I haven’t really introduced myself yet, and I’m not ready to today either, but one thing you do need to know about me is I’m on the go a lot. Van life is the dream — I’m in the process of moving into my 1996 Honorbuilt Travel-inn Class-B RV — and I’m also currently dating someone who lives three hours away, so I need to be able to pack up and take my office wherever my head lands for the night.
At the place I currently call home I do have a bigger office space in my bedroom, including a standing desk with lots of cubby holes and a desktop computer that was gifted to me after my gram passed away. The desk and computer are bulky, and obviously won’t be coming with me into the RV, and I’ll probably have to downsize from 10 journals that I’ve never written in to somewhere around 4. (And then I’ll buy 8 more, who am I really kidding here?)
In reality, everything I need to do my job — both web design and the remote corporate job I’m hanging onto for dear life — fits into a box that I bought at Marshalls for like 12 bucks. When I bought it 18 months ago I was just testing out the waters of working remotely, and I really didn’t know what it would take outside of my own focus and mental fortitude. I loved living in Colorado but rent was expensive, finding friends was difficult, and I knew my job could be done from any computer with internet access. I pitched to my bosses that they let me go remote and move across the country, and I’m so thankful they provided me the opportunity. Not only have I found my own freedom, but I’m also more productive than I ever have been in an office setting, which benefits my bosses as well as myself.
I’ll talk more about what it’s like to work remotely another time, but today I wanted to show you exactly what I use to keep myself going no matter where I am.
- Charger & extra charging cables & docks
- Extension cord/power strip
- Extra screen (connects via cable)
- Extra laptop (doubles as extra screen via bluetooth)
- Pen(s I normally have a bajillion)
- USB Hub
- Hair clips
- External Hard Drive
- Goal Zero/Rockpals solar set up that I use to keep myself powered on the go (does not actually fit in the box)
- Eventual personal internet device I’ll need to connect to data from anywhere there’s cell service
- Phone I sometimes use for my sales job
Let's Break it Down
Laptop: I have an inexpensive Lenovo Solid State Drive laptop. The pros: it didn’t break the bank; the SSD makes it sturdy and reliable. It fits perfectly in the box I bought (not specific to working, but it’s so pleasing when things fit like puzzle pieces). It has a 15.6in screen which was important to me. I have a smaller laptop and don’t find it as useful. Cons: an external hard drive or cloud storage system is absolutely essential. I have to keep the computer clear of clutter (a good rule of thumb anyway).
Charger & extra charging cords: For obvious reasons. Electronics need power from somewhere. I also keep an extension cord with three plugs in my box, because an ample amount of outlets is never as readily available as you need it to be.
Bluetooth Mouse: no explanation necessary other than — the trackpad sucks. (I nearly broke my mouse coming upstairs to write this post. I should be more careful.)
Extra screen (connects via cable): Before going remote my boss bought me an extra screen that connects via usb. It’s made by ASUS, has no power of its own, instead turning on only when connected to another device The case it comes in doubles as a kickstand. In the office we work on three screens so having an extra one is a lifesaver during our busiest times of year when I have to track details across multiple programs at once. The one caveat I have is that it takes up valuable USB connection space. I would prefer an extra screen that connects via HDMI, but overall I’ve had no issues with this one.
Extra laptop (doubles as extra screen via bluetooth): I’m not saying everyone should have an extra laptop, but I do. Not for any particular reason other than that I had different needs at different times, and both of them have their own space in my office-box & life. At 13.3 inches this one is clearly more portable, and it also has a touch screen, which I don’t use often but is nice to have. The specs are more robust and I like to keep both of them on hand. I got both of them from Best Buy using their “open-box” option which is how I buy nearly all my electronics. (Learn how to connect another laptop as a second screen in this blog post.)
Notebook: I’m a pen and paper kind of girl. I like to write my ideas down. It gives them credence. So I keep these notebooks I get at Walmart on hand. The brand is called Mint Green. The covers are floral and usually have lots of blue hues, and make me happy to have them around. I prefer the dot grid because my ideas flow freely. But the college ruled 3-subject lined notebook certainly has its place for when I need a bit more organization.
Pen(s I normally have a bajillion): Nothing fancy, preferably Bic Round Stic, in black ink only.
USB Hub: This connects to my second laptop, which does not have any USB ports. I got one by HooToo and I would not recommend that particular brand — at all — but I would recommend having one of these gadgets for extra ports. Mine connects via USB-C, but they make them to connect via plain old USB as well.
Glasses: I am supposed to wear glasses all the time. I do not wear glasses all the time. I do wear them when I drive, sit at the computer, or read. I have them in grey, blue, pink & yellow. I keep an extra pair on hand in case I find the pair I’m wearing no longer compliments my personality for the day.
Hair clips: I really don’t need to explain this one. Sometimes you just have to get your hair out of your face and get down to business.
External Hard Drive: The particular hard drive I have was one that had been sitting in my mom’s closet, unopened for about two years. I convinced her to give it to me for Christmas. Shortly thereafter she purchased and started using her own. But I digress. I love this thing, but have recently thoroughly onboard the cloud storage train. Google Drive has become my savior this past few weeks when I forgot my hard drive at home (twice, doh). (Pro Tip: download DB or Drive to your computer to access your files from anywhere!)
Solar setup: I have a Goal Zero Yeti 500x and a Rockpals foldable 100w solar panel. This is not a whole lot of power, but it’s certainly enough to do the trick for right now, and if I need more when I’m in the van full time I’ll invest in another power bank.
Hotspot Device: I’m hoping work will begin paying for this shortly. Until I’m full time in my van it’s unnecessary so I’ll keep chugging along on WiFi. (Best group to follow for internet on the go advice: Internet for RVers & Cruisers)
Phone for work: Our offices utilize RingCentral services and this comes with a real old-school phone that you plug into your WiFi router. It’s fine and does fit in the box, but long term is a bit clunky and probably won’t make the transition into the van. RingCentral works on your computer or cell phone, so there’s no need to have the wired phone — especially since it’s not made to be reliable through a hotspot device.
Also not pictured:
My hard work, independence, focus and determination. This lifestyle isn’t for everyone. I encourage anyone who feels passionate about living minimally, being a digital nomad or working remotely to explore the option, but please keep in mind that what I do won’t be right for everybody. I’m more productive and more focused in my own space, but many people would be more distracted in their home environment. What I’m saying is, find what works for you, whatever that may be!
- Is this everything any given digital nomad might need? No.
- Are there more robust tools you can utilize? Definitely.
- Am I missing some elements others would enjoy? I’m sure I am.
- Is this set up right for any given digital nomad? Again, no.
This system is what works for me personally. Many people will tell you the specs on my laptop (even the two combined) don’t add up to enough to truly build websites. I do it anyway. I’m a no frills kind of girl (except when I do want frills, which is usually when they’re on a toothpick helping guide food to my mouth) so I stick to the basics that I need to get the job done.
If you have questions about any of the specific products I use, or need help deciding on your own setup drop me a line and let’s see how I can be of assistance.