We get a lot of questions about travel planning, travel services, the gear we use, travel clothes, digital nomad equipment and services, and photographic gear. We’ve put together this resource guide to help answer those frequent questions based on our seven year of traveling around the world. This is also the type of information we were looking for when we set out to travel around the world, so we hope it’s useful for you, whether you’re traveling across the globe or going to the neighboring city.
If we missed something (and we know we have!), please let us know by sending us an email and we’ll add it to the list below.
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General Travel Resources
Independent or group travel?
That’s a question only you can answer based on your preferred style of travel, time, budget and a host of other considerations. The benefits of independent travel are many: you can set your own schedule and itinerary to go as slow or as fast as you’d like, eat wherever you want, decide which activities you want to do, choose your transport, pushes you outside your comfort zone, and it’s often easier to connect with local people as individuals or a couple rather than a big group. However, group travel also has it’s benefits: logistics are taken care of for you, an instant group of people to bond with, access to certain people or activities that you might not find on your own, and the local expertise of a guide (can be invaluable). We began as almost exclusively independent travelers, just taking a tour from time to time when it was required (e.g., Turkmenistan).
Now we do a combination of independent travel and small group tours, usually through G Adventures. We’ve been working closely with G Adventures for almost four years as part of the Wanderers in Residence program and have taken nine tours with them (Antarctica, Bali, Tanzania, Iran, Japan, and New Zealand, Ethiopia, Uganda and Haiti). However, our first tour with G Adventures to Antarctica was one that we organized and paid for ourselves. It was because of this first good experience and understanding the values of the company that we chose to work with them afterwards as brand ambassadors. What we like about G Adventures tours is that they are small (maximum 15 people), usually offer independent time so that you can also explore on your own and often include a visit to an NGO to help support the local community.
We get a lot of questions from people about how and where to volunteer abroad. The choices can be overwhelming, as there are many different volunteer models and it can be overwhelming trying to figure out volunteer placement services. Our suggestion is to do your research thoroughly, and if you chose to go with a volunteer placement company be sure to ask how much of the money is actually going to the local organization. First, take a good luck at your skills and interests to determine what type of volunteer experience will not only match your skills, but also provide the most benefit for the host organization. If you can, try to spend more than just a week as the real benefit of volunteering to a local organization or community comes with a longer term commitment. If you are interested in volunteering abroad we suggest you check out The Volunteer Traveler’s Handbook and Grassroots Volunteering (a database to connect travelers with local organizations and causes) by Shannon O’Donnell.
We don’t have this down to a science, but we do use a handful of sites to help us find and compare costs, routes, and times. We usually start first with Kayak and SkyScanner (includes low cost airlines in database) to get a feel for flight options. Sometimes the actual airline will have an even cheaper rate than what is listed on one of those sites, so always check the airline’s website. If you have a very complicated and expensive ticket, consider using Flightfox to see what sort of flight deal they can come up with for you.
We often use Airbnb when we travel to rent an apartment (or sometimes a room). We often prefer this to staying in a traditional hotel as the places are usually in neighborhoods instead of downtown areas so you have a more local, neighborhood feel. If you want to check out Airbnb for yourself, you can get a $25 discount off your next rental by using this Airbnb discount code.
Practical Considerations for Long Term Travel
This is by no means an exhaustive list of what you’ll need to take care of before taking off for a long-term journey, but it’s a starting point.
Scan Important Documents
This includes scanning your passport, identification cards, receipts (for insurance), etc. Save the files to Dropbox, and email them to someone you trust. This will allow someone to email you proof of your identity and nationality if your passport or ID cards are stolen. Read on for advice on how to protect your passport and avoid scams.
International Driver’s License (for US citizens)
Leave a will and medical directive with a loved one
Not to sound morbid, but something may happen to you on the road and having your wishes in a legal document makes it easier for everyone if anything were to happen. We set ours up using NOLO software before we left the United States.
Issue Power of Attorney
Be sure to leave an authorized Power of Attorney (PoA) to a trusted family member or friend in case he/she needs to act legally on your behalf.
