Interview with Danny van Kooten, location independent WordPress programmer
Meet Danny, a 24 year old location independent WordPress programmer from the Netherlands.
Danny joined our last Tarifa Workation and he’s got an interesting story to tell. So I thought I’d do an interview with him about his thoughts on location independence…
How do you make a living online?
Working as a web developer, I started out by doing freelancing gigs for small companies when I was still in University. Since I never met any of my clients in person, I always worked from home or wherever I was at that moment.
2 years ago, I built my first product while I was hospitalized in Vietnam. I sold the first copy just a few hours after I finished setting up my shop and woke up the next morning to an inbox full of sales.
Right now, I’m doing no more client work and am fully focusing on developing and selling software products. My most important product right now is freemium, meaning it’s available free of charge with some paid additional features. It’s called MailChimp for WordPress and broke the 1 million downloads milestone recently.
Tell us more about your experience as a digital nomad?
Most of my time is spent in either Thailand or The Netherlands, alternating the two every winter and summer. When spending the summer back home, I tend to do somewhat shorter trips every month or so.
Most of my work is done in Chiang Mai, a city in Northern Thailand that is packed with self-proclaimed digital nomads. I really like the place as you can live relatively cheap, the internet is good, food is great and there is no shortage of coworking offices. The weather is good (not super hot) and the mountains make for great motorbike rides.
Most of the coworking offices are open 24 hours a day. There is always someone who gets in before you and leaves after you, which always motivates me. The vibe is great and, unlike back home, I’m surrounded by like-minded people.
The work / life balance really helps me to get shit done. I want to be as efficient as possible so I can go out and enjoy myself, instead of spreading out my work over the course of a day.
How did you get started?
When I was around 18 years old I read the 4 hour workweek by Tim Ferris – it opened up a world of possibilities for me.
I’ve been programming since I was about 12 years old but reading the book made me decide I wanted to live abroad while working for companies in my home country. There was one problem though, I had already enrolled University studying Computer Science. Quitting would mean a huge student debt so I sort of had to see it through until the end.
Just 1 year later, I started out by spending 8 months in Asia for an internship. The internship was a remote one so while the company was located in Bangkok I spent my days working from hostels around Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Malaysia.
While in Vietnam I underwent surgery for acute appendicitis for which I had to spend 2 weeks in the hospital. Bored out of my mind I decided to get started on that product idea I had for a while now. That week I built a rough first version of the product I’m now working full-time on, I actually hired my first full-time employee last month. :-)
What advice would you give other people to get started?
If you have a way of working online – just go for it. If you’re from a Western country then chances are the countries you will be visiting are way cheaper than your home country anyway.
I tend to talk to so many people who dream of a life spent traveling around but most seem to be waiting for “the right moment”. It seems that the people I meet on the road are just the opposite. Most of them just go for it and see whatever happens – in most cases it works out quite well!
Even if you’re not working online there are so many ways in which you can make it work. I truly think that being stuck at home in your “safe” routine kills your creativity for things like this – just go out there and you’ll be amazed by what you can come up with.
What do you like most about your lifestyle?
That definitely has to be the freedom that comes with it. It is a lovely feeling being able to choose where to spend your time, not being bound to one single place.
Even though I tend to put in a lot of work when I’m in a place I have visited before, it’s so much different from working back home. I’m never staying in one place for over 2 months. I get more work done and still get to enjoy the perks of the place I’m in; be it great food, riding a motorbike through the mountains, spending my mornings on a beach or enjoying a drink with like minded individuals.
Coming back home after some time abroad is great as well. I always come back with new or improved appreciation for my home country, my girlfriend and the friends I left behind.
What are your future workation plans?
At the moment I am writing this from Punspace, a co-working office in Chiang Mai. Next week I’m visiting a friend in Beijing and staying there for a week.
Afterwards, I’m most likely coming back to Chiang Mai since I want to ride a motorbike to the Myanmar border. The other option right now is for me to head down to Indonesia if they started burning the rice fields already and the smoke turns out to be bad.
Then I’m going back to the Netherlands to visit a music festival with friends and I’m probably heading to the Tarifa Workation in April. I’m not sure of any of this yet, but that’s what I love about it the most. :-)