I’ve wanted to test my abilities to travel without a laptop and this past weekend was my first attempt.
Quick update 8/15/2012 – It’s been nearly a month and my laptop hasn’t left my desk since I published this post. I now use my phone and tablet exclusively for trips and any moments that I might be away from my desk. It is honestly one of the more liberating moments I can remember.
I’ve been upgrading my technology as of late. I got a new Samsung Galaxy SIII phone. It works perfectly with the Samsung camera we also purchased recently. And I have the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 which I have been using for about 6 months.
I didn’t set out to buy just Samsung products but I did have the goal of creating a very tight network of Android products that would allow me to work remotely without the need for the laptop.
A wedding is a great excuse to travel without a laptop
We left our house at 4am on Thursday morning for the short 15 minute drive to the airport. My wife’s cousin was getting married in Pittsburgh so it was going to be a long day. Our two boys, 4 years old and 1 year old, are good travelers but this would be the ultimate test.
A wedding is the perfect layer of protection for a test like this. No one really expects much from you when you announce that you will be less available to attend a wedding.
So I decided to give it a shot. Could I travel without a laptop and survive to share my story?
Here’s what I did to prepare
I packed the tablet, camera, and of course my phone. I had moved my business related documents to Google Drive over the last few weeks and I was already comfortable with how that was organized.
I use Roboform to manage my passwords and login credentials and that is available on each device thanks to their handy app.
Our email runs on a Microsoft Exchange Server so that was already handled as well.
And because we run all of our websites on a WordPress Multisite network all I need to access those at any point is a browser and web access.
The processes I need to perform
We landed in Pittsburgh around 5pm EST on Thursday evening. As we taxied to the gate I turned on my phone and cleared my email. Accessing email is perhaps the most important process that I perform on the road. That’s easy enough with the Android phone.
We grabbed our bags and made our way to the rental car counter. The women helping me with my reservation asked about navigation and I declined. I hadn’t planned on this but it immediately struck me that I could use an app on the Samsung Galaxy smartphone to find my way to the hotel.
The rehearsal dinner was Friday evening and since I was not in the wedding I decided to be the family photog. The process of downloading and sharing photos is one that I do quite often. Mostly, I download and share images from my hikes and I really need to be efficient with this. How would I do this when I travel without a laptop?
I snapped about 75 pictures and showed friends and family the best shots. Of course, that was met with the expected “You need to send that to me”.
Easy. The Samsung camera connects to wifi and has the ability to send images by email. A few quick clicks and my Samsung Galaxy SIII is a mobile hotspot that the camera can connect to. A few more clicks and the best images are sent by email to those that want them.
My final concern was for any urgent calls or emails that might come from one of our clients regarding their websites. We get those support requests occasionally and it requires me to access the servers and often a specific WordPress website. The good news is that we had zero issues but I still wanted to test that process. So I ran a few scenarios that we face regularly. No problems.
My findings and insights
The weekend went off without a hitch. I now feel that it is completely possible for me to travel without a laptop. Here are a few of the things that I learned:
- The battery life of these smaller devices is great compared to my laptop – charging was just a nightly plugin at the hotel
- Email and photo sharing are simple with the network of devices that I have created
- I’ve been thinking about a shorter form blog posting strategy which would be much easier on the road using the tablet
- I had access to everything just as if I was using my laptop but some things are a bit more challenging to use or access
- I had two requests from active clients for documentation and reports during the weekend and sending them new digital copies was very easy
I’m very pleased with this first test to travel without a laptop. My anxiety has all but disappeared and I think it will be easy for me to take just the tablet, phone and camera on most trips moving forward. The only reservation I have is how to handle situations where I need to type a long form response or generate monthly reports for our digital strategy clients. Those processes rely heavily on data input and contain lots of text which would be challenging on the tablet. Maybe a tablet compatible keyboard is worth testing for those scenarios.
How mobile are you?
Many of us travel for work. Even travel for pleasure can take us off the grid to a certain extent. How do you blog from the road? How do you manage your workload without your laptop?
I’d love to hear how you are building your mobile network and learn about your shortcuts. Share your thoughts in the comments.