How to Digitally Prepare to Be a Digital Nomad Abroad

I’m just four weeks away from leaving Portland, OR and making my way down South. By south, I mean all the way down to Antarctica. Hopefully! I’m excited, nervous, and a bit sad at times. Today I just sold that fancy new bike I bought last summer along with my lock, helmet, and pump. I cringed when I thought about how much money I just lost. Oh well, the guy seemed really excited to get the bike.

As I’m preparing for my journey, I wanted to get the tech side of things all squared away.

Backup all the things!

To prepare everything for my journey I’ve decided to make all my tech “throwaway-able”. By that I mean, backup everything on my machine and phone, and move everything to dropbox. It’s very likely I could lose my phone or computer due to theft, damage, or sudden failure.

I forked this handy project on github: https://github.com/stevenirby/dotfiles-1

This contains a lot of my configurations or “dotfiles” for all sorts of things, vim, git, etc. This script also installs several programs I use. In the event I need to use/buy a new computer, I just pull down my repo, install, and everything is back.

I used virtualbox, running ubuntu, to test the script. Simply install ubuntu, run apt-get upgrade, do a snapshot, and run the script to test. Tweaked the script over and over again, and re-run on a fresh install each time.

Stay Safe on Shady Wi-Fi – Free VPN

Another thing I wanted to address was a VPN. I really dig: https://www.privateinternetaccess.com/
As great as they are, I want a *free* VPN. I really feel I need to securely work while using pubic Wi-Fi’s abroad. Plus you can keep streaming Pandora and Netflix if you have a USA IP address. I spent some time turning one of my raspberry Pi’s into a dedicated VPN server. I went through several tutorials on how to do this, and spent way too much time on this. Trust me, just use this one tutorial, it’s the most flexible in terms of where you “install” it.

http://raspberrypi-hacks.com/29/turn-your-raspberry-into-an-openvpn-vpn-server/

I’m going to plug my raspberry pi into my dad’s router and steal use his internet. I need a static IP address to consistently point at. That’s where the very awesome service https://www.duckdns.org comes in handy. They have a nifty script you run with a cronjob, that constantly updates the dynamic IP address. That way I always point my VPN at a static location that never changes.

Working Offline

Another issue, I’m sure to run into is working offline. There was an awesome productivity pack I bought. https://aproductiveyear.com/

You get a year subscription to all of these for $59: Evernote, pocket, wunderlist, lastpass, the New York Times, and 3 months with dropbox. With all these tools, I can save articles, notes, todo lists, etc. and access them from my computer of phone. With or without internet service. I even have it setup so things saved in pocket and evernote get sent to my kindle! See this: http://en2kindle.com/

Smart Phone

I’m very addicted to my phone. Let’s be real, it’s 2015, and I’m a geek. I simply asked T-Mobile for an unlock code and unlocked Samsung Galaxy S5. That way I can just buy sim cards on the road and do the prepaid thing everywhere I go.

I ported my phone number over to Google Voice, so I don’t lose my old phone number. (See here for more info on that) That way, I receive text messages as if I’m still at home, with the same number. I can text from my phone or the computer. It’s pretty sweet. If you need to accept calls, you’ll need to use a hack though. You need to forward all calls to a skype number, and use skype on your phone to accept calls. It kind of sucks, but no one is the wiser.

Make sure to backup everything on your pone to dropbox. You can set all photos to automatically upload to dropbox. I highly recommend it.

Other things I’m thinking about doing before I leave:

  • Replacing my laptop battery. (Just doesn’t last very long now)
  • Buying a new phone. (I hate this damn S5)
  • Buying a headset with built in mic for skype and Google hangouts for work.

Mail and Mailing Address

While abroad you’ll probably still want a place to accept mail and maybe even a way to deposit checks. I use the service: https://www.earthclassmail.com/ This allows you to accept mail through the service and see it all online. Think of your email inbox only for real mail! You see what mail you get everyday in your inbox and decide what to scan or shred. They will even deposit checks for you, in your US bank account. That way you can still maintain a mailing address in the US and receive mail.

I’ll follow up with a complete geek packing list once I’m ready to head out. If this helped you out at all, let me know. 🙂

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