A few days ago, I suddenly decided I wanted to travel the very next day. I didn’t have a clear idea of where I wanted to go (except that it needed to be at a reasonable cost) and for how long I would be gone. I still have work that I need to do everyday, so there were a few things I had to consider in my choice of place. But, apart from that, I was ready to pick up and leave. So, what are a digital nomad’s tools for impromptu, last-minute travel?
1. Booking tickets: The common misconception is that tickets are only cheap if they are bought months in advance. While there is truth to this, if you are like me and love spontaneity, your best bet is to download the Kayak and Skyscanner apps — they are best for last-minute flight tickets. I like them for different reasons, though Kayak’s user experience is better. In my personal experience, a lot of these flights have dynamic pricing and the rates can drop quite a bit close to the time of the flight, but there is no guarantee. So, the best thing to do is to have your bags packed and stay flexible on when you will travel. I have on occasion booked a flight three hours prior to its departure and made a mad dash for the airport!
2. Apps that count:
- Wifi: Wifi-finder, WifiMapper
- Accommodation: Couchsurfing, Hostelworld, Airbnb, Booking.com
- Others: Google Maps, Google trips, Google Translate, Uber, XE Currency Exchange
- Productivity: Evernote, OnePassword, Work Hard Anywhere
3. Travel Insurance: Insurance is something most of us don’t think about till we need it. Given how frequently you travel, it’s one of the best things to have in your travel arsenal. You can get coverage from any insurance brand you trust, or check out World Nomads, which provides insurance to digital nomads and independent travellers in over 130 countries. The best thing about World Nomads is that you can buy insurance online while on the go, make claims from anywhere, and it has up to 150 adventure activities covered!
3. Safety first: I’ve generally found that as long as you take basic precautions and do a little research on a new place, many of the places that are digital nomad-friendly are safe, welcoming and helpful. Make sure you have the basic aspects covered. Tick from the list below.
4. Travel light: Anyone who knows me well would give me one of those “look who’s talking” stares. I’m a terrible packer who has a reputation for often paying for extra luggage or pleading with airline officials to “please let me have my extra 5kg of books”. But even if I have trouble following my own advice, I still advocate that less is more! My favourite finds were an ultralight backpack, dry packs and packing cubes, that you can buy in most stores selling outdoor and hiking stuff. Made of extremely lightweight yet highly durable material, these make a huge difference when one is trying to travel light. I definitely recommend investing in these items. I usually pick mine up at Decathlon, or online.
5. Carry a Sleeping bag: If you intend to travel for a few months, and especially if you would like the option of taking paths less traveled, a sleeping bag is a good bet. I’ve sometimes ended up on a tiny island in the summer where all the rooms are completely booked out, and my sleeping bag has come to my rescue. These are easily folded into a sack that comes with them and can be attached to your backpack for easy portability. It’s a great option even if you find yourself in a park or on a long ferry ride and just want to get a quick nap!
6. Nomad tech: A daypack, laptop (preferably the Macbook Air), universal charger, noise cancelling headphones, Kindle / other e-book reader.
7. A cheap, durable second phone: You can use this second phone for international sim cards. I tend to keep my usual phone with my “home” sim card on roaming, but never use it and save it only for emergencies. In many places, you can buy a prepaid sim card, and in countries like Thailand, you can get them on arrival at the airport itself.
This is my quick and dirty list for impromptu nomadic wanderings. While some nomads get ultra-techie in what they pack, and there is so much travel gear aimed at the digital nomad, after a while, you find that you only really need the basics and that anything else you may need, you can always buy on your travels.
So, the only rules are: stay safe, stay light!
Lead image: Tim Gouw
Updated at 5.25pm on May 19 to add photo credits.
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