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Stuck on a desert island with only a PC and a modem

By kuser in Internet
Sat Nov 10, 2001 at 10:55:04 PM EST
Tags: Internet (all tags)

Imagine you were stranded on a desert island with only a PC and a modem. Could you earn a living? That's the question I need answering; although I'm not going to a desert island, for all the job opportunities in the place [Sumatra, Indonesia] I am planning to go to, it might as well be.

With the Indonesian economy in a truly desperate state, the tourist industry in tatters in the wake of September 11th, and the only possible geek jobs based in places no sensible person would want to live, it looks like if I'm going to move there I'm going to have to depend on work I can get over the internet.

Is this feasible? Could the average geek, with a reasonable range of computer skills (perl, PHP, SQL, Unix, etc.) make enough money to live, purely from jobs got over the internet. I'm not expecting to make tens of thousands of dollars a year - in Indonesia you wouldn't need it; but at least a reasonable amount - about 3 or 4 thousand a year.

According to the hype about the internet, this kind of thing should be possible - the information revolution was supposed to bring us to a society where we could work from home, live in beautiful and remote destinations, and avoid the pressures of city living. Whether or not it actually is, is something I'm not sure about: is anyone out there actually making telecommuting work, making a career from your PC?


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Stuck on a desert island with only a PC and a modem | 55 comments (54 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
Unanswered questions. (3.50 / 2) (#1)
by kwsNI on Sat Nov 10, 2001 at 04:02:21 PM EST

Do you have a phone line?

Also, money is only good in an economy. It's useless there are others who value money at the same rate you do and would be willing to trade you goods and services in exchange for your money. If you're alone on an island, you don't need money - because there isn't anyone to accept it from you.

I can picture in my mind a world without war, a world without hate. And I can picture us attacking that world, because they'd never expect it. -Jack Handy

Yeah (5.00 / 1) (#3)
by kuser on Sat Nov 10, 2001 at 04:17:46 PM EST

Yes, the phone line's there for the modem, but making international phone calls out might prove kind of expensive....

Basically your inputs are: geek skills, a PC, a 56k modem, and the expected output is about $5k a year.

[ Parent ]
56k? (none / 0) (#10)
by wji on Sat Nov 10, 2001 at 10:09:36 PM EST

This is completely irrelevant, but can Indonesian phone lines even handle 56k? I don't know much about the country, but, I'm guessing the phone service is not going to be very good.

In conclusion, the Powerpuff Girls are a reactionary, pseudo-feminist enterprise.
[ Parent ]
Phone lines around the world (none / 0) (#48)
by wiml on Wed Nov 14, 2001 at 07:05:31 PM EST

Heck, Seattle's phone lines (USA) mostly can't handle 56k.

Anyway, I know nothing about Indonesia's phone service, but the quality of phone hardware generally doesn't correlate well with the overall prosperity of the country. You might go to some tiny, third-world country and discover that only in the last ten years have they been able to afford installing phone lines everywhere ... which means that all of their equipment is less than ten years old: ultra-modern and in great repair. Fiber and high speed digital everywhere. By contrast, much of the US has a vast installed base of creaky ancient switches and cables which are only slowly replaced with newer stuff.

[ Parent ]

Indonesian phone lines (none / 0) (#49)
by razar on Thu Nov 15, 2001 at 10:05:45 AM EST

I cant tell you how bad the phone lines would be in Sumatra but I am an Australian who lived in Java for about 4 years and visited about a year ago, and the phone lines in Java were bad. One of my friends had a modem and a net connection so it is possible, but it is expensive and calls are timed (maybe changed now?). If you were going to Java I would say you would have no problem getting some sort of workable modem connection (in a city) but unless you are in the capital of Sumatra or another major city you will probably have big problems. I suggest you try and find out if you can get a satelite connection.


[ Parent ]
Getting a phone line (none / 0) (#50)
by razar on Thu Nov 15, 2001 at 10:11:00 AM EST

I just looked at your link for where you propose ot be living, and I have to say that your chances are really bad unless you can get satelite. The Indonesian Islands are orders of magnitude more primative than Java.


[ Parent ]
Ebay (5.00 / 1) (#33)
by tang on Sun Nov 11, 2001 at 04:10:40 PM EST

Sell local Indonesian artifacts on ebay. People will buy anything.

[ Parent ]
Nah, (2.00 / 1) (#45)
by odaiwai on Tue Nov 13, 2001 at 01:15:15 AM EST

Sell pictures of naked S.E. Asian chicks?

