How to Prepare for a long-term Work and Travel Trip

My Procedure, Best Picks and Data Roaming Package Advise


There are a lot of good articles from people who share their experience of being a “Digital Nomad”, working and traveling the world. For example a good friend of mine Noel Tock shared his experience in “Lessons I learned on the road as a Digital Nomad” and there is another good article from James TurnerStop packing so much: The minimalist packing list”.

Most of the articles I read about this topic are written by men. But certainly women have different challenges and needs while traveling. So this is why I decided to share my story how I prepared myself.

Note: This article doesn’t discuss details on what kind of make-up or shoes to pack. Every person has different needs and preferences. That’s why I’m describing the process I chose to get my stuff ready for the trip and leave the decision on what to pack up to you.

Packing

Although I really don’t like to pack, I had to pack around 10 times this year for several trips to conferences and hack weeks with my team. I always struggle with packing, that’s why I keep doing it in the last minute. Preparing for a long-term trip though, brings a lot more challenges and needs a little more planing:

What?

“Less is more”

I know it’s hard! Being on the road for a couple months means carrying your stuff everywhere. I found it really hard to decide what to leave at home, because space and weight restrictions are very tough.

Functionality over style

Traveling for a longer period also means that you will wear the same stuff over and over. That’s why it’s a good thing to bring some functional clothes which are light in weight and dry fast. Especially the ones who keep you warm when it gets chilly. Keep an eye on the color of your clothes and shoes, make sure they are generic and match most of the stuff you brought with you.

How?

Inspired of my work as an interaction designer I made kind of an affinity diagram in order to properly pack my stuff.

Initially I identified all the main topics to cover: working, entertainment, sport, hiking, money and clothing.

I went through all the topics and added my belongings to them. When I’m designing an interface, I focus on putting all the UI elements into context for the user. In this case I tried to do context-based packing: In my mind I pictured certain places and situations on my trip (Going out for drinks in a city, hiking to Machu Picchu, surfing at Chicama, etc.) and tried to figure out what I would wear or need at the given moment.

Working

I pictured myself sitting in a café or waiting for a proper swell at a surf resort while getting some work done.

Waiting for the next surf session at the Chicama surf resort

The following is a minimal list of items I need to do my job properly: laptop, mouse, glasses, sketchbook, pencil, power and world adapters.


Entertainment

Next I pictured myself killing time or travelling from one place to another, for example sitting on a bus, reading a book and listening to some music through my headphones.

Traveling by Bus from Lima to Huaraz

This is the list of items I came up with to keep me entertained during down time and travelling: kindle, mini speakers, headphones, camera and an external hard-drive.

Note: I forgot to download music and videos for offline use and ever since I left Switzerland, I didn’t get any stable wifi connection to download some stuff. So basically I am slowly getting tired of listening to the same playlist over and over again!


Sport

Sport is a very important part of my life. I couldn’t imagine to stop working out or running, not even while travelling. My usual routine is to work out with the Nike+ Training Club app and running with the Nike+ Running app, this way I need almost no gear. This is the list of items I took with me for sports: bra-top, shorts, tank-top, sports socks & my running jacket.

Note: I didn’t bring any running shoes to save some space. I ran barefoot on the beach instead.

I am a passionate surfer so my trip includes several stops at surf resorts.

Surfing the longest left in Chicama, Peru

My surfing list includes: wetsuit, shorts, bikini, flip-flops, sun protection, micro towel, waterproof cases and a GoPro.

Note: I didn’t bring my surfboards, but my wetsuit, because one that fits you is a life-saver in cold water. Sadly I forgot to bring an aftersun lotion.


Hiking

Picturing myself at Machu Picchu in Peru and I imagined what things to bring for this hike.

Sitting in front of the terraces of Machu Picchu, Peru

This is my list of trekking-/hiking-items: daypack, fleece jacket, insulated hoodie, rain-coat, trekking shoes and trekking pants.


Sleeping

To get a proper night’s sleep is important and picturing myself in a hostel, hotel or an apartment I want to feel comfortable: pillow, sleeping bag, pyjamas.


Money

In order to manage my money and payments on the go I needed to think about all the situations where I need money as either cash or plastic: online banking stuff, credit cards, maestro cards, US dollars & Soles, passport and identity card.

Note: I prepared a fake purse with some cash and old cards in case somebody tries to steal from me.


Clothing

Of course I have a list of casual clothes that I need on my trip too:
10 socks, 10 underwear, 10 t-shirts, 1 hoodie, 1 pullover, 1 jeans, 2 shorts and my toms.

Note: The clothes should last for about 10 days before I have to do the laundry.


Toiletry bag

What I didn’t put on my post-its was the stuff for my toiletry bag. I always pack those things in the morning before taking off while getting ready in the bathroom. To make sure I don’t forget anything necessary, I put the stuff right back into the bag after using it.

Note: I decided to not bring my body lotion, which was a mistake!


First Aid Kit

Make sure to bring a first aid kit and some basic medication that you know how your body reacts to, in case you get sick.

After finishing my lists, I bought a daypack and a backpack. I put my post-its on them and started getting my stuff together.


My best picks

The first month of my trip has already gone by and so far I’m happy with the stuff I packed. There are items which I didn’t use that much, but there are some that I really appreciate to have brought with me. Here is a list of my best picks:

Pacsafe Backpack

The Backpack from Pacsafe was a really good choice. The name says it already, you can lock everything with one padlock to secure multiple compartments with an anti-theft anchor lock. You can fully open all zips like a normal suitcase for better access to your stuff. If you have to check-in your bag to airplanes or busses there is the ability to zip-away the straps to protect in transit.


Arc’teryx Hoodie

Insulated hoodie from Arc’teryx is my favorite pick. It keeps me warm when it gets chilly and it is my cushion on bus and train rides. Best of all, it doesn’t even take much space in my backpack.


Organising

There is no better way to organise your stuff with these awesome Travel Cases & Carriers from MUJI!

Power strip

Power is always a problem abroad, that’s why I brought a power strip. This way I only need a single world adapter to charge all my devices.


Always on

A working internet connection is really important to work on the go. Be prepared to be offline for quite some time.

Once abroad, I usually add a roaming package to my swiss number for the first few days and spend the first hours of my arrival hunting a good mobile provider, where I try to get a good deal on a prepaid data roaming package for my mobile. Have look at this wiki which provides information about prepaid mobile phone plans from all over the world. Be sure to bring an unlocked mobile phone. Android devices with micro sim slots are better than iPhones with nano sim cards. Most providers give out nano sim cards only with a monthly plan and it’s much easier to cut a regular sim to micro size than nano.

USA:
T-Mobile has a great offer, you can have a prepaid card with monthly roaming plans. Get the most expensive you wont regret it.

Peru:
Movistar is one of the bigger brands, but Claro is newer and more independent they have a better coverage throughout the country. For example I’ve been to Chicama which is in the northern part of Peru and I had a barely working data connection with movistar, but a proper 3G connection with Claro, so go with them.

Australia:
Telstra is the best and only provider if you want 4G everywhere throughout the Country. Get 2GB for AUD $50.

Chicama, Peru

With whom to travel?

“Nothing brings compatible people together like adventure. However, nothing drives incompatible people apart like stress, so be careful.”
— Breanden Beneschott, co-founder and COO of Toptal

So if you decide to travel with someone else, choose your travel partner wisely!