For the past 6 months, my wife and I haven’t had our own place. We’ve been all over the US and Mexico staying with friends, relatives, and in hotels. It has been an interesting experience and I’ve developed a few practices that help me be the most productive while working out of a suitcase.
Obviously you would want to tailor these for your own line of work, but hopefully everyone can find at least a few tips that are helpful.
- Work Bag – For me, this is my laptop bag. Almost everything I need to work goes in the bag. If I am approaching a deadline, I can stop anywhere with internet access and get right to work without needing to pull things from several suitcases. If you do a lot of traveling, don’t skimp on getting a good bag. I use a Brenthaven and it has been well worth the $100 or so it originally cost.
- Backup Drive – You need to have a way to back up your computer. I carry an external hard drive with me that I can use make an exact duplicate of my laptop’s hard drive. If my laptop is ever dropped or stolen, I can plug it into another computer and be up and running with all my programs in about 5 minutes. Obviously, I keep my hard drive separate from my work bag and sometimes leave it behind when going to an area where theft is likely.
- Blackberry – For me, the Blackberry is the best way for me to keep up with emails when I’m on the road for long periods of time. There are many other devices available with better features, but the Blackberry seems to have the best international coverage, so I can be responsive to my clients regardless of what country I’m in. Also, there are language translation dictionaries available that have been a huge help in communicating abroad.
- 800 number – If you spend a lot of time traveling internationally, you probably don’t want to give out your cell phone number to everyone. In Mexico, calls started at $1.50 per minute. By using an 800 number, I’m able to point it to my cell phone, a Skype number, a regular land line, my Vonage VOIP number or any other telephone number. That way, I can route calls based on where I am and the 800 service will take a message and email me if I’m unavailable.
- Wireless Access Point – I carry an Airport Express in my work bag. It is a small device about the size of a “wall wart” style transformer. When I’m staying at a hotel, I can plug it into their wired internet connection and it gives me a wireless connection and the ability to run multiple computers off a single connection. I’ve been surprised how often this little device has come in handy.
- Zippered Fan Fold Files – Several years ago, I purchased a portable 13 pocket file folder. This has been a true lifesaver. It has plenty of room to keep track of business receipts by month as well as our customs and immigration papers.
- Extra Adapters – When I travel overnight, my work bag has the adapters I need for my computer, phone and other devices. When I travel for longer periods of time, I take extra adapters with me. I keep the smaller one in my work bag so they are always with me and leave the larger one wherever we are spending the night. That way, I don’t accidentally leave for the day without having a necessary charger. As much as possible, I’m trying to standardize on devices that can be charged using a mini-USB connector to keep my chargers interchangeable.