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Tools of Trade: Our top 7 tools to manage our digital office

As digital nomads or remote workers, you are limited with the tools you can take on the road and fit into your luggage. Therefore, you need to carefully think about what you need and optimize your luggage as much as possible. It's good that we are in a time when stationary computers were replaced with laptops; otherwise, our life would be way more complicated.

With this article, I want to briefly introduce the exact items we use to keep our digital office up and running, and we would not be able to do our work without them comfortably. I will skip the obvious ones from this list, like laptops, phones, and backpacks, since these are basic ones, and no digital nomad would exist without them.

The one comment I would make about these essential tools is that you shouldn't be cheap and maybe invest more. E.g., to have a reliable computer with enough space and sleek enough to carry it with you (we both have MacBooks Pro 13'), a reliable phone, and a quality backpack, so you are most comfortable when moving from one place to another.

Since you are reducing your equipment, you will have fewer things to invest in their quality. As a result, it makes your life easier. Leo uses more electronics for his projects than I do, but here are our must-haves without which we couldn't do our daily work.

I accompanied the list with some pros and cons too.

Headphones

We use headphones every day. Especially when we are working in a coffee shop full of people and noise, you need to disconnect somehow, go to your tunnel, and focus on your work. Not just that, you need them for the calls as well.

Also, when working at home, we both like to take a deep dive into work while listening to our fav music.

Leo and I are both using Bluetooth earphones, but different brands. I use Airpods Pro (I love their noise cancelation function), and he is using Jabra Elite 75t. And we are both delighted with our choices.

AirPods Pro

Pros

  • Great noise cancelation technology
  • Great audio quality
  • Solid battery life
  • Good in-ear fit
  • Hands-free to Siri
  • Great to make calls

Cons

  • Quite expensive

Price: $249.00

Jabra Elite 75t

Pros

  • Great clarity of the sound and bass
  • Active noise-canceling feature (ANC)
  • Comfortable
  • Solid battery life (5,5 hours and up to 28 hours with recharging in the case)
  • Protected against water, sweat, and dust
  • App for Adjusting to your needs

Cons

  • Bass levels are very boosted
  • Not fully waterproof

Price: From $149

ExpressVPN

You need to protect your data when you connect to a different Wi-Fi, especially to open public Wi-Fi. We are using ExpressVPN, which we purchased when traveling to China. As you know, they have a strong firewall, so ExpressVPN helped us access Google and other blocked apps in China. It worked seamlessly then, and it still does, so this is our must-have service.

Pros

  • Very stable and reliable
  • Easy to use
  • Zero logs policy - no activity logs and no connection logs stored
  • Works in China and the UAE
  • Can pay with BitCoin
  • Can connect multiple devices at once (up to 5 devices can be connected to ExpressVPN simultaneously using the same subscription)
  • Works great with almost all streaming services

Cons

  • A bit more pricey than competitors
  • Users are reporting that it disconnects occasionally, but it's quickly reconnected

Price

They have different subscription options:

A 100% money-back guarantee covers plans for the first 30 days of service.

1 month - $12.95/month

6 months - $59.95/6 months ($9.99/month)

1 Year - $99.95/year ($8.32/month)

⚠️ ⚽️ Leo is a huge football fan and rarely misses a game of his favorite club Sturm Graz. His SkyX Subscription unfortunately does not work with ExpressVPN at the moment. Just to watch Austrian Bundesliga Leo is using CyberGhost VPN. With this solution, everything works perfectly fine.

Mobile router

Access to the internet is crucial for our work. Therefore, we usually choose apartments with high-speed internet in more central locations to ensure a stable connection.

However, we may end up in more remote places where the connection is not good or in a hotel where the Wi-Fi is usually weaker. For this case, we are carrying a mobile router NETGEAR Nighthawk MR2100. In this way, we can use any local sim card and restore the lost connection when necessary.

I'm not an expert in this field, but Leo is. So he researched and decided on NETGEAR Nighthawk, as it should work well and is also very small and travel-friendly.

Pros

  • Excellent mobile broadband performance.
  • Fast 802.11ac bandwidth in close proximity.
  • Long battery life.
  • USB-C port for tethering.
  • Compact and suitable for traveling
  • Smartphone app.
  • Can be used as a streaming station

Cons

  • quite expensive
  • no 5G yet

Price: $460

Notion

Notion is the application that we use daily. It offers components like notes, databases, performance boards, wikis, calendars, and reminders. It can be used for project management, creating simple sites for small teams or large organizations. You can create your dashboards or use pre-set templates to create your base of data.

