Welcome to the Legal Nomads Resources page, created to highlight some of the tips, tricks and resources I’ve learned in my years of world travel. For food-specific tips, please see my book, The Food Traveler’s Handbook. I’ll be adding and updating going forward, and if there are any subjects missing that you’d like to know more about, please contact me.
Table of Contents
Pre-trip planning and insurance
Discounts for Legal Nomads readers
Packing list and tips for your travels
Staying calm and positive on the road
Destination-specific budget breakdowns – Updated as of June 2013
Round-the-world ticket or as you go flying?
Technology in my bag
Useful smartphone apps for travel
USB Gadgets for Travel
Career breaks and career transitions
Business cards for your new career choice
Personal posts and how to connect
Pre-trip planning and insurance
Research the Weather. Do not discount weather in your planning. Exploring the Philippines was an awe-inspiring few months, but when monsoon season started I quickly learned just how difficult backpacking could be when you’re constantly dripping wet. While wet and dry seasons are less delineated these days, it still makes good travel sense to get a rough idea of when to go. The best times are usually shoulder seasons, on the cusp of the high or low periods. Prices are lower and while you might get some bad weather you’ll also avoid a good amount of the crowds. Bonus: some seriously beautiful sunsets.
Vaccinations. Yes, you need them. Not all of them, but some basics are important before you head to environments wholeheartedly different from the one your body is used to. Regardless of country, I’ve always made sure I had the following shots up to date: Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Meningitis, Yellow Fever, Tetanus booster, Typhoid/Diphtheria, MMR booster (measles, mumps and rubella) and Polio. There are others such as cholera, rabies, and Japanese encephalitis that are more subjective based on budget and destination, and your doctor will be able to help ascertain how necessary they are.
- Resources: The Adventure Doc’s vaccination page, CDC’s Malaria Map, CDC Traveler’s Heath recommendations, World Health Organization’s Country-specific Reports.
Medical insurance. There were several times on this trip where I got sick, and while some countries are not expensive to find good medical care, others break the budget. Medical insurance is something that you hopefully won’t need on your travels, but if you do get sick, you’ll be relieved to have a policy to protect you.
- Resources: Bootsnall.com has a handy comparison chart for several medical insurance plans popular with round-the-world travelers.
PDF copies of your things to yourself. Before you leave, PDF yourself (and archive) copies of your passport, your visas obtained in advance and any other documents you might need to show and/or potentially lose on the road.
Consider getting a Google Voice number so you can receive emails of voicemail transcripts or texts left for you while you were on your travels. While not a failsafe method of communication (let’s just say their voice transcription technology needs a little work) it comforts me to have a number for my parents, bank or friends to reach me along the way.
Back up your Laptop: If you are traveling with a laptop, consider backing up your photos and computer files online. It’s awful to lose all of your photos and if your computer and backups are stolen, you’re going to be very upset.
- Resources: Companies like Carbonite, Crashplan, or Mozy will backup your laptop or desktop to the cloud.
Read How to Shit Around the World before you go. Written by a doctor with a great sense of humor, the book aims to demystify street food, help you stay healthy and get people to give you strange looks when you read the book on the subway. Ok, the latter is my own contribution but riding the R in New York was much more fun with this book in hand. In addition, my own Food Traveler’s Handbook includes a chapter on dealing with food safety and picking food stalls that won’t get you sick, as well as on traveling with food restrictions. (I’ve got celiac disease, so being careful about what I eat has been an important part of my travels.)
Build a timeline and spend some time looking at visa requirements. You’ll need them in some countries and have a visa-waiver exemption in others. It’s a good idea to read up ahead of time, as some countries are very specific about obtaining a visa ahead of time.
- Resources: For American Citizens, entry requirements are here; for Canadian Citizens, entry requirements are here. IATA’s global visa database is also a great resource for anyone – plug in the country you’re from, your resident country and where you are headed.
- Also take a look at country reports for your destination. The Government of Canada’s landing page for international travel is here (and they’re on Twitter here) and the USA’s Department of State country warnings are here.
- Canadians! There are work programmes available for you if you’re 18-35 years old. Several countries have bilateral treaties that allow you to work without a fixed job ahead of time, but as a means to reduce your travel costs. More info here.
