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Hi, Iโ€™m Meng To, author of Design+Code and world traveler. AMA!

 

by @mengto | 6yr  | 24 comments

Hi, Iโ€™m Meng, designer, coder and author of Design+Code. Iโ€™ve been traveling and working for 18 months across 30 cities, 20 countries and consumed a ton of coconut drinks.

My journey started because of a denied visa, and today I make 5x more money while traveling than I did in San Francisco. I accidentally built my own startup in the process and now have a remote team. Itโ€™s definitely possible to hit the road without sacrificing your tech lifestyle and entrepreneurial spirit.

Ask me anything!

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@levelsio | 6yr

Thanks everyone for asking questions and @MengTo for answering so expansively. :smiley:

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@mustapha | 6yr

How long before Design+Code were you designing, and coding for?

How much did you have saved up when you started on this journey?

Did you at any point feel like you were absolutely reckless for doing this?

What is your next lifeโ€™s task?

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@mengto | 6yr
  • Prior to the book, Iโ€™ve designed as a job for 14 years. 2 more years before that, as a hobby/student while going to high school.
  • I had around 20k. I soon realized that I couldnโ€™t travel for long with that money, so I took a job in Hong Kong for 6 months.
  • Reckless? I think thatโ€™s relative. Compared to staying home and saving money? Sure. But at the same time, you donโ€™t take risk, which probably wonโ€™t challenge your ideas the same way. Itโ€™s hard to see it at first, but it makes sense after a while. Eventually, you donโ€™t really think about it because it feels so natural. Who knows what kind of person Iโ€™d be if I didnโ€™t go to the US, or traveled for a year and a half afterwards. But Iโ€™m happy I did and it feels so right, even though it felt crazy at first.

I guess what Iโ€™m saying is that you should always be reckless. Keeps you hungry. That recklessness starts feeling normal.

  • Iโ€™d like to build a dream team and grow products, so that they mean even more. Tools, education, design. Iโ€™d like to settle, but keep traveling. My views have opened greatly and Iโ€™d like to bring those views to wherever I settle.

  • I have a Retina Macbook Pro. 16 GB RAM and a nice graphics card so I can play games when I feel inspired.

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@vleytman | 6yr

So nice to see you here. Read your book and your very inspiring story.
Could you tell how you transitioned from using large-size iMac to laptop (and btw, what size MacBook and Air/Pro do you use?).
Iโ€™m also faced with this question; it seems so interesting and promising to work on MacBook, but when I use it after bright and large-sized Thunderbird display, its likeโ€ฆ a porthole :wink: Not to mention all panels, even in Sketch, take too much screen spaceโ€ฆ Were you struggling with the same things? How did you solve them?

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@mengto | 6yr

Iโ€™m humbled to be here and to receive these amazing questions.

  • Currently, Iโ€™m working on a 15-inch Macbook Pro. I did travel and work on a Macbook Air for a year. I think the need of a big monitor or a mouse is an illusion, because itโ€™s really really hard to get out once youโ€™re used to it. But over the years, I found that itโ€™s a really good practice to get out of your comfort zone and really try new things. In fact, Iโ€™d force myself to, so I can understand better the people I design for. I did so with the Mac 10 years ago when I transitioned from Windows. Most recently with going mobile-first, using the Macbook, iPhone 6 Plus, etc. Itโ€™s only after a long period of time that you can truly judge the pros and cons. Traveling has been instrumental because it forced me to live with less materials.

  • I guess you learn how to work with full-screen windows instead of having them open next to each other (which I would argue is more distracting). Reality is that we all suck at multi-tasking. Command + ~, Command + Tab really helps.

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@vleytman | 6yr

Do you use Retina MacBook? As I have a choice of 13" Pro Retina and 15" Non-Retina (but with faster processor and more memory).
If Retina, at what scale do you work in Sketch? As 100% seems pretty small and 200% a bit large compared to reality.
And Photoshop looks awkward, you can hardly see 14pt text in layouts when its 100% scale.

