Planning a Digital Office for your Travels

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Planning a mobile office isn’t as easy as it seems. How many times have we bought that really great, space-saving item only to find out that it isn’t practical or just doesn’t work? This guide won’t solve all your problems since everyone has different needs, but it will help you think in the right direction.

The first thing is to ask yourself what you will be doing while you are traveling: Will you need to edit video? Take high quality photos? Will you need a writing system that works for you? What are your priorities? Are good quality photographs your thing?

If you are making high quality editorial videos, for instance, you are going to need a laptop to process them, but if you are making YouTube videos maybe your cellphone and a good video editing app will do just fine. The key is to think long and critically about your needs.

List Method:

  1. Make a list of all the possible things you will need to do.
  2. Make a list of all the possible things you will need to accomplish the tasks on the first list.
  3. Now divide list #1 into two parts: (1) things that can wait until you get home and (2) things that are urgent and must be done on deadline.
  4. Take a moment to critically consider your “urgent” list and make certain that nothing can be moved over to list #1.
  5. Remove items from list #2 you will need for your “urgent” list.

Be visual. Lay all of your items out on a flat surface. Be critical. Instead of taking a table tripod, take a 5′ lightweight tripod with flexible height that constricts down to 19″ and fits into a backpack.

Ask yourself: What can I do without? Are there things I use at home that I can really do without on the road? No, I mean really do without. Be merciless.

The key is streamlining.

When packing for even a day trip I find myself packing too much, stuffing things in the bottom of my pack that I never end up using, but bring along “just in case.” I’ve found the best way to avoid this is by starting at the beginning.

The basics

I plan two different mobile office packets. One is small for the most minimal of needs and one a medium for times when you’re not sure, but you don’t want to be stuck.

Minimalist Pack

  1. Phone and Cord
  2. Phone Rig
  3. Bluetooth Keyboard & Mouse
  4. Duct Tape

That’s all. The minimalist pack is just that. You can use your phone to take photos, notes, and videos, but I recommend using a phone rig while taking video then just pulling your still shots from the video itself to save time and effort. Whatever rig you use with lights or stabilizers or extensions, I highly recommend a rig unless you want those videos to look like a version of “The Blair Witch Project.” So, yeah, a rig is worth the investment and the effort to pack. If you can afford a gimble all the better. They’re light weight and mobile and, working with your phone stabilizer, produce pretty seamless video.

Try to buy a Bluetooth keyboard with a mouse built in. I found a great folding keyboard with build-in mouse that was so small it would fit into my purse only to realize it was too small. It was so compact that my prose was full of typos which did not save time (I could swype on my phone easier) so this was not an improvement. Eventually, I upgraded to the large keyboard and I can sit in my car or anywhere there’s a surface and type pretty well with it. So smaller isn’t always better. A good working office tool is worth it’s weight in gold.

This minimalist setup will accomplish your photo, video, and word processing goals as long as they aren’t too lofty. I’ve done commercial journalism projects with this minimalist setup, but more editorial projects might call for more equipment.

Medium Pack

  1. Phone & Cords
  2. Phone Rig
  3. Bluetooth Keyboard & Mouse
  4. DSLR Camera
  5. Extra Lens
  6. Camera Batteries
  7. Soft Cloth
  8. Compact Tripod
  9. Duct Tape

This pack I use when I want more professional visuals. The DSLR not only gives me the depth of field, but the magnification and color tones my smartphone does not. But with it comes more stuff and a bigger bag which usually constitutes packing a backpack. You can take a backpack with you on the plane in addition to your carry-on, usually, so this isn’t too bad as long as you have a large storage card in your camera. Video takes up a lot of space so I usually interchange both my phone and DSLR, but everything will rest on your drives until you get home if you can’t get to your cloud storage. With this pack, production takes place later and it’s good for day trips and short trips if you have a flexible deadline.

Frankly, this is the setup I use most often. It has the basics and, if I throw in a roll of duct tape, I’ll be set. Stick with one or two camera lenses at most. I usually bring my stock lens and a telephoto and I’m covered for most anything I want to shoot. Some places won’t let you bring a long lens into the museum/event/tour so always bring a backup short lens. Bring your memory cards, chargers, batteries, and lens cleaners. These items and your short lens can fit into a fanny pack and you can carry a light tripod.

Don’t bring your laptop.

A couple summers ago I went from the West coast to the East coast and back, camping as I went. I was away for 32 days and never used my laptop once. Why? Because there are too many ways to pop into a library (pre-COVID) and download anything and everything onto my cloud drive which I could then access with my phone and do minimal edits then post to my blog and social media sites.

The bottom line is that you’ll want to rethink everything. Any job you can push off on your phone, do it — even if it seems temporarily inconvenient. So unless you’re a programmer or must have your laptop for another reason, leave it at home.

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Missi Jarrar
Missi Jarrar is a writer, editor, and content creator based on the west coast of the United States. She holds a BFA in creative writing from Portland State University and has worked as an editor at Alembic (the biannual magazine now known as Letter & Line) and the award winning Alchemy Literary Magazine.
http://missijarrar.com