Extreme Minimalist Nomad's Writing Setup

. 4 min read

I've gone through stints while being a student experimenting with living without a laptop. However, I finally gave in during my masters and got an old hand me down so I could write at home. But, when I travelled to America to finish my research I decided not to bring it with me; I didn't want it to weigh me down just in case I decided to travel afterwards. Which, spoiler, I did.

Not having a laptop actually worked out perfectly when it came to writing my thesis. By using the lab's computer I didn't have to worry about syncing files and transferring data. Plus, I was motivated to work while I was in the lab, allowing me to enjoy my weekends and keep my sanity in check!

The disadvantage came when I needed to work on secure personal projects! So I decided to purchase a foldable/compact Bluetooth keyboard and an extended battery for my phone. This way I could do long writing sessions without discomfort whilst not having to rely solely on public devices.

Bluetooth Keyboard

Universal Wireless Folding Foldable Bluetooth Keyboard

Size matters when you are on the road, especially if you have only one bag. Hence my decision to use a compact and foldable keyboard. It did the trick well; I would clip my phone onto the aeroplane seat in front of me and use the keyboard on the tray, making a surprisingly ergonomic workstation. Similarly, the small footprint came in handy for other improvised places to work like on the rooftop of the hostel/bar I worked at in Guatemala, or on the small desk in the galley of Tsamaya while sailing in the Caribbean.

Since the keys were so densely packed, the typing experience was, frankly, miserable. It was better than using a touch screen, but over time I found myself unwanting to write because of how finicky it was; I would press multiple buttons at the same time if I didn't slow down my speed. I never got used to it, and I'm unsure I ever would have.

Though on the bright side, I don't think I've charged it a single time.

Overall it is a very versatile solution, and could easily be improved by spending a bit more on a better product.

Battery

Zerolemon Samsung Galaxy Note 4 10000mah Extended Battery with NFC + Rugged ZeroShock Rugged Case

After using the foldable 'S View' cover for the Galaxy Note 4 to prop the phone up in a tent fashion, I decided it was time for a more robust solution that wouldn't collapse as frequently. While searching for portable chargers, I came across the concept of 'extended batteries', where instead of charging your phone with an external battery you replace the stock battery with a larger one. The disadvantage is that the phone is much heavier and bulkier. People see it and have no idea what to make of it; it looks like a Gameboy colour. The Galaxy Note series of phones are big and hard to use one-handed in the first place, so with this extra bulk, you won't have a chance.

Besides the (considerably) longer battery life there are other advantages, the battery comes with a rugged case for the phone with dustproof cutouts for the stylus, headphone jack, and mini-USB port. It also comes with a removable belt clip, I used it to prop the phone up while I was typing. The added thickness of the phone even came in helpful as it could stand up on its own, perfect for group photos or shots like this.

Emacs

In the prior months to ditching my laptop and travelling to America, I happened to have been learning how to use a text editor named Emacs to organise my projects and again, help me focus on writing (rather than formatting). Emacs has been around since before operating systems were a thing, which was essential to me when I first heard about it because at the time my laptop was so slow I had to install a lightweight Linux operating system to stop it from being bogged down and thus knew it would be compatible.

I didn't know just how bad most popular text editors like Word are at actually moving and editing text. With Emacs, I can relocate the cursor around the document efficiently without having to grab a mouse. I recommend it, it proved incredibly useful for writing my thesis, and I continue to use it to this day, though my needs are changing so I may experiment with Vim.

It was evident to me that Emacs would continue to have its advantages, even on an Android device, because I could emulate Linux in an app called TermUX and since it was so good at navigating text I had no need to buy a Bluetooth mouse.

People host their entire blog via Emacs. It's an incredible (but complex) tool. However, I just type up my articles in markdown format in Emacs and copy them into my websites content manager (ghost).


Honestly, for how cheap and old this setup up was, it was incredibly effective. The biggest drawback was screen size, as it was difficult to see more than a paragraph of text at any time. However, considering that the only additional item is the Bluetooth keyboard and, in exchange, you don't have to worry about carrying around a big (probably expensive) laptop I highly recommend this for amateurs and even professionals who work exclusively with text away from the office. My phone was released in 2014 and I made it work. Since then, screen size, battery life, and performance have only gotten better. If I had the choice I would use the Samsung S10+/Note 9 with 'TextBlade' keyboard whilst travelling, and when I get home or to the office connect the phone to a screen for even better viewing or perhaps even use VR. Be sure to comment below!



Graeme Russell

I created this blog as a way to reach people about topics I care about: ethics, self-improvement, and lifestyle. I hope you can find something of value here.

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