Backpacking and the Laptop Dilemma

For many, being away from your laptop for a month or more in another country might be a tough pill to swallow. Whether to take your laptop or a tablet when planning your backpacking adventure is a question worth taking time to consider.First, think about what you would use it for. For VoIP services like Skype, you can use internet cafes or your smartphone. Internet cafes can be found in pretty remote places, are generally inexpensive, and computers are almost always equipped with microphones and webcams. They can also be used for keeping up with news and any Buzzfeeding that you might need to do. If you plan on keeping a basic travel journal, you can e-mail yourself or do this using a cloud document manager (e.g. Google Drive) and paste to your blog if you have one.If you plan to do advanced photo editing or anything requiring software not hosted on a cloud, it’s time to consider taking your laptop. While internet cafe computers are suitable for Skype or emailing, they’re almost always several generations behind, lack software outside of Skype, internet explorer, Microsoft Paint and MSN messenger, and don’t allow you to install anything else you might need.If you take it, be prepared to lose it. Nobody wants to believe it’ll happen to them, but your laptop can be lost, stolen or broken abroad. While your traveler’s insurance may cover the cost of the loss, your information will be gone. Everything that can be backed up in the cloud should be backed up there, often. Also, check your insurance for coverage amounts; there is often a $1000 limit for stolen items, so you might want to keep your brand new Macbook at home, and invest in a $200 cheapy that you can sell when you come back.Consider investing in a memory card reader. If you’re taking a camera with a removable flash or SD card and want to back the photos up into the cloud or post them on Facebook via an internet cafe, remember that a lot of cafes don’t have SD readers, so you’ll need to take your own, if your camera doesn’t connect directly into a USB slot.If your bag’s stuffed, and you don’t need it, leave the laptop at home. You always want to keep some extra space for souvenirs, and you can justify tossing out some clothes to make room for those fancy new shawls, but it’s going to be hard justifying tossing your laptop.If you use internet cafes, be smart. Make sure when you log into your email, you have the “Remember this computer” box unchecked, and if possible, clear your browsing history at the end of your session.If you’re going to type in sensitive passwords, do not use an internet cafe. This goes for things like banking and if you plan on managing your website abroad. Most institutions have apps that you can install on your Smartphone and do basic banking in, but if you’ll need a larger screen and more options, take your laptop. Many internet cafes are secure, but all too many are not, and the risk of having your bank account hijacked because of a keystroke logger outweighs the convenience of internet cafes.Most people will not need a laptop abroad. It’s typically not necessary except in the above discussed situations, and when it’s easily accessible, it can be easy to stay in bed in your hostel when you should be out exploring instead. Whatever you end up doing, use the cloud. Accidents and theft can happen, and depending on where you are, that shiny laptop can put a target on your head. Keeping everything backed up in the cloud prevents losing your laptop or SD card from ruining your trip.