- Airtreks has a sample timeline for potential round-the-world travelers here.
Discounts for Legal Nomads readers
Discounts for products I’ve used that might be of service to people here. I receive nothing from these companies in the form of commission or kickbacks.
- Kenu Highline and other products: Using the promotion code legalnomads will get you 20% of your purchases.
- Vietnam Visa on Arrival: For people visiting Vietnam and wanting to get a visa on arrival letter (VOA) instead of a visa from their local embassy, www.evisa.com.vn is a service I have used without issue. Promotion code LEGALNOMADS (yes, it has to be in all caps) at checkout will apply a 26% discount on the payment screen. (Note: this is valid for any VOA visa on their site, be it 3 month or 1 month.)
- 50% off Boingo for the first free months for access to Boingo’s 600,000 hot spots around the world.
- Discounted (54% off the cover price) AFAR Magazine subscription.
Packing list and packing tips for your travels
* For food travelers, I’ve listed a different list here.
Round out your First Aid Kit. A first aid kit is a must. While people made fun of me for carrying it at all times, the travelers who did fall/break something/tear their calf open while jumping off a boat were among the supporters. Many of these can be purchased and/or replaced from the road, but if starting out in a more remote destination, it’s a good thing to have a more thorough kit from the get-go. Things I don’t leave home without when traveling to developing countries:
- Neosporin or a similar triple antibiotic cream; (Note: if you’re going to be spending a good part of your time in the tropics or somewhere with high humidity (Southeast Asia), you might want to also include an antibiotic powder. I’ve had deep cuts where using the cream actually made it worse, because the cut never dried out. In high-humidity environments, antibiotic powder is your friend).
- Anti-itch cream;
- Small sutures/stitches;
- Burn gel;
- Diclofenac (anti-inflammatory cream sold over the counter);
- Ciprofloxacin (if you get food poisoning/stomach infections, you will want some of this)
- A “Z Pack” aka, Azithromycin (another option for stomach infections as many bacteria in Southeast Asia are becoming resistant to Cipro, discussions with doctors there)
- Metronidazole (for giardia or amoebic dysentery; I’ve picked these up for reasonable prices in Thailand or other parts of Southeast Asia);
- Immodium, but only to take if absolutely necessary since trapping whatever bacteria you’ve got in your intestine is a bad idea. I only use it if I’m about to board a bus for 8 hours and know that I’m not going to make it without copious bathroom breaks.
- Sewing kit;
- Benedryl or other anti-histamine pills
- Anti-malaria meds (consult your doctor about using these as a prophylactic; I keep a dose on my in the event I do contract malaria and no doctor is nearby);
- Moleskin for blisters;
- Charcoal tablets for your stomach, to help absorb the bad stuff after a bout of food poisoning;
- Oral rehydration salts;
- Diflucan (for the ladies);
- Anti-mozzie spray plus 100% DEET (for spraying drains in showers/sinks);
- Sterile syringes;
- 2nd Skin for blisters;
- Alcohol wipes; and
Waterproof your Electronics. I use Ultra-Sil nylon dry bags to keep my electronics dry and dust-free. If you’ll be headed to the islands or will be on water, I’d recommend a sturdier, more waterproof bag like this See Bag from Sealine.
Research your Water Purification Options. Safe water is an important part of travel, and thankfully there are a several options that are easy to keep with you on the road. out there that won’t weigh you down.
- The the popular SteriPEN, a small wand that you insert in a glass of water, powered by AA-batteries.
- For filtering there is the Sawyer Squeeze filter system, which is compact and comes with 3 collapsible bottles. It screws onto the bottle you are drinking from, so it provides fast filtration with no awkward parts you can lose.
- Aquamira chlorine dioxide water treatment drops are inexpensive and really lightweight, with two small bottles that require an hour wait prior to use. (Note that these treat viruses as well as filtering bacteria and parasite).
- For those looking for a non-chemical filtration and virus elimination system, the Lifesaver 4000UF is another option that protects against bacteria as well as viruses.
Get a Point It Dictionary: People often write to ask how I get by in places where I don’t speak the language. This Point-It Dictionary is a big help. From a homestay in Siberia to ordering food in China (by pointing to my meat of choice in the book) to entertaining kids in Burma, this dictionary comes with me no matter what.
