Well, I don’t work from a static location, so I don’t have a home setup. I adjusted my setup for mobility and have tested and improved my ‘system’ while traveling across Canada for the past couple of weeks. You will find that due to the nature of traveling, my setup is extremely basic, yet practical and functional.
Obviously, I work from a laptop. My HP nw8440 mobile workstation is an older model, but it has been serving me very well. I recently had the screen replaced, switched from Windows XP to Windows 7, and upgraded the RAM. My extended warranty is good for another 18 months, so I’m planning to get a new laptop in about a year from now.
I went with this model mainly because of the screen. When I was researching for a laptop back in late 2007, models with glossy LCDs had conquered the market, a trend I did not wish to follow. It had to be matte for me. Above all, however, I wanted a 15.5″ laptop with a WUXGA resolution. A high resolution is a blessing if you are limited to one screen, but want to open two windows next to each other, as I often do.
The screenshot above shows my laptop and the key accessories. I use an international power plug adapter (red), a mouse (blue), and a neoprene cover amateurishly stuffed into a cotton bag. This picture was taken at a hostel in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Since I’m traveling with buses, trains, ferries, rental cars, and airplanes, I have to keep my stuff fairly compact and well organized. What has worked best for me is using a carry-on backpack that holds my laptop and other valuables while traveling and doubles as a daypack when hiking or sightseeing. The cotton bag around the neoprene cover holds the accessories when the laptop and backpack have to be separated. A dedicated laptop bag would be much more elegant, but not practical since it wouldn’t fit into my preferred backpack.
My network setup is straight forward – a laptop with internal WiFi adapter, free public WiFi, connect and go.
People often ask me whether I have trouble finding an Internet connection. Well, since I rely on it, I kind of organize my trips around Internet access. But frankly, while traveling in Canada, the US, and Europe, finding WiFi has not been a problem. I have found reliable Internet throughout my journeys, even in the most remote places, and in case the accommodation itself doesn’t offer Internet (almost all hostels offer free WiFi, though), you are sure to find a McDonald’s or Starbucks close-by.
The screenshot above shows my view from where I worked in the Gaspésie, Québec. I was literally only steps away from the beach (at least while working).
When I was traveling for a month in 2009, I also wrote this article: How To Stay Digitally Charged and Connected On The Road.
Working While Traveling
Don’t pity me, envy me. I get to work wherever I want and whenever I want. That’s huge and hopefully it will be easier and more common in the future! Working while traveling or rather traveling while working is a challenge, but all it takes is the right mindset and occasionally a good headset.
What has worked best for me is to do routine tasks in the morning, right after breakfast. I work for an hour or two and then spend the day getting to the next destination, sightseeing, hiking, relaxing, chatting, or shopping. I typically do research and write my articles in the late afternoon or evening, along with more routine work. This takes anywhere from two to five hours, depending on the workload, the type of article I’m working on, and how much non-work-related tasks I sneak in. Overall, I spend more time outside or on the road than on the computer.
Web Services & Software
Like James, I’m a web services minimalist. For my job with MakeUseOf however, Google Mail has become invaluable, as it allows me to easily filter, tag, and follow up on emails. For private emails I still rely on Thunderbird. I also use Flickr to share photos and Plurk to keep a minimalist version of a personal diary.
I use two browsers – Firefox and Google Chrome. Chrome is my work horse. It is barely customized, but since it’s fast, even with many tabs open, I use it when researching and writing articles. My Firefox is a ‘custom monster’ in which I keep all my standard websites opened. To write articles, I use BlogDesk and I process all my screenshots in IrfanView.
And that’s all there is to it. No magic, just a plain and simple setup, which travels around the world with me. This piece was written in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. When the article is published, I will be in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Upcoming destinations – Sweden via Germany and Denmark.
Do you take your work on the road? What are some tips and tricks you would share with fellow working travelers?
Image credits: olly