Travel Technology

iPad envy? Not yet.

Dani with her Asus Netbook

On the top of our priority list for before setting off on our round the world trip was the purchase of a top-notch netbook. At the time of our purchase, the choice of netbook over laptop was clear. That was before the iPad landed.

However, despite a few geeky twinges of initial iPad envy, there is no question that the netbook is by far the best choice for a Globetrotter Girl.

We chose the ASUS Eee PC 10.1-Inch Netbooks due to the right balance of price ($278 each), weight (2.9lbs, 1.4 in thin) and battery life (9.5 hours).

asus netbook

Advantages of a netbook over a laptop or iPad tablet

  • The weight

For backpackers and business travellers alike, every extra ounce of weight counts. The netbook is lightweight (2.9lbs) and small (1.4 inches). The iPad is only 1.5 lbs, but extra keyboard is required (see point 7).

  • The price

We bought 2 Asus netbooks from Best Buy for less than $700. including taxes and Geek Squad insurance, which includes one new battery each within 2 years. An iPad starts at $500, and can hit $800-$900 for a 64GB device. The extra games and goodies tend to cost as well – from iTunes to eBooks, making the actual price of the iPad much higher.

  • Battery life

This is where Asus was the clear winner over all other netbooks. The 9.5 hour battery life (compared to Dell’s 4 hours) is no joke. As long as it’s fully charged, we can spend an entire afternoon at a café and not worry about plugging in. This is especially relevant for travel in lesser developed areas who will not have built their cafes around the needs of the hi-tech nomadic types. The iPad also boasts a 10 hour battery life, an absolute advantage over some other netbook brands out there.

  • Space + Ports

The Asus Eee PC has 160 GB, almost 3x the iPad’s 64GB. The iPad also does not have USB ports, meaning that all new content needs to be downloaded from the web or through a cable connected to your ‘real’ computer. Essentially, without USB ports to easily transfer documents, music and video, the iPad remains a secondary device rather than a stand-alone travel companion. With the iPad we would have no real way of transferring video from our Kodak zi8 HD camcorder onto our devices and eventually onto Youtube, for example.

Asus netbook

  • Multi-tasking

Asus makes the motherboards for all Apple and Sony Vaio products. This means that iPad (and iPhone) users are getting Asus hardware with an Apple operating system.  Oddly enough, while the iPhone 4 allows multitasking, the brand new shiny iPad is using the older operating system, which makes the iPad a one-task-at-a-time device.

With the netbook, we have multiple web-browsers open with several tabs, plus text documents and image editing software, just like on any laptop (though open too many and the netbook slows down considerably due to limited RAM and memory). I can’t imagine writing a blog post in a document and having to exit out to go online to find a website to hyperlink.

However, when working on too many images or with Word, Firefox, Excel, Photoshop and Skype running all at once, the netbook is definitely slower than a laptop.

  • The keyboard

This makes the choice of a netbook over an iPad a simple one. Netbooks have keyboards, the iPad doesn’t. For someone who writes thousands of words a day for Globetrottergirls posts and travel articles, doing without a keyboard is not an option, especially when considering how many mistakes I still make with my iPhone when texting. The iPad has a $70 keyboard, but now you are lugging around a 1.5lb tablet and a keyboard. No thanks.

  • The netbook closes

There is something poignant about finishing an article or a post, hitting save, and closing the laptop. True, maybe I’ve watched a little too much of Carrie Bradshaw on Sex and the City, but also, the iPad screen is constantly at risk for damage, even when the tablet is not in use. Globetrotters need a device that can handle the occasional drop, knock, or spill. Plus, the greasy fingerprints are apparently also still a major issue on the iPad.

Dani blogging @ airport

Disadvantages of the Asus Eee PC netbook

The netbooks we have are by no means perfect, and there are still plenty of improvements that can be made.

  • Image+Video Editing

Both image and video editing would be so much easier on a Mac. With the limited RAM and processing power, running a video editing software is neigh on impossible.

  • Screen resolution

A major disadvantage to the netbook is the small screen. The Asus has a 10.1in screen. Reading longer posts or articles requires a lot of scrolling.

  • Entertainment

The iPad is essentially part-ebook reader, and it is possible to download thousands of books without taking up any space in the backpack. This includes guidebooks for the entire world. However, imagine standing on the streets of Delhi or San Salvador and getting out your iPad to see what Lonely Planet suggests to see and do. Sometimes a good old fashioned guidebook is much more functional.

