33 Useful Resources for Digital Nomads

This page may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure for more info.

We’ve now updated this post—read the latest digital nomad resources post here. 

Technology makes our digital nomad life possible. Without it we wouldn’t have been able to spend the last 18 months travelling around the world while running a web design and development business.

These are the products and resources that we use to live and work from anywhere in the world. They aren’t all essential but they do make our lives a lot easier.

Equipment

1) Macbook Pro 13 inch Laptop– Simon switched to a Mac before we left to travel and is so glad he did. It is a much more efficient system than a PC – everything just runs smoother, more easily and you don’t have to worry about constant updates and anti-virus protection.

It’s also pretty sturdy and has survived falling down stone steps and 18 months of being carried around in a backpack.  I use a lighter, cheaper Eee PC netbook although I do have my eye on a Macbook Air (update: I now have one and love it). One feature we love on the Macbook is how easy it is to set up internet sharing. If we only have a non-wifi ethernet connection then Simon can plug in and the Mac becomes a wireless router so that I can access wifi.

A laptop is the one essential item for a digital nomad but even if you don’t work while you travel there are many advantages of travelling with a laptop.

2) Western Digital My Passport Hardrive 500 GBBacking up is extremely important and this hard drive is so small and light that it’s not a hardship to carry it around. Used with Time Machine backing up is easy. There are more robust hard drives out there but we haven’t had a problem carrying this one around.  We could do with a bigger size now but it has been fine up until now.

3) Camera – We do have a Canon 400d SLR camera for documenting our travels but for the location independent worker I would say a small point and shoot is fine. It’s most useful function is as a scanner – we photo receipts so we don’t have to carry them around, and have taken photos of our signatures so we can add them to forms and email them. We just upgraded our second camera to the Canon s95 which is a fantastic compact camera with full manual control, HD video and is great in low light.

4) Kindle 3G A Kindle ebook reader not only saves on book weight but it enables you to buy a huge selection of books from anywhere in the world. Handy when you want to buy a business book in the middle of South America. We also use it to read PDFs and it has replaced our paper guidebooks.  The free 3G is amazing for buying books or checking your email when you don’t have wifi. See our full Kindle for travellers review for more benefits.

Kindle compared to books

This is how much space we saved with a Kindle

5) iPod Touch – If you need access to a phone then an iPhone would be a great choice, making sure it’s unlocked so that you can buy local SIM cards for each new country to save on data roaming charges. We don’t need a mobile phone so the iPod Touch is enough for us. We use it for reading guidebooks, maps, language phrasebooks, and for accessing internet when we’re out and about.

There are also a huge amount of apps that could be useful for your business. I like taking screen shots of hotel directions on websites so we can access them offline – just press down the power and home buttons at the same time. It’s also a calculator, currency convertor, world clock, alarm, and camera/video camera (especially if you have the higher quality iPhone version).

6) Carry-On Size Backpack – We strongly recommend sticking to a carry-on size backpack as it’s easier to carry around, saves time at airports, is more secure (you keep it with you on planes and buses) and enables you to carry your laptop in your main bag rather than needing a second one.

My backpack is 30 litres, and Simon’s is 40 litres and this is plenty of space. He likes the North Face Overhaul 40 for its neutral colour, plenty of storage pockets and zippable (therefore lockable) sections – ideal for laptops. If being a permanent traveller with such a small bag seems impossible to you check out our tips on travelling long term with only carry-on luggage.

For more information about what exactly is in our backpacks see our packing list.

Our backpacks

All of our stuff: My 30 litre backpack, Simon’s NF Overhaul 40 litre & Martin Backpacker travel guitar

Software

7) Sugar Sync – Backing up is vital and to be extra careful we use SugarSync to back up our most important documents in the cloud, as well as on our hard drive. It also enables us to access our files anywhere from any device, including both of our laptops and iPod Touch, and we can easily share large files with others. You get 5GB of space free and the prices for larger storage are very reasonable. 

8 ) MAMPWe like to travel to off the beaten track destinations that don’t always have internet. Simon can still work on websites offline though by using MAMP. It’s free and installs a local server on your Mac where you can work on your WordPress sites as if it were online. Perfect for testing new designs and plugins before setting them live.

