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Working while travelling the world is a dream come true, but it takes a little more thought and preparation than you might think. One of the things I’ve spent considerable time refining is my digital nomad office – i.e. the tools and gear I always have with me so I can set up office anywhere.
It’s taken me around 18 months to find a digital nomad office that works for me. It’s a pretty minimalist office set-up, but it isn’t just limited to the things I strictly need. Instead, it’s a mix of the items I need to work remotely and the things that make me extra productive and efficient. When you don’t have a permanent base, the home comforts are as important as the essentials – and that’s true for the office as well.
Here’s what you’ll find in my current digital nomad office set-up.
My laptop is the only thing I truly need to do my work. I use my laptop every single day and would be lost without it, so it’s the one thing I won’t compromise on.
After a few months of living with an extremely portable laptop (an Asus Zenbook), I decided it was time to go all in. I bought the best laptop I could find: the XP Spectre X360, and I’ve never looked back. Sure, it was a little bit painful to part with the $2,000 it cost, but it’s been well worth it in the long-run. It’s fast, it’s powerful and it’s saved me hours of wasted time.
It was only when I had to survive two weeks without it that I realised just how much time it saves me. While it went in for repair, I had to use my old Asus laptop and it was a STRUGGLE. I’ll never think twice about buying a laptop that lets me be as productive as possible ever again.
I use two different types of insurance: one for health and general travel cover, and another for my gear (which I claimed on for my laptop damage). Find out more about the exact insurance companies I use and recommend for long-term travellers in this post.
A WiFi connection
Although my laptop is the only object I always need to have with me, there’s one other thing I can’t finish my work without: a WiFi connection. With WiFi available in hotels, coffee shops and even planes, it’s usually not too hard to find a connection. And for the other times, I make sure I’m prepared.
In December, I switched to a UK contract which gives me 100GB of data every month. I can use it around the world, so I generally just tether my phone when I can.
When tethering isn’t an option, I either buy a local SIM card or use a WiFi device. SkyRoam can be used all around the world and is usually cheaper and easier than buying a local SIM if you use a lot of data (like I do!).
If you want to stay connected with the SkyRoam pocket WiFi, you can save 10-15% on your order with my exclusive reader discount code. Just use the code “ALAJODE” to save at the checkout.
Mouse + mouse mat
I’m not sure I ever travelled without a mouse, and I certainly never intend to. Some things – video editing, photo editing and fiddly SEO edits among them – are simply easier with a mouse to click. I’m currently using this mouse and I absolutely love.
I did travel without a mouse mat for a whole 16 months. It was the glass table in our Manila apartment that finally pushed me to get a mouse mat (and stop improvising with notebooks and random sheets of card), and I don’t know how I ever coped without one.
It’s things like these that feel a little like a waste of space, but are SO worth it when you realise how much more productive they make you.
The mouse mat has been a game-changer since I bought it two months ago, but the biggest game-changer in my entire ‘office’ has been a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. I bought these Sony headphones as soon as we arrived in Cape Town and work hasn’t been the same since.
These headphones have two different types of noise-cancelling, block out all unwanted noises (including airplane white noise!) and help me stay focused. It also means I don’t have to ramp the volume up too high if I’m working in a noisy place. They get bonus love for matching my laptop and for how great the Bluetooth audio quality is when I sync them with my phone.
Again, they’re the kind of thing that might seem like an unnecessary expense, but I’d now be completely lost without.
My whole life might be digital, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love a good old pen and paper! I use a real-life pen and paper for EVERYTHING. From planning out and prioritising my to-do list to taking down notes during calls, it all goes in my super-cute guinea pig notebook.
My notebook was a (very highly appreciated) gift, but it seems there’s no shortage of guinea pig notebooks on Amazon if you’re a fellow piggy lover.
That funny looking thing sitting on my laptop in the above photo is one of two external SSDs I travel with. Both are SanDisk products and both can hold 500GB of files, photos and video clips.
They’re not the cheapest hard drives around but they’re incredibly small, lightweight and – most importantly of all – reliable. Of the two, I recommend the one in this photo because it’s a newer product and is pretty much indestructible.
I use SSDs for everything: editing photos/videos, storing files and back-ups, and generally keeping hold of any ‘on the go’ files. It means everything is in one place and I know exactly where to look, while keeping my laptop’s own hard drive free of unnecessary clutter.
As you can imagine, I travel with a lot of batteries, chargers, SD cards, cables and other bits and bobs. I can’t lose them and need constant access to them, so I keep them all safely in this small cable tidy. This pouch slots into my hand luggage so I always have all the important things with me, and usually sits on the desk if I’m staying somewhere for a while.
A water bottle
I never go anywhere without a bottle of water, and that includes my desk. Yes, even when it’s only a 5 second commute from my bed!
If you find me working somewhere, you can guarantee there’s a glass or bottle of water next me. I hate wasting plastic so I nearly always have a refillable bottle nearby. I’m currently using this collapsible water bottle which folds down to half of its size when empty, clips on to my camera bag and is ideal for travelling through airports.
The other thing I never travel without
No matter where I go, I ALWAYS have insurance. I use World Nomads because it’s the most comprehensive cover I’ve found – they even cover the more adventurous activities that other insurers won’t. Find out more about them in this post or get a quote right here: