loading...
Cover image for Coding Out of a Van in New Zealand

Coding Out of a Van in New Zealand

mikeschultz profile image Mike Schultz ใƒป3 min read

We all know about remote jobs and how productive you can still be outside of an office setting. But what about working remotely? And I mean really remotely.

I have been traveling the world for the past 6 months, working remotely as a Software Engineer. Currently I have been in New Zealand for the past couple months, traveling the islands, taking tons of pictures, and working remotely - all from the comfort of my campervan. Striving for that ultimate work/life balance, optimizing any free time to go exploring, and to enjoy my passion of photography.

I get asked quite often how I'm able to work on the road, and how I deal with keeping connected. I figured I'd share my experience so far and what's unique to coding remotely! I won't bore you with the details of utilizing slack for communication, and how to deal with timezones as I'm sure every digital nomad article out there touches on that. Instead, I'll share the quirks and challenges that I deal with on the road - from finding places to work at to searching for the next place to spend the night.

Places to work

When you're on the road...the road is your workplace! I find a balance between coffee shops, libraries, or even just out of the campervan very flexible.

Alt Text

And you get to work out of some pretty awesome places:

Alt Text

(ok this is actually in Melbourne, Australia, but it'd definitely one of the coolest libraries I've been to).

But it's not all picturesque. I've definitely had some late nights in airports, buses, and hostels trying to hotfix some bugs.
or when it's rainy outside and you're confined to the campervan...

Alt Text

Internet

This is a TOUGH one. When you're mobile, you're relying on public wifi (cringe ๐Ÿ˜ฌ. Don't worry, I practice safe public wifi usage.) and tethering off of your mobile phone if you have signal.

For security concerns and speed, I tried to always tether off my phone. In New Zealand, pay-as-you go phone plans average about $70-80NZD (~$50USD) for 40-50GB. However once you run out, additional data becomes astronomical. I've seen $20NZD for every GB extra!

Needless to say, rationing of data became very real and I have a new appreciation towards the movement of towards Progressive Web Applications and keeping things RAIL - that is to make the web smaller, faster, and more efficient.

I ended up hopping network providers every time I ran out of data. Also have my US sim card (Google Fi) for emergency data.

Alt Text
(sim card graveyard)

Places to spend the night (or just work from).

New Zealand is one of the easiest places to live in a campervan - Freedom Camping.

All over the country are designated camping spaces where you can freely park, camp, and sleep from! These spaces most often have amenities such as toilets, dump stations (for your van), and sometimes have free wifi!

Alt Text

I found these sites the best to hunker down and get some long hours of work done without any distractions.

Alt Text
(Yeah, thats a freedom camping site. Cellular signal was great too!)

There are also a number of paid campgrounds with showers, kitchens, secured wifi (sometimes unlimited), and common lounging areas. I do recommend these for when you want a little bit of "luxury".

The Work-Life balance

This may seem like a lot of effort, just to travel - and you're right it is. In fact, I'm quite exhausted just typing all of this out! While coding and Software Engineering are my professional passions, photography and hiking are my personal passions. Traveling to the ends of the earth, waking up at 2am to hike to the top of the mountain just to catch the sunrise. It's what keeps my mind fresh and helps to bring new ideas to my life and career.

Alt Text
Alt Text

Quick plug for my instagram: https://www.instagram.com/pixelsight/

It's a journey not for everyone, but hopefully I've inspired some of you to try and find that work-life balance, no matter how extreme it is! Thanks for reading!

Discussion

pic
Editor guide
Collapse
sponno profile image
Sponno - AskNicely

Hey Mike,

When you come by auckland you should come say "hi", I run a software company in Ponsonby Auckland and have some pretty fast wifi outside my house if you are keen to park on the street for a night or two.

I also have working from a van (a bit). I bought a van earlier this year and have been loving travelling around NZ! I'm heading to the south island over xmas this year for a few weeks, so I might take some inspiration from your photos.

Collapse
mikeschultz profile image
Mike Schultz Author

Hey Sponno,

Thanks for the gracious offer! I might take you up on that if I swing by the area. South Island is going to be amazing down there! I spent the tail end of the winter there, and it was still a tad chilly (in the negative C). Cheers!

Collapse
sponno profile image
Sponno - AskNicely

Hey Mike,

Awesome, swing by when you are back here. follow me on Twitter (@sponno ) and we can message there.

Looking forward to your updates. John.

Collapse
crongm profile image
Carlos Garcia โ˜…

My experience is not as extreme as yours, but a job that lets you work remotely or "from home" is a beautiful benefit. I live in Mexico and I've had the chance to travel my country and work from different big cities, small towns, the beach, and I even got to travel abroad, know different places, and keep working anywhere. I even got to visit Sweden!

Collapse
mikeschultz profile image
Mike Schultz Author

Glad to hear it! The world is too large to stay in the same spot for too long.

Collapse
simonjoom profile image
simz

Hi mike,
Nice post, i'm currently in new zealand looking for a job as software engineer .; well , i'm not interested to go back in europe; if never you know some opportunities.
I work with reactjs / apollo / prisma and gatsby . I know Vue as well, and develop on it now for 1 Year
github.com/gatsbyjs/gatsby/tree/ma...

