198 Days on the Road: Traveling and Working

It’s been a wild ride this past year. First, we left our jobs at Moovweb. I’d been the CTO there (or various other roles) for almost 4 full years. I had an absolute blast growing a team, mentoring our developers, and building a huge, amazing business. I started when there were just 7 employees, and left when it was closer to 150.

I got to learn a lot about myself, about enterprise software, and about what I love doing. It’s been pretty funny because since leaving I’ve had a couple of people come up to me and say, “I bet you hated being an executive instead of getting to program.” That couldn’t be further from the truth: I actually loved it! I didn’t miss programming at all. Programming is a skill I have, appreciate, and enjoy, but it’s just one way to get the job – building awesome stuff for awesome people – done.

Michael and I are married and were working together at Moovweb. We found that we were actually sad we couldn’t work together more. Hence we decided to go traveling for a while and figure out what our next project was.

Countries visited on our trip (plus Canada & USA);
Europe map by Sebastian’s Drawings

We’ve traveled to 10 countries, been on the road for 198 days (as of writing this article), and we still have another month to go. It’s been awesome, exhausting, and largely unproductive. We’ve found it’s really impossible to finish any major project of any size when you’re moving all the time. Having stability in your life is key to being able to stay productive day after day and not get distracted. We’d get 3/4ths through a project, then move countries or speak at a couple of conferences or explore a new place. By the time all of that is done, you’ve totally forgotten about the project.

If we had a particular client or some external party keeping us on task, it would probably not have gone down this way. But when it’s just us working on projects we are passionate about and coming up with, it’s hard to not totally forget what you were doing two weeks ago.

In fact, it’s so bad that we had to come up with a notebook page to list projects that we’ve started that are unfinished. It’s got about 20 things on it!

If you want to make yourself even less productive before you start a world conference tour, then how about being in the middle of a major media firestorm and getting death threats delivered to your house? Yeah. Not exactly something that puts you in a creative mode.

After the Mozilla stuff, I wished I would never talk about it again with anyone. Even typing this makes me afraid that I’m going to cause another stir or someone will send me a nasty note again. Blood pressure goes up and it’s hard to even want to post anything.

On the plus side, we’ve had an awesome time meeting people at the conferences we’ve gone to. Being without income, we’ve mostly made the travel happen by speaking at a lot of different events and stitching together flights, hotel rooms, and AirBnBs in such a way that we don’t go totally broke.

And, while it’s been a great experience, I would not recommend this for anyone who is trying to work on their own side project and turn it into a business. Stay home!

At this point, we’re figuring out what we want to do next. We’ve been talking to some really cool companies who might want me to come in and take over the CTO role, and we’ve also been looking at the various projects we’ve worked on and see if we’re up to building some of those into real businesses.

We are actively looking for contract work where someone needs a product built. We have so much pent up productivity, we’re ready to go crazy on something! So, if you know of a project, get in touch with us. We specialize in Rails work and product design and planning.

I’m also considering writing a bit more about the projects we’ve been working on. Maybe those of you out there will be that outside force to keep us concentrating on one – if you think it sounds interesting.

Only 27 days left till we are back in San Francisco, and, to be honest, we can’t fucking wait to sit on our own couch again.

Hampton headHampton Catlin is the creator of Sass, Haml, Tritium, and Wikipedia mobile. He’s one part back end developer, one part startup leader, and one part chaos monky. He’s also CEO of rarebit, which he co-founded with his husband. He speaks at a lot of conferences, writes a lot of code, and spends way too much time on Twitter at @hcatlin.