-- "They're chefs! Chefs with chainsaws!"
[ Parent ]
Well, (none / 0) (#55)
by odaiwai on Tue Nov 20, 2001 at 11:31:46 AM EST

Well, it seems to be a viable business model for bery many porn sites and they're probably the only sites making plenty of money at the moment,

Of course I wouldn't advocate naked pictures of all south east asian females, as my wife would object, but, as a business model, it seems to work quite well. I was going to provide some links, but the moral majority would object.

Try searching for http://kuni.zone.ne.jp/index.html to see some many glamourous pics (with some kinda kinky, but that's the Japanese for ya).

The moral of this comment is: don't be so judgemental with you're rating or apply your own morals to it.

-- "They're chefs! Chefs with chainsaws!"
[ Parent ]
Few questions... (3.00 / 4) (#2)
by Sheepdot on Sat Nov 10, 2001 at 04:15:32 PM EST

1) Why are you planning to go there?

Does Anthrax and the WTC attacks scare you? I live in the Midwest and know that it'll be eons before any of that stuff makes it here. Hell, the latest fads are Transformers, GI Joe's, and those Troll dolls. And *no*, I'm talking the first time around, I realize each of those things are supposedly making a comeback.

2) What kind of work are you thinking of doing?

Why pay 25K a year for someone in a remote and desolate location when I can pay 45K for someone right here? What are you going to do? Web stuff? What about presenting to clients? Is your Jakarta/Sumatra connection going to handle video teleconfrencing, cause I know of very few institutions that hire without *ever* seeing who is working for them. Interviewing for a job will be limited to phone as well I would think.

3) Why would I hire someone who fled the continent at the first sight of blood?

Not to be morbid, but what do you *really* have to offer if you go running off with your tail between your legs and your head hung low? Am I supposed to believe you really want to work for me? Especially if you are single, I'd practially expect you to relocate near one of our facilities.

Anyway, if you think I'm being hard on you, you are right, I am. But don't expect any empathy from an employer either, if anything they'll be more harsh.

Why I'm going there (4.87 / 8) (#5)
by kuser on Sat Nov 10, 2001 at 04:24:50 PM EST

The full story's rather complicated, but in summary it involves me, an Indonesian woman and an unfortunate lack of contraceptives; I'm taking responsibility for the consequences (it's not simply out of resposibility - I do love her too). I think it would be better for her as a very provincial Indonesian woman and so for me for us to live there than for her to come to England.

[ Parent ]
Um (2.80 / 5) (#7)
by delmoi on Sat Nov 10, 2001 at 07:46:37 PM EST

Why not bring her to where you are?
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
well (5.00 / 3) (#15)
by Delirium on Sun Nov 11, 2001 at 02:40:12 AM EST

I think he covered that in the last sentence of his post...

[ Parent ]
Not really. (none / 0) (#40)
by BurntHombre on Mon Nov 12, 2001 at 10:44:46 AM EST

He said it would be "better for her." He didn't say why. I'm curious as well.

[ Parent ]
j00 AER A GOOD ENGLISHMAN!! (2.00 / 1) (#38)
by hrishi on Mon Nov 12, 2001 at 03:32:15 AM EST

well good of you to not try to give her some thousand pounds and stuff it under the carpet. few people like you. i would give you projects, unfortunately i'm doing the same thing that you are, i.e., looking for telecommuting PHP/PERL/OTHER CGI/SQL/ETC. projects.

[ Parent ]
Is it really best though? (5.00 / 1) (#43)
by jayhawk88 on Mon Nov 12, 2001 at 05:35:58 PM EST

Admirable of you for thinking of her needs, but seriously ask yourself if it's really the best solution. If moving to Indonesia is going to make providing for your new family incredibly difficult, it might outweigh whatever hardships your wife encounters moving to England.

Of course if you find work that will fit your situation it's another story. Still, as a couple ask yourselves: is it more important to live close to your wifes home/family but struggling to make a living, or to live away from home/family in relative comfort?

Why, then, should we grant government the Orwellian capability to listen at will and in real time to our communications across the Web? -- John Ashcroft
[ Parent ]
Green Card, Child's Birthright (none / 0) (#52)
by Blarney on Fri Nov 16, 2001 at 01:38:25 AM EST

It would seem to me that you ought to at least be in your own country while the child is born. That way, should he/she wish to someday move to the affluent West he/she can go claim his/her birthright. At least in the United States citizenship is granted by birth - I don't know how this works in England. In my limited experience as a graduate student, most foreign women who hook up with an American appreciate their Permanent Resident status and ability to work and stay in the US as long as they want. Of course, I'm working with a biased sample here - my sample is fairly well-to-do foreign women who come to the United States to study science. Your case may be different - and perhaps England isn't so quick to grant residency and work permission based on marriage. I may end up in your situation one of these days ... but that's kind of a personal subject.

