Electronic devices are essential travel gear for my solo trips since they allow me to keep a remote office wherever I go. My basic remote office setup consists of the following:
- Amazon Kindle
- Blackberry Tour mobile phone (plan to upgrade to Android smartphone soon)
- Acer Aspire One 11.6″ laptop
- MacBook Air 13″ laptop
I have both a PC laptop and a Mac laptop because some of my bookkeeping clients use QuickBooks for Mac and others use the PC version. I thought it would be cumbersome to carry two laptops while traveling but they both fit in my backpack and aren’t very heavy. Having two screens is a big plus as I can access data files on one laptop while using QuickBooks on the other one.
Additionally I carry my Canon Powershot SX700 point and shoot camera. Although a camera is not essential for my remote office it is one of my favorite gadgets.
My Amazon Kindle serves several purposes for my remote office. Before I had a travel laptop I was storing PDF files on my Kindle so that I could access files while traveling. I also keep PDF copies of my passport, airline ticket, hostel/hotel reservations, and any other important or essential documents.
A great feature of the Amazon Kindle is that I can utilize it for emergency internet access via 3G global wireless or WiFi. Although not all websites will load properly it is still a decent option for me to check email when my mobile phone is unable to access data. The Kindle is small enough to fit in my travel handbag so I can take it with me everywhere without it being a burden to carry around.
Of course I also utilize my Amazon Kindle to read documents or books while I’m traveling. If a client has sent me a long email or attached a spreadsheet or text document for review I can save it as a PDF file and load it on my Kindle so that I have access to the document without having to access my email.
Blackberry Tour mobile phone
I have owned the Blackberry Tour for five years now and I am looking into upgrading to an Android smartphone. My Blackberry contains my contact list and my calendar of appointments so it is essential to me while traveling. I often receive requests for appointments or rescheduling and I need to have access to my calendar at all times.
Another thing I love about the Blackberry is the Memo feature that is available from the Application menu button. I use the memo feature to make notes that I can later copy and paste to another document or email message. I also utilize the memo feature to write my journal.
Since my Blackberry is already five years old it is time for an upgrade – most likely to an Android device. I would rather upgrade now before it ceases to function than be left without a mobile phone at an inopportune time – as all electronic devices seem to stop working at just the wrong time!
I’ll still keep my Blackberry after I upgrade to something newer simply because I don’t see myself tapping out memos on a virtual keyboard vs typing on the physical keyboard – I will give it try but I am skeptical.
Acer Aspire One 11.6″ laptop
I bought the Acer laptop after being frustrated by the fact that my Blackberry Tour mobile phone did not connect to the mobile network in many places (Morocco, Brazil, Colombia) so I had no access to my email while traveling expect via utilizing a public internet.
I wanted something cheap, lightweight, Windows 7 operating system, with WiFi capability and the Acer fit the bill just perfectly. The cost was $350 including tax and it weighs in at only 2.6 pounds (1.18 kg) so it is super lightweight for travel.
My Acer Aspire One laptop has been a great addition to my remote office.
MacBook Air 11″ laptop
i didn’t want to buy an Apple product because I find they are overpriced compared to other products – although I have to admit Apple products tend to have the best design. Pretty is nice but I’m frugal so I choose function over looks.
I was convinced to co-purchase the MacBook Air when one of my clients and I decided it would be best if I worked on the bookkeeping remotely. Doing the bookkeeping at a retail location out on the sales floor was prone to interruptions so remote was a wise choice. My client did the legwork on finding a refurbished MacBook Air and we each covered half the cost – sweet deal for me because I really dislike shopping and I find decisions about electronics difficult to make at times.
My first experience as an Apple product owner involved great frustration. I needed to load QuickBooks 2013 onto the Mac and in order to do that I had to upgrade the operating system (OS). I tried numerous times to update the OS to no avail. I met with my client – who is an avid Mac user – and he couldn’t get the OS updated either. He suggested I call the Apple Store and get them to look at it.
I visited the Apple Store and they couldn’t get the OS to update either! They suggested one option would be to wipe the Mac (wipe out/delete all programs/everything) and then load the operating system on a clean slate so to speak. Since the only thing we had loaded on the Mac thus far was the point of sale software and no data I said yes, of course!
Four hours total time expended in order to update the operating system on a MacBook Air. Crazy. Never had this type of technical problem with my PC computers and Norbert aka Dell Inspiron 9400 is 8+ years old. Full disclosure: Norbert has had a few episodes of the Blue Screen of Death drama but he was just playing-dead, he never really died!
I think the difference between Mac and PC can be summed up thus:
PCs are like dogs and Macs are like cats. PCs are playful and easy to get along with but unpredictable at times whereas Macs are pretty (and they know it) but they will make you crazy trying to figure them out.
Several months later I am getting used to the Mac and do love several features such as:
- I open it and it’s powered up immediately – amazing!
- Trackpad is exceptionally responsive – far superior to any PC trackpad I’ve used
- Command + Shift + 4 keys selected all at once allow user to clip any portion of desktop and save it – mine saves directly to Dropbox
What I dislike about the MacBook Air:
- No right-click? How does anyone live without right-click?!?!
- Where is my file? My clients always have trouble finding their files on a Mac too so I know this is not just me being too used to PCs
- TimeMachine – I haven’t actually set mine up (I have QuickBooks backup to Dropbox) but I’ve had a few clients who had problems/no success trying to find/restore files
In my early days of travel I brought zero electronics and had no means of communicating with anyone back home. Now I have a remote office and could technically work from anywhere with an internet connection. It will be interesting to see what type of electronics become commonplace in the next 10 or 20 years.
I’m hoping for the transporter device like on Star Trek – that would be cool!
Do you have any electronics you consider essential for your travels? Do you ever travel without any electronics?