Writing on the road: 10 things I couldn’t live without
Any traveller has a booty of items that they always find room for in their backpack. As a travel writer, the most important items in my travel kit are the tools and gadgets that help me do what I do: write. Here are the ten things you’ll spot if you rummage through my luggage.
The three golden rules of travel writing? Back up, back up, back up. I’ve lost work before and nothing feels worse. You’ll need to keep all your documents saved in more than one place, especially if you’re carrying around a laptop or netbook desirable to thieves. I’ve been using this LaCie external hard drive for the last couple of years, keeping it separate from my laptop at all times to minimise the chances of losing all my work in one fell swoop. This model is fantastically practical thanks to its thick rubber edging, and can even survive a drop down a canyon (it was a small canyon, but a canyon nonetheless!) – so there’s no doubt it’ll withstand the beating that it suffers in my backpack.
I lugged a tripod around India with me for two months before handing it over to another friendly traveler in a hostel. I simply didn’t use it and although it folded up pretty small, when I’m out exploring for the day, it’s just another piece of kit in my day bag. However, my boyfriend found this neat camera extender with which you can you can take great snaps of yourself without the need to fiddle around with timers or find a suitable ledge to rest your camera on. We got some great pictures of us nicely framed in front of famous sights such as the Angkor Wat temples. And at half a kilo it won’t weigh you down.
I’m a writer, not a photographer. But when I travel, I’m constantly taking pictures of my adventures, and as a writer I’m responsible for getting the best shots possible to help illustrate my articles. I did a lot of research before deciding to buy this SLR and I’ve loved every minute we’ve spent together. It’s not too pricey, not too big, it’s simple to use and there are still loads of settings I haven’t fully utilised. Plus, it captures great photos without needing to edit them afterwards. I love the HD movie recording – useful for taking short videos of performances and conducting interviews with locals – and the fact that its battery lasts a week-long trek without a recharge.
This piece of kit hardly needs an intro. At first, I just kept novels on my Kindle to browse on boring journeys. Now I get all my travel guides loaded up on here before I set off – much lighter than carrying around loads of books and easily searchable, too. I even put PDFs of my draft articles on here to read through, edit and show to others. I’ve got the keyboard version, which although slightly bigger, is much handier for adding notes to your literature – good for quick reference when you’re in the back of a tuktuk trying to figure out where you’re supposed to be going!
I wasn’t bothered about these when a friend proudly handed them to me before I headed off on my first round-the-world trip, and you could hardly say that binoculars are vital for a travel writer. But it was worth carrying them around for five months because without these hanging around my neck, I would never have seen a jaguar in Brazil’s Pantanal. Now I’m writing this experience up into an article. Affordable and lightweight, it’s definitely worth adding these to your backpack – you might just spot something no one else does – and that always makes for a great story.
For me, a great laptop is all about battery life. After I’ve watched a film on a long bus journey and uploaded the day’s photos, I still want to be able to write notes from the day and edit my blog. For days at a time in South America, I was racing through Bolivia to Brazil and taking buses instead of staying in hostels for the night. Few would argue that Apple products offer the best battery life and my beloved MacBook Air consistently delivers the promised 5 to 6 hours between charges – a boredom fighter and fantastic work aid.
I’m an old-fashioned girl at heart, and there’s something romantic about jotting down notes on the crisp pages of a Moleskine that makes me feel forever on the trail of Hemingway. Plus, the smart black leather cover also does well at reminding me to get on with work rather than play!
This is another little gadget that I don’t use regularly, but it did come in pretty useful when I was driving and camping around New Zealand. Trying as I was to avoid pricey campsites with such luxury facilities as power sockets, this little beauty helped me keep my phone and camera charged each day by collecting the sun’s rays through the windscreen as I drove along.
When I’m camping out in the woods or spending the night in a town without electricity, this little flashlight casts the perfect amount of light to write notes by at night. I’m now on my second one, having left the first one with a family in the mountains of Northern Laos. Once I realised they had to do a day’s walk to the nearest town to buy batteries, I understood why they found this gadget so magical.
I adore this piece of kit. When you’re horse riding through the fields of Uruguay, or atop a camel in the African desert, a million thoughts are racing through your head and you can’t put them on paper until the experience is over. I like to clip this onto my shirt and describe what I see and how I feel so that later I can listen to the recording and jot down notes.