My Mobile Office Must-Haves for Writers, Journalists & Podcasting Digital Nomads
I’ve been on the road for most of the last 10 years, and I’ve been a professional writer/journalist/now podcaster for that stretch of time as well. I’ve written all of my books (most recently, Shred Girls) from a wide array of AirBNBs, hotels and host houses in Canada, the US, and Belgium, England, Spain and France. We started The Consummate Athlete Podcast from a cabin in Big Bear, CA. I’ve written articles on almost every continent. So, traveling with a mobile office is kind of a must at this point. I’ve changed what I use so much over the years, but a few staples have remained. I wanted to boil it down to just the essentials that I always have with me, and skip any extras (like the new recorder we’re using for podcasts, because while it’s nice, we don’t *need* it to get episodes recorded.) If you’re just starting out with the whole digital nomad thing, think light, portable, durable, and utilitarian. Sadly, no cutesy office supplies make it into the van or my carry-on. (With the exception of a Batman pen. But that’s useful!)
Of course, everyone is going to be different in what they prefer. For example, I’ve gone through SO many different notebook configurations over the years, because I have a deep love of office supplies. We’ve swapped mics for the podcast a few times trying to get our sound to be the best it can be. But right now, here’s the bare-bones list of what I would never leave home without if I’m working on the road.
Peter and I have gone around a million times on Mac vs PC but when you switch between devices and rely on photos and stuff like that as much as I do, having everything in the Apple family just is easier. I’ve had the MacBook Air and it was good, but definitely not as heavy-duty, and unfortunately, when you travel a lot, you need a computer that can hold a crapload of stuff and run a lot of programs. Plus, with this site, Shred Girls and the podcast, there are a ton of programs that I use that are pretty heavy CPU usage, so having a better processor is key, so enter the MacBook Pro. (I also can’t recommend getting a case for it enough—it’s probably saved my computer 10x at this point!).
The big apps that I use for organizing work are ToDoIst, Google Calendars and Evernote. All of my assignments, both for other sites and magazines and my own personal ones, get broken down and put into ToDoIst (anyone who’s seen my list on there has been embarrassed for me with how broken-down I get with each task!). Appointments, travel info and anything Peter needs to know about goes into Google Calendars (which syncs to ToDoIst). And everything I write starts in Evernote. Why? Because it syncs from computer to phone, so even if I’m on the road and don’t have wifi for my laptop, I can write, then copy + paste, assignments into Google Docs to get them turned in. Also, because it’s cloud-based, I don’t stress on losing anything. Pro tip: Evernote Premium. If you don’t pay for this version, if you delete a note accidentally, it’s gone forever. I once lost a 2-hour transcription that way. For all of my graphics stuff, I use Canva (again, pay for premium if you use a lot of graphics). For podcasting, I do all of our editing in Audacity, a super simple free app.
Sony A6500 Mirrorless Camera (with Bonus Lens)
I started with a Sony A5000 a few years ago, trading out my old bulky DSLR for something much smaller and more portable. I used that one for a few years and it was solid (and could fit in my jersey pocket!) but it got a little slow after a ton of use, and I wanted something a little bit more professional. I got the Sony A6500 last year on sale on Black Friday and it’s been one of the best upgrades that I’ve made. It’s perfect for someone who wants to take decent pictures — especially action shots — but doesn’t want to lug a super bulky camera everywhere. Plus, the app that lets you wirelessly share pictures to your phone is super useful for faster IG sharing. The video mode on it is great too—that’s what I used to record my yoga class for the Ryan Leech Connection, and it turned out awesome.
If you do a lot of video, I really recommend this lavalier mic. It’s only $13, and you can use it with your iPhone’s recording memo app to grab the audio for whatever you’re filming with the Sony A6500. (Again, this is what I used for that yoga video!) I clip the mic to my collar and slide the phone into a back pocket while I do the video, and it basically acts as a mini-recorder. If you’re interviewing someone for a story and need a clear file to transcribe, I clip the mic to my subject and record the conversation that way. It’s also good for recording mono-pod episodes of the podcast, which we don’t do often but it’s nice to have the option.
When we’re recording a podcast on Skype (using Call Recorder) or recording a Q&A episode (using Audacity), we use a bigger, nicer mic setup at home (and we actually just upgraded to an even fancier on-the-road-setup). But for an easy, budget friendly (sub-$50) starter mic that folds up into almost nothing, the Samsung GoMic is a solid choice.
Like I said, I’m an Apple person. The iPad is where I do all of my book reading (library app and Kindle app), watching TV, and reading magazines (Texture). There are a few other apps that I use semi-regularly, but honestly, that’s the main way I use it.
Again, I switch up my notebook choices, but I do love legal pads right now. For some reason, making lists on them just feels so f-ing pro. It’s really satisfying to write stuff out in hard copy sometimes, despite my best efforts to digitize everything. I’ve tried going back to paper planners because I conceptually love them, but they never work for me, stuff shifts too much on the daily for us, so a digital record is just so much simpler. But for thinking through ideas/making basic lists before putting dates on them, I love a notebook.
I have an envelope-style snap-closure folder that holds 8.5×11-inch papers, and I always have it in my tote bag. The amount of random paper and receipts and ‘stuff’ you end up with when you’re on the road for work is usually astonishing, and it’s really nice to file it away so it doesn’t all end up crinkled in the bottom of your purse or jammed in your wallet so you can’t find your actual $$$. I’ve used paper ones, but they always get tossed around and ripped, while this leather one has been in my bag for years and looks professional and won’t have your papers pouring out when turned upside down.
Multiple USB Charger
Because not having many outlets in an AirBNB or hotel is the freaking worst. (I also usually bring a USB plug in for a car’s cigarette lighter for rental cars, though that’s less and less necessary now that most cars have USB ports.)
Credit Card Sleeve for Your Phone
I’ve written about this one before because it’s my #1 favorite thing. Silicone case that sticks to your phone case that can hold a license, credit card and $20. It means you never end up at a meeting without the ability to pay for/order a drink. You never show up at the car rental counter and realize you left your license at home in your wallet. It’s the simplest way to always be prepared. Just… get one.
Let me know in the comments if I’ve left any mobile office needs out!