Duct Tape: For everything from taping up ripped window screens (Jodi 1; mosquitos 0), to rips in my pack to a cut that won’t close, I don’t leave home without it. You shouldn’t either.
Packing Cubes or Compression Sacks. The only reason things fit into the tetris-game that is my backpack or suitcase is because of packing aids like these two. I use packing cubes for the bigger items – jeans, sweaters, etc. and compression sacks (siliconized nylon and super thin so they don’t take up extra room) for the smaller clothing. The compression sacks have the added bonus of being water resistent.
A sturdy, well-designed daypack: I went through a slew of different daypack options over my 5 years of travel but have ended up with a 19L Synapse bag from Tom Binh. It’s small but holds more than you would think, it is really well built and they even have a safety whistle on the sternum strap. Friends recommended them heartily and I tried them out only in 2012, but I’m very happy with my purchase. Another option is a Gregory pack, very well-made and lightweight. Since they come in men’s and women’s fits, their home page is your best bet for finding a style that works for you.
Your main backpack really needs to fit your back: I use a Gregory Jade 60 (in XS torso size it’s 54L) as a larger bag. It’s the only bag that seems to fit my mini-sized torso well, and allows me comfortable to carry weight while camping. I’ve yet to find a bag that fits as snugly.
If you’re looking for a suitcase, think about a packing system: I joke that I ought to be fully sponsored by Eagle Creek because I use so many of their products.
- My bag’s insides are a tetris-like mix of packing cubes and other sachets. For toiletries I use the Wallaby foldable accessories case — it houses everything from shampoo and soap and face wash and makeup, as well as important medicine and some of what’s in my first-aid kit above. To pack inside the suitcase I use rectangular packing cubes as I mentioned above, or if space and weight are an issue, the thinner siliconized nylon version.
Many companies have a system like this, or you can opt for giant zip bags. Whatever it is – it’s helpful to have a system (tops in one, bottoms in the other, green bag for underwear, red bag for socks, etc) so that you can pack and unpack by rote, and without stress.
Safety Whistle: A safety whistle is small, but important. I wrote a post about how my safety whistle saved me on three separate occasions in Asia. It’s a small piece of plastic, but when you need it, you need it. Highly recommended. You can pick one up from Amazon or at your local outdoor store.
Headlamp: I’ve used my headlamp (I have had the same Petzl Tikka headlamp for years and it’s still kicking!) in a staggeringly broad cross-section of situations, from cave spelunking to reading in a tent to navigating my way to the bathroom in a hostel at 4am. I use a Petzl Tikka Plus headlamp and it has stayed intact over 3 years of travel.
Smartphone. I’ve found having a smartphone on the road a very useful thing, from currency apps like Oanda to incredibly helpful data minimizers like Onavo to great online phrase translators. If unlocked, SIM cards are very cheap and easy to procure from the road – in Thailand, for example, my SIM cost me $1.50 and came preloaded with enough to make several calls. In Vietnam, data plans are 70,000 dong ($3.19) for unlimited monthly data. Note: Too Many Adapters rounds up the many SIM card options in Southeast Asia here.
Doorstop. Small and easy to carry but brings some extra peace of mind if you’re staying somewhere and are worried about someone trying to get into your room at night. While not fail-safe (of course!) I’ve used my doorstop several times on my travels and it’s been a small tool I am glad I had.
Thank you cards. A great gesture for anywhere you stay or are invited to eat, bringing a thank you card is an excellent option when you don’t know what to bring but don’t want to show up empty handed. A lovely option here.
For the ladies: foldable flat shoes. In my post about 21 tips from four years of travel, I advocate packing jeans as a way to both fit in with others when you’re dining out in a city, and feel like yourself despite being far from home. Another arm of the same advice would be to find a pair of foldable flat shoes you can take with you, which dress up even the most casual of outfits. I’ve never found anything as comfortable as Tieks, since they’re padded and made of leather so they stretch. These were sent to me for review, and they are quite expensive but I stand by the fact that they are stupidly comfortable. I’ve actually never found a pair that fit this well and didn’t give me blisters. Other less expensive options Sidekicks or Dr. Scholl’s ‘fast flats’. Of the two, I’ve found the “fast flats” to be more comfortable, and slightly more padded, but still unwearable for more than an hour or two.
