How digital nomads can make the most of a mobile office space, by a thrifty traveller

If you’re working on the go you need to pack with precision and have accessories that do double duty

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 January, 2016, 4:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 January, 2016, 4:00am

Working from a quaint cafe in Paris, a peaceful beach in Greece or the mountains of Peru is a dream being achieved by a growing number of professionals in today’s digital nomad world. Not only does this type of career allow for more travel and time to deal with family emergencies, it also has the potential to save you serious cash, depending on how much it costs to live in your preferred destinations. So how do you make the most of your mobile office set-up once you manage to carve one out for yourself?

If your mobile office needs only require you to be compact enough to operate out of the passenger seat of your car so you can be productive in between ballet lessons and soccer practice, you find a myriad of tips with only some minor searching on YouTube. Open bags and boxes to hold upright binders, hanging files and other items seem to be all the rage. However, living and working between locations that require a multi-day trip means your mobile office bag will need to be packed with at least as much precision as your carry-on suitcase.

Eliminating unnecessary items is a great first step towards finding the space for critical gear. My short list of things to leave behind includes a thick passport cover, a battery-operated fluff remover and my wireless mouse and pad, which have been replaced with the touch pad on my new computer. Believe me, every little bit helps, especially when you are forced to operate your entire business out of a compact messenger bag. For example, I’ve been able to save a couple of critical cubic inches by creatively using hair accessories as impromptu office supplies.

Instead of packing a large binder clip to keep the cord for my earbuds neatly looped, I am using a miniature plastic hair clip instead. I would have had to pack the hair clip anyway, and the instances in which I use the earbuds are usually ones where I want my hair out of my face as well. So it works out nicely for me. Additionally, I’m leaving behind my small selection of paper clips and pressing bobby pins into service as a functional substitute. This allows me to clip documents together when I need to, and still have hair pins on hand when I want them.

Finally, I am using the multi-pack of covered hair elastics I just picked up at the nearest bargain department store as a working alternative to rubber bands. They do a fine job of securing business cards, rolled papers and other office-related tasks. The extra storage pocket I was able to empty out in my office bag as a result of these substitutions is the perfect size for my mobile phone charger.

Digitising your workflow is all well and good, but let’s be honest. There are always bits of paper in the mix no matter how hard you try. Walking maps to help locate a downtown meeting, weekly receipts that have yet to be scanned and handouts to drop off to prospective clients are some of my main culprits. While your hard copy categories may be different, the need for an extremely space-efficient organisational system is not. My new solution for the road involves turning pocket folders on their side with the open edge on top.

This eliminates the extra side space needed for hanging files, and also provides a bit of extra stability for those smaller bits of paper that would otherwise get loose in the bottom of your bag. It also allows you to easily tuck your papers and notes into one of two separately labelled interior files without having to remove them from your bag during windy weather. If two sections isn’t quite enough, consider a tri-fold instead. It will give you additional filing space without having to find room for an entire second folder.

Also, remember to save enough space in your bag to be able to function as well as store your supplies. You won’t always have the luxury of the time or space necessary to unfurl and have your things spread out around you. Being able to plug and play is critical when it comes to grabbing one of those necessary hard copies, a compact stylus or even answering your phone without having to rummage around in frustration and missing the call.

Trekhound.com founder Myscha Theriault has sold her home, all her furniture and most of her other belongings to travel the world full-time with her husband. You can follow her adventures on Twitter via @MyschaTheriault

Tribune News Service