Chris Guillebeau is a busy man. In between running the wildly popular Art of Non-Conformity blog, organising the remarkable annual World Domination Summit and publishing two best-selling books, he has somehow found the time over the last decade to visit every nearly every country in the world.
Oh, and he’s also a heck of a nice guy. Who better, we asked, to help reboot our What’s in your Bag interview series?
Chris was happy to take part and, perhaps unsurprisingly, answered our questions from several thousand feet in the air (seat 15G on a Japan Airlines flight to Tokyo, to be precise).
So, Chris, without further ado … what’s in your bag?
What tech gear do you carry with you on the road, and why?
I’m pretty basic. I always (always, always) have my MacBook Pro. Everything runs on that or, increasingly, in the cloud through various services — but the MacBook is the command center. I also have my iPhone (always) and iPad (most of the time). Of these three Apple components, the iPad is used the least on the road.
Otherwise, I do a lot of outlining and note-taking in a simple, paper notebook. It’s not even a Moleskine, it’s a $5 "Five-Star" spiral-bound notebook that I buy each month from the grocery store, and it works well.
You’ve only got one country left before you’ve visited every nation. Is there one piece of tech that has been with you the whole way, or that you wish had been?
I’ve been pretty consistent: always the MacBook, always the paper notebook.
… and what was the one technology item you would, or did, happily ditch?
I used to take a lot more stuff. A camera, for example, in the pre-iPhone days. But I was never a good photographer and felt a weird tension about carrying the camera around. As a traveler I felt this internal pressure of "You have to take photos." When I gave that up, I enjoyed my travel experiences much more.
You run several businesses, launch products, organise an annual summit and more, all while travelling round the world. What particular challenges does that pose?
Good question. It poses both challenges and opportunities. Being able to "work from anywhere" is a relatively new phenomenon, at least in terms of continually working with other people. Overall, it’s a great thing!
Nevertheless, there are indeed challenges. I don’t think most of the challenges have to do with gear or tech issues; they have to do with the fact that I like to do a lot of things. Sometimes I get behind and leave people waiting on me, which is a bad habit but not entirely solvable. And I hate to admit it, but after traveling 200,000 miles a year for the past decade, sometimes I get tired.
Given that you’re often only in a country for a few days, how do you stay connected?
In a word: WiFi. It’s become more and more critical to be connected, which I know some people think is a bad thing. But I’ve made my peace with it and wouldn’t have it any other way. For me, being connected is the chance to communicate with friends and readers from all over the world. I feel very fortunate to be able to write and travel, so I seek out the chance to work whenever I can.
Have you had any major tech mishaps on your travels?
I left an iPod in a taxi while riding to the airport in Lima, Peru. I was mad at myself, but thought, well, these things happen. I was flying to the Persian Gulf next, passing through JFK on a day’s layover first. I went to the Apple Store in Soho and replaced the iPod. By that point I didn’t feel too bad about the expense. "No harm done," I told myself.
But then, less than ten days later I was riding in another taxi back to the airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. You’ll never guess what happened! Oh wait, you will. It was a bad experience and I definitely wasn’t happy with myself after the second time.
I never recovered either iPod, but I hope those taxi drivers are still enjoying my mashups of Ludacris, Rage Against the Machine, and Colbie Caillat.
Any finally, any travel tech tips you’d like to share?
When you have the chance to charge, do so. Never work from battery power until you have to. (This applies to laundry on the road as well: when you have the chance to do laundry, don’t pass it up.)
Bring more adapters than you think you need. (But otherwise, bring less stuff in general.)
I’d love to say "Be sure you back up all your data!" … but I’m not always the best at doing that. So perhaps I should read another interview with someone who does a better job with backups, and then I should aim to follow his or her advice.
Images via Chris Guillebeau