Anyway, it rings kind of funny for you to be calling your girlfriend "provincial". If my crazy ancestors could handle the West, so can most people. Good luck.

[ Parent ]

You could think out of your country more (4.66 / 3) (#25)
by frabcus on Sun Nov 11, 2001 at 11:09:08 AM EST

Sheepdot, even before his reply, you need to think out of the US more. First of all, you assume that the poster is living in the US. Secondly, to suggest that someone might go to Indonesia to be safer than the US shows a lack of understanding of the security situation.

There is serious political and ethnic instability in parts of Indonesia, including more recently bombings and bomb-threats relating to September 11th. Details on Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Tade website.

According to the Indoneisa Human Rights Network violence against religious minorities has killed thousands and internally displaced tens of thousands in the last few years.

The US still seems safer to me, if only that it isn't in danger of civil war. Kuser is being brave to go there, not cowardly.

[ Parent ]

Irregardless... (2.50 / 2) (#31)
by Sheepdot on Sun Nov 11, 2001 at 02:52:12 PM EST

... I don't think the nation in which he is located should be an issue, but rather what kind of nation.

Be it, the US, Canada, UK, France, etc. It doesn't matter *where* companies are going to look upon him leaving the nation as not taking his want for a job seriously.

I can get rated down on K5 for saying such an off the wall thing, but you can't rate down the employers for following such a politically incorrect philosophy when it comes to business. It is simply how it is, and how it will end up being.

"First of all, you assume that the poster is living in the US."

If I would have meant the US I wouldn't have used "continent" in the context in which I did. I did not know the origin of the poster, which is why I never said US. It seemed rather likely this person lived in either the US or Europe, however, and in both places the businesses he would like to work for would look not look favorably on him as they would someone else locally.

[ Parent ]
Contracted work (4.50 / 6) (#6)
by ecc on Sat Nov 10, 2001 at 04:58:30 PM EST

Maybe you could sell your services as a contract programmer/designer to small businesses who would like customised programmes/web pages, touting one of your advantages as cheaper than your average programmer/designer (and of the same or higher quality). One problem you might have to overcome is making your services known in the first place.

I say small since that implies that usually only one or two people will be working on a project at once, so that some problems won't be as much of an issue (such as code synchronisation) as in large projects.

Basically, I think one path to go down is as a contractor, but the trouble is then it's either feast or famine.

Or, for an even crazier idea, create an online "shopping centre" of sorts, targeting small businesses who normally wouldn't have a website because it's too costly to maintain by themselves. Get a group (number unspecified) of them together, tout the advantages of:

  • lower cost (since they'll all be on the same server and maintained by you)
  • consistency (you're the only maintainer)
  • safety in numbers
  • how one "shopper" looking for a product in a shop may stumble over another shop's products and buy more (an idea behind the shopping centre anyway)
Host it on a server where bandwidth is cheaper, and remotely update it via modem. Sort of like Howick.net, only more centralised.

On the other hand, these ideas may be totally fraught with flaws - use with caution.

Always look on the bright side of death,
Just before you draw your terminal breath...

Yes, so far (4.25 / 8) (#8)
by rusty on Sat Nov 10, 2001 at 07:53:23 PM EST

Let's see... island? Check. PC? Check. Geek? Check. Yep, that's my life you're describing.

I glad to report that it's working out OK so far, but it wasn't easy to get to this point. If you don't have a web community to offer services to, you're basically in the contract market, which is possible, but it will take a lot of hustle. On the other hand, 3 or 4 thousand a year is only one or two contract jobs with an American company, which ought to be possible, if you're a good coder and have a few friends still in the industry.

Not the real rusty

Note EVEN (5.00 / 2) (#24)
by delmoi on Sun Nov 11, 2001 at 08:33:08 AM EST

Sorry rusty, but you're island could not at all be considered 'desert'
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
Ok, but... (4.50 / 2) (#30)
by rusty on Sun Nov 11, 2001 at 01:43:25 PM EST

True, but the question indicated that he wanted to "make a living" with geek skills. If the island were truly "desert," I'd recommend he learn to build shelter, fashion clothing from available plant fibers, and hunt for food.

