This time I’m showing a more practical side of my life as a digital nomad as I’m sharing how I manage to stay abroad and travel around for long periods with only one suitcase. In the video below I’m showing the luggage and most important items I’m taking with me so I can still properly work from anywhere as well.
I quit my job over a year ago to start my nomadic lifestyle and I recently shared my learnings from that first year. But I also often get the question about how I manage to stay abroad for so long and continue to do my work while living out of a suitcase. So I decided to share how I physically make sure that I have what I need without having a moving truck following me around.
If you prefer watching rather than reading, you can look at the video below, or else continue reading below the video.
Where I live
Without this moving truck I’m forced to live a minimalist lifestyle, but luckily I don’t have to go camping in the wild as there are furnished and fully equipped apartments for rent everywhere. Although fully equipped can be a very gray area that can be interpreted in many ways. So improvisation has become an important skill in my toolbox.
Before I show my all my travel gear, let’s first make a trip down memory lane.
I downsized my stuff
Before I starten this journey I already rented a furnished apartment, so I didn’t have any large furniture to get rid of. I sold a few items via Facebook Marketplace, gave away a few things and threw away lots of stuff. The rest of the thing I wanted to keep, I moved to my parents’ place. So I do have a place where I can store a few things that can’t find into my suitcase.
I digitized everything possible
Then I started digitizing everything possible, even old photo albums, so I’m able to access these from anywhere around the world. I scanned all important documents, so now I have my entire administration digitized, and I switched to digital communication with all companies and institutions where possible. Whenever I still receive any physical mail, my dad scans and emails it to me.
I also use a lot of cloud services, like Gmail, Google Drive and Google Docs, Adobe Cloud, and my business administration is in the cloud, so I can access everything from anywhere and on any device. Of course I also make regular back-ups of anything I store locally on my laptop.
My travel bags
For all the stuff that I need to physically take with me, I travel with three pieces of luggage: a check-in bag, hand luggage, and a personal item.
I always check in luggage and luckily I can still do this for free if I fly with any Flying Blue or Skyteam partner airline since I gained Gold Status during my previous life, and this has already been extended twice for free, due to the pandemic. But even if I would have to pay for luggage, I would do it, because I simply have too much stuff to fly with hand luggage only.
My check-in bag is a medium size Samsonite hard case suitcase, which has traveled with me for many years already and has always done a good job protecting my belongings. I like the fact that it’s a hard case that I can lock, so I can also use it to store my valuables if my hotel or apartment doesn’t have a safe.
Instead of rolling around with another trolley bag, I use a shoulder bag as hand luggage. I found a very comfortable and practical one that has soft dividers for protecting a laptop and camera gear. You can take the soft protection out to have one large space, making the bag very multifunctional, so I can use it both when traveling, or just as a bag for a day trip or carrying groceries. It also has some smaller compartments on the front and top, a bottle holder, and straps for attaching a tripod. I found this bag much more useful than a backpack, which makes your back very warm and sweaty on hot days and I also don’t have to take it off to grab my camera when I quickly want to take a picture.
I also take a small camera bag with me, which airlines count as a personal item that you can also take on board for free. The bag only fits one DSLR camera, an extra lens and maybe another small item, which keeps it very light. So when I want to walk around to discover a city or go on a day trip, I can always choose if I want to take the small or larger back with me, depending on what I need for the day.
To keep my luggage organized I also bought a pack of packing cubes, which are lightweight, zippable bags of different sizes. You buy a pack of these for no more than €10 in many web shops these days. I found them very useful to keep my suitcase organized and much easier to pack, and when you don’t have the time or space to unpack, it’s much easier to find something you need.
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My mobile office
In order to be able to work from anywhere, here are the tools that make up my mobile office.
My laptop is a Dell XPS 13, which is a small and lightweight, yet robust laptop with a 13-inch screen. I don’t mind the small screen, but I love the fact that it’s small and lightweight, so I don’t mind walking around with it for longer periods so I can do some work whenever I sit down somewhere.
Wireless mouse & keyboard
To make my workplace a bit more ergonomical I use a small wireless mouse (Logitec) and keyboard (Microsoft Surface). I ended up with a mix of different brands because I didn’t buy them new when I bought the laptop. I had bought and expensed these items already under the work-from-home budget from my previous employer during covid and they let me keep them, so why waste money on buying anything new?