See what others have packed.
- Wonderful and interactive “preparation page” from Aline of Yallah Bye, divided by section.
- Thorough packing list from Devon Mills including photos of each section from her backpack.
- Cassie’s packing list from Ever in Transit.
- For the gentlemen out there, GQ Trippin’s Gerard posted his packing list, along with photos, as did Eliot (for him and his girlfriend – 6 months, 7 countries’ worth) and Ever in Transit also has a men’s carry on list.
- Spartan Traveler breaks down his packing into easy sections with photos — minimalist, and effective.
- See also Travel Lite, Lani Teshim’s great site, chock full of useful packing tips, lists and resources.
- Alexandra of Travel Fashion Girl has a lot of different packing list on her packing resources page.
- Packing list from Anne and her partner Mike (divided by gender).
Staying calm and positive on the road
These are more philosophical than practical, but are equally important when the sights, smells and chaos of a new place overwhelm you.
- Give yourself a few days to adjust before making judgments about a new place. You usually arrived tired from the trip and less open minded than usual. Give yourself a chance to warm to it before you decide to leave. Initially I didn’t enjoy my time in Bangkok but after getting out of the main tourist areas and living in the middle of street food heaven, I found myself enthralled with the city. Sometimes the places that make the worst first impressions end up being your favorites.
- Learning a few words of the local goes a long way. This is helpful not just to get what you need, but also to break the ice in a new place. I’d also and make sure that the translation of “no problem” is on that brief list – it’s a surefire way to get a smile!
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. Clichéd, but true. The sooner you start to weigh down your days with resentment or anger at things that cannot change, the sooner you’ll want to leave. Things will not go as planned, but that’s part of the adventure, and oftentimes they really do work out in the end. Save the stress and the anger for the things that really matter.
- Build a vacation into your vacation. When I came home for the holidays in 2009, people asked me how my vacation was going. I explained that my round-the-world travels were my life, and my time home was my vacation. Travel in developing countries can be tiring and it can be frustrating, and there are times when you really do need to give yourself a break. Whether that means sitting on a beach for a week, finding a festival you love (a long list of festivals from around the world is here), and relaxing or treating yourself to a nice meal every so often or upgrading your hotel to something different, figure out what you need to give your brain and body a break, and then indulge in it once in a while.
- Experiment with food and markets. Experiencing the world through food is by far my preferred method of traveling, and the best ways to do so are to parachute into a busy market in a new place and see what’s what. From the bustling, colorful morning shopping on Inle Lake in Burma to the teeming animal markets of Otavalo in Ecuador, markets led me to new explorations in food and a connection to locals that I would have otherwise missed.
- Remember that the travel community is very active online, and will happily provide advice and support whenever you need it. Prior to starting a blog, I had no idea that there was such a robust, supportive community of fellow travelers out there who were available to provide advice and suggestions. For those who aren’t planning to write about their trip but are active in social media, Twitter is an excellent place to get off-the-cuff accommodation picks, food suggestions and people to meet along the way.
Destination-specific budget breakdowns – Updated as of January 2014
Budget is, of course, integral to any endeavour of this kind. How much you save for your travels will in part be determined by where you want to go. For travels through Southeast Asia or the Subcontinent, you’ll definitely need far less than if you were to spend that same amount of time travelling through Europe or Australia/New Zealand. I saved up to spend an approximate $12,000 – $15,000 per year, and I came in at the lower end of that spectrum, even when you factor in long-haul flights back to North America for family or health reasons. Unfortunately, I’ve never done any spreadsheets / budget breakdown but the travel community is full of great resources in that domain. Here are a few of them, broken down by destination:
Round the World Travel Budget
- Eliot Peper has a 6 month budget breakdown (link to his excel spreadsheet in the post), and links to other budget updates from RTW travelers.
- Jaime from Breakaway Backpacker on his RTW travel budget.
- Shannon from A Little Adrift’s RTW budget breakdown (including spreadsheet).
- One Giant Step’s RTW planning and budget page and their dollar-by-dollar breakdown.