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@mengto | 6yr

I use the 15-inch. The 13-inchโ€™s native resolution is too small โ€“ smaller than the Macbook Airโ€™s (1280x800 vs 1366x768). 15-inch is 1440 by 900. Youโ€™ll need that extra real estate for Xcode.

I think itโ€™s good to work on a Retina screen, because it makes you consider Retina, which a lot of designers are on. Since a lot of us design for professionals, even if the market share is tiny, that portion is really important. Because you designed for non-retina before, youโ€™re able to still consider them.

As for the pixel density of the screen, both Sketch and Photoshop have solved those issues long ago. You wonโ€™t notice a difference at all, except that the readability is far greater. Itโ€™s like upgrading to broadband internet.

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@mustapha | 6yr

Which 15-inch non-retina model?

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@adrian_stanciu | 6yr

Hi Meng To. Your book is mind-blowing. Congrats.
My question is: what tech persons inspires you the most and why ?

Thanks,
Adrian

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@mengto | 6yr

Really appreciate it!

Definitely Elon Musk for both his bold vision and phenomenal execution. I really believe that heโ€™s going to change transportation, space exploration and energy in a big way. If you read Nikola Teslaโ€™s short autobiography (something he wrote a century ago), youโ€™ll find that we are still far behind our potential as a human race.

I still read about Steve Jobs. But I must say that Iโ€™m very impressed with Tim Cookโ€™s ability to grow Apple in his own way. Perhaps not as visionary but still extremely efficient and world-changing as ever.

Obviously Jony Ive, the subtle force behind Apple. His taste is so disciplined that it changes mine. I think that innovation has the ability to change minds.
โ€œIf I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.โ€
โ€• Henry Ford

Ray Kurzweil really changed my life with his view of the future (singularity, scary stuff) and how I should approach my daily habits in regards to eating, sleeping, taking supplements and analyzing my own self. Technology is going to change biology and medicine in an unprecedented way.

Finally, I just started reading about Ed Catmull, the CEO of Pixar about managing creativity. Super inspiring stuff.

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@levelsio | 6yr

Thanks @MengTo for doing this AMA, Iโ€™m a big fan of your work :smile:

Since youโ€™ve been denied for a visa to the US, your life changed radically. Do you still have the same will to work/live in the US as before? How did that change?

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@mengto | 6yr

The feeling is mutual. Love what youโ€™re doing here @levelsio!

  • The beauty of traveling is to open doors. It really made me rethink about my options. I donโ€™t look at working in the US the same way anymore. Considering the visa hurdles Iโ€™d have to go through, I am not as desperate to work in the US. But who knows.

  • Iโ€™d call the denied visa the best thing that ever happened to me. I am who I am today because of it. Steve Jobs summed it best:
    โ€œSometimes lifeโ€™s going to hit you in the head with a brick. Donโ€™t lose faith. Iโ€™m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did.โ€ -SJ

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@danielkorpai | 6yr

Your book and your lifestyle are truly inspiring!

I would like to ask that how can you be this productive during your travels? What is your average daily routine?

Last, but not least what are you most frequently used iOS and Mac apps besides Sketch and Xcode, you canโ€™t live without?

Thank you for your answers! : )

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@mengto | 6yr

Thanks the kind words, Daniel.

  • The key is to love your work more than you love traveling. Focus is important. You have to understand what makes you focused: music, good wifi, great projects, etc. Iโ€™d suggest getting an unlocked iPhone and ask for a SIM card first thing in every airport that you land to.

  • I spend an average of 5 hours of focused work per day. Before a launch, that can grow to 12, but that wonโ€™t be sustainable. I travel with my fiance, so sightseeing, culinary explorations and watching movies is part of the deal. :wink: โ€“ I do enjoy the balance and I think thatโ€™s key to keeping it consistent and avoiding burnouts.

  • I canโ€™t live without Ulysses, Screenflow, Ember, Dropbox, CloudApp, Mint, StrongVPN, Slack, Keynote and of course Twitter.

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@ricardopereira | 6yr

Again me.
How many bags do you carry around?
:smile:

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@mengto | 6yr

In my first year, I took only a carry-on + backpack thinking Iโ€™d save a bunch of money. If you can do that, thatโ€™s great! I soon realized that it was too constraining and that Airlines always have a way to make you pay somehow. Plus, some of them give you a free checked luggage.