I took the "desert island" idea to be metaphorical. :-)

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Pastry shops (4.00 / 1) (#34)
by fluffy grue on Sun Nov 11, 2001 at 06:07:01 PM EST

Any good pastry shops or bakeries where you live, rusty? You could always say it's a "dessert island" instead. :)
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Why telecommute? (4.20 / 5) (#9)
by DesiredUsername on Sat Nov 10, 2001 at 08:09:53 PM EST

Start an ISP. Sell computer time to local businesses. Teach classes. Do whatever you want, you'll have a monopoly.

In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

Play 囲碁
Yes (5.00 / 2) (#23)
by delmoi on Sun Nov 11, 2001 at 08:32:19 AM EST

As we all know, no one outside of the USA knows how to use a computer. I mean, otherwise our old encryption laws wouldn't make sense!
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
Not quite a desert island, but... (3.50 / 2) (#11)
by wji on Sat Nov 10, 2001 at 10:21:35 PM EST

I have a friend, here in my crappy high school in SW Ontario, who makes something like $70 an hour programming. Well, that, or he's dealing drugs, but he never seemed like the type to me. I don't know how well that deal applies to everyone, though, since he got the job through family and he has no real professional certification. Sweet deal if you can get it though, eh?

In conclusion, the Powerpuff Girls are a reactionary, pseudo-feminist enterprise.
Wots... uh the deal? (4.66 / 3) (#13)
by kevsan on Sat Nov 10, 2001 at 11:46:39 PM EST

I have a friend, here in my crappy high school in SW Ontario, who makes something like $70 an hour programming. Well, that, or he's dealing drugs, but he never seemed like the type to me. I don't know how well that deal applies to everyone, though, since he got the job through family and he has no real professional certification. Sweet deal if you can get it though, eh? (emphasis mine)

I know you don't think your friend's involved in the drug scene, but you might want to take a look at the Freudian applications of your comment. :)

[ Parent ]
Probably drugs (3.00 / 2) (#14)
by mold on Sun Nov 11, 2001 at 01:27:55 AM EST

Since the average programmer starts out at about $40 an hour in most places (although I may be wrong due to the different values of US and Canadian money), and I worked as a programmer while in high school (Cisco Systems, and although it wasn't a programming firm, it was still large enough that I got quite a bit of money).

From my experience, how much you are paid is directly proportional to your degree (within your field, so don't bring up teachers), which is why I would guess drugs.

Beware of peanuts! There's a 0.00001% peanut fatality rate in the USA alone! You could be next!
[ Parent ]
No, probably not (4.00 / 1) (#22)
by delmoi on Sun Nov 11, 2001 at 08:31:07 AM EST

You're average street level drug dealer only makes about $30/hr.
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
Nah. (none / 0) (#29)
by wji on Sun Nov 11, 2001 at 01:29:19 PM EST

$40 US is about $65 Canadian at today's exchange, so, not far off. How'd you get programming work in high school? I wouldn't exactly mind that... of course it would trash my grades even further. But hey, what the hell. It couldn't be drugs, anyway. At my school it's just rich suburban druggies buying their weed, which isn't enough for a kid to make that kind of money without pissing off the wrong people. Although, if I can't get a job programming, it might be worth looking at... :)

In conclusion, the Powerpuff Girls are a reactionary, pseudo-feminist enterprise.
[ Parent ]
Get a job before you go! (4.66 / 6) (#12)
by chipuni on Sat Nov 10, 2001 at 10:41:50 PM EST

In my opinion, it will be a lot easier to get a job before you go than when you're there. Let the companies see you, talk with you directly, and let them know why you're moving out there.

Good luck.
Perfection is not reached when nothing more can be added, but only when nothing more can be taken away.
Wisdom for short attention spans.

scratch, scratch (2.20 / 5) (#16)
by bitspotter on Sun Nov 11, 2001 at 03:08:33 AM EST

If I was stranded on a desert island, why would I need to earn a living?

All the salary in the world ain't gonna cut it if there's no place to spend it!


Find a Partner (4.50 / 4) (#17)
by Fyndalf on Sun Nov 11, 2001 at 03:29:57 AM EST

Get to know a few consultants, or a consulting firm. Then, let them subcontract jobs to you that they think you can handle from your location. In exchange for finding you clients, they get the difference between their hourly rate and yours, in this case a higher difference than normal.

Out of curiosity, how are you expecting to move money from North America to Indonesia? Isn't that non-trivial?

I've done it! (3.50 / 2) (#18)
by threaded on Sun Nov 11, 2001 at 04:33:11 AM EST

I work mainly as a contractor, and I like to go on long holidays.
You will be surprised how many desert islands have Cyber Cafes!