- Neverending Voyage’s RTW full cost breakdown.
- David from Go Backpacking’s cost of a RTW trip post.
- The Road Forks on how they budgeted for a RTW trip, including cost breakdown and links to other bloggers who have done the same.
- Kirstin from Take Your Big Trip on estimating budget for a RTW adventure.
- BootsnAll rounds up budgets from 10 different RTW trips, including a “by-the-numbers” section and budgeting tips from each traveler.
- Warren & Betsy Talbot started a whole new site called RTW Expenses, with great resources.
- Round-the-World travel budget for 2, including country-by-country breakdown, tips on sticking to budget and more, from Amy at Surrounded by the Sound.
- Monthly budget breakdownsfrom Lauren of NE Footsteps.
- Rough budget breakdown from a long-term travel on bicycles, via Family on Bikes
- Jeremy from Living the Dream RTW has a country-to-country budget breakdown, including spreadsheet, and an explanation of where he splurged, and why.
- Lily from Explore for a Year on how much her 19 flights cost (around $4.5k) from 13 months of travel.
- Daniel Baylis (fellow Montrealer!) unpacks his year-long RTW trip and budget.
- Katie from Katie Going Global has a detailed budget roundup from her full RTW trip.
Asia Travel Budget
- Steph from Twenty Years Hence sent me detailed cost posts for Japan, Hong Kong, China, Philippines, Singapore & Taiwan
Nick from Move to Taiwan on a monthly budget for Taiwan, including breakdown.
- A Couple Travelers have posted detailed costs & guides for Japan, Vietnam, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and South Korea.
- Be My Travel Muse on the cost of travel in Cambodia.
- Off the Path’s Burma (Myanmar) cost breakdown.
- One Giant Step’s Japan budget breakdown.
- Roger Wade’s Price of Travel is a great source of information and he has a cost-per-day breakdown for Asia (26 cities)
- Johnny Vagabond has a budget section, with cost-per-day in several Southeast Asian countries.
- Travels of Mike on how much it cost to travel in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong and China.
- Shannon from A Little Adrift on how much it costs to live in Chiang Mai.
- James Clark from Nomadic Notes on living in Indonesia for $15 USD a day.
- Lloyd Lancaster on Bali for $500 USD a month.
- Ali from Ali Adventures on how much $ was spent during 2 months in Southeast Asia. Note: breakdown by expense type, not by country.
- Jeremy from Travel Freak has a cost breakdown in China.
Europe Travel Budget
- A Couple of Travelers on Scotland, England, Germany, Poland, Austria, Switzerland, and France.
- Annie from Practical Adventurology on how much it costs to live for a year in France with her family.
- Tom from Active Backpacker summarizes his budget and breaks down costs from two months in Europe.
- Price of Travel on the cost of travel in Europe (40 cities).
- The Aussie Nomad’s series of how much it cost to travel through Europe, broken down by city.
- Scandinavia, Eastern Europe and Russia/Siberia budget from Katie Aune of Katie Going Global, with breakdown per country and by line-item.
- Technosyncratic on how much it costs to live in London and on monthly costs for Berlin.
- Sebastien from Off the Path on biking through Holland.
- DJ from Dream Euro Trip has budget breakdowns for several European destinations.
- Spanish Sabores on a trip to Toledo, Spain.
Oceania Travel Budget
- Travels of Mike on how much it cost to travel in Australia and New Zealand.
- Laurence from Finding the Universe on how much a year cost him in Australia.
- Travis from Flashpacker HQs on New Zealand’s hop on, hop off bus, with cost breakdowns.
- Alison from Ali Adventures on a 10-day trip to Melbourne, Australia.
Africa Travel Budget
- Cristina from Travel for Wildlife on a safari in Kruger park, and where each of her costs went.
Middle East Travel Budget
South & Central America & Mexico Travel Budget
- Brendan from Brendan’s Adventures has budget breakdowns for Bolivia and Argentina.
- Kim from So Many Places breaks down her travel budget for Ecuador.
- Keith from Traveling Savage on how much it cost to travel in Argentina.
- David from Go Backpacking on the cost of travel in Colombia.
