Perhaps it’s synchronicity. Perhaps it’s coincidence. Perhaps there is no real difference between the two. Am I a ‘me’ living a ‘life’, or am I a ‘life’ living a ‘me’?

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7 Responses to “Digital Nomadism”
  1. Emily says:

    Now that you don’t need business casual you can finally invest in that utili kilt…it’ll look great with your new peace sign sweater.

  2. Chris,

    You figured out what you wanted, worked towards it and made it happen. No surprise there. Congrats and we’re excited to catch up soon and see more photos of your adventures.
    Also, check out I’ve actually picked up work through that site that have turned into long term clients. Pretty cool to both be in the same realm of working from our locals of choice! We should have goat babies any day now, so the ‘Farm TV’ from my office window is getting good. 🙂

    Katie and Mark

    • Chris says:

      More goat babies!? Yay!

      Yes, I hope to sail up to Bellingham soon. I’ll let you know as I firm up plans. Things are a bit up in the air until I find permanent moorage.

  3. Laura says:

    Greetings, fellow remote tech worker! I recently moved to SJI and also work in the web development industry. Still getting used to being “remote”, but so far I’m *loving* it. Curious what backup plan(s) you have in place to maintain network connectivity? Since we learned earlier this week that SJI infrastructure is fragile enough that we can lose broadband AND mobile/wireless at the same time.

    P.S. I love your blog! We should connect, if you’re interested? If for no other reason than to help you find a job, though I bet we have other things in common, given the title of your blog. (Disclaimer: I’m NOT a tech recruiter, but most of my Linkedin contacts are in the industry and a few of them are recruiters, so maybe I could help?)

    • Chris says:

      When I heard about the internet outage on San Juan Island, I was wondering the same thing. The nice thing about having a boat is that I can move my ‘office’ to the nearest cell-phone tower should I find myself stuck in something like what happened in San Juan Island. I have a 6 GB per month hot-spot through Virgin Mobile, as well as an external cell-phone antenna/signal-booster on the boat. I probably would have just sailed over to Fisherman’s Bay on Lopez, or if that didn’t work, head over to the east side of the islands where I can pick up a signal from the mainland.

      I’d love to connect! I’ll be in touch.

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