One of the biggest debates prior to leaving for our one year RTW was whether or not to take a laptop computer. Both my husband and I were undecided; Marty leaning towards having one, while I was inclined the other way. My list of concerns: It was one more thing to keep up with, it will get ripped off, people will spend too much time on it. I also feared we would become so dependent on it that if we couldn’t use it (no Internet service, no electricity, it was lost or stolen) we would be lost. OK, I am going to put it in print, I WAS WRONG! Taking a computer was the best thing we did. Everything would have been so much more challenging without it!
We bought a Dell 11.3″ laptop with an external CD drive and used it for checking and sending emails, keeping a blog, loading pictures, uploading pictures online, travel research, educational research, schooling, watching movies, phone calls, paying bills, computer games…We bought a used one so that if it was lost or stolen, we wouldn’t be out an expensive piece of equipment, but the reality is, technology is so inexpensive these days, even a new one wouldn’t set you back too much.
If you don’t carry a computer, you will have to rent a computer (going to Internet cafes) for all your computing needs. When you think about this option, consider how many Internet cafes you have in your neighborhood? None? How many do you have in your city? Not too many? None at all? The more affluent a country’s population, the more people own computers, the less need for Internet cafes. There are exceptions to this. Some well touristed areas have Internet sites despite the country’s favorable economic circumstances. Others will have few. Besides availability, there are other issues to consider: How much per hour will you spend? What are the hours of operation? How long will you wait for a computer? How convenient is the location? What type of speed will you have and how long will it take you to do something?
While some of these issues don’t disappear when you have your own computer (you still need a signal etc.), the increased flexibility of having your own can’t be ignored. Still, that freedom can come at a cost. Our hard drive crashed in Poland and had to be replaced. Later it needed work in New Zealand. Each event required us to find someone who could fix it. Marty and I were not the most computer literate and it would have been helpful to know more about the equipment we were carrying. Learn as much as you can about your computer so you are not at the mercy of others when problems occur. Be prepared for a crash. Carry your operating system disk and any other program you must have. If there is a problem, you will be able to restore your computer to its previous state.
Think about how you will want to use your computer and make sure you have all the peripherals needed for those tasks. Planning on using Skype? You will need a head set and maybe a camera. Uploading pictures? You’ll want a transfer cable for your camera. Other items that are useful or necessary: an extra battery, electric cord with worldwide adaptors, MP3 player charger attachment and flash drives.