While you're sitting on the beach wishing you could find another way to work, spare a thought for Colin Burns and the holiday that never ends.

In the past two years this Australian web designer, his wife Tracy and two young children have backpacked through Bali, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, explored east and southern Australia, and are now on a three-month jaunt through eastern Europe before heading back to base in Malaysia.

On the road he earns enough money to feed, clothe, educate and move four people.

What has freed Burns from being chained to an office and allowed him to become a digital nomad is the New Zealand-developed SilverStripe open source content management system and web development tools.


Burns knows something about content management - he spent several years in Brisbane running a "small (but not entirely successful) web design business" for which he developed his own multi-site CMS.

When his attempts to commercialise that failed to gain sufficient traction, he sold the rights and went looking for a new platform.

What he didn't want was a blogging platform that would need extra coding to create the page functionality his customers need.

"Using a platform like Wordpress as the basis for a building client website is simply using the wrong tool. SilverStripe provide you with the ability to rapidly develop web applications, basic brochureware websites or even slightly more complex websites," he says.

Burns says a major appeal was the SilverStripe interface, which was intuitive enough that clients should be able to make the day to day changes they need to their sites without too much training or hand holding.

Now he doesn't have to maintain the underlying infrastructure, he can concentrate on the business logic he needs to develop for his clients.

He says his sites are more robust, which means less maintenance and more profit from each job.

In fact, it was a short period working for the large web development firm that bought his CMS that made him realise that like many small businesses he had been charging too little to cover costs and become profitable.


When he went out on his own again, he stopped begging people to give him work and instead quoted what he thought his time was worth. The result has been fewer but larger projects.

Business development comes down to the network of clients built up while running his original business.

"I have learned to focus on the things that I am good at and not dwell on the things that I'm not so good at. I am now much more picky about the type of work I will take on rather than just taking on any work," Burns says.

Most days he will spend at least two to four hours working for clients in New Zealand or Australia or on his own projects, but there are definitely days when he doesn't get on the internet, usually because he is travelling.

"Some days I will work all day while Tracy takes the kids to a museum or some other fun thing. Other days I won't work at all and we'll go spend the day together.

"I tend to do bursts of work. We might go to a particular location that is easy for my wife to occupy the kids (a beach or a city with lots of museums and science centres, etc) and I'll work hard for a couple of weeks," Burns says.

He says it's travelling in developed countries that connectivity can become complicated.

"Travelling through Southeast Asia you can almost always get a free wifi connection at inexpensive guest houses or cafes.

"The higher the cost of the accommodation the more difficult it is to get free wifi. For example, we recently stayed in a hotel in London. To get internet access for one hour would cost you £5 ($9.50) whereas in guest houses in Asia that cost only US$20 ($25) a night for a family room, you get free wifi."

He says firms in developed countries seem to want a defined return on their investment in wifi infrastructure, whereas in Asia it's seen an additional service that gives the accommodation provider a competitive advantage, or at least doesn't disadvantage them.

"Most of the time we don't rely on free wifi. When we arrive in a country we will normally buy a prepaid SIM card for our mobile phone and then use it to tether our computers to the internet. This seems to work really well and it is relatively inexpensive to do this way."

As well as creating websites, Burns aims to make a living off developing and running sites.

The first, ourtravellifestyle.com, was set up when they first started travelling in January 2010.

Vagabondfamily.org is a community site for long-term travelling families. Added functionality includes the ability for a specific family to update their location (and map it) on their profile by simply sending a tweet.

He recently bought nunomad.com which aims to help people become location independent or full-on digital nomads.

Burns plans to completely re-design the site and bring it into SilverStripe to give him the flexibility to add functionality that the community needs and wants.

"SilverStripe changed the way that I build and think about websites. Rather than spending most of my time fixing bugs, I now spend most of my work time either dreaming up new things to build for myself or getting paid by my clients."

Burns aims to continue the lifestyle for at least another five years, with the potential to continue indefinitely as long as the family is still enjoying the travel.

There have now been more than 400,000 downloads of SilverStripe software, and more than 200 companies have joined its global developer network.

A new 3.0 release is due shortly; it includes an even more user-friendly interface and a clear separation between the CMS and the Framework development environment, making it a far more powerful tool for people wanting to develop any sort of web application.