9) Open Office – This is a free, open source version of the Office package that you can use on Mac or PC. We use Writer (like Word), and Calc (like Excel) for keeping track of our income and expenses in a spreadsheet.

10) Skype – We have never found a mobile phone necessary. We keep in touch with family by calling them for free with Skype – video chat really helps when we are away for so long. Make sure you get less tech-savvy family members set up with a free account before you start to travel.  You can also use Skype to make low cost calls to landlines around the world – we use this when we need to call banks or airlines.

11) Twitter For MacTwitter has been invaluable to us for making connections with other digital nomads and travel bloggers, and promoting this site and our Line In Web Design business.

Simon used to use Tweetdeck on the Mac but it kept losing our configuration data, so he’s switched to the official Twitter for Mac client. I still prefer Tweetdeck for use on the Eee PC.

12) Anki – Learning the local language is an important part of travel and Anki is my favourite way to memorise vocabulary. It’s basically an up to date flashcard system that uses a spaced repetition system so that the words stay fresh in your mind. If you are learning Spanish I’ve written about my favourite cheap and useful resources for learning Spanish.

13) EvernoteWe use Evernote as an app on the iPod Touch to write down notes while we are out and about. It then syncs with our laptop so we can access the notes there too.

Websites

14) WordPress – If you need any kind of website for your online business whether it’s a blog, portfolio, or online shop then this is the best platform. It’s free (although you may need to pay for a theme or custom design) and is really easy to update yourself without any technical skills.

15) Internet Banking – Setting up internet banking before you leave your home country is essential for managing your finances. We use it to transfer money between our savings and current account, pay bills and to keep track of our spending. In the UK many banks have started using card readers for some transactions. Don’t make the mistake that we did and leave this behind to save space – you never know when you might need it for a transaction so take it with you. Read more about managing your finances on the road.

16) Paypal – This is essential for receiving payments from non-UK clients (UK clients usually do direct bank transfers which saves on fees).

17) Mail Chimp – We use this for managing our subscriber lists and automatically sending out email newsletters from our blogs. It’s free up to 2000 subscribers.

18) Google Calendar – This free online calendar helps keep our life organised. I enter in travel dates, work deadlines, blog post schedules, and family birthdays (all too easy to miss when travelling) with email alerts for the important things.  We’ve created separate calendars for travel, work and the blog and we share the calendars with each other so that they are synced between both our laptops (on the Macbook I can access it offline on iCal) and the iPod Touch.

19) Xe.com Currency Convertor – I use this website or their iPod app (much easier to use) to check currency rates for the various countries we travel to. Make sure you know the exchange rate before you land in a new country!

20) Kayak This is my favourite website for comparing flight prices from multiple sites. It’s good for hotels and car hire too. I find it easy to use and if you have flexible dates you can find the lowest prices a few days either side of your target travel date. If you don’t know where to travel to next use their Explore page to find the cheapest flights from where you currently are. Kayak doesn’t always have the cheapest flight prices so I compare it to a few other flight comparison sites.

21) Skyscanner Another great site for finding the cheapest flights and it even includes budget airlines. It also has a flexible date search and similar to Kayak’s Explore if you write everywhere as your destination you can find the cheapest places to fly to.

22) Hostel Bookers– This is my first stop for looking for hostels. I usually just use it to get a shortlist together to look at when we get there rather than booking in advance, although for big cities and late arrivals booking can be useful.

23) Hotel Booking Sites – In North America you can get some great deals using hotel booking sites such as hotels.com and booking.com. I’ve also used this for big cities in expensive Japan where business hotels booked online can be cheaper than hostels. I’m not a big fan of the Agoda site but it does have some great prices for Asian cities.

24) Trip Advisor – When I’m researching places to stay and if I find somewhere on one of the booking websites above this is where I go to read reviews by people who have stayed there.

25) Lonely Planet Thorn Tree Forum – If you have any questions about a place you are travelling to then it’s likely that someone has already asked it on this comprehensive travel forum. If you can’t find an answer by searching the old threads then ask away.

