This last post about working from the road will cover the logistics of this nomadic lifestyle including what gear we use for work, how we keep our computers and other gear charged off the grid, and how we access internet and handle large file transfers with our clients.
It takes a surprisingly small amount of gear to be able to maintain our work in design, illustration, and film from the road. When we started out we carried quite a bit more and like everything else when you’re on the road long enough, you start learning what is priority and where you can cut down on what you carry.
It takes a surprisingly small amount of gear to be able to maintain our work in design, illustration, and film from the road.
We each use 15” MacBook Pro computers for the bulk of our work. We’ve gotten pretty proficient at using our track pads on our laptops, but we also each carry an Apple magic mouse for times when we have a little more room to spread out while we’re working. We back up all our work on our dropbox account so that even if something happens to our computers we still have access to our files for our clients.
We also each have specific needs for the work we specialize in. For me, that would be my illustration work that I do in addition to my design work. If you know any artists or illustrators, you know that the sketchbook struggle is real. I keep one larger sketchbook called the Artist Survival Book that has three sections. One is plain sketchbook paper, one is lined for taking notes, and the last section is gridded for sketching design mockups and layouts. Then I keep a very small sketchbook I can take with me anywhere for my personal sketching on the fly. In addition to my sketchbooks I have a Wacom Cintiq Companion Hybrid that I can hook up to my laptop to use for digital illustration or photo editing. A Cintiq allows you to draw directly on the screen and has been invaluable for certain design and illustration projects I’ve completed since we’ve been on the road. My “big splurge” in space is a plastic organizer I keep with all my paints, ink, paintbrushes, and other traditional art supplies I like to have with me. It doesn’t get used nearly enough, but I treasure all these items enough to take up the precious space they do.
For Jorge, he does quite a bit of photography and video work while we travel so there are many items he needs such as cameras, lenses, mounts, a drone, and hard drives in order to maintain his work. These are items that used to take up an inordinate amount of space in the the van, but over the past three years he has whittled all his gear down to be able to fit into an incredibly small space. His current gear set up all fits inside the a locking center console that sits between our front seats.
To keep all this gear charged while we’re traveling around, we outfitted our van with solar power and auxiliary batteries. We have two 100 watt solar panels mounted to our roof from Renogy Solar. They feed power to our auxiliary power system. After having gone through several set ups in our different rigs over the past three years, we have settled on one in our current van that has by far performed the best. We are running a 200 amp hour lithium battery system from Starlight Solar. The set up has an excellent management system that regulates the charge and discharge of the batteries to avoid any catastrophic extremes that would harm the batteries. In addition to charging via solar, our batteries charge while we are driving, or if we are parked for a long time with access to power we can plug in and keep our system topped off that way.
Within the interior of the van, we have several outlets installed to access the power we have available. We have just one standard plug that runs off either our inverter or shore power (shore power is when you plug in at a house or campground). The rest of our outlets are either USB or 12V and are connected directly to our battery system to prevent the inevitable loss of power that results from running your power through an inverter. Fortunately most of our gadgets and gear can charge via USB or 12V.
How we have internet is one of the number questions we receive on a regular basis. When we are on the move, we use our Verizon Wireless hot spot. This allows us to use the data on our plan for communicating with clients and uploading files. We previously paid for 30-50G per month depending on our workload but we just recently changed to the Verizon unlimited plan. Unfortunately any unlimited plan out there isn’t a truly unlimited plan so we’ll have to see how things go in the coming months with this new plan. We are expecting some throttling of our upload speeds to occur after certain amounts of usage. However, because we are regularly transferring very large files back and forth with our clients we use other internet sources as much as possible. Those other sources might include coffee shops, libraries, co-working spaces, or friend’s houses. Right now, I’m writing and uploading this blog post on a Starbucks internet connection.
Speaking of co-working spaces…if we have a large project come through where we know we’ll need regular access to internet and power we sometimes opt to rent an office or co-working space in the city we happen to be at the time. All other things being equal though, if we had access to unlimited internet and power, my preferred work location is in the back seat of the van with a panoramic view of my surroundings and music blasting through our JBL speaker.
As always, if you have any additional specific questions about our set up for working from the road, please feel free to ask in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer in a timely fashion!