Transfer accounts and statements to electronic format
Unsubscribe to newsletters or magazines. Even with these actions, things still arrive in your mailbox. Ask a friend to check it from time to time or forward mail to someone you trust (thanks, Mom!).
Having a mailing/billing address when on the road
Although we haven’t lived in the United States for over 12 years, we still keep our mailing address for all credit card and financial issues in the States. It just makes it easier for us. There are sometimes benefits to having a U.S. credit card over a European one. We use a parent’s address as our mailing address – we get notified if something arrives and if necessary, we get a scanned copy. You can also try a service like Earth Class Mail. We haven’t used this ourselves, but have heard good things from other travelers.
Moving sales, donations, getting rid of stuff
Depending upon your housing situation, you may need to liquidate (almost) everything like us. It’s amazing how much stuff we had accumulated in a short time…and how quickly we’ve forgotten about it. For more advice on how to declutter and sell your things, check out Getting Rid of It from our friends Warren and Betsy.
Saving for retirement
Someone asked this on our Facebook page so we wanted to address this. Retirement saving really is a personal issue and depends on so many factors (income, access to retirement plans, etc.). Before we left our stable jobs in Prague, we lived simply not only to save money for travel, but also to put away as much money as we could in our employer’s retirement plans. We knew that we’d be unemployed for a while and weren’t sure what the future held. On the road it’s been difficult to save for retirement as our freelance life has its ups and downs, but this is something that is a priority again.
Essential Travel Gear
It seems like every traveler has their own “essential travel gear” list. Here’s ours based on our seven years of traveling in every sort of country, climate or luxury level.
- Earplugs: We’ve sung the praises of ear plugs before, but it’s always worth mentioning again as a good night’s sleep is golden for staying healthy — and happy. But not all earplugs are created equal. That’s why we recommend these Howard Leight Earplugs.
- Silk sleep sack: If you’re going to be staying in budget accommodations or planning on trekking where you’re camping or staying with a homestay families (where the sleeping bag/blanket may not have been cleaned in a while), silk sleep sacks are an essential item. The fine silk keeps the bugs from biting through, but is cool enough so you won’t roast. But, when you are cold this is a great additional layer to get warm. More importantly, it’s just nice to be enveloped in something clean that you trust before going to bed. We picked ours up at a market in Hanoi at the beginning of our trip, but you can also find silk sleep sacks on Amazon and at camping stores.
- Quick Dry Travel Towel: Not every place you stay may have a towel, so it’s good to be prepared with your own. And, when you’re off trekking a travel towel is essential. We use a medium sized towel as it’s still small to pack away, but is big enough if we need to use after showering.
- Tea Tree Oil: It naturally soothes, cleanses and dries out whatever is ailing you and is especially good for mosquito and other bites. A small amount goes a long way. You can find tea tree oil in pharmacies or in health food stores. Be sure to get the medicinal strength stuff.
- Reusable Water Bottle: This is another essential. Sure, it’s possible to buy bottled water in most places of the world these days. But, do you really want to leave a trail behind you of plastic bottles? That’s why carrying your own water bottle ensures that you always can have water with you (yes, hydration is good), but also reduces your use of plastic water bottles. We hook our Camelback water bottle on to the side of Audrey’s Crumpler with a carabiner. If you’re traveling in countries where the water from the tap is not fit to drink, consider getting a Camelback bottle that includes a water purifier or the Steripen (see below) to treat your water.
- Steripen Freedom: Steripen is a small device that you carry that purifies water through ultraviolet light. And their product line has gotten better over the years in terms of size and battery use. What we like about the Steripen Freedom is that you can charge it via USB. And, it’s small. While a Steripen will kill the germs in the water, it won’t change the taste. So, sometimes it’s also good to carry packets of lemonade or Tang to help make the water taste better.
- Sarong: The sarong is the Swiss Army Knife in cloth form. It knows a versatility that goes beyond a lie on the beach. Use it as a blanket when your sleep sack isn’t quite warm enough. Use it as an extra layer of protection between you and that train or hostel sheet that has never been washed. Use it as a bath towel. Or a shock absorber in your bag. Or when all your clothes are at the laundromat, make a fashion statement and turn it into a lungi, skirt or dress. Very easy to find in beach locations.
