Many first time travellers wonder whether they should bring a laptop or not. Some people advise against it because of the security risk, extra weight to carry, and the danger of shutting yourself off from local experiences by spending all your time on Facebook. We have travelled with and without a laptop and would say that if you are a photographer, writer, blogger or work from the road then it is definitely worth taking at least a small netbook.
When we first went travelling around the world at the end of 2007 we didn’t even consider taking a laptop with us – we were trying to travel light and as we weren’t working or even blogging on the road it just didn’t seem necessary. While we were away we caught a glimpse of the first tiny netbooks from Asus and after seven months Simon finally convinced me to buy one in Malaysia. He missed being able to write (pen and paper was slow) and as the first Eee PC was the size of a paperback novel I couldn’t really complain. It certainly made life easier and we were able to avoid the dreaded internet cafes.
This time round, as we are travelling forever and working on the road, a laptop is essential. We travel with a 13 inch Macbook Pro and a 10 inch Asus Eee PC (the latter picked up in Buenos Aires when we discovered sharing wasn’t working out). As well as the obvious advantages of being able to surf the net we have found a number of other benefits of travelling with a laptop.
1) Free Wifi
Internet cafes aren’t the nicest places to work: they are often noisy, hot and crowded and the computers slow. With your own laptop you can take advantage of the free wifi found in many hostels and cafes and work from much nicer places – like a balcony overlooking the sea. Even if your accommodation doesn’t have wifi you can write blog posts and emails offline and then publish them when you get internet access.
Being able to talk to your family for free from anywhere in the world is amazing, and seeing them with video chat makes all the difference when you are travelling for such a long time. In Rio we struggled to find a payphone that worked to call our bank before we realised that it would be much cheaper and easier to buy Skype credit and call them from our laptop. It’s free if the other person has Skype, but even calling landlines abroad is really good value. Six months later we have only spent £5 of our credit.
3) Storing Photos
On our last trip we used an iPod to store our photos, but it was slow and we couldn’t edit them. Now it’s great being able to upload our photos to our laptop, edit them as we go and have an extra backup on our tiny Western Digital Hard Drive.
4) iPhoto and iMovie
We are recent converts to the Mac and have discovered the joys of iPhoto which makes organising your photos so much easier. As well as sorting them into different groups you can do basic photo editing and can publish straight to Flickr and Facebook (although unfortunately only to your personal profile, not your fan page).
We haven’t created many videos yet but what we have done has been really easy using iMovie.
5) Language Resources
Using an online dictionary (I like Wordreference) makes travelling with a heavy foreign language dictionary unnecessary.
We also use Anki to organise our vocabulary learning. This free app uses spaced repetition to increase memorisation by repeating more often the words you don’t know and gradually decreasing those that you do. There are lots of other online language resources that I’ll be sharing in a future post.
Being able to watch films occasionally is really nice, especially when you are in very quiet places or you find yourself ill and incapable of doing anything else. It’s also useful to pass the time when the plane movie turns out to be dreadful.
Having our entire music collection on the laptop and being able to easily add new music to our iPods is a big advantage.
As we sold all of our stuff before we left to travel our Macbook Pro has replaced our TV, DVD player, stereo, 500 CD collection, and desktop computer. We wouldn’t travel without it.
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.