This year, I bring a big luggage + carry-on. Get a 4-wheel, itโ€™s definitely worth the extra money! I eventually got rid of my backpack because it was uncomfortable (also you end up hitting a lot of people without knowing).

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@ricardopereira | 6yr

Just signed up :smile:
Hi Meng!

Itโ€™s so great buying your book right on the beginning and receiving free and wonderful updates. Thank you so much.

Is it possible having a family and being a nomad?

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@mengto | 6yr

Hey Ricardo, good to see familiar faces here. :smile:

I questioned myself many times if I should write more books, but every time, I looked back at the content and felt the itch to improve things. I could never repay enough the people who spent their hard-earned money on my first book.

Family and being nomad? Probably, but not as crazy as visiting 30 cities in a year. My ultimate goal is to have places to stay in multiple cities on earth and spend 3-6 months on each per year. Follow the sun, Sakura blossoms, and design events. I think 3 cities a year is definitely feasible while having a family.

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Hi Meng, nice to have you, I love your book!

At any moment in time did you worry about the book not doing so well? What would have been your backup idea? Would that have stopped you from travelling?

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@mengto | 6yr

Thanks, happy to hear that youโ€™re enjoying the book!

I donโ€™t think it would have stopped my travels, but definitely would have made it shorter. Just like anyone, my back-up plan would have been Freelance or getting a job somewhere. Before writing the book, I stopped 6 months in Hong Kong. Thatโ€™s the brilliance of tech โ€“ you can work anywhere in the world with your laptop.

I freed myself from my reliance on my giant iMac and mouse. Gives me the ability to be flexible about the work environment.

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Will you write another book? Perhaps not about Swift/Sketch, but there are other apps that designers are talking about; Affinity Designer/Photo/Publisher for example.

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@mengto | 6yr

Thatโ€™s definitely possible. Before doing that, I want to make sure that Design+Code is a solid book, with updated materials that respect the latest Apple standards.

Iโ€™m not proficient enough with Affinity to write about it, but I heard great things. If I was to write another book, itโ€™d be about Web or Android. I think thereโ€™s a huge need to simplify the design process for those platforms and explain them in a way that beginners can understand.

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@atu | 6yr

Thank you so much to have you here.

Questions

  • What do you think about swift? Could it be in production?
  • How was the moment of you said that you have to hire someone and how you handled it?
  • Did you experience some bad moments during this journey?
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@mengto | 6yr

Thanks Arthur, itโ€™s a privilege to be here!

  • I canโ€™t speak for the developers who have massive projects, but for me, Swift is definitely ready. I build all my apps using Swift, and Iโ€™m working with two iOS developers who use Swift on a daily basis.

  • When I wrote about the code part, I always questioned myself if this was the best possible way to write code. So I consulted my friends, and that evolved into a real team. The act of hiring is always about getting people better than you at something. In order to continue providing the best content, I knew I had to get other people onboard. With the success of the book, that enabled me to do it and Iโ€™m so happy I can.

  • For me, the worst thing about traveling is being stuck in an airport and dealing with the visa, not being sure if you can enter the next country or not. But once thatโ€™s done, itโ€™s the greatest feeling in the world. Itโ€™s like winning a small battle. Each time I deal with old systems and come out stronger, I feel infinitely grateful.

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Read and participate in 13,970 discussions on Nomad List

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I'm thinking to head over to France during the winter and I'm looking for recommendations on a good French town that has beach and is warm enough during the winter.

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What is the best online insurance for digital nomads ?


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Hi guys ! hope you are doing well.

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Driving from Italy to Croatia..how to handle passport?


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Hello, we are US citizens that have been able to stay in Italy past our standard visa stay due to covid. Now we must leave. We want to drive to Croatia as our โ€œout of EUโ€ stay. But Iโ€™m now wondering what considerations I need to take care of for my visa. I wonโ€™t go through an airport and get my passport stamped. But I assume I need to get my passport stamped as a way to prove Iโ€™m out of the EU.