- Headlamp: This is another essential item, especially if you’re planning on going trekking or camping, or staying in homestays with dark, outdoor outhouses. This simple Energizer Headlamp has served us well for years. The red light option is useful when you’re in a room with other people and don’t want to wake everyone up.
For more details on our gear, check out our favorite low tech travel gear.
Luggage and Bags
The more we travel, the more we realize how little we really need. We still carry too much. But here’s what we’re carrying with us.
Audrey’s Luggage and Bags
- Eagle Creek Rincon Vita Backpack (75 liters): This backpack replaced an original Eagle Creek Maiden Voyage (70 liters) that Audrey used for 6 years. What I like about the backpack: that it is lockable and that you can zip up the straps (very useful for checking in bags). But, the new Rincon Vita backpack doesn’t have a zipped mesh section to throw in odds and ends like the Maiden Voyage. Still recommended the Rincon Vita Backpack, but hope they add back the inside mesh section in future versions…
- Eagle Creek Load Warrior™ Wheeled Duffel 25: After only carrying a backpack for years I now appreciate the ease of wheeled luggage and have started using this wheeled duffel bag from Eagle Creek. What I like about this bag is that the wheels are sturdy, making it no problem on Berlin’s cobblestone roads or construction. The bag itself is also very light, which I very much appreciate as we live on the 5th floor without an elevator. Zippers are tough and I like how the bag allows extra space with an expandable section in the front.
- Crumpler Puppet camera and laptop backpack – a very cool and comfortable bag that really protects your equipment. Seven years later, I’m still using the same bag. Unfortunately, Crumpler seems to have chosen fashion over function so I haven’t really found a good alternative for if this goes out.
- Day Camera Bag: We like this bag because it has a comfortable waist belt that you can use when hiking or taking long walks that takes the weight off the shoulders. It also has a plastic cover that helps during rainstorms. Down sides: it’s a bit bulky to fit into the backpack or suitcase when we’re not using it.
Dan’s Backpack and Bags
- Eagle Creek Rincon Backpack (90 Liters): This replaced an original Eagle Creek Grand Voyage (90 liters) that Dan used for 6 years. See Audrey’s feedback above about what’s good and bad about the backpack.
- Eagle Creek Load Warrior™ Wheeled Duffel 32: While Dan still uses his backpack, he now appreciates the ease of wheeled luggage and has started using this wheeled duffel bag from Eagle Creek. This bag is sturdy and tough, making it easy to wheel it over cobblestones, construction or steps. It is quite big and roomy, making for easy packing. Zippers and fabric are tough and I like how the ochre color stands out at the luggage carousel.
Crumpler Belly laptop backpack– not as cool as the Puppet, but it can double as a daypack when necessary
- Eagle Creek Afar Laptop Backpack: This replaced the Crumpler laptop backpack above. What I like about it is that it is roomy and can fit a laptop (13-inch), iPad, external harddrives, plugs and adaptors, and other bibs and bobs with ample space. Also, it doesn’t scream “laptop bag,” which helps with safety when traveling. The waist strap makes it comfortable to wear for hours and hours as it takes the weight off the shoulders. I do wish that the outer laptop zipper section was able to be locked like the other two zippered sections.
- Dry Sack: When you’re off trekking, kayaking, horseback riding or zodiacing around Antarctica, there is always the risk that Mother Nature decides to dump buckets on you. Here is where the simple yet mighty dry sack comes to the rescue, especially with camera gear. Relatively lightweight and inexpensive peace of mind.
We both use Eagle Creek Pack-It Cubes in various sizes for holding our clothes, electronics and medicines – all your stuff is one place, meaning that you don’t have to go reaching around your pack looking for a pair of socks, a t-shirt or band-aids. And, when the bus leaves in 5 minutes, it’s much easier to pack up.
It’s amazing how a few pieces of clothing can go a long way. We tried to pack in such a way that we would be comfortable, but also could look professional when we needed it.