- Thorough, detailed budget breakdowns for Central America, divided by country and type of expense, from Jeff of Lengthy Travel.
- Neverending Voyage’s budget breakdown for Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay and for Bolivia and Peru, as well as their full budget for 1-year in South America.
- Alex from Alex in Wonderland on 2 weeks in Honduras (including diving costs).
- A different Alex (from Virtual Wayfarer) on 21 days in Argentina.
- South American budget breakdown (very detailed) from Jeff of Lengthy Travel
- The Globetrotter Girls on how much it cost them to travel through Central America.
Mexico Travel Budget
- Scott from Quirky Travel Guy on his weeklong trip to Alaska and costs of travel.
- Kate from RTW Traveler on the costs of travel to Hawaii for flashpackers.
Other Options to Stretch Your Travel Budget
Keeping budget low is, of course, a bit priority for most of us. Other than the usual — staying at hostels, eating street food, cooking when we can — there are ways to minimize costs and get creative. Some options:
- WWOOFing: working on farms as a means to supplement housing costs.
- HelpX: trading accommodation for services in a wide variety of industries
- WorkAway: Another site for trading lodging for services.
- Housesitting: several options exist for house-sitting gigs, and each site has pros/cons. For more info see Housesitting 101 from the Hecks, but here are the main ones: House Carers, Mind my House, Caretaker’s Gazette, and Trusted Housesitters
Round-the-world ticket or as you go flying?
This remains the mother of all questions for RTW travelers, and the subject of much vitriol on many of the travel forums. People seem vehemently for or against a round-the-world ticket, with little room in between. I’m a big proponent of not buying a round-the-world ticket, mostly because some of the places I loved the most – and spent the most time in – weren’t even on my initial itinerary. A person you meet who tells you it’s somewhere you cannot miss, some article that catches your eye along the way; many reasons why you want the freedom and flexibility to do as you please, as you go.
For me, it was more important to have the flexibility and freedom of being able to change my plans on a whim, than it was to calculate the aggregate savings of a RTW ticket. I am sure a RTW ticket would have run me less in terms of bare costs, but I’d like to think that the fun I’ve had in being wholly spontaneous was a fair opportunity cost for those savings.
For those people who feel more comfortable knowing the general route and schedule in advance, this is a perfect option and generally cheaper than the pay-as-you-go ticket buying, below. Conversely, the downside to these types of tickets is a lack of flexibility in destinations and mode of transportation, as well as the limit of 12 months.
- Star Alliance - Air Canada, Air China, Air New Zealand, ANA, Asiana Airlines, Austrian, bmi, EgyptAir, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airlines, Shanghai Airlines, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, Spanair, SWISS, TAP Portugal, Thai Airways, Turkish Airlines, United, US Airways. RTW ticket is based on mileage (and not “stops”). Overland mileage between destinations counts toward your total.
- One World - Aer Lingus, American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, JAL, Iberia, Lan and Qantas, offering either of a Global explorer or a oneworld explorer, depending on the amount of continents and stops you want to include in your trip. Good for South America due to the inclusion of LAN in the OneWorld alliance.
- SkyTeam Alliance - Aeroflot, Aeromexico, Air France, Alitalia, China Southern Airlines, Continental Airlines, CSA Czech Airlines, Delta Air Lines, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Korean Air, Northwest Airlines, Air Europa, Copa Airlines, Kenya Airways.
- Airtreks RTW ticket options is another option. I used them for the first series of long-hauls I booked on my travels, a set of open-jaw tickets when I knew I had to be somewhere specific. E.g. I booked a flight from NY to Santiago and then several months later, a flight from Buenos Aires to Cape Town. This can be done separately, of course.
- BootnAll’s travel planner is further option for planning round-the-world travel. A new offering from Bootsnall, you can use them to add custom build and price itineraries for your long and short haul ticket strings.
- Nomadic Matt’s Travel Hacking Guide (primarily US-focused) on mileage and airfare.
For many travelers, the idea of a RTW trip often includes freeing themselves from whatever routine or life they have been living and giving themselves up to the unknown. If this feeling/goal is more important than knowing where are heading next, opting against a RTW ticket might be better for you. As-you-go flying means taking advantage of the budget airline options out there, as well as any other modes of transportation between countries (trains, buses, motorbikes, etc). It also means that you might decide to change your itinerary entirely upon meeting people headed in a different direction, and that you need to do a lot less pre-trip destination planning since you could inevitably end up somewhere entirely unexpected.
Technology in my bag
I get a lot of emails about technology and travel as well, about what computer I bring (if any) and the phones or gadgets I use. From my own travels, I have –
- The Olympus E-P3 camera: As of October 2011, I bought a new Olympus micro 4/3ds camera, meaning that it’s an interchangeable lens system but on a very small camera body. I’m small too, and I didn’t want to lug around a DSLR. I’ve paired the camera with an excellent 20mm “pancake” Panasonic lens, perfect for macro food photography. For some examples with the new camera, see my photoessay from Istanbul, and photos from Morocco. For more on mirrorless cameras, please see this review from Shawn Blanc comparing different models (Panasonic, Olympus, Sony).
Prior to that point, I had a Canon S90 point & shoot camera. All of my travel photography up until October 2011 was taken with this point and shoot camera. At the very beginning, my photos were tepid at best, but I’ve tried to learn as much as I can as I go, including using the aperture priority mode for food photos. As point and shoot cameras go, this one is great and in the new S95 model you can shoot in HD video as well. Lens is wide-angle, the camera goes down to f/2.0 and it’s extremely tiny meaning you can take photos inconspicuously. Note as of Jan 2011: the S100 just came out and it’s a beauty.
- iPhone 5 (unlocked): When I do not have a local SIM, I just use it with WiFi. Loving Instagram for sharing photos with my family and friends and for notetaking, currency conversion, maps and more, it has been a fun tool.
- a Macbook Air 11″ notebook: I used to carry around a terrific Asus eee PC netbook (at $299.00, it was a bargain and good enough to get the work done without worrying too much about it getting lost). However, as I’ve transitioned into more freelance work and photography, I had to upgrade my computer to something with more processing power (and a screen that’s a little larger too). I choose the Air because it is lightweight, I’ve been able to use Time Machine to back up on the road. I’m amazed at how fast the Air is with the new chip and I’ve got no complaints having only purchased it in the fall of 2011.
- For those with an iPhone: I use Kenu’s Highline, which is basically a bungee cord for your phone so you don’t ever drop it on the ground again. It’s got a tough safety lock that firmly grips the phone, Kevlar cord. (And I liked it so much I got a discount code for the product – adding legalnomads will get you 20% of your purchases.)
- Western Digital 500GB My Passport Drive: 500GB drives are mighty small nowadays, and as someone who had all my photos stolen with my laptop and cameras, I make sure to back up my photos as I go. I also use Mozy.com to back them up into the cloud, just in case.
- Boingo Membership (link is to a chart of their plans available for purchase): While I wish that wifi were free in more airports and hotspots around the world, it’s just not. There are a bunch of options for Wifi hotspot plans out there, but I’ve used Boingo for the last few years and it has been great for long layovers in Dubai and elsewhere. It also affords access to the many membership hotspots in bigger cities like London when used with their free iPhone app, good for when I don’t have a local SIM and need email to coordinate meetings. Expensive for budget travellers, but for those working as they roam and needing constant access, a good option to do so.
Useful smartphone apps for travel
When I started my trip in 2008, I had no laptop and no smartphone. As the years have gone by and I’ve continued my travels, I’ve picked up a phone and kept an eye out for apps that help me as I navigate strange places, be it via language, food or helping make my life a little easier as I go.
- Onavo (iphone only): Onavo’s aim is to shrink your data usage, and it does so by installing a configuration profile on your phone, so that the data you receive from the interwebs is streamed through their cloud-based compression service. This means that the compression takes place before it gets to your phone, and this also means Onavo saves you some money if you’re not on an unlimited data plan.
- Skype: Being on the road for over three years means that I’ve had no SIM card and no home base. As a result, Skype has been a saviour – it allows me to use WiFi to reach my friends, I can forward its services to a local number, and I’ve added SkypeOut credit for those family members (*cough* dad *cough*) who refuse to get an account themselves. For those of you who want to stick to apps from Google, Google Voice’s app is an alternative, allowing you to text freely within North America from anywhere in the world.
