After years of living the digital nomad life I have begun to perfect my travel work setup.
After a Sony, then an IBM Thinkpad T60p in 2011 I bought my first MacBook Pro (2.7GHz Dual-core i7, 8GB RAM, 500GB HDD). I had owned an iPod in the past and was generally very impressed with Apple but this was my first foray into their computers - I was hooked. Two years later I needed something lighter for traveling and upgraded to a MacBook Air (1.7GHz Dual core i7, 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD). This was my primary workhorse for four years of development and travel and as of November 2019 is still in use by a family member (albeit with a battery change).
December 2017 to present I use a MacBook Pro (4 USB C, 3.1GHz i5, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD) which comes with me everywhere. In all honesty I think I was happier with the Air which seemed to struggle less, but in fairness situations have changed. Today I still travel a lot but when using an external monitor it is usually 4k requiring a lot for a machine with no dedicated graphics. Compiled languages (Go, Java, Typescript) take up more of my development time - and my CPU - with a cluster of Docker containers sucking even more resources in the background.
Other disappointments include the keyboard (a common complaint but one where I don’t so much mind the feel of the keys, that’s quite nice - rather dust routinely blocks keys from functioning and my
F is not attached so regularly comes off attached to my finger. I plan on having this replaced by Apples Keyboard Service Program as soon as I can justify handing my laptop over for some few days); and battery life, which lasts only 2-3 hours before needing a charge. Scanning for power outlets upon entry is my Jason Bourne skill.
On short coffee shop visits overall I’m very happy. The machine is slim and light when transporting, has a great screen and mostly-great keyboard but if I could go back in time I would pay extra for a 15” version with CPU upgrade and dedicated graphics. USB C is actually a huge benefit for me as I also only carry one cable and charger for my laptop, headphones and mobile.
Longer sessions & Ergonomics
When traveling for longer periods of time - working from hostels, AirBnBs or flats - I focus on ergonomics bringing an external keyboard, track pad/mouse and portable stand with me. Having a screen at eye level really helps with neck and back pain. Combined with a split, mechanical keyboard (which deserves its own section) to relieve stress on shoulders and wrists I have a far more comfortable working setup than most desk workers.
For travelling I am very happy with my current set of options. I can easily move around with my existing laptop and have a fairly flexible configuration for longer trips. In the next couple of years there are a couple of changes I could see myself making:
- Laptop upgrade. As mentioned the power of my existing MacBook Pro is limiting. I hope to rectify this with remote access to my Desktop workstation but having a higher specification laptop would make a difference. When the next generation of MacBook Pros is released I will check prices and value for an upgrade. It may also be beneficial to take a 15” machine for that extra kick…
- iPad Pro. Tablets can be very useful for easy tasks such as checking email; web browsing; travel planning etc. I have held off purchasing an iPad as I hardly use my Nexus 7 Android tablet but with the introduction of iPad OS and Sidecar, the ability to use a tablet as an external monitor is very appealing.