It Just Works
I’m using Apple’s 2010 OSX Marketing slogan for a reason here. When I have travelled in the past, I always found myself unable to leave home without a laptop. The laptop was simply a mandatory part of my travel kit. Most critically, I needed it for backing up my photos onto an external hard drive. Let’s face it - net cafe computers in the developing world have more viruses than a French Impressionist painter with a penchant for whoring. I also needed it desperately to have movies and TV shows of my choosing to watch on the plane. Also for researching places to go and things to do. Hell, even email and basic browsing - I always needed a laptop.
This most recent trip was a bit of an experiment to see just how light I could pack my luggage in spite of the cold weather. I managed to get my entire 2 week’s worth of clothes and dopp kit down to 8kg (including the weight of the backpack). I have always carried the laptop, but I figured I could live without it and use my Nexus 7 instead. Instant 3kg savings from my messenger bag. Suddenly, I had WAY more room in that bag for other stuff and I felt a lot more comfortable about leaving my tablet unsecured in the hostel room than I would have a full laptop.
The switch to the tablet came with one major drawback - how do I get photos from my camera to my external hard drive? For this trip, I relied on the computers of people I met along the way. However, for my next trip, a powered USB hub and a USB OTG cable should do the job and allow me to travel entirely without touching a computer.
Further, I was able to travel with just 1 phone rather than my iphone (in iPod Touch Mode because of how annoying it is to unlock them) and an unlocked burner for staying in touch with people. Having access to a mobile data plan and not worrying about bum-rape inspired roaming fees was a godsend.
Most interestingly just how much I was able to do using just my Android Tablet and Phone compared to the days when I had an iPhone and iPad. Watching my own movies on an iPad was one of the most excruciating pre-trip tasks I had. Transcoding each movie to be compatible was a task that would take an multiple nights of trial and error to get the encoding right for each movie and hours of CPU time to actually do the conversion. This time around, I just dumped them to a folder on the tablet in the exact format I downloaded them in. DicePlayer did the rest without so much as a hiccup. Awesome.
While in Paris, I realized I didn’t have time to find a computer to copy fresh movies and tv shows from my external drive onto my tablet. Instead, I used a basic torrent application and downloaded them. Directly onto my tablet. They all played flawlessly. Again - no transcoding, no time wasted hoping I had the right Handbrake settings and no time wasted hunting down an iTunes equipped computer. It just works.
If I was still on an iphone and ipad, I would have been forced to travel with a laptop and burner phone yet again. Instead, I was able to knock 3kg of gear off my list. Being lighter, I had less gear and less expensive gear to worry about losing while still being able to do more.
If you’ve ever been backpacking, you can fully appreciate how much of a godsend it is to knock 3kg of gear off your shoulders when you have to go to a new city every couple of days. Yes, there’s smaller, thinner, lighter laptops out there than my Macbook and Dell Latitude. But they still weigh more than my tablet. They still require a bulky power adapter and yet more cables to carry around for 2 weeks. They also mean you need hostels with decent security to stay in if you plan on leaving your gear behind during the day.
These are all small and trivial things, but they still surprise me every time because of how painfully inconvenient they were on the Apple platform. Yes, there are some awesome video player apps on the iTunes store that’ll do the job just as well, but they all require iTunes on your computer to get the files onto your tablet and there’s no guarantee that you’ll have that access in a hostel lounge computer or an internet cafe in the developing world. And god forbid your iPad magically set itself to use iTunes to manage content like mine used to do every couple of weeks. Then you’re truly and royally screwed and have to wipe your device just to have access to load content onto it again. More difficult still, every hostel I visited in Europe was equipped with mostly Linux driven computers vs the pirated copies of Windows XP loaded with all sorts of viruses and rootkits which I’m used to seeing everywhere else I go.
What I learned here is that Android is definitely the platform of choice for me for mobile devices. I’m still an Apple guy for laptops, and there’s no way I’m giving up Windows any time soon for the desktop experience.