- Google Voice: For those who are in the States, getting a Google voice number is free and simple, and has been great on the road. It allows me to call my family from my computer for free, and when they ring me on my local number it calls me on my computer, and
- ICOON Global Picture Dictionary: When words just won’t work, be it because you can’t speak the language or you need a doctor ASAP, this is your friend. Photos by category, foods, body parts, lodging basics and more.
- Google Maps: it works in a startlingly comprehensive list of countries; it helps when you’re really exhausted and just cannot figure out where your hostel is and all the street signs are in an unfamiliar language. If you’re directionally disabled like me, Google Maps is a must, especially when you can use it to show your taxi driver where you need to go in their native language
- Speaking of language, I’m enamoured with Word Lens (iPhone only; Android version is here). The app instantly translates printed words from one language to another using your phone’s video camera. It’s a pretty nifty idea, and even if you don’t absolutely need to get a message across right now, you’ll have a great time playing around with translation on-the-go.
- Oanda’s Currency Conversion App: Currency conversion is a helpful thing to have available on the road, especially farther afield where you are sometimes negotiating for rates when changing money. Those countries with a closed monetary system (Myanmar, for example) won’t really care what your app says, but for the most part it’s very helpful to have an interbank rate at your immediate disposal. I’ve used this app throughout my worldwide travels and it comes in handy not just for ensuring I get a decent rate, but also to keep track of what I’m spending by converting to USD as I go.
10. USB gadgets for travel
1. Belkin’s mini surge protector is one that I keep with me at all times. It allows me to charge whatever I need, is tiny enough that it doesn’t take up too much room, and comes in handy when there’s only 1 outlet in a hostel and people are clamouring for it.
2. For those of you with a serious amount of USB charging required, the USB Octopus has your name on it: 7 USB ports in one tiny gadget.
3. A similar idea for USB only is the Flip-It, allowing you to charge a device even when all the outlets are taken.
4. Less practical but very fun to have on the road is the X-Mini II speaker. The tiny podlike speaker fits in a felt bag and gives off far more sound than their size would indicate. I’ve used them all over the world to play some of my music to locals who are curious about what I listen to; inevitably, people forget about the music and start oohing and aahing over the X-Mini instead!
5. Finally, for those of you in warmer, sunnier climates: you can opt for this solar-powered bar for battery-charging goodness.
Coming soon – Photography apps and gadgets for the road.
Career breaks and career transitions
In addition, Career Breakers Warren and Betsy Talbot have created a thorough book called “Dream Save Do” about how to build up to a career break and/or longer term travel. And Farnoosh Brock created a tip-filled “Fear Crushing Travel Guide” with step-by-step breakdowns of how to plan toward leaving to travel, with an emphasis on dealing with the fears and anxieties that get in the way first, then taking off.
Articles to help you re-enter your career or start a new one:
Business cards for your new career choice
Working as a lawyer for several years meant that I was guaranteed a very staid, simple business card. So when I decided to head out and travel, I was excited to get something a little more fun. I ended up with Moo cards, which allow me to upload my own photos (up to 50 of them per order) to the front of my card, as well as a headshot on the back. What ends up happening now is that an exchange of business cards turns into a destination guessing game as people look through my photos and try to see if they can figure out where they were taken.
You can pick up your own MOO Cards as well – I’ve got nothing but great things to say about their service and their site. Bonus: when you get the box of cards, it says “created by Moo and you.” WIN!
Personal posts and how to connect
You can reach me in the following ways:
RSS Feed. Legal Nomads updates, directly to your RSS reader or inbox.
Facebook. I set up the Fan page last year and have been really thrilled with the level of interaction from fans. It’s a great place to connect, share commentary and stay in touch.
Twitter. I post a wide variety of links, mostly technology, news and astronomy related. Travel interspersed between those categories, but it isn’t the focus.
Instagram Photos from my travels taken with an iPhone 3GS.
Pinterest: Why yes, I did create a board called “trees that look like broccoli”. Why not?
Via email. Send me a message or any questions to jodi-at-legalnomads.com
Hopefully I have inspired you in some way to seek out those things in life that make you thirsty to live in technicolor, despite any obstacles in your way.
Thanks for reading!