'Have Laptop, Will Travel'

Web developer's wanderlust pays

The travel bug has undoubtedly bitten a few information technology contract workers, who often find themselves with a month or more to spare between projects. But Web developer Nancy Andersen, a member of Contractor's Resources Inc. in Iselin, N.J., has spent a good part of the past two years combining work with globe-trotting.

Andersen's wanderlust has taken her through Cambodia, Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia, where she now lives. She is developing a Web site for the Bali International Marina and is a regular graphic-design freelancer at New York-based Merrill Lynch & Co.

But this IT nomad will leave her tropical paradise at the end of this month to return to the U.S. In the meantime, she shared her experiences with Computerworld's Julekha Dash.

Q: How and when did you get bit by the travel bug?

A: I started out in desktop publishing, and it's a job you can only have on-site. As I started moving into Web site work, I realized they don't really care where you are as long as you can produce the work and have a phone line to deliver. . . . I was contacted by Merrill by e-mail, and they had no idea whether I was in New York or Bali, and they really didn't care. That was my dream come true.

Q: How do you get the technology to work?

A: I do often fall behind the latest techniques when I am off-line for several months. . . . However, Singapore is a technological mecca of sorts, so I pick up all the latest versions of my applications when I pass through.

Q: What equipment do you have?

A: The power source for my laptop and digital cameras are all 110 to 240 volts, so I just carry the necessary adapter plugs. And I travel with my Zip drive, with all my backups, for the inevitable crash.

Q: How do you keep your equipment safe?

A: The worst thing (I) have to deal with when traveling in the tropics is making sure (my computer) doesn't overheat. (I) need a dry box; it's what photographers use. I purchased the laptop I am currently using just before leaving the States, with a "global warranty" so I wouldn't be dead in the water in Asia.

Q: What's it like without an office?

A: Basically, it comes down to "have laptop, will travel." I can work anywhere, from the wheelhouse of a yacht to the balcony of an Indonesian guest house. I usually copy the files to diskettes and find an Internet cafe to FTP the work. Even in the tiniest, remotest places in the Third World, there's an Internet cafe. However, online access in Southeast Asia is nowhere near what we are used to in the States.

Here's an interesting new take on the term computer bugs. When (I work) at night, the laptop screen draws mosquitoes, gnats and God knows what else, like moths to a lightbulb. Keeping the critters from crawling into the keyboard or under the rim of the LCD panel is a full-time concern.

Copyright © 2000 IDG Communications, Inc.

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