September 13, 2009, 3:48 PM — I'm at my laptop today, working in the cafe part of Malaprop's Bookstore and Cafe in Asheville, North Carolina, reading an article about how doing what I'm doing might be unrealistic.
[ See also: What kind of digital nomad are you? ]
The cafe offers free Wi-Fi, and electrical outlets if you're willing to sit on barstools at two circular, raised tables where all the plugs are.
My wife and I, both lippies (location-independent professionals), came to this city mainly to eat. We heard Asheville is the vegetarian capital of the United States. (My wife writes about vegetarian cooking.) We spent the day, then stuck around for a second day. The plan is to work for awhile here in the bookstore, then go on a long hike in the nearby Smoky Mountains. Hopefully we'll work off some of that organic vegetarian food we ate too much of.
We've been on the road for three and a half weeks now, driving around the US. All the while, we're putting in the usual hours of daily work. We work in the car, in cafes, in hotels and in the homes of friends and relatives we might visit. When we're not working, we're kinda sorta on vacation, seeing the sights and generally goofing around.
The article I mentioned was written by Oliver Burkeman for The Guardian newspaper. His piece reaches no conclusions, and makes few judgments. He points out that all the stars are aligned for him to join the growing lippy movement — no kids, youngish, and "with one of those foppish jobs you can do almost entirely on a laptop " — yet he remains skeptical. "Is it a realistic option?," he asks in the column's deck.
From my vantage point here in Asheville, where I have finished a column, worked on my book, conducted some research, answered some business-related e-mail and am now writing a blog post, I'd say the answer is: yes.
But Burkeman's skepticism is perfectly valid. For most of my career, I edited technology magazines. I managed staff. I had children at home and a scary mortgage. If you would have told me 20, 10, or even 5 years ago that I'd be able to make a living from anywhere, that I would spend months lingering in far-off locations, I'd have said you were nuts.
But a series of revolutions happened. First, the Internet, then the mobile-computing and smart phone revolutions. Wi-Fi happened. Everywhere. Now, the Web 2.0 revolution sparked a thousand services that make working while traveling more "realistic." And easier, cheaper, and more fun, too.