Where to go for my high-tech sabbatical
March 24, 2010 1:15 AM   Subscribe

Help me find the perfect international destination for my high-tech sabbatical

I'm going to be taking a month off my job in the San Francisco Bay Area to go live and work abroad on building a web app that I hope to turn into a successful startup. Getting away from it all is key to me finding the time to focus on getting things done, similar to how a writer might seclude himself to work on a novel.

I'd like to go somewhere international that is fairly affordable, and so far the two destinations I have in mind are Argentina (Buenos Aires) and Thailand (not sure what city yet).

I'm willing to spend a few thousand on accommodations (my rent in SF is already $2500 per month) and a few things are important: I must be able to find food and entertainment without driving, and I need to have access to a reasonably fast Internet connection, preferably in the place that I'm staying.

What do you think? Am I even considering the right places? Is there anywhere else I should be adding to my list of contenders? Bonus points for thoughts from people who are in my line of work and understand what I'll need to get things done while I'm away, and from people who have been to either of these destinations and can add color that will help me figure out what place is best for a gay late-twenties startup geek who needs a break.
posted by superboy422 to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Internet in Thailand can be spotty and even when working the speeds aren't that great (at least in my experience) so you might want to eliminate that one. I've heard Costa Rica is nice and can be affordable, but don't have any direct experience with it.
posted by sharkfu at 1:29 AM on March 24, 2010

Europe? Australia?
posted by jannw at 1:38 AM on March 24, 2010

Argentina is definitely a decent idea. I've also heard that Bulgaria is very easy on the wallet.
posted by genericdave at 1:52 AM on March 24, 2010

I had quite a pleasant break where I took a bit of work along with me on Langkawi in Malaysia a few years ago; pretty touristy though in a low-key way and I suspect more expensive than Thailand but relaxing and I got the work done. Not been myself, but have read that the Perhentian Islands might be even better, though not sure what Internet access would be like (which was easy to find on Langkawi)
posted by Abiezer at 2:17 AM on March 24, 2010

I spent a winter in Cuernavaca and it is still my dream to move there full time when my career and my wife's progress to the point where we can work from anywhere we like.
posted by 256 at 6:47 AM on March 24, 2010

Estonia might fit your needs.
posted by arimathea at 7:06 AM on March 24, 2010

I'm a little biased, but I'm going to suggest İstanbul. Flights from San Fran are about $1000 round trip. One month's rent in a furnished place will only set you back about $500 (maybe a little more if you don't want to share with anyone). In a neighborhood like Cihangir (cheaper, a bit dirtier) or Nişantışı (more expensive and upper class), you'll find anythıng you need within walking distance, groceries, restaurants, clubs, etc. Internet is usually quite fast most places, but check in advance. There are also a lot of working professionals - and many expats - and so finding a place with an English speaking, responsable person won't be hard.

There is SO much to do in the city, I love it. I think it might fit your needs quite well.
posted by hasna at 7:16 AM on March 24, 2010

Wow, I hate to have to say this, but I think you are approaching this exactly the wrong way. In order to achieve the focus you seek, you need to lock yourself in your bathroom (living room, kitchen, bedroom, closet are all too pleasant, too distracting), tell all but one friend you have gone to Rio via Thuket, and pay that one friend to slip spinach leaves under the bathroom door 3 times a day. For writing a novel, one could argue that travel would be inspiring, but for writing software? No. A new city? New foods to try? New sounds to fall asleep to? It'll soak up all your bandwidth. Writing software is an interior journey. Even net access is a bad idea. set yourself up a 3 computer network in your bathroom, get the software tools you need, and have at it. Also, your money will go further if you don't spend it on a second place to stay (you're not giving up your current abode, right?) and airfare.

Is there some subtext I'm missing? Or maybe my brain just operates differently than yours, but... no. If you fear you won't be able to get out of your day-to-day, maybe a cross-bay friend's bathroom, an RV park in Daly City, or a Mini-Storage shed. But, even those have new cafe's to check out, new people to meet - all the things that make travel intrinsically worthwhile, and therefore bad for focus time.

Wait, it's not clear whether you already have the concept for the website inmind, or are seeking inspiration. My comments apply to the former. If the latter, well, for that, i charge for my time.

(Can't believe I refrained from the Bangkok and Phuket jokes).
posted by at at 8:42 AM on March 24, 2010

@at, you definitely bring up a great point. I think I've convinced myself that a change of scenery is necessary because of some demanding personal relationships and other complications in my daily life. The reason I thought of this is because when I was traveling a few summers ago I managed to get a lot done on an iPhone app I was building by spending time in coffee shops in NYC, and I wondered if that experience might translate to doing something similar overseas. I appreciate your point of view, though, because if I do this I'm really going to need to exercise some discipline to make sure I achieve what I want to during the limited time I will have. Thanks for the bucket of ice water. :)
posted by superboy422 at 10:16 AM on March 24, 2010

If you've proven you work well in coffee shops then do you need to be in a whole new country?

Could you take yourself and hole up in a previously unvisited coffee shop for the day?

Perhaps a new venue every day, to shake things up slightly.
posted by Simon_ at 11:33 AM on March 24, 2010

I'd say anywhere TOO different, like Buenos Aires or Thailand, would probably distract you.

However, somewhere else in the US, similar culture, and not too much that you want to see (maybe somewhere you're already familiar with but you don't have too many connections that you would want to see while visiting?) might be a better choice. As long as they is some sort of local music scene or something you'll be able to find new entertainment that was previously unavailable to you, and I'm sure you can find a place with good food.

I'm very biased, being that it's the only place I've ever known well, but I think that somewhere like Seattle might suit your needs better.

Or maybe a beachy vacation resort meant for relaxing rather than being active and seeing things all the time?
posted by R a c h e l at 1:03 AM on March 25, 2010

It's against the spirit of the question, but I'm with at. If you want to get out of the house, you shouldn't be thinking about Bangkok, you should be thinking about someplace like Kansas. Pick somewhere that has a comfortable (not luxurious) hotel room with a good internet connection and a diner within walking distance.

Choose someplace where the best, most interesting option is sitting at the hotel room computer desk and coding.
posted by jmevius at 2:57 PM on March 25, 2010

Building on what jmevius and at have said, if you really think you need a break from your current location, but want to be able to buckle down and get a lot of work done, I would suggest somewhere a bit closer to home, maybe a slightly smaller, but fun and quirky American city. You could go somewhere like Davis, CA or Bellingham WA or any number of places like that. The rents will be cheaper than large cities (in general) and the airfare/travel costs will be much lower than Thailand.

You'd be in a place that is a break form your normal life rhythms and away from most of your personal connections, but the way of life won't be quite so extremely foreign and distracting. If you chose a nice place to visit you'll have places to walk to and enough stuff to do to not gouge your eyes out, but you'll still probably end up spending most of your time working.
posted by vegetableagony at 7:37 AM on April 14, 2010

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