Audrey’s Travel Clothes
- Tops: t-shirts, short-sleeved button down, long sleeve top (Ex-Officio), long-sleeved button down (Columbia), fleece zip jacket, windbreaker in a bag
- Pants: Ex-Officio Nio Amphi Pants are great for hiking and hot weather as they dry very quickly. Clothing Arts Travel Pants dress up well and are great for keeping your smartphone, wallet and other valuables safe with its zipper system.
- Skirts: jean skirt (heavy, but oh so comfortable), lightweight ankle-length skirt (good for travel in more conservative countries)
- Shoes: Vasque Women’s Mantra GTX Hiking Shoes – light and sturdy all at the same time. Used a previous model of this shoe non-stop for almost two years without any blisters. Teva river shoes are good for rafting, dirty showers, etc. Regular sandals for dressing up or down.
- Socks: Smartwool trekking socks – comfortable and long lasting.
- Underwear: Ex-Officio and Patagonia Capilene underwear. I also love my silk long johns. Super light to carry, but keeps you warm when you need it. Perfect if you’re planning on doing a lot of hiking or going from hot to cold climates.
Dan’s Travel Clothes
- Tops: t-shirts, short-sleeved button down, long-sleeved button down, fleece zip jacket, windbreaker in a bag
- Pants: ExOfficio Ziwa Convertable Pants and ClothingArts travel pants
- Socks: walking and trekking socks (Patagonia)
- Shoes: Vasque Men’s Scree Ultradry hiking boots and Teva river shoes
- Underwear: Ex-Officio boxers
Travel Health Insurance, Vaccinations and Medications
Travel Health Insurance
Although we currently use German travel health insurance we used World Nomads Travel Insurance for basic health and equipment insurance for six years. We did not have health insurance in the United States during this time. World Nomads insurance covered us everywhere except if we were within 150 miles of our home base (i.e., address used on application). We had two dental claims to replace a broken crown and one camera theft claim. They were easy to work with and the coverage is relatively inexpensive. On trips to the United States where travel insurance did not cover us, we usually bought short-term health insurance with a high deductible. Fortunately, we never had to use it.
We made regular visits to the travel health clinic in Prague to sort our which vaccinations we needed based on our itinerary. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention is a great resource to research what vaccinations and medications you’ll need for your route. Basic vaccinations include: Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Meningitis, MMR, Polio, Tetanus/Diphtheria (Td) (check your levels, get a booster), Typhoid, Yellow Fever (some countries require this). Note: Depending upon your route (e.g., Southeast Asia or Latin America), you may want to get some vaccinations at the beginning of your journey as it will be much less expensive.
Medications and Basic Travel Health Advice
There is a basic set of medications that you should take with you, as well as knowledge on how to treat basic travel illnesses (e.g., Delhi belly). Read on for a full description on medications and travel health tips. Depending upon your route, you might want to purchase these on the road as many countries don’t require prescriptions to buy basic antibiotics and other medications over-the-counter.
Dealing with Stomach Problems
It’s impossible to guarantee that you’ll avoid getting stomach ailments, whether on the road or at home. But there are some actions you can take to still enjoy local food, but try to protect yourself at the same time: wash your hands often, go to stalls with high turnover, avoid uncooked vegetables, avoid ice, etc. For a full article on the topic of staying healthy, read How to Travel the World Without Hugging the Bowl: 10 Tips for Staying Healthy on the Road. One of our friends, Jodi Ettenberg, wrote a great book about exploring food while traveling that includes food safety tips.
Travel Photography Gear
We’re often asked about our travel photography, how we get the people, landscape, food and cityscape photos we do. When it comes to great photography, it’s not just about what photography gear you have, but how you use it.
This is the DSLR camera we use for most of the photos that you see in our photo gallery. It’s not a light camera by any means, but it takes great photos and we value the toughness of the body. We’ve put it through deserts, rainforest, Antarctic snow storms and it keeps on ticking.
We carry this pocket camera with us for video, food photos, and for when we don’t want to carry the big DSLR around with us.
This lens does it all; it’s the one we use 90% of the time. Sometimes the image quality is not as good as with a fixed length lens, but it’s hard to beat the flexibility of being able to take wide angle shots as well as zoom in on the details. We actually carry two of these lenses; one is a backup.