For more ergonomics, I bought a lightweight (plastic) and foldable laptop stand to raise the screen.
To increase productivity I bought a very lightweight and thin second screen. Although it looks a bit like an iPad, it’s literally nothing more than a screen that you can plug in and power with only one USB-C cable. So there’s no need for an additional plug or charging a battery, as it works as long as the connected laptop has enough power. The brand is AOC and it was literally the cheapest screen I could find, costing me about €130.
Buying this screen was honestly one of the best decisions I’ve made regarding my gear. I don’t mind a small screen, as having two screens turned out to be so much more useful to me than having one big screen.
External hard drives
My laptop has a 1 terabyte hard drive, which sounds like a lot, but when you keep shooting and editing videos you run out of space at some point. So I back up everything on two external hard drives, so even if one of these drives fails, I still have the other copy.
To listen to music or to concentrate on video editing, I use the Sony WH-1000XM4 noise-canceling headphones. I was also able to expense these under the work-from-home budget from my previous employer and since these were expensive and more a nice-to-have, I don’t think I would have bought them myself. But now that I have these headphones, I love them and use them a lot as the quality is amazing!
Another nice-to-have gimmick that I never paid for, but which became part of my regular travel gear is the JBL Flip 5 Bluetooth speaker. I probably wouldn’t have bought this myself, but it was a present from my employer during covid and it is of course nice to be able to play music anywhere, especially when staying somewhere for longer as a nomad.
Photography has been a hobby for me for the last few years and last year I also started shooting videos and of course, I started my Youtube channel, so these are the cameras I’m currently using.
Canon EOS 750D
I bought this DSLR camera a few years ago when I first started my journey as an amateur photographer who simply wanted to take better photos when traveling. It’s not the cheapest model, but 1 or 2 steps up from there and a good model to start with. I also have a few lenses, but I hate changing them while walking around, so I mostly use the one with the widest zoom range (18-300 mm), although this is not the best in terms of quality.
I realized that video is the future, especially when looking at social media and how these algorithms prioritize video content, but when I started out making videos with my DSLR I realized that it wasn’t very suitable for this (heavy, camera shake, and slow auto-focus).
DJI Pocket 2
This is a small camera, comparable with an action cam, but with a gimbal built-in for very smooth movements. This makes the camera very easy to use for a beginner, it’s very tiny and fits in your pocket, and therefore great for vlogging. The quality is much better than I expected from a camera under €400.
A tripod is a necessity if you want to film yourself, so I always take a tripod on longer trips, so I can continue to make videos for my Youtube channel. I have a normal-size tripod that I can use with any of my cameras, and I have a small pock-size one that I can use with the Pocket 2 or with my phone.
This small device can be plugged into any tv with a HDMI port so I can stream anything from my phone or laptop to the tv via wifi.
Car phone holder and charger
The phone holder can be placed into the vents of a car so I can use the navigation on my phone whenever I rent a car and with the card charger I don’t have to worry about my battery draining when the screen is on for long periods.
Plastic containers are always useful to store leftover food, especially when you prepare your own food. However, I rarely found these in the apartments I’ve stayed in, so instead of buying new ones over and over again, I started taking them with me, and created space in my luggage by filling them up with socks.
First aid kit
Anything can happen when you’re traveling so I’ll always make sure there is space for a small first aid kit in my luggage.
I didn’t buy everything new as I already had a few items and I only bought what I really needed to accommodate my new style of travel. I didn’t want to excessively spend anything of more fancy stuff before setting off on this journey, because you only really know what you need when you are experiencing the lifestyle. And so far I haven’t felt the need for anything else.
Besides anything can break, get lost or stolen, so the fewer valuables you have with you the less you can lose. And it’s just a waste of money to buy something like a super expensive camera if you don’t know how to use all the extra functionalities. A good cameraman with a cheap camera usually makes better footage than an amateur with an expensive camera.
But if there’s anything next I want to upgrade it’s the camera, so I can have one good camera for both photo and video. But this also means I need to be able to dedicate the time to improve on my skills, and I believe that the investment in a camera also needs to earn itself back.