Digital Nomading: what you need to go

Living out of a backpack for six months can teach you a lot. The most important thing I realized was that none of the shit on your back matters. The only thing that does is your not-yet-uploaded SD card. It’s liberating to recognize this and it changed my mindset. It means that everything in your back can be replaced, and some things should, especially if you are going from mountain to beach. The idea of having your favorite jeans, etc… needs to die–all can be replaced. 

When in doubt, leave it out. Also think about utility of stuff– if it has one express use and can’t be repurposed, its utility drops. A few notes about what did and didn’t work for me. Obviously your experience may be different, and I’d love to know yours!

Backpack

My Kickstarter-financed Minaal was great, primarily because of the size constraints (35 litres) it put on me. I didn’t do too much walking around w this pack, so I didn’t get big benefits from its smart design. Next time I will probably do a combo rollie/backpack strap type thing.

Camera
My Lumix did everything I wanted and more. Time lapse, self timer, great creative effects, not too much unnecessary crap. I used an EyeFi SD card which in theory was good, but the software isn’t so great. Also, if you aren’t near wireless nodes, the benefits are nil. 16 GB was plenty and I used a USB transfer stick to get media on my Mac. Loved the viewfinder and magic lens cap for the Linux. Take a look at my previous post about geotaging photos.

Next time I would get a micro SD card, allowing me to transfer media to my phone and get it to the cloud when I have bandwidth. I always feared losing my pics and video, the basis for most memories on the trip!

Phone
This likely depends how attached to your iPhone, if you have one. If that’s your thing you will have some inherent limitations. I used Android and a lot of the flexibility came in handy (not didn’t consider BlackBerry or Windows). I left the US with the Google/LG Nexus 5, obviously unlocked. Seemed like a good idea at the time, but upgrading to Lollipop mid trip was dumb. Battery performance suffered terribly and I ended up dumping a bunch of apps that weren’t updated post-lollipop. I could have rolled back to KitKat by rooting, but didn’t have the patience when the world was calling. The phone eventually died in Bali and I ended up getting another Android which worked well, and having an external memory slot is really helpful if you want to upload pics from your camera.

Apps

Google
– I’m no poster child for their business practices, but boy is their software handy on the go. Makes online storage and access on another devices really easy. Lots of use of Drive, Docs, Sheets, Photos (geotagged photos are great), Maps (save for offline use where possible), Mail, Calendar, Hangouts, Voice (great for keeping in touch via SMS w people in the US).

Places to Stay and Travel
My, how have things changed. The Internet didn’t exist last time I hosteled. Now we have HostelWorld. Sure beats making mad dash for hostels listed in Let’s Go after arriving in a new cities. CouchSurfing is a great way to meet new people and instantly not feel like a tourist. Booking.com is great, and you often get an additional 10% off if you are a ‘Genius.’

Skyscanner is great outside of the North American market. Matrix had been my favorite, and Google Flights makes purchasing easy, but there are numerous Asian airlines that don’t appear on travel products intended (primarily) for North America.

People and Things
When you get to a new place, see what’s happening on Meetup and CouchSurfing. Great ways to do fun/unusual stuff with like-minded people. I didn’t use Tinder and OKCupid for dating, but having an open mind will lead to new experiences and friends. Facebook (and Messenger) are the lowest common denominators for keeping in touch with people you meet. WhatsApp is also a must have.

Movies, Music, etc…
PocketCasts – Love me my Le Show, On The Media et al. Some kind of streaming music service that allows you to store on-device for low/no bandwidth occasions. Be sure to download some Michael Jackson for impromptu dance parties deep in the jungle.

I don’t play games, but get Candy Crush or any other top-ranked game. I was amazed that three year olds in the Nepalese mountains knew how to play and the smiles it created. Parents will love you (it’s effectively a babysitter in your pocket) and if you can blurt out a few of the sound effects from the game (tasty! Sodalicious!) the fun and cute factor will soar (see below!).

Other and Misc…
Tumblr is a bit quirky, and would probably change to WordPress for the next trip.

I’m still learning to use Evernote but so far so good. And be sure to take pics of all your credit cards, travel docs etc…and instantly they are on your phone and in the cloud.

Why remember passwords? LastPass does it for me, making it super easy to buy everything on my phone.


SIM cards

This is a well-travelled topic, so I don’t need to repeat what others have said. I used about 1GB/week so I looked for appropriate plans. Last thing I’d do before leaving a country is look at Wikia for info on plans, prices, etc… It’s getting easier to provision SIMs and most airports/train stations sell them.


Techno accessories
USB cable. Check the amperage

Plugs. Don’t bring a multi country converter thing. It’s bulky and dumb.Go local! It is cheap and a can make another traveller’s day by giving them a small gift. 

External juice. Highly recommended and prevents you from being one of those annoying outlet vultures at airports, cafes, hotels, etc. Mobile phones are about 2000-3000 mAh, so a charger that has a few rounds in it (around 10k) should be good for all techno gear. About 20% battery life is lost due to physics, and cold temperatures will significantly reduce capacity.

Kindle. If you do bring an e-reader, make sure to bring a hard case to avoid screen breakage. I’ve busted several kindles (but none on this trip).

Headlamp
For reading and nighttime hiking. I saw many people using their phones as flashlights, which would be a good argument for not bringing a headlamp, but then your phone is dead.

Money
Carrying a thick wad of crisp Jacksons is always a good idea. They are in high demand in some countries. But keep them as backup. Otherwise, I used my ATM card and was sadly never a part of the “who found the best exchange rate” conversation. Might be worth getting a credit card that doesn’t double hit you for forex.  

Misc
Compression Sacks are just like Space Bags, but no vacuum required. Microfiber towels are a textile revolution! Plastic bags are useful anywhere, anytime.

Footwear
Ankle length hiking boots were great for, well, hiking. My feet got really tired/cramped after a few days of city strutting. I also had a pair of super light sneakers. They were great for most other purposes, including river crossings and relaxing after trekking. Insoles for both are advised and make sure to have your footwear well worn in before your trip! I also wore hiking boots when traveling /carrying backpack as that’s an obvious weight savings in the pack.

In Sum…
I’m not going to ramble about the merits of ankle v shin length wool socks, and if you plan to travel the world this should become pretty obvious to you. If you don’t remember to take it with you, you probably don’t need it!

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