/*Good, Quick, Cheap: Choose two!*/
Making a career from my PC (4.57 / 7) (#19)
by 8ctavIan on Sun Nov 11, 2001 at 04:54:18 AM EST

Yes, it is possible. I work as the webmaster for a major website. The servers are sitting in the US and I am here at home in Europe typing this. It is a good idea to have a high-speed connection. The recent availability of ADSL in my area has made my work a whole helluva lot easier, but I did it for a year with just a dial-up, so that can be done as well. The other people who work at the company are also scattered about the globe. We often interact in real time via IRC and anything that's REALLY important gets sent by e-mail (policy stuff). Emails also very important when people are asleep and you are awake due to timezone issues. All in all, the system works quite well for me and I provide for my family with this and its a good life, in general.
Injustice is relatively easy to bear; what stings is justice. -- H.L. Mencken
You might be lucky (4.00 / 2) (#20)
by plug on Sun Nov 11, 2001 at 07:02:30 AM EST

Here's an ad. Maybe it won't be as tough as it first seems. A lot of companies (as I'm sure you know) use Indonesia as a cheap resource. There must be a fair few international agencies knocking around and needing support too.

"If God really existed, it would be necessary to abolish him."Mikhail Bakunin

Teach English (4.60 / 5) (#21)
by delmoi on Sun Nov 11, 2001 at 08:29:09 AM EST

Teach English. A lot of people pay good money to be taught English by a native speaker in Asian countries. You'd need to learn Indonesian, but if you're going to be living there, it would be a good idea anyway...
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
Yes, it can be done...but might not be best time (5.00 / 6) (#26)
by TuxNugget on Sun Nov 11, 2001 at 11:10:52 AM EST

You could advertise your services on www.elance.com or find projects on www.cosource.com to work on. It can be done.

I am amazed at the primitive state of asia in western imaginations, but I used to think that way myself. Nowadays, you are likely to find ATM machines that take your UK or US ATM card in almost any country in the world.

I think your biggest problems are credibility and, perhaps, being white (if you are white). Did you know? Shortly after the attack on NY, Indonesian gangs, militia, whatever you want to call them, were rounding up "Americans" and telling them to go to the airport and leave. I think you need to realize that an "American" is anyone who is white. Are you willing to put up with violence? If the answer is no, maybe you should settle with your wife in Singapore, which is slightly more expensive but much more stable. Although the Singapore government can be kind of annoying about silly things like chewing gum, it seems preferable to the chaos of its neighbors. You probably won't find people serious about killing you in Singapore. It is a multicultural citystate and the Indians, Malays, Mandarins, and Muslims get along just fine.

As an advanced option, you might fork over $1k/year to form a company in a reasonable jurisdiction -- some place with stable banking, little or no taxes, and more credibility than Indonesia for a high tech island life. As long as everything looks like you are somewhere else, and you are conducting legitimate business, no one needs to know you are in Indonesia.

Writing articles, book chapters and tech reviewing (3.50 / 2) (#27)
by frabcus on Sun Nov 11, 2001 at 11:12:15 AM EST

It's possible to make modest amounts of money from doing technical review of books, and from writing articles and book chapters.

Worth approaching some tech publishers and asking them if they have any work. This sort of work is often done remotely by post or over the internet.

Elance (4.00 / 2) (#28)
by Ron Harwood on Sun Nov 11, 2001 at 12:34:40 PM EST

Check out elance.com - for about $40 US a month you can register as a 'provider' and bid on small contracts... including Perl/PHP/SQL jobs.

Beyond that, all you need is your local computer and an internet connection (and your skills of course).

BlackNova Traders - Tradewars for the web
Questions (4.25 / 4) (#32)
by finial on Sun Nov 11, 2001 at 03:34:48 PM EST

Just some thoughts

  • Will your visa allow you to work?
  • If not, are you willing to be imprisoned or deported if you're found out?
  • If you are found out and are not deported, how will you support yourself?
  • How will you find work? Will you have it lined up ahead of time? I wouldn't hire someone from somewhere I couldn't easily get to without a really good reason. There are too many good people locally and available esp. in this economy.
  • How are you going to make sure you get paid? It's hard to sue someone in another country if they stiff you. (That goes both ways, see previous item.)
  • Are you prepared to deal with international funds transfer? It can get awfully expensive for "just" a paycheck.

Why would it matter? (none / 0) (#46)
by aphrael on Tue Nov 13, 2001 at 02:07:11 PM EST

Will your visa allow you to work? If not, are you willing to be imprisoned or deported if you're found out?