We use it as our primary database for tracking OKRs, content planning and writing, daily habits tracking, storing knowledge databases, time management, all business-related stuff; basically, it's our external brain. So it's straightforward to use, and on the other hand, it offers a lot of complex possibilities on how you want to store and present your data.

We both have set up our own (private) spaces and shared spaces, where we can access the information we need.

They have an app for Windows/Mac and iOS/Android too.

Pros

  • Very user-friendly with many tutorials and templates available
  • You can add your team members to collaborate
  • Flexible document organization (pages, subpages)
  • Endless possibilities with formatting and visually creating notes, tables, wikis, etc.
  • Free Personal Pro plan

Cons

  • No real offline mode (you need an internet connection to access the data)
  • No clear tagging system to find notes quickly

Price

It's free for up to 5 seats; if you need more, you can subscribe to one of the paid plans, which are still very affordable for the value.

Personal plan - FREE up to 5 seats.

Personal Pro - unlimited seats - $5/month or $48/year

Team - unlimited seats, collaborative workspaces - $10/month or $96/year

Enterprise - custom plan

1password

One can remember only a certain number of passwords. Being a digital nomad means that majority of your services are online. Therefore, you have a lot of passwords and logins for different accounts, cloud services, banks, and it's essential to keep them protected in a safe place.

We switched to 1Password a while ago, before using LastPass, and we were not 100% satisfied with it. 1Password works seamlessly, and we haven't encountered any issues with it since we are using it.

We store all our bank account details, logins for all the services and tools we use, encrypted data, etc.

They have affordable pricing, and they offer family plans too.

Please note that we use it on our Macs and iPhones, so the pros and cons list doesn't consider how the app works on other devices.

Pros

  • Easy setup and user-friendly
  • Synced between multiple devices
  • Family/team plan
  • 2fa multilayered security
  • Great autofill on all websites
  • Browser plugin works great
  • Secure encrypted password generation

Cons

  • No free plan
  • Only annual subscriptions

Price

Personal & Family:

1Password - one seat - $35,88/year ($2.99/month)

1Password Families - share with up to 5 members - $59.88/year ($4.99/month)

Team & Business

Teams Starter plan - up to 10 team members - $239/year ($19.95/month)

Business - price per user - $95.88/year/user ($7.99/month/users)

Hard Drive

We each have our separate hard drive to store all the documents. Before starting with perpetual traveling, we scanned our documents and kept them on a hard drive.

The hard drive carries a lot of essential data, so I would advise you to do some research before you buy it, and maybe invest a bit more, and make sure you get good quality.

I purchased Lacie 2TB, and I'm very satisfied with it. Leo is using a couple of them, most often WD My Passport 4TB. He likes it, but he would choose a different one if buying now.

To help you out, here are some pros and cons of both:

Lacie 2TB USB-C USB 3.0

Pros

  • Sleek aluminum design
  • Lightweight - great for traveling
  • Comes with toolkit software for backup and restore
  • Reliable and fast performance
  • Mac-specific version available in Space Gray
  • Connects via USB-C for high-speed data transfers

Cons

  • Toolkit utility requires a download

Price: $89.99

WD My Passport 4TB

Pros

  • AES-256 hardware encryption with password
  • Good price

Cons

  • A bit slower with large files
  • A bit bulky and heavy

Price: $155

Dropbox

Besides hard disk, we are also storing some of the documents and photos in cloud storage. We are using the DropBox family plan, so we can easily share and access the data. It's available on all devices and easy to use, so it was a no-brainer to opt for it.

Pros

  • Fast and reliable cloud file-sharing system
  • Available on any device
  • Easy to use
  • Fast and efficient uploading
  • Secure and backup your files

Cons

  • It becomes pricey for large teams and files
  • Unclear differentiation between personal and work files
  • Can clock the WiFi

Price

You can use dropbox for free for storing up to 2 GB of data. They offer personal and business monthly or annual plans.

These are a couple of our most used and essential tools and services without which we would not do our daily work.

There are many more, especially the online services that we use, which we will introduce in the upcoming articles.

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