I have traveled a lot: through many different continents, under very different circumstances. I have stayed in fairly nice hotels and rented a car in Guatemala but spent 14 hours a day on a bus for three days straight traveling through 4 African countries. I feel like I have seen it all. I am also very hard on my stuff and usually use it until it falls apart or it totally dies.
I am also a huge proponent of using what you already have and not necessarily running after the newest and greatest gadget. On most of my journeys, I took what I already had available to me, and it worked well. But since I am a professional photographer and use technical tools all the time, I thought I would share my thoughts on tools that I treasure and that have proven invaluable to me on my travels.
- Macbook (Unibody 13”, October 2008 2.4 Ghz model)- This is the perfect computer for someone who travels a lot but doesn’t have the money to buy the more expensive Macbook Air or the larger and much more expensive 15” or 17” Macbook Pro laptops. This computer is extremely durable and has survived dusty bus rides, very bumpy motorcycle rides, and long urban excursions. It is now a year old and still feels fairly new. The new Unibody design is far superior and more durable than the old Macbook and Powerbook designs. I took my old Powerbook to the Middle East and Asia but it was not as durable as my current Macbook. My only two criticisms are the battery life, and the LCD glass screen that can be too reflective (and which Apple improved in the current edition of the Macbook pro). I also have a broken pixel on my screen that I am hoping Apple will fix for me in the upcoming week. I also use a 26” Vizio monitor for my design work at home with an external keyboard and mouse. It’s the perfect combination for me.
- Nikon D90 w/ 18-105 lens. My current go-anywhere “reasonably” priced DSLR camera. My main camera is a Nikon D700 with some nice professional lenses but I have been very impressed with the D90, both in durability and size, especially on my last trip to Congo (I also loved my old D40, on some of my previous trips). Traveling in a war-zone such as Congo meant that I took this camera into some pretty “difficult” places, such as refugee camps, slums, and hard-to-reach villages. The camera was caked with dust a number of times on this trip. I loved the D90 because I could put it inside my Crumpler 4 million dollar home bag, which would then fit with my laptop inside my Timbuk2 Medium messenger bag. I could easily carry this camera around with me all day with one lens and nicely fit inside my messenger bag.
- Inconspicuous Camera/Laptop Bags – Tinbuk2 and Crumpler are both great choices. I also have a REI computer backpack that I love and that has been very durable and has literally traveled around the world with me. While working and spending time in slums or refugee camps it is sensible to have a bag that looks normal and that doesn’t say, “I have an expensive camera inside.” It’s common sense, but thought I would share the thought.
- An unlocked iPhone. With all the apps available and the ability to buy pay-as-you-go SIM cards abroad, the iPhone is a very cool communication tool to have as you’re traveling. In Kenya, once I got a SIM card and downloaded the required phone settings, I was able to receive emails, and update Facebook and Twitter. I also used the iPhone Skype app when I was at coffee shops with free wi-fi in Rwanda and Kenya and was able to call the US for $.02 a minute. Not a bad way to stay in contact and communicate what you are doing. I have friends who have found previous versions of the iPhone for a reasonable price on Craigslist.