A great way to develop as a writer, or as a traveler who wants to share their experiences is through blogging. This article provides a practical checklist of what to bring as a writer on the go say on an international backpacking trip or moving city to city in Europe or Asia.
First off, I am going to eschew laptops. While traveling in hostels and remote places laptops, are prone to damage and are targets of theft. It also fails the baggie test, can you put it a ziplock bag to protect it from the elements?
So the assumption of this article is that you are going to use a phone to take basic notes and construct first drafts. Then utilize internet cafes and friends to do the heavy lifting of getting on the internet. It assumes that you cannot afford to use mobile data and definitely cannot afford to use roaming from your home network. If you can, you are a successful writer, not a struggling one.
The first thing you want is an unlocked mobile GSM smartphone. GSM is the wireless standard used in most of the world which means you will be able to use it in most places. Unlocked means that the phone can work on any carrier (or wireless phone company). Most phones sold in the US are locked to a specific wireless provider. But you can find with effort unlocked phones, Best buy, eBay and craigslist are good sources for used and new unlocked wireless phones. I am partial to the Treo 650 and Treo 680 when traveling internationally because they have a long battery life, solid keyboards and basic internet access. They also have the excellent Documents To Go by DataViz that allows you to read common document formats on the road. I also like that they support SD cards, which are easy to find and carry on the road.
2. The next thing you need is an USB to SD card adapter. This is critical because it allows you to move photos from most cameras and your smartphone to the internet where it is safer from loss. Make sure your card adapter covers all your card formats. Most popular new smartphones use the micro SD format so you will want to make sure you have the right converters.
3. An international USB charger. This charger plugs into either a 110 US voltage or 220 european voltage and delivers power to a usb plug where you can charge most anthing that has a USB cable for charging including your smartphone or ipod. I have yet to find a camera that is chargeable by USB but if you know of one let me know. Some of these chargers have plugs that can be switched depending on the country.
4. A travel power adapter. These are the doohickeys that allow you to plug your appliances into wall outlets around the world. Get an global one so you only need to bring one.
5. USB cables corresponding to your devices that you travel with. These will allow you to do two things. One charge your tools so they are usable during the trip. Second, the cables enable you to connect your devices to computers at internet cafes and other places. Many smart phones have a mode calles “mass storage mode” that permit you to connect your device to a computer where it appears as a flash disk and you can access your photos and articles.
6) Spare battery. Self explanatory
Now that you have the tools how to use them.
When you land in a new country the first thing you are going to do is get yourself connected. Stop by a convenience store or a wireless store and get yourself a prepaid SIM card. This is a no subscription commitment cell phone plan. You can make calls, send texts and in some cases surf the internet. If you run out you can add in small increments. This is the most popular way to but mobile service in the world. It gives you a way of calling ahead to book a room, send texts back home, just like your phone back home with a huge difference. It will be cheaper than using your phone in roaming mode.
Use your phone for copious note taking. While you are traveling and sight seeing you are likely to see things that are interesting that you are going to want to remember. Pull out your smartphone and using a notes application jot a quick note. Or text it to yourself. As a memory aid you can take a picture as well.
Be relentless in this, if you find a traveler with a guide book, take a quick glance at lodging or restaurants in upcoming destinations, get phone numbers and addresses so when you arrive you’ll be able to get your booking done right away. Take a quick note. Your goal is to travel light, so skip bringing big travel books.
Start getting use to the habit of writing during down times. Your goal is to chronicle while you are fresh with the experience. So on trains, buses, etc., start composing your articles on your smartphone. I am big into physical keyboards since typing is so much easier than touchscreens. This is your first draft. Save a copy you the external memory on the SD card. Remember “Documents to Go” stores in RTF so WordPad can open the file. This is your outline or your first draft.
Use internet cafes to get the article out of the phone and into the cloud. Internet cafes can be expensive or slow, so when you are dealing with your email at a cafe. Take the SD card and plug it into an adapter and plug it into the computer. You can also do this via mass storage mode which I spoke about earlier. Open the file into wordpad, can’t read the computer because everything is in a foreign language, fake it by memorizing where it might be or just double click the icon of the saved doc on your SD card. You can navigate by memory. You touch type already right. It will open in most cases.
Use a web browser and open up blogger or whatever blog service you use. Copy and paste your article and edit it there. Upload any photos and publish. If you have a fast internet connection consider backing up your photos.
If you are on a long trek, I recommend periodically going to a photo store and burning your a cd of your sd card. Mail a copy and burn a copy to keep while you travel.
This small list of items let’s you document your travels in realtime, take notes and be connected. Doubt me the text of this article was written on a train on a blackberry. (or at least everything in blue - or at least it did initially before something messed up in publishing oh well. It’s 80% of the article.)