We use this as a back-up lens if the 18-200 mm lens breaks. It’s a great lens with high quality color and crispness. But, it doesn’t give you the same flexibility with zoom as the 18-200 mm lens.
This is a fun wide-angle lens used for fisheye shots. In addition, we use it to create the cool spherical panoramic photos you see each week.
A good lens for both macro photography and portraits. You can have a lot of fun with this lens.
This is a prime lens, meaning that it’s a fixed length – no zoom. But, this light lens is good for portraits and for making sure you get close to the item you’re photographing. Lets in lots of light and great color.
A straight-forward flash that has both power and flexibility. Easy to control the angle of the flash and the strength so as to not blow out your subject.
We find a monopod easier to carry with us around the world than a tripod. Used for low light and panoramic photos.
Helps you get clouds that pop and cut through glare on bright days. We also use the Hoya UV Filter 72mm mainly used to protect the glass from the original lens. Has saved us on more than one occasion when the camera fell and the filter broke instead of the original glass of the lens. Highly recommended.
360-Degree Panoramic Photography
We’re often asked about how we take and display our 360-degree panoramic photographs. We did a full interview about the process here. But in simple terms, we use an 8 mm lens with our Nikon DSLR and then take 4 photos (vertical orientation) at 90-degrees plus one photo overhead. Then, we use software to stitch everything together to see what you display here.
Autopano Giga and PanotourPro: We drop the raw (NEF) files into Autopano Giga to stitch together a flat panorama. Then we take that panorama and drop it into PanotourPro to get the flash “tour” you see here.
Blogging Resources and Tools
We mostly run this website and business from the road, aka, as Digital Nomads. As we have to carry the tools of our business on us and use them from Burma to Uzbekistan, we have to choose our gear for functionality, durability and cost. For a full list of all our gear, check out Our Office-Less Office.
We highly recommend using the WordPress content management system (CMS) together with a Genesis theme. The designs are snazzy enough on their own, but there are infinite numbers of ways you can customize them to meet any and every design need and desired functionality.
Backing up and protecting your data is one of the most important things you can do. Check out our complete backup strategy that combines both online backup and external hard drives.
Crashplan: Backing up to the Cloud
We use a CrashPlan family plan to back all our data up to the cloud (as well as connecting our parents’ computers). To begin with we used their seed drive service that allowed us to back up 2 TB worth of data so that we didn’t have to spend months getting our initial collection online. Now, the service runs in the background whenever we’re online. Check out our full review of CrashPlan.
We use Dropbox all the time to store documents and transfer files to clients. The syncing process runs in the background and with Macs it’s super easy to use as it integrates right into the Finder.
In addition to online backup, we also are continuously backing up to external hard drives. As we both have Macs we also use Time Machine to backup. Our portable external hard drive of choice is the WD Passport, either 1 TB or 2 TB.
Digital Nomad Gear: Laptops and More
Once you go Mac, you never go back. In addition to being light and durable, the MacBook is a powerful laptop that can handle most photography, video, webdesign and graphics work. Although Macs may costs more than PCs, you will save yourself headaches and hours and hours of time by not having to fight viruses and security issues on a regular basis. So worth it.
In a hotel room with only one LAN cable and have two laptops that need internet access? Never fear. Plug the LAN cable into the Airport Express and you have an instant wifi zone. Super easy to use.
It’s amazing how many hotels – from 0 starts to 5 stars – around the world only provide one electrical outlet in the room. With this Belkin multi-plug, we can both plug in our laptops, charge camera batteries, iPhones and anything else we might need at one time. Works in both 110 and 220 V countries.
Extension Cord (3 meters)
This may seem like an odd addition for this list, but a simple extension can provide much more flexibility in work locations. Sometimes we’re in a hotel room that only has one electrical outlet located in the most inconvenient part of the room. Or perhaps we want to work out on the balcony but there are no plugs around. With the extension cord we can work from almost anywhere in the room.
Until the world decides on one type of plug, it’s useful to carry the most common plug adaptors for your gear. We use a combination of an Apple World Plug Adaptor Kit and local adaptors we pick up in random markets around the world.
What did we miss? Have a question that we haven’t answered here? Send us an email and we’ll add it to the resource page. Thanks!