For the ‘app’ addicts out there, yes iPhone / iPad apps are awesome. There are some really great apps out there for traveling bloggers which would only look even better on a bigger screen (and after all, the iPad is just a larger version of the iPhone in so many respects). If you are already traveling with an iPhone, however, then this last point is also moot.

Conclusion: The ASUS Netbook

The netbook is a slimmed down, fitter version of the laptop, and is 15 years in the  making, with everything you need, but no frills.  The all-frills iPad is the first generation of user-friendly tablets, and like its cousin the iPhone, the next gen iPad will be better than the first, and the 4th will be better than that.

The fact is, the Globetrottergirls are not ‘a Mac’ or ‘a PC’. Brand loyalty is of no importance. We are simply globetrotters, looking for a dependable, lightweight device fast enough for our amateur techie requirements of fast speeds and easy blogging. So, do we have iPad envy? Not yet, but maybe next year, or the year after that.

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How to earn money online while you travel

dani working in palolem

Maybe you have a healthy lump of cash set aside for you to deplete at will while you backpack your way around the globe, or perhaps you are independently wealthy and if this is you, congratulations! For the rest of us out there, at some point, picking up work along during our around the world adventures is inevitable. A romantic notion of working as you travel has traditionally included work as bartenders or service staff at hotels and restaurants, while a less romantic but more lucrative option has been to teach English or other languages at schools or language institutes. Until the widespread reach of the internet, such work would have been the easiest way for most travelers to finance an extensive round the world trip, but tends not to be as carefree as originally intended. But now that everyone is connected at all times, everyone has a smartphone, data is cheap, and WiFi is faster than ever before in most parts of the world, it is easier than ever before to earn money online while you travel.

Working online while traveling has gone from niche to mainstream

Most companies have now realized that highly skilled workers are more likely to work for you if you allow them the freedom to work from anywhere rather than tying them to a desk, which is why there are now more online jobs available than ever before. The advantage of working online is that instead of earning local currency in the country you’re traveling in, you’re earning in Dollars/Pounds/Euros, which exponentially increases your spending power. That in return translates to nicer places to stay, more specialized tours or adventure experiences and much better food.

Even if you love the rough and tumble of super budget travel, the greatest advantage of working online while traveling is the absolute freedom it affords you. You work from anywhere you want, whenever you want. If you meet a group of travelers who ask you to join them in a pick-up to the next destination on your path, you can pack up and hop in without quitting your job. If a town that used to intrigue you enough to stay for a while suddenly bores you to death, you can easily pack up your bag and head on to the next location.

In theory all you need is a laptop and wi-fi. Wireless internet is available in almost every hotel and hostel for free, as well as in restaurants, cafes and even in most central parks. There are plenty of inexpensive lightweight laptops available these days – if you’re strapped for cash, there’s no need to invest in a fancy MacBook Air. In fact: it can be risky to travel with Apple products, as many digital nomads can attest who got stuck somewhere with a broken Apple device, but no Apple store anywhere to be found. A shiny new Apple product can also make you a target for theft: a friend of mine had her MacBook stolen from under her hands as she was typing away in a coffee shop in Buenos Aires. Here are some good lightweight laptops you might want to consider if you are planning to work online while traveling.

Of course, you need to have basic professional skills that lend themselves to successful online freelancing, and the most common jobs are in web-design, copywriting, editing or translating. Another common type of remote work is a gig as a virtual personal assistant, voice over work, or digital marketing and SEO consulting. If you consider anything that involves talking on the phone or recording audio is that you will have to be able to guarantee that your wi-fi connection is good enough to maintain reliable high-quality Skype phone calls and you’ll need to invest in some decent audio recording gear. Make sure to find lightweight and compact equipment if you’re planning to travel long-term.

earn money online while traveling
I carried my laptop with me on the Camino De Santiago

If you have the skills, the laptop, and the wi-fi, then the next step is to sign up on a reputable freelancing website. There are several websites that offer quality jobs enabling you to work online while traveling.

The best websites to use to earn money online while traveling:

People Per Hour

When I went freelance in 2009, I built up a good portion of my clientele through People Per Hour in the UK. Freelancers bid on projects, and the bidder with the right balance of skills, experience and salary get the job.

