It's almost time to take off, so we're ready to pack our little working office into a backpack and get going. After weeks of research we are really happy with the setup we have for travelling and working in Europe. Above you can see how compact it all is, and below are what we think are the tools that will make your work and travel life a whole lot easier.
A LIGHTWEIGHT LAPTOP
OUR PICK: Acer Travelmate X
Having a nimble computer that doesn't weigh a whole lot is crucial for your travel adventures. You want it to be slim, robust and preferably speedy - particularly if you need to be doing a bit of design work on it. We've gone for the Acer Travelmate X for a few reasons. First up, it's got an aluminium shell - that means it's going to be able to take a bit of wear and tear on the road. It's really slim and lightweight, but it also has a screen that is big enough for us to work on. It's not got the grunt to run games...but in terms of power, it suits us just fine. We should note we aren't huge fans of Apple products - but I'm sure there will be someone reading this right now screaming at the screen that there is a better Apple option out there. That's a personal preference (and budget) thing, so for all of these items, have a research around and find what best suits you. A shout out to our friends at Laptops R Us for tracking the Acer Travelmate down for us.
A BRILLIANT TABLET
OUR PICK: Sony Xperia
For some people this won't be an absolute must, but for our type of work it's AMAZING to be able to have multiple monitors running. We've installed an app called "SpaceDesk" onto our Xperia tablet and Acer laptop, and that let's us use the tablet as an additional monitor to the laptop (great for when we want to compare designs on the fly). It was super easy to install/use, and is a nifty way to make you feel like you have a full office setup while you are travelling.
A FLATPACK MOUSE
OUR PICK: Microsoft Surface Arc
We picked this little bad boy up from Noel Leeming and it is just incredible for stashing away in your laptop case or backpack. The whole mouse flattens down to the size of a cellphone and clicks back into the arced mouse shape when needed. It's not as functional as the full size mouse we use at our office, but in terms of transportability, it beats the pants off the mini travel mouses you see floating around.
A SIMPLE LAPDESK WITH A MOUSE PAD EXTENSION
OUR PICK: Aidata Lapdesk
This was surprisingly difficult to find! We were looking for something with a bit more sturdiness than the Aidata option, but the retractable mousepad was absolutely crucial in our mind. In the end the Aidata doesn't look the prettiest, but it's functionality is fantastic. It's light, slim and let's you sit that laptop and mouse on your thighs wherever you are working. Perfect for those quick airport lounge stopovers.
A DURABLE CELLPHONE AND CASE
OUR PICK: Sony Xperia XZ1 in a tough cover
This phone isn't particularly special for travel (it doesn't have dual sim cards), but it's our current work phone and is really durable in it's case. Adding gorilla glass helps, but in reality, any modern, unlocked, cellphone would fit the bill.
ALL OF EUROPE SIM CARDS
OUR PICK: We aren't sure yet - PrePaidZero or WorldSim
We absolutely need data while we are travelling - not just for the actual work and email side of things, but also for a cost effective way to receive and make phone calls back to New Zealand. Roaming with an NZ company was out of the question and we change countries so rapidly that getting a local sim card wasn't an option either. In the end we've grabbed sim cards from both PrePaidZero and WorldSim and will see which works best/is the most reliable in the various countries we are in (watch this space). We'll be setting our call forwarding to go through to Skype - so our NZ numbers will still be active and we can pick the call up using data (without spending a bucket load).
A MIFI DONGLE
OUR PICK: Huaweii E5573
Unfortunately, the above sim cards won't allow for tethering from our phones, so as a backup option for our laptops when we are away from wifi we've picked up a little mifi dongle (portable wifi). It fits in our pocket, so we can take it anywhere and stay connected.
A LAPTOP BACKPACK
OUR PICK: Everki Flight Laptop Backpack
This was a fantastic buy from Mighty Ape. With a fleece lined pouch for both your laptop and tablet, as well as pockets for all your pens, mouse, water bottle and cables, it's perfect for a regular work traveller. It's simple design is professional, and it has plenty of space for extra items. Highly recommended.
A TRUSTY PAD AND PEN
Nothing beats having a pad and pen on you for those moments of inspiration, or in our case...for jotting down checklists...
THE NEXT STEP
The next step for us is going to be finding someplace to do a little bit of work in Auckland Airport as we head for our first stopover in Hong Kong on the way to Europe. We'll be putting these items through their paces even more as the trip continues, so keep an eye on the blog for any updates for big winners, or big losers along the way!
In a week or so myself (Jamie Twigg - founder of 543 Design) and my partner are hopping on an Air New Zealand flight to Hong Kong before Cathay Pacific whisks us off to Europe for a two month working adventure. Over the next couple of months I'll try to give an idea of how we manage to balance the working travel life, and in this blog we look at how you can make it happen for yourself.
How do you get the time off?
Most people reading this will be employees wondering how travel for a couple of months without leaving their full time job. The first thought that springs to mind is 'my boss would never give me that much time off'. All we would say is there is no harm in asking - and in asking the right way. It can be a real benefit to a company keeping you on the job in a small way while you are away. Would your work rather lose you completely for 4 weeks, or have a few hours work coming in from you every day for 8 weeks? It's a win win - you get a trip, come back happy and refreshed, and the workflow continues to flow uninterrupted. So figure out how much leave you have, how long you want to travel, then split the difference into part time work over the whole trip.
The other option of course is figuring out how you can work for yourself. Whether you start your own company and manage others from afar, or contract/freelance in your chosen field, the end result means a great deal more flexibility in travel. There is plenty of risk in going out by yourself, but also plenty of upside. Most desk jobs can be done remotely these days - you just have to find the niche/aspect of your industry that isn't geographically tied, and base your work around that. If you decide working remotely while you travel is an absolute must and can't figure out how you could make it work in your industry...then there's always a change of career!
Where can you go?
You've got your time off...now it's time to pick where to go. If you're going to continue working, the golden rule is find an internet connection when you need it. You are going to be fairly useless halfway up Mt Everest, so make sure to plan your work around any internet dead spots on your travels. We're heading to Europe this year, so it shouldn't be an issue, but we still look very closely for that little wifi symbol whenever we are booking accommodation. In that regard, booking.com has been an absolute godsend.
Also just have a little think about time-zones for when you are working while travelling. Being on the other side of the world can actually be fantastic - all the communication comes to you overnight, which means you can get up in the morning, respond, push out a couple of quality hours of work, and then in the evening be available for New Zealand as they come online. So long as you communicate well about when you'll be in touch - everyone is very understanding.
How does it work day to day?
In reality when you are travelling you want to get out and experience the world. You want to spend your days sight seeing and chatting to locals. You want to try new food and experience new things. You definitely don't want to end up locking yourself in a hotel room all day to work. It's crucial to find a balance:
But OMG...the cost!
Travel isn't cheap. Unless a fantastic airline swoops in and upgrades you to Business Class (*wink* *wink* Air New Zealand and Cathay Pacific social media teams who are so on the ball they've read this far...) - you're going to end up forking out a fair amount of coin as you travel. It sounds incredibly dull, but planning really is the key here. We've known our trip has been coming for months now, so booked most of our accommodation and travel early, and have spent those months paying for it. That means that when we take off, food and entertainment are all that's left to cough up for. Ultimately, having regular pay cheques continuing to come in while we travel is going to be one of the best things about the work/travel experience...but if there is one thing that I've learnt in past trips that I've worked on...a little hard work and planning before the trip goes a LONG way.
The tools we are using...