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Introduce yourself โ€” who are you, where are you and what do you do?

 

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tl;dr: introduce yourself in this thread.

We must all get sick of the same backpacker travel questions when we meet new friends, I know I do.

You know the ones - where are you from, whereโ€™ve you been, where are you going, what do you do, how long have you been doing it - etc.

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Best/quickest way from Italy to Croatia?


in Croatia by @ld | 15d 15 days ago | 3 comments

Hello,

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So we must leave the Schengen zone. We should avoid USA. We should avoid long air travel.

We were thinking Croatia.

Do you recommend a route to Croatia? We are open to long train rides. Ideally not long ferry rides. Is there a ferry route under 4 hours? I read about it...I don't see it. If not, the other option is to make our way north and up over to Croatia via train.

I'd appreciate your thoughts and insights!

Thanks.

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Hi everyone,

If you have a U.S. tax question or would like some U.S. tax insight on your business/structure, ask away!

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Hi, we are Coboat, an 82ft coworking catamaran sailing the world. AUA!


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Hi we are Coboat, a floating coworking space. We will take our custom 82ft catamaran around the world and offer a platform for a mix of digital nomads and entrepreneurs to come on board to work and collaborate together.

We have the latest in green energy technology and will utilise the latest in satellite internet, 3G & 4G to stay connected and online.

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Hi, I'm Manu, an accountant turned digital nomad and offshore tax expert. AMA!

 

by @xiufensilver | 5yr 5 years ago | 39 comments

Wonder how to do your taxes as a nomad? Ask your question now!

About Manu:
Today Iโ€™m here to clear any misunderstandings about international taxation for digital nomads. There is too much wrong, outdated and irrelevant information out there.

I will answer any general questions, relevant to the community as a whole. You are welcome to give your own situation as an example. If you are looking for personalized and actionable recommendations or referrals, please contact me or someone else you trust in this matter privately.

About myself: I learned accounting for 5 years in high school, but became more interested in international management and programming at university. I worked as a director and purchasing manager for a 100m+ private trust in Europe and Greater China. In 2013, I resigned from this position to have a better work-life balance and travel more. Since then I have spent most of my time in Asia doing consulting through various companies.

My latest project is a crowdfunding accelerator that will take place in Shenzhen, China later this year.

ASK AWAY!

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Hello. Weโ€™re Envato - we have 90 remoters and thousands of authors all over the world! AUA!

 

by @collis | 6yr 5 years ago | 27 comments

Hi guys, Iโ€™m Collis, cofounder and CEO of Envato. We have a team of 250, ninety of whom work remote in all parts of the globe.

Our sites are also home to thousands of creative freelancers making a living selling on our marketplaces. That community has earned over $250,000,000!

When we started Envato, my wife Cyan and I wanted to travel the world with a business - so we started this one. We did manage it for a year working from HK, Canada, Florida, Paris and Singapore before returning home.

Iโ€™m joined by Jarel who has worked with Envato since 2009 from around the US, our headquarters in Australia, as well as stints in Eastern Europe and Thailand.

Ask Us Anything!

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I'm Mark Manson, Author, Blogger and Entrepreneur. AMA

 

by @markmanson | 6yr 5 years ago | 40 comments

Hey everyone.

My name is Mark Manson and Iโ€™m a professional blogger. My site is MarkManson.net. Although over the years, Iโ€™ve run a variety of online businesses and projects.

Iโ€™ve been a digital nomad since the Fall of 2009, making it slightly more than five years for me. (You can read what I learned from five years of being a nomad <7>.) In that time Iโ€™ve been to almost 60 countries and learned two languages to near-fluency (Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese) as well as studying a handful of others.

I love the nomadic lifestyle, but Iโ€™ve also been one of the only ones (to my knowledge) who has openly written about the drawbacks and sacrifices involved.

My girlfriend is Brazilian and has been traveling on the road with me since last summer. I feel like relationships is the next frontier for this lifestyle and thatโ€™s probably something Iโ€™m uniquely able to comment on.

I guess thatโ€™s it. Ask away!

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