Even more popular is the US-based, which has a much wider spectrum of available jobs and is rated much more highly than People Per Hour. has well-paid projects for highly-skilled professionals in three areas: technology (e.g. websites, programming), creative arts (graphic design, writing, translating, photography) and business-related (admin support, business consulting). lets freelancers bid for projects in areas such as web design, writing, marketing and programming.

As with the rest of the website, the jobs section on Craigslist is loaded with possibilities. Jobs offered range from art/media/design over SEO and webdesign to writing gigs, but as Craigslist offers such a broad choice of services and is not specifically for freelance work, the quality of the posted jobs varies.

Tips for bidding for freelance work online

1. Bid high, or at least higher than you think

According to People Per Hour, 90% of bids on their website are won by the mid to high bidders, not those who try to bid as low as possible to win a job. Having been both the ‘employer’ and the bidder on these sites, I can concur that when I receive a bid from a freelancer which is far below average, I immediately assume the bidder is too inexperienced to complete the project to a high standard.

2. Fill out your entire profile page

Find a nice picture, fill in your work history and show some personality so that a possible employer can get a feeling for you and your work. Often times, freelance websites also allow employers to search and actually invite you to bid, another reason why having a full profile is key. It is up to you whether or not you are clear that you are traveling the world or not.

3. Do work for free if you have to, but only at first.

At first you might take jobs that don’t pay for the purpose of boosting your portfolio. This is especially common with writing or web design gigs. In theory, it is useful to take on the free work to boost an initially thin portfolio. However, it would be possible to spend 40 hours a week writing free content online and you are not a volunteer! The successful digital nomad must learn to write winning bids which bring you better, higher profile clients and better pay, so only write for free if it brings you something of value. I used to write for free on a weekly basis for a very hip London publication. Doing this brought me referrals, writing gigs, cool free stuff like tickets, passes and heaps of street cred which helped when pitching the bigger publications.

 4. Bid only when you are ready to work

Employers who place job ads on reputable sites like and do so because they want to reach a top-quality pool of available workers. Many jobs require you to start within a day or two.  If you are going to be trekking for four days through the Brazilian jungle, don’t bid for a job that is looking for you to start straight away, even if it seems perfect. You might think that you include in your bid that you can’t start until a week from today, but keep in mind that every job you bid for has between 10 and 100 bidders willing to start today. If you worked in an office, you wouldn’t tell your boss that you’ll hand in the report next week after your jungle trek, so you can’t expect these employers to accept that either. 
work online while traveling

5. The key to online freelance success = Discipline

Ultimately, even if you have a good wi-fi connection, a super laptop and you have signed up and filled out the profile pages on all relevant freelance websites, the key to successful working online while traveling is to have discipline. No boss breathing down your neck is certainly a relief, but means that you are solely responsible to balance the freedom that working remotely affords you with the ultimate freedom of being a world traveler. Even though you can hop on a bus to anywhere at a moment’s notice, once you get there, you still have to make yourself sit down and finish your work before you join your new travel buddies for a night of debauchery. It takes discipline to combine travel and remote work, and you may find it hard in the beginning, but you will get into rhythm of working and traveling eventually. And with those hard-earned pounds or dollars, you will be able to enjoy many of these crazy nights, or stay at that nicer hotel, or go scuba diving yet again, without worrying about depleting your savings.

working online while traveling
Working on the train in Italy

Have you successfully become a digital nomad – are you working online while traveling? Are there any other reputable freelance sites you would recommend?  Feel free to continue the discussion in the comments.

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How to combine Long-Term Travel and Work

working in mexico

When I semi-spontaneously decided to go on a round-the-world trip in February 2010, such a quick decision was only possible because I was already freelancing and so I was able to pack up and take my projects on the road with me. Why sit idly by at home slaving away when I could be out experiencing the world at the same time, I thought. Combining round-the-world, long-term travel with work means that I have a guaranteed income, but on the other hand it means that I had to plan our travels around our work schedule. So, how is that working out, you ask?

Seven years into a work-travel lifestyle, I can say that ‘digital nomadism’ is definitely a feasible option – but only if you know from the outset that you will be traveling slowly. For those on a fixed schedule who can or want to only spend six months or a year on the road, fitting in a full work schedule with sightseeing and travel will be a difficult balance and probably also very tiring.

It took me a long time to find my rhythm, which involves traveling AND working AND blogging, but I have found that if you follow a few simple rules, you’ll have no problem of combining work and travel:koh tao office


Keeping clients happy is priority number one, as work means money and money means longer travel. This can be hard with a Caribbean sunset beckoning you on the beach, but no matter how long it takes to finish, work must come first. I work mainly on deadline-focused projects, and so I usually finish up what we’re working on before heading out to explore a place, or take full days in my AirBnb working away when we would rather be sitting on a plaza somewhere watching the world go by.


It helps enormously to schedule your days. List what you want to achieve and make a plan to hit your targets. Plan what time you need to start and finish work in order to keep in perspective how much there is to get done each day. During a heavy travel phase, I prefer to spend whole days working and whole days playing where possible. When I stay somewhere for an extended period of time (two weeks, a month) I can better schedule working mornings and exploring (or beach!) afternoons.
digital nomad office

Get up early

For those who have taken a year just to travel, sleeping in or sleeping off a hard night come with the territory. When you have undertaken a work/travel lifestyle, however, starting work on time each day is a must. We found that starting to work as early as 7 am enables us to fit so much more into a day. Because we both work for Europe-based clients and we are located in Latin America at the moment, it is important for us to get up as early as possible in order to be online when our clients are nomad office seattle


While it’s true that all work and no play makes a dull traveler, adopting a lifestyle as a digital nomad means that you have to be willing to work, and work hard! Sure you would rather be out exploring than sitting in front of a laptop screen. Sure the people in the hostel are partying it up and having a great time while you struggle to meet a deadline for a client thousands of miles away. In order to travel and work, however, you have to stay strong and focus on your need to work to continue your income stream. Some people might just say ‘f!ck it’ and join the party, but if you want be successful in the long-term, you need the discipline to get your work done. Tell yourself that this is a lifestyle, not a gap year. Plus, if you schedule your time right and find your rhythm, you should be able to join the party anyway!chrys and dani coworking

Things to consider to successfully combine travel & work

Laptop & cloud desktops

When purchasing a laptop for your digital nomad life, choose wisely. My main criteria: battery life (because there aren’t always power outlets), weight (I wouldn’t want to drag a heavy MacBook around the globe with me!), operating system (I am a Windows girl), 2-in-1 (laptops that can be turned into tablets – honestly, I prefer having a separate tablet), size (since I only write, I don’t need a huge screen, but I know several people who work with graphics who need larger screens), and then there are of course components like processor, hard drive, RAM and graphics chip.

Another thing to consider: cloud storage. Never rely on external hard drives. I learned this the hard way, when two of my hard drives crashed. Now, I store all my important documents online. 

galle digital nomad office
Internet / wi-fi

I would say 99% of all digital nomads rely on the internet, so make sure that the place you’re staying has reliable wi-fi. Nothing is worse than losing internet connection in the middle of a telephone conference via Skype or not being able to attach the documents you’re supposed to send because of a weak connection – ten minutes before deadline. This need does limit your accommodation choices but with some research before heading to the next place you will always find an apartment that has wi-fi.

However, make sure that your connection is safe because for your information, identity theft might happen to anyone and don’t let unsafe connections ruin your important data.

Wi-fi in Plaza Mayor
Plan in extra time

Plans are always a nice thing to have, but most of the time, things don’t work out exactly as you thought. The best thing to plan in is extra time. Taking into account things like slow internet connections, broken down buses, noisy neighbors and the fact that maybe you DID just say f!ck it last night and joined the party, your work might take longer than you think to finish. Scheduling more time than might seem initially necessary to complete a project creates a buffer against the factors that are out of your control. That way, should everything go right, you’re far ahead of deadline, thus keeping clients very satisfied, and should just about everything go wrong, you still manage to meet your deadline and your clients are none the wiser.Dani Playa carricitos

If you’re starting out on your work and travel journey then make sure you’re covered for every eventuality with Cerity.

For lots of valuable information on earning money as a freelancer, when you’re globetrotting, read this article.

