I am Matthew Harris. I’m originally from Lincoln, England. I’m a full-time digital nomad. I don’t have a house in my home country. I got rid of most of my belongings (thanks for the storage Mum). I live out of a backpack + suitcase and I’ve been doing this for 500 days now.
How I became a digital nomad
“I just did”.
While I was setting up this blog that was all that I wrote in as a draft placeholder. Now I come to flesh it out I think it actually answers the question succinctly.
Becoming a digital nomad was a major life transition but it went so smoothly that I was already in Cologne on day 180-something before I realised I had actually really done it.
My technical background
I made my first website in 1999 by copying and pasting bits of HTML into notepad from what would later become known as an ebook in a windows help file format. I called it MattWeb. It used frames to include a side menu, tables for layout, had lime green text everywhere, oh and there was a page dedicated to the lyrics of Will Smiths Men In Black.
At the time I was just exploring technologies and didn’t think that I would actually get the hang of it, but before I knew it I was reaching for the help file less and less. I think I got to something like Mattweb 16 before my interest waned and the skill sat pretty dormant for a few years all the way up to me finishing university. But finish university I did, and with a games development degree in my hand, my lifelong aim had been achieved.
While I was growing up, coding on a ZX Spectrum, Amigas and finally PC’s, the games industry had grown up too. It wasn’t made of small teams anymore (the indie scene was still a few years away), it was big corporations. You were a tiny cog in a big machine. Creative control was gone, “crunch mode”, aka sleeping and living at your desk with no overtime pay, was an industry standard. I would have had to move away and start my life again somewhere for a job. It would mean giving up partying – coding requires a clear mind, and is not compatible with drinking or staying up late. In short, it was no longer attractive to me.
But I had skills in another emerging market, the world wide web. Jobs were available locally and there were a lot of prospects for me in this area. So I became a web developer. I reused the Photoshop skills I had learned at uni and continued refining my development skills.
12 years later I am still happily building sites, and now they pay for me to travel the world.
Awards and general showing off
I’ve spent a lot of time in forums over the years. At the start of my career, I primarily worked in asp.net. In 2009 I achieved All-Star status on the official forums. This was the result of resolving thousands of questions for other developers in the field. There are over 55k developers registered on the forums. I was the 63rd person to achieve All-Star status. I have lived in fear ever since that they will one day shut down this forum and all my hard work will be wiped from the internet.
I’m in the top 5% of developers worldwide on StackOverflow, the industry standard knowledge sharing platform.
In 2011 I won an award from Microsoft in recognition of my work in the community. It was aptly named the Microsoft Community Contributor Award.
I was also nominated for inclusion in their exclusive Microsoft MVP program, which was a huge honour.
I have contributed to a fair amount of open source projects on GitHub. You might want to scroll back to 2016 for my “glory year” of pull requests.
I have an ageing technical blog which I used to contribute to heavily. According to the all-time page view count, it has been read 1.72m times.
I created this blog because I wanted to share my travels and I felt that the amount I wanted to write had grown beyond the “appropriate” amount to be putting in Facebook posts. My guiding intention with this blog is for it to be a real account of my life. An ego-free (or reduced-ego) lifelog, not some glossy Instagram highlights feed.
I want to feel like I can post anything I like on here without worrying if it’s boring or not. I want to be able to post quickly without stressing over the photography and the wording. I want this to be a fun way to share my experiences not a chore. Hopefully, I will be able to resist becoming a perfectionist with it!
The blog started out as a way to share things with my family and friends. Now that I’m closing in on 50hrs of development and content writing I’m starting to think there is some value in this and it might be able to find its place within the broader digital nomad scene. I guess it didn’t take long for the ego to creep in after all.