Thanks

Collapse
bwb profile image
Ben Fox

Well done, that is awesome :). I've done 2 years remote but I was switching AirBNB places up every 3 months or so and only did a month out of a van in NZ. Props to you as this is a great post!

Collapse
mikeschultz profile image
Mike Schultz Author

Thanks Ben! I enjoyed staying in airbnbs in large cities where getting around was no issue, but I couldn't sit still in New Zealand! Where have you been in your two years?

Collapse
bwb profile image
Ben Fox

Yep, I hear you, so many amazing things to see :)

I did 2 years where I did the first 6 months between Panama in a small town for a few weeks, a month in Cusco Peru, two months in Buenos Aires, and a month in Chile. Then I met my brother for a year in Melbourne Australia. Followed by six months, with a few weeks in Hong Kong, 2 months in Split Croatia, 2 months in Freiburg Germany, and a month in Scotland.

When my wife and I got married we did a year two, with 3 months in Nice France, 3 months in Split Croatia, 3 months in Nottingham England, and 3 months in Vienna Austria.

Great times :)

Collapse
sebalinares profile image
Sebastian Linares L.

Wow, this was kind of an "inception" for me, lol. Loved the photos in your IG ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿฝ๐Ÿ“ธ

Collapse
mikeschultz profile image
Mike Schultz Author

Haha thank you!

Collapse
designpuddle profile image
Chris Bertrand

Awesome! kudos for doing it, and for writing this post! Inspirational!

Collapse
mikeschultz profile image
Mike Schultz Author

Thanks! Just hoping to inspire a few!

Collapse
christiearcus profile image
Christie Metson

This is epic, thank you for sharing Mike! I've dabbled in remote working, but this is next level. Were you freelancing or working for a company full time while on the road?

Collapse
mikeschultz profile image
Mike Schultz Author

Happy to share! I've been with my current company for the past 5 years, only have been remote for the past 6 months - but yes! Still full time.

Collapse
ryandunn profile image
Ryan Dunn

Hey Mike,

I really enjoyed this, I've done a fair bit of hiking and living out of a van in my life but never combined it successfully with my software dev work. It's really inspiring to see something like this, especially when my life is so ingrained in the city right now, so thanks.

I'd love to know a bit more about how you made the transition to working like this if you get the time.

Collapse
drewtownchi profile image
Drew Town

Great pictures! NZ is one of my must visits. I can't say camper life is necessarily for me but I could probably do a few days in one. ๐Ÿ˜Š

Collapse
mikeschultz profile image
Mike Schultz Author

Thanks! I'd definitely give it a go for a few nights. NZ is very spread out and the campervans allow you to visit remote places. That being said, there are some quite luxurious campervan/RV options and some nice resort-style campsites with amenities.

Collapse
richzendy profile image
Edwind Richzendy

Awesome! thanks for sharing your experience, how about the social relationships there? why you don't use co-working places?

Collapse
mikeschultz profile image
Mike Schultz Author

I've got some friends luckily in the Auckland area. Aside from that, I've been meeting a ton of tourists from around the world and hanging with them for a few days to a week at a time. I probably have 20+ connections from Germany alone so far!

Co-working It's a bit tricky in New Zealand as there are not many large cities aside from Auckland, Christchurch, and Wellington. And keeping mobile for photography is one of my motivations in staying in a van. I did do quite a bit of co-working in Australia when I was more city-based.

Collapse
kingo55 profile image
Robert Kingston

Nice photo up on Roy's peak!

Collapse
mikeschultz profile image
Mike Schultz Author

Thanks! Woke up at 2am to hike that to catch the sunrise...but was worth it!

Collapse
dana94 profile image
Dana Ottaviani

Very inspirational, thanks for sharing.

Collapse
damntrecky profile image
Nick Ardecky

Great share. I can only imagine how good "CamperMate" sounds being said with an accent... I'm from the states.

Collapse
mikeschultz profile image
Mike Schultz Author

Oh yeah, it's even better when you extend that mate. CamperMaaaaate.

Collapse
boomboomvaldez profile image
Alex Valdez

that's cool. how long do you plan to stay in nz?

Collapse
mikeschultz profile image
Mike Schultz Author

Not too much longer! Just finishing up 3 months and off to the next adventure.

Collapse
spuccia profile image
spuccia

What a wonderful job!

Collapse
catherineedwards profile image
Catherine Edwards

Hey hey Mike! Inspiring and excellent post! If you're ever in Wellington, would love to host you :)

Collapse
mikeschultz profile image
Mike Schultz Author

Hey Catherine! Oh Wellington is amazing! I don't think I'll be stopping by again on this trip, but will touchbase if I'm back in New Zealand!

Collapse
florincornea profile image
Cornea Florin

Woow, awesome lifestyle!

Collapse
marcelimxo profile image
Marcelim Rondรณn

This is amazing, can't wait to hear more about your journey!

Collapse
hosseinnedaee profile image
Hossein Nedaee

So amazing
Hope for buying a van and a remote job

Collapse
helenasometimes profile image
Nienke

WOW! Goals :) I love NZ, would love to move there.