The Travel Kit of a Digital Nomad

Road Gear for the Wired Odyssey

Travel gear tips
As I sit here writing this on the tarmac in Chicago, I’m relaxed. I’m happy, even, though this cold I got from my grandson is kicking my ass just a bit. It’s been a busy morning; I’ve been able to talk with my partner, with my daughters, I’ve kept on track with the flight status of not only my plane but also my friends (who had a different flight problem). I’ve watched “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” and answered customer service emails and written a blog that I got paid for before starting to write this one. It’s the life of the digital nomad, or as I used to call it “LIP” (Location Independent Professional) and it has both good and bad sides. The bad is that it is hard to get away from work. The good, though, is that I can work anywhere, as long as I have my tools – a bevy of electronics – functioning and accessible.

Part of the reason I’m so OK right now is through hard-learned lessons of hundreds of plane flights, dozens of train rides, a few boat trips and one very memorable dash through Amsterdam precariously perched on the back of a bicycle pedaled by a Dutch sonophilic lawyer.

My life. It has its moments.

What follows might not really qualify as a “practice”, because it’s more about the equipment I use. However, much like there is a practice for maintaining a car, or cleaning a weapon, there is a sense of deliberation put into this. More than just a list of geeky things, these are the things that keep my mind relaxed and clear when traveling so that I can handle the unexpected blips more gracefully.

Battery pack. I owe my friend Evan for this one; he showed me his at the “Drawn & Quartered” in London, and mentioned how it could charge his phone eight times over. Of course I had to get one that could do that, plus charge my iPad, and also had a built in flashlight…but the real reward was freedom from anxiety. I never realized how much thought and energy I put into keeping my devices powered until I no longer needed to worry about it. You may not need a big one, but it’s a handy thing.

Airline Apps: This is a mishmash of things, but basically it comes down to this: you can do things on your phone like have your boarding passes stored, check your flight status, and more. It’s not perfect – my favorite airline, SouthWest, doesn’t have digital boarding passes for some arcane reason – but it means I never worry about losing my boarding pass, trying to find a monitor to check flight statuses, and more. Some other apps like Flight Update help me plan out my trips in advance as well and keep me up to date. On the other hand, I’ve never had any use for services like; I’m not sure why, I don’t think they’re bad, they just haven’t been useful for me.

Stylish Pockets: Under my seat in front of me is a black leather blazer. It’s got a front outside pocket that fits my phone well, an inside pocket that fits my passport wallet, a left pocket that will hold my Kindle, and a right pocket that holds a moleskine and pen. It’s leather, so provides protection from the elements, but it’s a blazer, so it’s also relatively presentable (Ok, might disagree, but I don’t have his budget). Notice, though, I said “stylish” pockets. Many men will forget that part and get photography vests (not stylish unless you’re a photographer) or cargo shorts (not stylish unless you’re hiking) and load up the pockets. I get it; there’s a kind of mentality, reinforced by Pat Rothfuss, that just. Wants. More. Pockets. Remember, moderation in everything, and while pockets are good, looking like a mutant marsupial will get you funny looks from your seatmate.

GripIt Organizer: This goes along with the battery, sort of. I bought it as a whim about a year ago, and it’s amazing. Mine is 9″x6″, and on it I store:

  • Battery pack
  • Headphone cord
  • Micro-to-USB cable (not for my devices, but in case a friend needs one)
  • Lightning-to-USB cable
  • Ipad cable
  • Wall USB plug (works with all three cables)
  • Credit Card reader for iPhone
  • 2 binder clips
  • Manila envelope with sales/publicity materials
  • Spare iPhone earbuds

It all fits quite neatly in my satchel, and there is no more fumbling for cables, looking for lost gear…heck, even when I’m home I hang it on a wall hook next to my desk. In a perfect world I’d have doubles of everything on it, so this could just be my “travel set” – but as it is, organization provides peace of mind.

Bluetooth Headphones: True audiophiles (like my bicycling friend in Amsterdam) would tell me I’m missing out, but since I made the switch to a set of bluetooth headphones (the Out Door Tech “Privates”, which yes, makes me giggle) I’ve loved it. Like the hunt for power, the aggravation of cables was never as evident as when it was gone. It probably doesn’t make as much difference if you’re running or walking, but when you’re doing those things while juggling a phone, carry-on luggage, a satchel, boarding passes (damn you, SouthWest!) and a cup of coffee, not having to worry about a cable can make a big difference.

We’re rolling again on the tarmac, and I’m thinking we might actually be getting in the air soon. So there you have it; the things that make my life as a digital nomad easier. There are some problems I’ve not found solutions too – like carrying a water bottle and a reusable coffee mug, or figuring out how to both manage my headphones and a stylish hat. Also, every travel pillow I’ve ever tried is just plain awful.

How about you? Got any travel secrets to share, or travel problems you might like me to tackle? I’m off to Boston in a few days, so if you have some travel hack you think I should try, let me know!

1 thought on “The Travel Kit of a Digital Nomad”

  1. I’m liking those wireless earbuds, might need to get a pair soon…and the grip organizer….maybe a battery pack…im a horribly disorganized traveler. Also cheap. My travel tips would run along the lines of don’t be afraid to chipmunk at the free continental breakfast for backpack snacks during the day, and when youre in a tourist trap area you can usually find a convience store less than than a block off the beaten path that’ll be a lot cheaper than snacks/drink where you are. Also, let your wife sleep in, even if you’re a VaCa morning person.

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