Huh? If i'm working remotely for an American company writing software, and i'm based out of California and telecommuting, for example, what do the Indonesian authorities *care*? I'm employed in some other country, so i'm not taking jobs away from the Indonesians. puzzled look.

[ Parent ]

That's not what he said (none / 0) (#47)
by finial on Wed Nov 14, 2001 at 11:07:11 AM EST

He didn't say he was "working remotely for an American company" he said "I'm going to have to depend on work I can get over the internet" which means he's looking for new work, not looking to do work he already has in a remote location.

Regardless, yes, they absolutely do care whether about the situation you describe. I don't know what the visa rules are in Indonesia, so it may not apply, but in the US you most definately must have a work visa to work here regardless of whether you are working for a foreign company or not. There is an exception for short term assignments and visits. Eg, I can go visit my client in suburban Munich for a couple of weeks at a time, but not much longer. However, when they sent one of their employees to work here in their Cambridge, Massachusetts office on a permanent basis, he was told to turn around and go home until he had his visa straightened out.

It's common practice (or at least it was) for software companies to hire contracting firms from other countries (often India, sometimes Ireland) who would then send a team of developers to work at the company site. This is the situation you describe. The people coming here must have H1-B visas to allow them to work.

I have absolutely no clue whether these rules apply in Indonesia, but they are fairly common.

[ Parent ]
Stupid question (1.75 / 4) (#35)
by imadork on Sun Nov 11, 2001 at 06:30:03 PM EST

If you were stranded on a desert island with a working phone line, why couldn't you call someone to rescue you?

And another one (none / 0) (#37)
by scruffyMark on Sun Nov 11, 2001 at 11:06:50 PM EST

If you were stuck on a desert island, why would you care how much money you were making? There aren't usually any shops on desert islands.

[ Parent ]
Some first-hand thoughts (5.00 / 6) (#36)
by angusgr on Sun Nov 11, 2001 at 10:21:40 PM EST

I have some comments which may be useful. I'm a computer science undergrad student in Australia, who also studies Indonesian and has visited Indonesia twice before. I, too, have looked out the window of a bus at the beautiful landscape of Java and wondered if I could work there on a healthy US dollar income. My experiences are more to do with living in Indonesia itself than getting work, so they may or may not be useful.

There are advantages and disadvantages to moving a business to Indonesia. You are right that with a US dollar income you could easily afford to live very well in Indonesia. Moreover, I believe you could earn a living from overseas.

My experience in Indonesia is that westerners are warmly received and people will be happy to become friends with you (that said, there are people who "befriend" you just for money, and there are also a handful of militant extremist Islamic groups... these guys did not cause a problem for us any time we were there, most recently July, but things have changed and I would not advise travelling to Indonesia until things have cooled off somewhat.) Shortly after America started bombing Afghanistan, one of these groups went to a major US hotel and demanded that the Americans be brought out so they could be trucked to the airport and thrown out of the country. In the end I don't think anyone came out though, and the group left without causing a riot. I'd recommend saying you were Australian (my tutor got around Indonesia during the East Timor crisis and avoided the possiblity of trouble by telling everyone he was a Yank!)

As to getting a job, you'll have to rely on others with respect to contract work, but from my bedroom in Australia I create the partial illusion of a small shareware company which sells educational software to individuals and schools. People tend to assume I'm in the US without asking.

Unfortunately, living where you want to, in the times we are in, has it's disadvantages.

Do you speak Indonesian? I have never been to Bukit Lawang, but during my time in south Sumatra barely anyone spoke English to any great degree. This didn't bother us, and if it doesn't bother you then you'll be fine.

Are you content with being a celebrity? Again, Bukit Lawang may have more bule (Indonesian slight-derogatory slang for a westerner) around than South Sumatra, but being white there made you both an assumed rich guy and a novelty. This can be great fun, but it can wear off. After 10 days in the Bandar Lampung area we were glad to get back to Jakarta where you weren't an automatic novelty. Walking out of a department store in Lampung, my friend and I turned around to find at least eight female clerks, standing in a line through the middle of the store, laughing at us! (Granted we were their age, both over six foot two and white!)

Also, being assumed rich can have difficulties when you are relying on expensive gear (computer, modem, etc). This may not matter if you can settle in a little town and get to know everyone. It may not matter anywhere, but remember that you are instantly worth many times what ordinary Indonesians take home from months or years of work.

