I have received a few questions on bringing a computer with me on a backpacking trip like ours and I’ll try to answer as many of them in this post as I can.
Why a Netbook?
I really wanted to blog throughout our journey, both to let people know where we are and what we were doing but also to keep a journal for our selves that we can look at in a few years to remind us of how great the trip was. We also needed some sort of a device to store our photos, we have so far taken over 1,300 photos and videos in ten weeks but our camera only stores about 600 photos if I remember it correctly. Being able to watch movies and listen to music would be an added bonus. With that in mind I did some research back in December to see what we could do.
I have a 13 inch MacBook at home that I love dearly and even though it is quite small I didn’t like the idea of taking an expensive device like that with me so if I wanted to take something with me I would have to acquire it. I looked into several smart devices like the iPhone and netbooks and laptops as well. At first I really liked the idea of a 9 inch netbook but they were hard to get and in the end I settled on a 10 inch Asus netbook from Amazon.
The netbook was “only” about $340 and had everything that I wanted: Windows 7 (I didn’t have the time to install MacOS), fantastic battery life (10.5 hours), adequate hard disk space (250 GB) and memory (1 GB) and a bright screen with a good resolution (1024×600) and most importantly light (just over a kilo) and compact.
What about Internet Access in the Orient?
Before coming over here I thought that we would have internet access once a week or so at best but we have been pleasantly surprised that you can get on the internet almost anywhere. I would say that about 70% of the guesthouses that we have stayed in have had their own computers that they rent out (often at inflated prices) and free wifi access in the lobby area for those that have their own computers and about 15% even have access in the rooms. This has been the same for all four countries we’ve been in so far.
Internet cafes are quite frequent but they are not really cozy places to hang around in – just rows of computers – so when we have not had internet at the guesthouse we have dropped into one of many restaurants offering free wifi to entice customers. There have been plenty of restaurants with free wifi, at least where the guesthouses seem not to have wifi on their menu.
How to keep safe?
I haven’t been too concerned with digital security – someone sniffing the network and trying to steal my passwords – I think that is more of a concern if you are using a shared computer. Physical security however has been more of a concern.
When we have been one the road i have always had the computer in my small bag so it is with me at all times, I would never have it in the big pack as it gets thrown around and, as we have seen on one occasion, been searched through for some valuables.
After we have picked a guesthouse I sometimes leave it there during the day but if I get suspicious I take it with me. Sometimes the lock on the door isn’t too trustworthy or that strangers could go to the rooms unseen, then I just take it out with me – it is just one kilo so it isn’t a big deal, just like taking an extra water bottle. If I leave it in the room I always lock it in my big bag and sometimes I lock the bag to the bed. I know that is false security as a thieve could easily open the bag with a knife but it makes me feel better.
Some guesthouses offer security boxes in the lobby area but we haven’t used that service at all.
Quite many tourists over here carry expensive cameras that are 4-10 times more expensive than my computer so I’m not overly concerned about theft but just in case we always back up our photos to a memory stick ca. every three weeks.
How to make time to blog?
Most of my posts are written off-line with Windows Live Writer, a blog editor from Microsoft that works nicely with WordPress – my blog service. In Writer I can format the posts and insert the photos so that when I come online I can publish the posts by pressing one button. Same goes for photos where I use Flickr Uploader to upload the photos to Flickr with a push of a button.
Since I’m able to do everything offline I can just use whatever dead time that is available. My favorite times for blogging are at night just before going to sleep or while taking one of the many bus rides that we’ve been on – it passes time pretty quickly :)
How has it all turned out?
Apart from the blogging and photo storing it has been nice to be able to watch movies at night or go through our photos together, edit and refine them, when we have the time. It has also been fantastic to be able to update the iPods once in a while, refreshing the music library or adding new audio books instead of the ones we finish.
All in all it has been a fantastic decision to take the netbook with us and definitely worth the little hassle it has cost us. I won’t think twice about taking a computer with me on our next trip!