Wet Wipes to Crashing Hotel Gyms: Travel Hacks Learned from 1 year of Traveling and Working Remotely

Getting ready for a starry night in the Sahara

I quit my well paying Silicon Valley job, donated all my possessions that wouldn’t fit into my bag-pack and bought a 1 way ticket to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. My travels ended up taking me to Ethiopia, then Asia, and Europe, all while working on some cool projects as a remote UX/UI Designer. Here are some practical and actionable things I learned as I went along:

Things to take:

  • Only pack 7 days worth of clothes, they do laundry in other countries too you know.
  • Only take 1 carry-on bag, and 1 day bag.
  • Backpack: 46L is the perfect size to take on a carry on on a plane and it fits everything you need. Anything bigger and they won’t let you take it on the plane. I had an Osprey 46L, and it was denied as a carry-on once in Kenya.
  • Day bag: a small school-bag sized day bag is critical for day trips, carrying your laptop, etc. It can be taken on a plane as a ‘personal item’. No questions were ever asked.
Wear your bags like this when commuting, it’s more comfortable than it looks
  • Wet wipes: your best friend when on the road 💩.
  • Micro fiber towel: they dry quickly, and fold up real small.
  • Earbuds: because wearing over the ear fancy headphones in some countries makes you a target.
  • GoPro: taking photos with your fancy iPhone in a 3rd world country is stupid and GoPro’s look like cheap pinhole cameras to the untrained eye.

Websites and resources:

  • Check your Visa requirements.
  • International SIM card: I used Project Fi, paused the service and swapped out the SIM card with a local one when I entered a country where the local data was cheaper. It’s always nice to have data on your first day in a new country.
  • Google Maps: download the area you’re going to offline while you still have WiFi. Save the locations of interest to your map.
  • SkyScanner is best bro.
  • TripAdvisor is a bunch of tourists telling other tourists what’s good to eat and fun to do in a country that they don’t know shit about. Meet the locals and take their advice instead.
  • Swap between hostels, and Airbnb’s, so that you don’t go crazy by always sleeping in a room of 24 people farting and snoring.
  • Check Booking.com for sales on hostels (sort by price lowest to highest).

Staying fit while traveling:

  • Take a jump rope in your bag
  • Crash 5 star hotels’ gyms: even if you’re staying at a cheap hostel. Walk in confidently, and follow the signs to their gym. This worked for me several times, especially countries where I did not look like a local.
  • Do as the locals do: For example, in Thailand, obviously join Muay Thai classes.
  • In more expensive countries: go to gyms saying you recently moved there, and ask for a trial. I managed to get up to 7 days free gym memberships at a time.

WiFi and places to work:

  • Crash 5 star hotel’s lobbies: this worked especially well in Yangon, Myanmar, where WiFi at cafe’s were non-existent.

Most important tip:

  • You’re a foreigner. For some reason, in most countries you’re on a pedestal because of the cards you were dealt that led to the color of your skin, or your accent. This means that your opinions are also on a pedestal. Compliment locals, be nice, be friendly, be open minded, and internalize that the way you grew up isn’t correct, never judge cultures. A compliment coming from a foreigner goes really far, especially if it’s in their local language, and genuine. Don’t be a dick, be nice.