Being a vagabond in the 21st century doesn’t mean cutting ALL the ties that bind, especially the online and computing ones. I’ve been researching and working on downsizing myself to be mobile and yet connected (and backed up, too).
My current setup:
- Internet: $60/month for all the data I can eat, via rented wifi router and ISP. I will miss this. A lot.
- Phone: AT&T Mobile Share plan with 15GB/month, unlimited talk and text.
- Mac mini: 1TB hard disk with a 3TB backup disk running Time Machine auto-magically so I never have to think about backups. Both of these devices require AC power so they aren’t going to work for a vagabond life where boondocking (only battery power) is the norm.
- MacBook Pro laptop: 500GB hard drive (SSD) and a nice Retina screen.
- iPad with wifi only (no cellular connection).
I split my nerdy pre-vagabond work into two parts: (1) setting up internet connectivity, including wifi, and (2) getting computers mobile and still with files backed up on a regular basis.
For internet, it’s a puzzle with ever-changing pieces, thanks to the aggressive competition among AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and the rest. I have AT&T, and a lot of data on that plan, so it’s going to be my primary for now. It also supports hotspotting through the phone, so that’s a big plus because it means I don’t need to by a hotspot device.
Most RV nomads and blogs recommend two providers, for best coverage across America. I agree with this, but have wavered between Verizon (big data, big prices) and T-Mobile (that binge-on streaming thing is pretty sweet). Right now, I’m going to get a T-Mobile hotspot device on a tiny data plan (3GB/month) because their data works in Canda without extra charges and I will be traveling just a bit up there in May. When I get back to Seattle, I can use the binge-on streaming to catch up on the new season of Game of Thrones (via HBO Now). And after I start truly vagabonding in September, I’ll see how it goes with AT&T and T-Mobile and then decide if I need a Verizon setup.
Aside: I had a great talk last weekend with a three-year nomad friend whose best advice was “don’t rush into things, wait and see what you really need.” This applies not only to kitchen supplies and kayaks, but also data plans!
The mobile computing piece is more work because I have to get off the AC-dependent Mac Mini and backup drive. Mostly I use my the Mini to do photography work, some blogging (duh!), and recreational writing.
I just bought a 1TB SDD replacement disk for my MacBook Pro (took forever for the third-party market to support this for my late 2013 Retina MBP). After that shiny new (and big) SDD arrives in about 3 weeks, I will upgrade the MBP and then move all my files over to it. Then, because I have done this bouncing-stuff-around before, I will run the MBP for a few weeks with the Mini hanging around as backup should anything go awry. Same for the powered backup drive.
I’ve got a shiny blue 3TB backup drive for the MBP, although it won’t be always-on like the Time Machine setup I have now. I will have to set reminders to manually backup or Time Machine the MBP so that I have that all important backup in place. Because, as we all know, the one time you don’t back up is the one time you will need it.
The other thing I’m thinking about is offsite backups, like to AWS Glacier, as a way to store the images long-term and in case of something going wrong with my local drives. No one likes to think of disasters like everything getting stolen or fried, but it almost happened to me a few years ago, so now I do think about it and plan for it. (I was very lucky, the thieves didn’t take my backup drive or I would have been out two decades of photos.) I’m lucky I work with nerds at Amazon who love nothing more than helping me replace an SDD or set up an AWS account, so over the next month, we’ll be doing that kind of stuff in our spare time.
The upside of all this computer setup, backup, and moving activity is that it gives me something to do for the next few weeks, along with sorting through photography files in Lightroom, instead of obsessively counting down to my Alto pickup date (42 days till departure, 50 days till I meet Breeze).