Digital Nomad – noun – ˈdi-jə-təl nō-ˌmad: Digital nomads are people who are location independent and use technology to perform their jobs. Digital nomads work remotely (telecommute), which is now economically possible due to cheap internet access, smartphones and voice over internet protocol (VoIP) to keep in contact with clients and employers.
I’ve been a digital nomad of sorts for almost four years now. It’s pretty cool think about considering that travel blogs didn’t even exist more than ten years ago, and in my parents’ generation, this kind of lifestyle was unthinkable. These days, while some jobs are made redundant by technology, others are born and taken on in the knowledge economy by people who are ready to roll with the times.
I’m guessing you’ve arrived here because that’s you. So if you’ve figured out how to get your business online, or maybe have already been at it for a few months, but you’re about to start traveling full-time and working remotely for real and aren’t sure what to pack, you’ve come to the right place.
Through experience and trial and error, this is my digital nomad packing list for electronics, all of which easily fit into a carry-on bag:
- Computer: Before you do anything else, get yourself a reliable computer. Going to internet cafes or typing on a tablet if you work on the road are both going to get really old really quickly. Like, within-the-first-week quickly. I travel with a MacBook Air which I’ve had for almost four years now and love thanks to the light weight of it.
- Unlocked Smart Phone or international plan: I use an unlocked phone and a T-Mobile SIM card when I’m at home in the states and when I’m abroad, I buy local SIM cards. Roaming is super expensive and so are most contracted cell plans.
Getting the shot
I’ve traveled with several different cameras during the time that I’ve been on the road. Photography is a huge part of my business given I make money off of selling my photos and my Instagram channel, it’s important that I keep improving and putting money and effort into my photography. If that’s not you and you just want to document your travels while on the move for your personal use, get a nice point and shoot that’s easy to use. If you’re into photography, however, here are my favorites:
- Pixter Pro Wide Angle lens for iPhone: It takes iPhone photos to the next level for those who don’t want to invest in a new camera.
- GoPro camera: GoPros are super easy to use and they just keep getting better with displays and better capturing abilities. I wish that the battery life lasted longer, but otherwise I think it’s a great little camera for any sporting or wet situations
- Starter DSLR: I used an earlier version of the Nikon D3300 and a combination of the stock lens and a telephoto lens for years and it took great photos. I upgraded because I wanted the images to be sharper and wanted a camera that could shoot video and better night shots.
- Sony A6000: This is the camera I use now because it has a ton of apps that make shooting way easier, it has a might higher and lower ISO than my old camera, which makes it much easier to shoot at night, and delivers a way crisper image thanks to the way higher number of megapixels. It also talks directly to my phone so I can use my phone as a remote or transfer the images directly to my phone after shooting. I also like that it’s mirrorless and therefore a lot lighter. This, plus my wide-angle lens, are my main tools for shooting photos these days.
For more on my specific camera equipment click here and for more on my camera and shooting techniques, check out this post.
Makes life easier
The following are a lot of things that I resisted for so long because I didn’t want to get a dedicated backpack just for electronics. However, I realized that with the right Tetris-like approach to organizing it all and a small backpack with compartments made just for tech equipment, it actually made my life easier to have these gadgets along.
- GoTenna: These are small antennae that allow communication without needing a cell signal. You strap one to your backpack (and so does your friend), then use the app to send texts when in areas without cell coverage. I found them particularly helpful when hiking in Patagonia when one person would go to check out trail conditions, and will have them along for Burning Man as well this year, where there’s no cell signal but I sometimes do still want to communicate with people in my group.
- External battery pack: Why oh why did I go so long without an external charger? It’s not even that big! I’ve used it to charge everything from my phone to my cameras and Kindle and wonder why I waited so long to buy one.
- Kindle: I’ve had a Kindle e-reader since day one and love it. At any given time I’m usually reading at least 2 books, so I can switch back and forth whenever I need a certain kind of escape or distraction, and there’s no way I’d want to carry all of those around or deal with limited selections.
- Power strip: The more remote and rural the place (and I visit a lot of them) the less likely it is that I can find more than one power outlet. That’s an issue, because I have a lot of things that need charging. Having a power strip along that also has USB charging outlets allows me to plug everything in and then go about my afternoon, rather than having to constantly go back and play musical chairs with my electronics.
- Portable speaker: This is another thing I can’t believe I never had until now. Music is huge to me and this thing was cheap and light but puts out quality sound. I use it almost every day.
Keep it safe
I put everything in my Pacsafe Laptop and camera carrying backpack. It’s made of thick canvas so it can get a bit dirty and shuffled around and it’s fine. The lining is padded for electronics and in addition to a sleeve for the computer, there are three compartments for the camera and all of the other gear. It makes organization easy for me.
The handles are slash-proof and each one locks. This makes it pretty hard for someone to unzip it without some struggle and you noticing. There’s also RFID-blocking technology in the front pocket where I stick my cards and passport, so nobody can scan my details and steal my identity. I’ve been using this for about a year and love it.
Those are a few of my favorite things, but I’m always open to new hacks and ideas, particularly if they make my life easier. If you’re a digital nomad too, leave your suggestions in the comments. If you’re an aspiring one and you have any questions, feel free to ask!
*In the spirit of full disclosure, a couple of the aforementioned products are partners of BMTM. However, they wouldn’t be if I didn’t love their products, and these reviews are all genuine. Your trust comes first.