Soundtrack Of Travel

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From the balcony of my workspace I hear the sounds of the street below. There are taxis honking and the faint hum of people greeting each other as they pass by.

And then it begins, “ Ah, cinco mil pesos!” a vendor shouts through the streets. The familiarity of this gentleman will become synonymous with my memories of Santa Marta for sure.

You would think that hearing this chant throughout the day, each day (he works Saturdays and Sundays too) would become annoying, but actually it has become quite comforting. He has a rhythmic way of shouting this out, almost like the melody of a familiar song, and the precision – wow, I hear him say this so many times a day so many days and each time it sounds identical to the last.

I can almost mimic him at this point because of his consistency.

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Carrera 2 traffic, both old and new

This is just one of the sounds that will remind me of this part of Colombia, together with the clip, clop of hoofs from the horse drawn carriages riding up and down Carrera 2 in Rodadero. Some were work carriages, some were giving tourists rides, but the sound almost always brought me to the window just to enjoy the sight of the old times combined with the current times.

This is part of the experience of travel for me. You see, in the US, the buildings are closed up, the street sounds are usually traffic and there is no sense of what is really going on in the community. You can tell people are busy, but you don’t know what they are busy with because everything is so buttoned up!

I may not know what this gentleman on the street is selling for 5 million pesos, but I know he’s a vendor. I do not know him but he has become part of my day and will be deeply engrained in my memories when I leave here.

When I lived in Belize I had a similar chant from below my 2ndfloor balcony apartment.

“Alejandro!” This chant was not nearly as rhythmic as my Colombia gentleman and did not have consistency at all. Sometimes it was drawn out, sometimes it was quick and other times it was welcoming.

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You see, I quickly figured out that Alejandro was a little boy and his mother would call his name in varying frequencies depending on the day or what the boy had gotten himself into.

My son and I still recall this memory fondly each time we think about our time there.

It is the sounds of a location, the pace of life and the ability to find yourself immersed in a new culture simply by listening to life around you. In many places around the world, houses and transportation are open so connection with the community is simply part of the fabric of the location.

Learning a new culture is not simply the one-on-one interaction with people but it is allowing ourselves to become enveloped by the community. To pay attention and listen to the melody of the streets and the people within them is to know life in the community.

One of the most beautiful gifts I take from my travels are the songs inscribed on my memory like an audio keepsake souvenir.

Thank you “cinco mil peso” vendor, for you have become part of this soundtrack of my time here in Santa Marta, Colombia.

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Vendors setting up for their day on Carrera 5
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10 Critical Items for the Digital Nomad and Location Independent Worker

cropped-gwmhzsxtfet8v2u16d2l_hero-imageThis is not my usual type of post but I have been a digital nomad for years now and it is different than being a traveler with different requirements. Many people have asked my advice about what things I feel are “must haves” for this lifestyle – here are my top 10 picks.

Do you dream of working online and having no restrictions to where you can call home at any time? Do you dream of traveling to different locations to experience their culture without the restrictions of PTO or days out of the office?

If you are dreaming of becoming, or are a digital nomad or location independent worker I have some important tips from the road.  Whether you adopt this lifestyle for a lifetime or simply several months a year, there are some “tools of the trade” that warrant the coveted space in your luggage. Sorry fashion forward travelers, you will have to forgo your shoe collection for these items.

There is a difference between tourist and digital nomad and therefor what to bring on a trip versus what to have for a lifestyle are different as well. As a tourist, if you can’t get internet on a day, you can work around it, as someone who relies on it for their income, it’s a whole different ballgame. This is a list for those who make their living while traveling.

This is my list of the top 10 most important items for a successful location independent lifestyle:

  1. Surge Protector– there are many locations around the world for which power is inconsistent at best. Your most valuable possessions are likely electronic and thus need recharging. Stay protected against power surges that can fry your equipment by always having this between an outlet and your devices. I like this Belkin Surgeplus because it contains both electric and usb outlets, has a rotating plug and is super compact for packing.
  2. Multi-Current Converter and Adaptor– When traveling to different countries I’ve had little pouches with all different plugs. I have since ditched those since pieces can get lost and have an integrated unit that handles every possible country I’m likely to visit. This unit from TryAce acts as both an adapter and a converter. So those of you that travel with hair appliances or juicers can use it to still run your devices without smoking them up. Compact, multi purpose is all what this lifestyle needs!
  3. Warm Coat – It is inevitable that you will find yourself in cooler climates throughout your travels. Having a warm coat is priceless, however they often take up a lot of real estate in your luggage! This option from NorthFace for women and this for men is water resistant, insulated and packs into it’s own hand pocket making it a trifecta win for the location independent traveler.
  4. Daypack – There will be times you get caught in a rain shower or want to go on an adventure in one of the places you land. You can certainly get a backpack that has a rain cover – but let’s be honest, will you have it on hand during that pop up rain shower? Are you likely to be a bit more adventurous and need it for water activities? I recommend having a fully waterproof and durable daypack like this one by Vitchelo the trick to managing this lifestyle is to have multipurpose items and this lightweight daypack will protect your valuables from water damage all while serving as a regular back pack.
  5. Noise Cancelling Headphones– There will be days that you feel like these are the best thing on the planet! You may be sitting that one row in front of the crying baby on a plane or happened to accidentally book the airbnb next to the train station but noise cancelling headphones are the BFF for a location independent traveler. You can get the over ear ones which compact into a small case or the tiny, space saving ear buds. One way or another make sure you have them, you will be grateful one day!
  6. Compact Raincoat– This need goes without saying, I’m sure. You can definitely carry one of those lovely plastic ponchos with you or you can spring for a compact packable wind and waterproof jacket for yourself like this one for women and this one for men.
  7. Electronic Reading Devicekindle, iPad, surface– whichever you fancy but you will want to read at some point and carrying books as a traveler is weight you cannot add to your luggage. These devices allow you to keep your laptop safely stowed and can be used from plane boarding until deplaning without the evil eye from the flight attendants! Additionally, I have my iPad as a back up option for some of my most important programs in the terrible event something happens to my laptop. You’ll not lose by adding this piece of electronics to your gear.
  8. Luggage– This is your life you are carrying around in these bags. You need to be sure you have the most sturdy and best product to hold what possessions you have decided to take on your journey. I am a huge fan of Osprey products as are many of my nomad friends. My gear is a Osprey Shuttle however I think the Osprey Sojurn would have been a better fit for me. Regardless of what suits you, it makes sense to buy quality here – and do yourself a favor, do not get black luggage!
  9. VPN (Virtual Private Network)– As a location independent person and traveler, you will spend time in airports, coffee shops hotels and various shared network locations where you are not secure to do the day-to-day things like pay your bills or transfer funds in your financial accounts. Having access to a secure network has more benefits than watching shows blocked in the country you’re visiting (although that is a feature!) it provides you protection for your data. The Butterfly is the most compact and portable VPN I’ve seen on the market and well worth the money for sure.
  10. HotspotSky Roam Solis– Since you will rely completely on your internet connection, this is a key element for your tool chest. You will find yourself occasionally at a fabulous location that has intermittent power outages, or their idea of reliable internet is not yours. If you are continually telling clients you cannot connect online because of a power outage which took all the routers down in your fab location. This tool is not for a daily use, it is a great disaster recovery system for a day use from time to time.

So there you have it, 10 tools I believe every remote worker, location independent business person or digital nomad should make space in their luggage for.

Note – yes, there are affiliate links in this post, this will not add any cost to the items but I will receive a small credit for anything you may choose to purchase – so it helps a fellow traveler out!

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