In 2015, I embarked on a four-month trip across South America – but as a 31-year-old backpacker (with a mortgage to pay and a career to protect), I had to find a way to run away with my responsibilities. And I’m not alone… On Instagram, currently more than 88,000 images are tagged #digitalnomad. An increasing number of professionals are on the move – even if it’s just taking work to the park on a lunch break. But the problem with carrying a laptop with you everywhere you go is that it can result in a bad case of ‘laptop shoulder’. That’s why I decided to lighten my load.
Apart from the obvious – an iPad is smaller and lighter – there are other plus points. I discovered my iPad has a far longer battery life than my Mac. If it does run out of power, there are also more opportunities to charge it (most airplanes have USB ports in economy seats and you can pug USBs into the back of most televisions). You also don’t have to remove an iPad from your hand luggage at airport security. This might sound like a small thing, but it adds up to a big time-saver.
Sometimes, I can write up to 4000 words in a day – which would be impossible (well, painful) from a touchscreen. Instead I use a Bluetooth keyboard. I also, anally, carry a spare keyboard in my car in case of emergency breakdowns. If you spend your time typing, the Microsoft Word app is indispensable (and free if you have an Outlook email account). I don’t work with a lot of graphics, but I have designer friends who swear by the apps Astropad, Adobe Color CC and Illustrator Line. Oh, and buy a Stylus. It’s far more accurate than a fingertip…
I go for substance over style when it comes to casing. I keep my iPad in a 1-litre dry sack (from Kathmandu’s camping section). It saved my work-life in a Peruvian hostel, when a ceiling collapsed over my iPad during a rainstorm. Whether you’re at the Bolivian border or a Brisbane train station, it’s not wise to flaunt your high-tech swagger. That’s why I love Osprey’s ‘Pixel Port’ backpacks. They have a special front pocket with an internal transparent window which lets you use your touchscreen without removing your iPad from your rucksack.
You can either save Word files to your iPad hard drive or to a cloud storage platform. I don’t like paying for cloud storage (#shoestring) so I sign up to multiple platforms and use the minimum storage they offer for free. Also, look out for special offers. This year, Google Drive gave away two free gigabytes of storage to any member who did a security check, whilst Dropbox gifts storage if you refer a friend.
My other secret weapon? The Gmobi iStick – the world’s first flash drive that’s compatible with i-devices. Imagine an external storage device with a USB connection on one end and an iPad connection on the other. This means you can now move photos, music and movies to and from your iPad without needing cloud storage (vital if you’re in an area with no or slow wi-fi). Also download the Find my iPhone app, which enables you to track or lock your devices remotely if they go missing.
Worried you can’t make the jump? I just ordered an iPad Mini to see if I can go even smaller…
Amy’s new book, Diary of a Digital Nomad; How to Run Away with your Responsibilities, is available to download on Amazon from January 9.