When you are heading for new and strange far-off lands, you want to make sure you have the necessary technical equipment, so that you are prepared for anything, and there is no problem with the money rolling in. This is the computer-related equipment that I travel with.
Of course, a digital nomad needs a laptop computer. But I say you need two, that is, if you want to be extra professional. That way, if one goes down, for whatever reason, you can smoothly swap over to the other one, without skipping a beat, and not miss your deadlines. This has saved me a number of times, when my main computer has picked up a virus, when the power supply went down, when I sent it in to get the screen replaced, etc. Also, if you have a virus, you can use the other one to hopefully deal with the virus. Personally, I am often working on deadlines, and under a lot of stress. So I want to get the jobs done, and then deal with the computer issue, rather than have to deal with the issue when I have my hands totally full.
I am using 10.1 inch laptops right now, which can be seen in the picture, and work well for me. I think 11.6 screens would be fine too. Any bigger, and I think they start to get a bit large and unwieldy, and it’s probably tough to travel around with two. If you must have a higher spec, larger screen laptop, then I suggest you make the backup a smaller machine, like a 10.1 or 11.6. Of course, if you are buying a new laptop, just keeping your old one as the backup is a sure winner.
Not only two computers, but two phones are also recommended. There’s a lot going through the phones these days, not least of which are emails and texts from clients. This way, if you drop one phone or spill coffee on it, and it is toast, you can swiftly move your operations over to the other phone. Note that to do this, both phones will need to be from the same carrier. So you want to have this together before you take off on your many adventures. Also note that you should try to have at least one of the phones unlocked, so that you can insert a SIM card from a foreign carrier if it is necessary or useful to do so.
These little travel modems are handy in a number of ways. First, of course, if you order up wifi service, and the modem is not included, you have your own modem and are good to go.
Secondly, there is often what is called “WISP Mode” available. In this mode, the modem acts as a repeater, or a signal booster. So if the place you are staying has wifi, but the signal is kind of weak, you can use the modem to boost the signal. For example, I have a phone app that refuses to activate unless there are at least two bars. So when I was staying in a place where I only got one bar on the phone from the apartment complex wifi, I hooked up this modem, put it in WISP Mode, and I then had my three bars all the time.
Lastly, this modem has a third mysterious benefit for which I can give no explanation, and which I discovered quite by accident. Both in Mexico and Ecuador, my computer was connected to the complex wifi, but there was no Internet access sometimes. You know, the wifi icon shows it’s connected, but there is a cross by it to indicate no Internet access. Anyways, I discovered that by turning this modem off and then on, Internet access would come back, even if my computer was connected to the main wifi, rather than to the modem. I can give no explanation for this strange phenomenon. It has, however, saved me from running out late at night to try to find an open cafe a number of times.
In case you are wondering, this particular model is the Tenda 150M. It is very light and compact, and fits, with all the wires, into one of the little side pockets in my carry-on backpack. But I am sure there are other makes and models available too.
Naturally, there’s no forgetting the travel adaptor. This model that I use is the Targus APX01. I know there are some fancier ones, that are all one piece, and you can slide out the various connections. The problem with those is you have to carry the whole huge thing around with you all the time, and it is harder to use with the outlet that is, you know, behind the couch. With this one, it all slots together for when you are actually travelling. However, when you stay somewhere for a while, you can just bring the one little piece that you need for that country. So this is preferrable.
USB Charge-Sync Cable
You should definitely make sure to have one of these charge-sync cables for connecting the phone to the computer. First, you can charge your phone from the computer in an emergency. Second, you don’t really want to travel with more than one travel adapter. So with this setup, you can charge both your computer and phone at the same time.
Make sure you don’t get a cable that only charges though: the sync function is a lifesaver sometimes. With this, you can easily transfer files between the computer and the phone. One time, I finished a job on a flight, and had to email it to the client when I landed. But I only had 10 minutes battery left, there were no power outlets anywhere, and there was a complicated process to get on the airport wifi. So I powered up my computer, and quickly transferred the file to my phone using the cable. My phone had plenty of battery, and I was able to sign up for the airport wifi and all that without worrying about it, and then just sent the job through the phone. As I said, this cable can be a lifesaver sometimes.
Hard Drive to USB Cable
This crazy gizmo can also be a lifesaver. It allows you to access a normal laptop hard drive, which has been removed out of its computer. I originally picked this up to get files off a computer that was completely gone. I keep it with me now in case my main computer goes completely down.
I actually had an alarm a little while back. Suddenly, my power supply started acting up. I had done tons of work on a big job, and nothing sucks like having to do a job all over again. So I was going to pop the hard drive out, and use this to retrieve the file, and finish the job on my backup laptop. Actually, I jiggled the power plug around a bit, and got it working again (at least for another week). But if it hadn’t come back on, I would have still been okay.
I got this on Amazon for like 3 bucks. You want to look for something like “SATA to USB cable.” Not all hard drives are SATA, so you want to make sure you get the right connection for your hard drive. As a side note, using it doesn’t necessarily need the two USB connections. It hasn’t when I have used it, although maybe it needs both connections with some computers (or older USB slots or whatever).
Let us not forget the necessary tools for dealing with any emergencies, upgrades, or whatever. A little set of mini-screwdrivers should work for both computer or phone issues. I personally prefer this kind of set, made of steel. But you can get the little graphite sets for like a buck or two. Just make sure you put these in your checked baggage when flying.
Swiss Army Knife
Last but not least, the good ol’ Swiss Army knife can often come in handy. Try to get one which has the scissors, since not all of them do. They are useful, the knife of course, and pliers are good too. Definitely be sure to put this with the checked baggage when flying.
To all you crazy digital nomad people, or aspiring digital nomads, I hope you find this equipment guide helpful. Best of luck in your adventures!