IT Infrastructure. OK, so you've got a modem. Do you have a phone line which will carry the signal? Do you have an ISP within local call range? If you get a satellite dish, will it work/be affordable/not get you arrested as a "spy" by the local polisi seeking "fines" from a decadent westerner. Not a problem in Jakarta or any major city, major problem in the middle of nowhere. Even here in Oz many outback towns can't get a modem running at more than 4800-9600bps.

Do you suffer culture shock? As said above, being one of the only Westerners in a foreign culture can get to you. It may not get to you specifically (I have seen people not mind, people become homesick, and people freak out and panic because a bellboy brought them towels!!), and you will no doubt make many good friends as we did, but before long you may regret it. If you go most anywhere in Java or any major city, this will not be anything like as much of an issue as in Sumatra.

The advice you've had to make business opportunities for local merchants is a good one, but I fear it is more suited to a place like Jakarta than one like Bukit Lawang. I may be wrong, of course. The advice to set up a school could be very valid if you had some capital and a few old computers to export. But then you'd be making Rupiah, not USD...

My advice, if you haven't done this before, is to travel to the area alone (or with the person/people you're going with.) Go to the area you want to live in, and wander around talking to people. Ask if someone will put you up for the night (they will!) and spend a day or two living there. Spy the non-Western bathroom arrangements, the discount voltage-regulation gear on the TV and other electronics, and make sure you can handle the heat without retreating to Aircon. Talk to the families you're staying with about moving, about getting a house and about their thoughts. Depending on who you're staying with and the income in that area, they may even have their own computer (one of my strangest experiences in Indonesia was fixing the VCD player on a friend's copy of Windows in Bogor.) If they are anything like the people I know in Bekasi, Bogor & Bandar Lampung, they will offer you all the support you could accept.

Go to the local Wartel (basically a small business offering public telephone service and occasionally net access) and talk about getting a phone line, net access, etc. Maybe you've done all this already, but I'd want to be sure I could hack it before I upped and moved.

Finally, good luck. I would love to know if you succeed or not, as I have daydreamed about it myself.

Don't get fixated on one country (4.00 / 1) (#39)
by puzl on Mon Nov 12, 2001 at 10:05:52 AM EST

If you have a laptop and a modem, you should be able to move about between the various countries in SE asia.

Thailand is a society of net addicts, and everywhere you go you will see cyber cafes packed with kids playing counterstrike and red alert.

Some of the more remote corners of Thailand have very slow modems connections, but you are never too far from a better connection.

There are plenty of Islands in Thailand where you could settle down to do some work, keeping in contact with the job via email at the cybercafe on the beach. Then when more serious net access is required, a 2-4 hour journey should be all you need to make to get close to the telecoms grid.

I'm not saying you should chose Thailand over Indonesia. Both have the pros and cons. But if you find this too difficult in Indonesia, pop over to Thailand and have a look there.

I haven't spent too much time in Maylasia, but I imagine parts of Maylasia are as developed as Thailand.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." - Thomas Jefferson

I've been doing it for some time now (4.00 / 2) (#41)
by GoingWare on Mon Nov 12, 2001 at 02:43:29 PM EST

I started consulting full-time in April, 1998. For the first couple of years I did it from my home in Santa Cruz, California, which is on the other side of the mountains from Silicon Valley.

Although I was less than an hour away from the valley, I visited there only rarely and eventually came to the opinion I could do my work from anywhere in the world.

And I did. A little before I started consulting, I met the woman who later became my wife. She was from Newfoundland, and living in Nova Scotia when I met her. In April 2000 we moved to St. John's Newfoundland to prepare for the wedding. During most of the year 2000 my clients were in San Francisco.

There is some high-tech in Newfoundland but not a lot and I didn't seek out work in it. I kept consulting for California clients. In the fall, we moved in with Bonita's parents for a few months in Fortune, Newfoundland, which is a pretty remote town five hours from St. John's - but it has dialup access.

The two most important things I needed was the ability to purchase technical books and computer equipment, mostly cables and such. There were a couple computer stores and I soon discovered the St. John's Chapters had an excellent technical section.

I expect you'll be able to find both technical books and computers somewhere in the country. You'll definitely want to pick out your most valuable tech books to take with you, I took one box full that I shipped up there via UPS. Anything you can't get locally you can order via the web, although you can expect to pay a lot for international shipping. Likely there are some eCommerce sites in Australia that would work out.

In January this year my wife and I moved into the house we bought in Owl's Head, Maine. While there is some high tech in South Portland, a couple hours away, again all of my clients this year have been remote. I have flown to visit some of them before starting up contracts, but I think I probably could have avoided that if I was in some really remote place.