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Travel Gadgets, 2014 Edition: The latest additions to my travel gear

no thumb

When I think about the fact that I’ve been on the road since April 2010, I realize that that’s an incredibly long time – next spring it will be half a decade that I’ve been roaming the globe!

travel gearWhile most of the things in my backpack haven’t changed all that much (I do pick up a new shirt or some pants every once in a while, but other than that, the contents of my pack still look pretty much the same they did in 2010). One thing that has changed considerably over the past few years though is the content of my travel technology bag, which now even contains some things that weren’t on the market yet when I left London! Some gadgets even revolutionized the way I travel and I can’t imagine not having them with me. The only thing that seems to get bigger is my camera equipment – while Jill Starley-Grainger mentions in her travel kit for the luxury traveler that she didn’t even bring a camera on her last trip because her smartphone camera was sufficient for her, I seem to add new lenses, filters and other gear regularly, but I just don’t feel like a camera phone produces images that are good enough to be published here and in the other publications that I write for.

When I started my round-the-world trip, I was carrying four or five heavy books, for example. These days, I carry a slim, light-weight Kindle that holds 3,000 books. I stated out with a Netbook which felt like the neatest thing compared to my clunky, heavy Toshiba laptop. While the netbook was fine in the beginning, it couldn’t cope with the amount of work I did on it over the months to come. Luckily, laptops got considerably slimmer, smaller and lighter, and when I went back to a laptop, it didn’t make all that much of a difference to the weight of my bag. I left home with a tiny MP3 player, happy about how little it was, but soon discovered that an iPod Touch, only a little bit larger, was not only a gadget to play music on, but allowed me to download podcasts, take photos, scribble down notes, access maps even when I was offline, connect to the internet wherever there was Wi-Fi, and had enough room for a myriad of apps to keep me entertained on long bus and train rides.

I can’t even imagine my life without these things anymore, and this past year, I’ve added two little electronic gadgets with a large impact on my travels:

Portable chargerportable charger

When I first picked it up, I couldn’t understand how I survived so many years on the road without this tiny device because my batteries were always about to die. With this charger you can charge any USB-powered device: iPod, iPhone, Kindle and even some cameras. Since I picked it up, I haven’t had the problem of ‘my phone ran out of battery anymore. I even added a second charger recently which also serves as a flashlight – gotta love a 2-in-1 gadget!

Flash drives with the capacity of a hard drive

I remember how amazed I was by my first USB stick – which held 128 MB… basically nothing! This year, I picked up a USB stick that holds 128 GB – what a difference! I love how modern technology is able to make everything smaller and smaller these days! For a traveler, that’s perfect. A USB-sized hard drive doesn’t only hold thousands of the photos I take (and other things I want to back up) without taking up as much space (and weight) as an external hard drive, but it’s also easier to hide. And not only do these devices get smaller – but they also get cheaper.

As for non-electronics, my favorite additions to my travel gear have been:

New headphones

This might be not important to some people, but I will always choose a company with a strong focus on social responsibility over a company that is all about listn headphonesprofits. LSTN is one such company with a strong social focus: for every pair of headphones sold, LSTN helps restore hearing to a person in need through the Starkey Hearing Foundation.

But let’s talk about the headphones themselves, which are one of the few rare headphones that are made of wood. If you are a music lover then you’ve probably heard of the acoustic benefits of wood housing. The sound quality of the headphones is excellent, and even though they don’t claim to be noise-cancelling, I’ve successfully cancelled out traffic noise, cafe surroundings and other noises in public spaces, all while not disturbing strangers with the latest Taylor Swift CD, since the headphones don’t let any noise through until a very high volume.

The headphones are very light, which I as a full-time traveler truly appreciate, and look divine with the wood housing (you can choose between ebony, cherry and beech, by the way). At $99, they are also very reasonably priced. You can buy them on


go go goloshesThese foldable, light-weight goloshes were perfect for my summer in New York, and my trip to Niagara Falls! While I couldn’t just slip them over my flip flops (supposedly you can just wear them over your shoes), they were a life saver on many occasions, when a sudden downpour – or more like: heavy rains – relieved New York City from the summer heat and humidity for a while. I just took of my flip flops and changed into my go-gos and was good to go! They are so light and small that I didn’t even feel them in my tote. When I went on my trip to Niagara Falls, they proved useful once again when I got soaked on the Hurricane Deck.

 A tote bagtote bag

I don’t know why I didn’t think of picking up one earlier but tote bags seem to be perfect to travel with! While I usually use my backpack when I head out to explore a place, sometimes it just feels a bit out of place. A tote bag is a little more stylish, yet sturdy and resistant, and it doesn’t add any weight to your luggage – and it doesn’t take up any room. You can just roll it up or put it flat on the bottom of your bag – perfect!


For a full list of things I am traveling with, check out my digital nomad packing list!

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