26) Google Reader -Travel blogs are a great way of researching travel destinations and can be especially useful if you are working while travelling as you can find out the information you need from other digital nomads who have similar concerns. Wandering Earl tells us how to find an apartment in Playa del Carmen, Technomadics share how they are staying connected in Europe, Shannon at A Little Adrift lets us know the cost of living in Thailand, The Road Forks discuss how they work as digital nomads and Globetrooper advises us on the best cafes with free wifi in Chiang Mai.

I keep up to date with blogs by subscribing to their RSS feeds and reading them in Google Reader. For tips and inspiration from other digital nomads have a look through our Nomadic Interviews series.

27) Instapaper – For long blog posts I like using Instapaper to read them later. I have set it up to automatically send the articles to my Kindle where I can read them offline and on a paper-like screen.

28) Mind My HouseHousesitting is a great way to settle down for a while, get some work done and save money. We have used this site to find house sits in Florida and Japan where we stayed in places we would never have been able to afford otherwise.

Jacksonville housesit

View from the balcony of our house sit in Florida

29) Happy Cow – For vegetarians this is a detailed resource for finding vegetarian restaurants around the world. We write about our favourites in our vegetarian survival guides.

30) FacebookIt had to be on here as you can’t deny that it’s a fantastic way of keeping in touch with friends and family back home as well as new friends you make on the road. You can keep your personal account just for friends and use a Fan Page for public updates. We use our Never Ending Voyage Page to update our readers on our travels and the latest blog posts.

Other

 

31) Relative’s Address –It’s  impossible to get by without some kind of address and we are very grateful to Simon’s mum who scans in and sends us any post we get and deposits the occasional cheque. Before you leave make sure you switch to online bank statements to reduce the amount of post your friend or relative has to deal with.

So, these are the products and resources that we have used while we travel and work our way around the world. We could probably get away with just a laptop but these other items make our life easier, more productive and help us keep in touch with the rest of the world. Feel free to ask us any questions about how we manage our digital nomad life and we are interested to know the resources you use too.

Please note that some of the above links are affiliate links which means we will receive a small commission if you buy through them. These are all products that we love and use ourselves. If you choose to buy through these links thank you for your support.

Are you looking for Christmas gift ideas? See our guide to the 50 Best Gifts for Travelers. They are ideal for travel lovers who want to pack light and include something for every budget.

What are your favourite resources for digital nomads? Leave a comment and let us know.

  • Share:

Enter your email to sign up for our monthly newsletter and free ebook South America Highlights.

49 Comments (2 pingbacks)

  1. Hi there, thanks for the list of resources! One thing that would be really helpful though is somewhere I could find estimated daily costs for backpacking in various countries (I’m planning a trip to the Middle East and Central Asia next year). Know of any websites where I could find that kind of info?

    Reply

  2. Hi Erin,
    a friend gave me this link. i am indebted to him!
    Reading your posts felt like i am reading my whims and dreams in letters! I am a full time working mom with two kids. and your site has set me going beyond my limits.
    My best wishes and cheers for your voyage.
    Shall meet you someday!
    cheers, sindhu

    Reply

  3. Great list…and pretty similar to mine (i had a macbook air instead of a pro) and then disaster struck. i spilt green tea all over my laptop and realized how traveling with an apple product was a problem in terms of fixing. i’ve since switched to the cheapest laptop i can find so that in the worst case scenario – you buy a new one

    On an unrelated note – mindmyhouse was a great find through your website!

    Thanks and keep the good stuff coming..

    Reply

  4. Great post – I’m just happening to look into leaving at the end of the year to do something similar – pretty scary stuff selling everything and travelling with just a laptop and the clothes on your back – but the web industry seems to throw this opportunity – just a quick question – how do you go about keeping the work coming in??

    Reply

    • Most of Simon’s client work is from word of mouth and he has a number of repeat clients. Many found him through this travel blog. Now he is doing less web design work and working on iPhone apps.

      Reply

  5. Yes! The Martin Backpacker! I’ve found this post so helpful, being just weeks away from my first try at digital nomadry. But I thought I recognized that case, and sure enough, that’s what it was. You may relate to this – but you can meet so many people, just from their curiosity at its unique shape (some of them ask how much too!). Thanks Simon and Erin, this is a great resource.

    Reply

    • It’s very true – people are really curious about it. Sometimes it’s not so great though – we were searched by the police at a Bangkok bus station as they thought it was a gun!

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.