3 years ago I was a budding IT student at Swinburne University, wondering what was to come once I’d finished my studies. The previous 3 years had led me from VCE, to TAFE, to Uni, yet I had no idea what I actually wanted to do.
Now, I'm travelling the world, spending half my days exploring cities all over Europe, and the other half working from exclusive coworking offices, cafes and airbnb rooms.
Before I delve into that, let me rewind and give you a bit of background on who I am.
I took the usual path, upon completing VCE I went to TAFE and studied a Bachelor Degree (Computer Science). It was here that I met Daniel Wearne. We clicked straight away and it was clear we’d be mates for a long time to come. We were both highly motivated and highly competitive, taking advanced courses to push our limits. We’re both hilarious and share the same sense of humour, so there were plenty of good times!
Despite there being only a couple of years age difference, I looked up to Daniel. He always seemed to be where I wanted to be. Daniel knew that we were capable of more, applying for an undergrad and encouraging me to do the same. We both got into the same course, studied the same subjects and spent a lot of time together over the years that followed.
Towards the end of uni, Daniel initiated a conversation that would change my life - he wanted to start a web development studio and he wanted me as his business partner. He’d put a lot of thought into it and had even chosen a name - Peacock. I was supposed to sit with the idea for a bit but I’d already made up my mind, I was in.
At the time I was working as a technical support consultant and while it wasn’t a bad job, it wasn’t great and I’d certainly settled. I’d assumed that after Uni I'd continue working there and Peacock would be a side project. Little did I know, fate had other plans.
Shortly after uni ended, the company decided to move their tech support to New Zealand and I was made redundant. One of my coworkers suggested taking on Peacock full time, an idea that I thought was crazy at the time. A week later Daniel came to me and told me he’d quit his day job. It was happening. We were really doing this...
We had one job at the time. We took on a big project for an event power company, building an app that would manage pretty much every aspect of the company’s day to day operations. If we got it right, it’d kick start Peacock. We tried working from home but realised within two days that it was too hard to separate work from play. We weren’t being productive so we decided to look for an office space.
We considered renting our own room in an office building, that seemed to be the go, but it’d take time. Daniel was on top of what was trending in the web development scene and came cross a site called Desks Near Me. As the name suggests, the site features desks that offices are leasing to individuals or small companies. He looked it up and came across Inspire9, offering drop in desks that could be trialled for free. It looked good, so we decided to give it a go.
We got the address and rocked up to a small building in Richmond, eager to get some work done but not knowing if we were at the right place. We were greeted by Nathan and Richie and before getting stuck into it, we had a good chat about coworking and gave the guys a rundown on Peacock.
At the end of the day, Daniel and I went and grabbed a coffee. We'd decided after only one day that Inspire9 was exactly where we wanted to be. We instantly felt at home and it was like no feeling we'd had before.
After a few more days at the office, we started meeting new people. I soon realised that I was surrounded by developers who were a hell of a lot smarter than I was. I was advised that I should be using a framework to build our app, so in one day I converted my Spaghetti code to Codeigniter. That wasn't the last piece of advice I would follow.
A few months passed and I had gone from an EEEpc to a Macbook and from not knowing what a framework was to becoming a full stack developer building apps in Rails. Constantly listening to conversations going on behind me, I picked up new words and learned new things every day. I was embracing new technologies and improving my skills as a developer 100 fold. Daniel went from a print designer to one of the best web designers in Melbourne. We grew fast.
That wasn't all though. We didn't just sit and learn at Inspire9. We became part of something bigger. We had an amazing community and when work was finished, we had BBQs and went to the pub for drinks. We always had lunch together and we ate pancakes for Pat's birthday. Everything just clicked. It was meant to be.
A year passed and the Inspire9 community had grown so much that the little office in Dover street could no longer hold the amount of people that were coming by. Nathan decided to grow into a new office behind the Richmond station. Daniel and I were as much a part of that as anyone else, it wasn't just Nathan running the space, it was the community. We all pooled together and helped out wherever we could to set up the new office. We were so excited that we moved in before the renovations were finished, we just couldn't wait to get in there.
By the time the new i9 officially opened its doors, there were so many Residents, I have no idea how they all fit into the old office.
We met so many people and had so many connections at Inspire9 that we were never out of work. If anything, we were in such high demand that we had to knock back work or plan it months in advance. I'm not sure this would have happened without Inspire9. Nathan took us under his wing and we grew into a desirable studio that everyone wanted to work with. This was a great feeling but at the same time it was extremely stressful. We bit off more than we could chew and although we wanted to focus on product, we never had the time to even sit down and think about it.
We were burning the candle at both ends and decided we needed a break. I went backpacking up the east coast for 3 weeks. Not a massive amount of time but enough to de-stress. Looking back I don't know why I decided to do that, it was quite unlike me. But I gave it a go and met some amazing people on my journey. And then it bit me. That little thing called the travel bug.
After coming back, the only thing I talked about was travel. I wanted to take at least 3 months off a year to travel. I spoke to people at Inspire9 and everyone I looked up to had done it... and recommended it. I was keen. But as I settled back into work, I started realising that it probably wasn't going to happen while I was with Peacock. And at that point, I pushed travel to the back of my mind, thinking it was just a dream that wasn't meant to be. My attitude at work started to change and I was affected on a deeper level than I'd realised. Only a few months after returning, Daniel and I had a chat and decided that it wasn't working and at the end of the conversation when Daniel asked what I’d do after we parted ways, the answer was simple “well, I’m going to Europe”.
All the thoughts that I’d tucked away came rushing back - I had the funds and the means to travel and nothing to tie me down now. I was ready and subconsciously I knew that it was what I really wanted, I’d just convinced myself to this point that it wouldn’t happen.
After my desire to travel became a reality, a massive weight was lifted. I knew that deep down this is what I had wanted to do for a long time. As I slowly stopped working on Peacock, I started freelancing. The more I freelanced, the more I realised that it was location independent - often working with people who I’d had an initial meeting with then completed the work remotely. I'd realised there were a few other developers at Inspire9 who live a life of travel and work, proof it was possible. The question was, could I really keep this up? Could I work and travel at the same time?
As my departure dated came closer, work wasn't running out. I took on more jobs and had plenty on my plate. When I arrived in Europe I had enough work to keep me going, yet enough spare time to explore the cities. That was 4 months ago, I've been doing it ever since and am in a new city nearly every week. I've not only been to London; I've lived there. I've experienced so many different cultures and met countless incredible people. I've got so many stories to tell. Throughout it all, I've been working with awesome people back in Australia who are all doing amazing things.
I'm sure that one day I'll settle but for now and as far as the eye can see, I'm a travelling freelancer, exploring the world for a long time to come.
Without Inspire9 I wouldn't be the developer, or person, I am today. I wouldn't have thought it possible to work and travel. And even in my wildest dreams, I would never have imagined writing this post from an apartment view over London Bridge. But I am. This is my life and this is where I'm meant to be.