How I learned to code while travelling

The nomadic lifestyle gives you plenty of time to learn, but can also be isolating. Make sure you have people around to give you feedback and help you when you get stuck.

In many ways I’m just another white collar employee turned digital nomad. I check all the boxes: quit my job to travel, found a way to earn money remotely and now, here I am writing a blog post about it. Check, check and check.

Unlike many other nomads I’ve met along the way, I did not start out building an online business, or writing a blog. I did not even start out on a beach (though I ended up on one not much later). Instead I started out learning to code. I wanted to be able to build things while also solve complex, abstract problems and coding seemed to combine both things perfectly.

Learning on the road

Luckily, the nomadic lifestyle is perfectly suited for learning. Life is cheaper (or at least it can be), you have all the time in the world to learn and, as you’re moving around, not a lot of social (or other) obligations to distract you. In addition travelling offers you many opportunities to take the kind of breaks people back home can only dream off.

But learning on the road also brings some challenges. For one, you need to know what and how you want to learn. One of the hardest parts of starting this journey is knowing where to start. What should you learn first? How do you break down this immense thing into manageable pieces?

Know what to learn and have a routine

The good news is that when it comes to learning to program, the first steps are pretty well documented and good resources are readily available online. There’s a bunch of online courses and books you can start with (personally I got started with Learn Python the Hard Way).

If you’re learning something that’s less accessible, I would encourage you to try and find people online who did similar things and ask them how they went about it. You could probably learn a lot from their experience and mistakes.

Setting weekly goals
Setting weekly goals

The second thing you need is a solid routine. Learning pushes you out of your comfort zone. At times you will struggle and lose motivation. You may feel stupid, or feel like you’re not making enough progress. What will get you through these moments is a set of habits.

And example would be: wake up, learn, eat, learn, nap, exercise, learn, socialize, sleep. But ultimately the routine you decide on is going to depend on your sleeping patterns, personal preferences and travel schedule.

The first roadblocks

For the first months I was on a roll. I had a routine and was reaching my goals, while steadily making my way through the resources and tutorials I had accumulated beforehand. But then came the end of my programming books and the road ahead got far less clear.

As it turns out, when it comes to programming, the internet is pretty good at getting you started, but far less successful at helping you map out a curriculum after that initial stage.

“No problem”, I thought. I figured the best way to learn is by building a small project. So, I thought up a random app and started hacking.

It took some sweat but the project got build. I learned a lot. At this point, however, I realized just how much I didn’t know and how much I still had to learn. I knew how to write a piece of code in one specific way, but I had no way to tell whether that was the right way. It’s akin to writing a book but having no one around to read it.

This article was originally written by Anouk Ruhaak and appeared on Medium on May 27, 2015. You can read the rest of the article on Medium.

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