Many people wonder, “should I take a computer traveling” when they are packing for a year-long trip. There are many benefits to bringing a computer traveling. First of all, you are going to need somewhere to put all of those photos (You are taking photos, right?) Secondly, the ability to do on-the-go research on your year long trip is invaluable. You will certainly save money on your trip by being able to check out travel options, use CouchSurfing, etc. Many people also love to be able to write a blog on their world travel adventures. While there are certainly alternative ways to do all these things, one cannot dismiss usefulness of bringing a laptop computer when traveling.
The downsides to bringing a laptop while traveling are also significant. First of all, if you are trying to keep our travel packing light and cheap this can be difficult as many computers can be very expensive...
Or quite heavy!
Credit: szavo [Flickr]
Secondly, they put you at an increased risk of theft. If you are constantly traveling in countries with a very high theft problem, think twice about bringing an item you can't afford to lose. Make sure that you bring a backpack that can lock and a cable lock for it.
First you need to figure out exactly how much you need to use a computer. In many countries, Internet cafes can substitute for taking your laptop with you when you travel. What kind of work will you be doing on it? If you will just be doing light email, you can probably get away with using Internet cafes or bringing a smartphone (see below). Even if you need to store photos and other such information, there are other options (again, i will write more on this later). If you need to be doing anything more than this, it's time to think bigger.
I would suggest a small netbook as a compromise. Free WiFi is becoming more common all around the world (but be aware that many countries pronounce it "WeeFee") and it should be easy to find Internet access. If you plan on taking a lot of pictures, I would suggest taking an external hard drive as well. If you do, the absolute best option on the market is the WD My Passport 1 Terrabyte drive. I can personally vouch will hold a year of photos and videos, unless you are shooting HD on a close to professional basis. If you are, I would only change my recomendation to take to. It weighs almost nothing and doesn't require external power. Bring it!
$$ Upgrade Option: If you can spare the bucks, I have recently decided that the current MacBook Air is the ultimate travel computer. It weighs just over two pounds and can easily slip into a daypack and is powerful enough to do anything from writing your blog to editing videos. The base model costs around $1000 dollars and it goes up from there, but if you can afford it you will be blown away! If you plan to take your computer traveling in order to really make money from the internet the MacBook Air is leagues above the competition. Just make that when you are traveling with your computer (particurlarly a higher end computer) you keep it safe!
If you don't go the laptop route you should bring a stand-alone picture storage device for your photos. These wonderfully small pieces of equipment that can read the memory card of your camera and will transfer and store your photos directly.
If you can afford it, I would also recommend bringing a smartphone, since they prove useful when you need to do research. Some people find that they can often also replace the need for a travel guidebook, saving an additional pound or two. With the abundance of quality travel information on the Internet, having access in some way to the web will be incredibly valuable!
If you do chose to take a smartphone, make sure that it will work on international networks. For certain phones, such as the iPhone, you will have to "unlock" your phone. Information can be easily found on other sites as to how to do this. This will allow you to use local SIM cards for the phone plan which will save you money when traveling. Though they can look appealing, skip the so-called "Passport SIMs" unless you are willing to pay more for the convenience.
If you need inspiration to get on the road you should definitely read: Live Your Dreams: Decide to Travel on the Cheap
For an overview of packing light read: Packing List for a Year of Travel: Pack Light for Your Cheap Round the World Vacation
Whether or not you decide to bring a computer on your trip, make sure your stuff is secure and that you have access to the information you need. If you have tips on traveling with a computer, please feel free to share!