Here's a thought for you - if you live in a place where you can live comfortably for 3 - 4k$ a year, then it shouldn't be hard for you to take enough time off to develop a product of your own. It could be a software product, or a commercial website that you host at a colocation facility in some place with a fat pipe. Then after a while you could run your own business. That in part is my hope in living in Maine instead of going back to California - the cost of living is very modest here.

I am the K5 user now known as MichaelCrawford. I am not my corporation.

Why? (none / 0) (#42)
by wiek on Mon Nov 12, 2001 at 03:46:14 PM EST

While so many people are fighting their way out of Indonesia, it's just amazed me why would somebody want to get in there voluntarily.

Well, I guess everybody has their own personal reasons.

Yes you can, but... (4.50 / 2) (#44)
by bsmfh on Mon Nov 12, 2001 at 09:32:05 PM EST

I spent a month in Java a couple years ago, and I found things could be very nice. Figure out how to get a UPS for your computer, for sure, because power can be flakey there.

You want to identify some business targets before you go,(research research research) and sell yourself to businesses that look good. Of course, postings will help them find you, but you need to be aggressive about finding them.

I think you can make a good go of it, and look into other areas, such as teaching, writing, and so on for times when the web jobs are slow in coming. Good luck! --bsmfh

Have you been to Bukit Lawang? (none / 0) (#51)
by hmahncke on Thu Nov 15, 2001 at 05:05:33 PM EST

Either you have, and you know exactly what you're getting into: 1) A relatively small town around an orangutan reserve populated by 1/3 natives, 1/3 indonesian tourists, and 1/3 western tourists 2) Extremely primitive telecommunications connectivity 3) Accomodations consisting of huts, tents, and a "high-end" (according to lonely planet) hotel with 2 inch flying cockroaches for roomates ...or you haven't been there and you have all this to look forward to! Seriously, Bukit Lawang is a fantastic place to visit - the people I met while there in 1998 (during the currency collapse) were incredibly friendly and outgoing. Of course the wildlife and environment are spectacular... but I would be cautious about telecommuting Good luck! Living there (regardless of how you end up paying your bills) will be the experience of a lifetime.

Well... (2.00 / 1) (#53)
by waspleg on Sat Nov 17, 2001 at 03:25:59 PM EST

i can't speak for everyone, but i have 3 well known IT certifications, a couple years of experience and i haven't been able to find a decent job for 3 years, i've been seriously considering other areas as i quickly found out that working on other people's machines totally killed any joy i got from working on my own.. while the US is in a recession, the US IT segment is probably the worst hit, even worse than tourism or airlines or anything else that is getting federal aid.. there are thousands of people getting laid of daily, for some good stories try www.fuckedcompany.com oh well.. i existed before the internet was "popular" and with any luck i'll be here after .. fuck working for .com's .. get a real job working for a real company that makes real things.. living in the jungle off yoru modem doesn't sound real smart to me.. power goes out and you're fucked.. hell it's hard enough finding work in meatspace much less telecommuting (which *EVERYONE* wants to do because who the fuck wants to go tow ork every day and deal w/ teh all the bullshit? no one does) i think you're living in a pipe dream w/ an emphasis on teh pipe ;) maybe my experiences aren't shared by other people here, but hten again i wasn't trying to whore myself to start ups a few years ago either =)
Protect your freedom -- www.lp.org
My Experience (none / 0) (#54)
by digitaltraveller on Sun Nov 18, 2001 at 10:19:34 AM EST

I am reasonably well travelled. Over the years (I'm in my late 20's), I have travelled to roughly 30 countries. Maybe 4-5 of those have been 3rd world countries. The country I enjoyed least? Guess.
My time in Indonesia was during the riots that occured around 1997. Upon arrival at the Bali airport, everyone on my flight's baggage was hand searched, as we went through customs. One of the guys I was travelling with had CD's "confiscated" by the customs agents. I was quite worried because I was carrying my brand new notebook computer. Fortunately, they let it alone and let me through.
Bali was a complete mess. I won't go into detail but a two week's stay quickly became a 48 hour one. We didn't feel safe. Which was too bad because apparently the surfing is supposed to be filth. We never got a chance to find out.
Anyway, I would consider the decision to move there carefully. I probably showed up in Indonesia at an unlucky time. This has probably skewed my perception of the place a bit. If you haven't already, I'd visit first for at least a month to get a taste of it. Plane tickets now are very cheap, as everyone knows...

Stuck on a desert island with only a PC and a modem | 55 comments (54 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
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