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Location Independent Essentials – Technology and the Art of Location Independence

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Our location independent essentials are the bits and pieces of technology that we take on the road that have enabled us to master the art of location independence over the last four years and will get us through the next 12 months of the global grand tour project we’re embarking on aimed at promoting slow travel, local travel and experiential travel.

Being location independent is something we achieved long ago – as a travel writer and photographer team, we’ve been on the road travelling continuously for the last four years, living and working out of our suitcases as we’ve bounced around the planet from one assignment to another.

Before we took to the road full time we were already working out of hotel rooms, airports and in vehicles when we went on the road for a couple of months at a time for Lonely Planet, researching, writing and updating travel guidebooks. Yet location independence has been a topic we’ve devoted little attention to – until you asked.

Since we launched Grantourismo on New Year’s Eve and announced our upcoming yearlong grand tour of the world, where we’ll be moving locations every two weeks as write about living like locals around the world, our social media followers and readers of Lara’s old travel blog and my photography blog have been asking what technology we’re going to take on the road.

These are our location independent essentials – the technology and other bits and pieces that enable us to work from anywhere, anytime, any place in the world.

Published 19 January 2010

Location Independent Essentials – Technology and the Art of Location Independence

Even now, after four years living out of our suitcases, as we prepare for another year on the road, we still have a lot to do. There’s an itinerary to finalise, flights and other transport to sort out, and accommodation to decide upon.

Although we get asked a lot about the laptops and phones we use, technology is actually the least of our concerns.

Sure it would be nice to upgrade some gear, try a few new gadgets out, but we have the technology basics pretty much sorted out.

Yet technology is a topic travel writers often get asked about, and we’re already fielding questions about the gear that enables us to be location independent, so here goes:


We’re both Apple users and were using Apple products for many years before we packed up our apartment and put our things in storage and became location independent. I use a MacBook Pro and Lara has a MacBook. There is no Mac versus PC war for us. As far as we’re concerned, the Mac and the rock solid Apple software best meet our needs.

I need a pretty decent-sized screen for editing photos so the 15-inch model is the best compromise. Both our babies have bigger hard drives than standard and have the most amount of RAM that you can put in them – one of the best investments for laptops.

Storage and Backup

I use external drives for storing my photo libraries, as well as storing final images on PhotoShelter for my clients. I’m a little bit nervous about just how much storage I’m going to burn through over the next 12 months as I usually fill a pair of hard drives every couple of months. Why a pair?

Every single image has a duplicate on a second drive, updated nightly by the generally wonderful SuperDuper! software. I also carry one of these hard drives and a back-up of my MacBook Pro hard drive with me wherever I go – because you never know!

I make a backup of my MacBook Pro hard drive nightly. I tried using Time Machine by Apple as well, but it has never ran reliably enough for me. What did I say about ‘rock solid Apple software’? Make that generally rock solid.

Photo Organisation

I use Adobe’s Photoshop Lightroom these days to catalogue and lightly edit images.

I also used to use Nikon’s horrible Capture NX2 to process images because it makes the nicest-looking files and I finish up in Photoshop.

For our website, I use BBEdit to edit HTML and CSS files and Transmit to transfer files to our website.

Lara uses iPhoto for her images and stores them on the drive in her MacBook, but she’s just about filled up her hard drive, which makes the MacBook run like a piece of cr*p slowly – another little challenge to deal with before we leave.

Camera Gear, the Pro Stuff

I use a stupid amount of Nikon camera gear and I’m probably going to need all of it for this yearlong trip as we will be doing everything from surfing to safaris. Please don’t tell Lara, but at this stage I can’t see me leaving one lens or one flash unit (Nikon SB800s) behind.

I carry all my gear around in a Lowepro Rolling CompuTrekker Plus AW. It’s a great bag but it’s rather conspicuous and is always suspected of being too big for the overhead compartments on aircraft. Sigh.

I have a Manfrotto lighting bag as well that kind of resembles a golf bag, which holds my light stands and tripod. Depending on the airport and the class we’re travelling in, it has a habit of getting lost or at least arriving late at the gate. Groan.

Camera Gear, the Fun Stuff

For street shooting this trip, I’m thinking of trying one of the new Micro 4/3 System cameras (stupid name), which is basically a small camera with interchangeable lenses – something like an Olympus PEN E-P2 would be perfect, because some days I don’t want to be seen as ‘the photographer guy’.

And no, I never wear a photo vest. Ever. I don’t care how convenient they are.

Lara is also drooling over the PEN as she dislikes her very overrated Canon G10, which takes wonderful photos at ISO100 and progressively becomes rubbish by ISO800 – it’s more ‘point-and-pray that there’s plenty of light’ around than ‘point-and-shoot’.


As far as other communication devices go, we have several (!) mobile phones. We each have our (former) ‘home’ mobile numbers in the UAE on a couple of them and we use the others for local SIM cards, which we buy wherever we go.

Would you describe yourself as location independent and if so what are your location independent essentials when you go on the road?


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Terence Carter is an editorial food and travel photographer and infrequent travel writer with a love of photographing people, places and plates of food. After living in the Middle East for a dozen years, he settled in South-East Asia a dozen years ago with his wife, travel and food writer and sometime magazine editor Lara Dunston.

7 thoughts on “Location Independent Essentials – Technology and the Art of Location Independence”

  1. Great piece! Nice to get a glimpse of what the pros use :)

    Very useful to any long-term traveler. Especially the importance of data and photo back-ups!

    Carrying a small back-up hard drive on my last 5 month trip provided some peace of mind I did leave my laptop at the hotel/hostel.

    Looking forward to reading more great articles. Have a great time!

  2. Oh my, I couldn’t stop clicking on the links on this post. So…the G10 sucks, huh? If you ever get the Micro 4/3 system, let me know if it’s any good. With 2 kids (no.2 is due March 2010), I don’t feel like lugging my Canon EOS 5 anymore on family vacations!

  3. Francoise, Thanks for your comments! It’s nice to hear from someone else who isn’t cavalier about their back-ups!

    Jen, the G10 starts to suck around ISO800. Canon – who know a thing or two about camera sensors that can handle low light/high ISO conditions should be ashamed about this. Subsequently they reduced the megapixels and noise on the G11. Apparently. Stay tuned for news on the Micro 4/3 system front…

  4. Ha. Been researching the Micro Four Thirds system for a project I’m working on and they look pretty sweet. Problem right now is the limited range of lenses available. I’m sure they’ll start putting out converters soon

    Alas, I am a user of the “horrible” Nikon Capture NX2 which I actually like for removing dust and base editing and I’ve just recently started using Adobe’s Lightroom.

    Cool summary!

  5. Hi Lola, one of the joys of the Micro Four Thirds system is that the lenses available are generally in scale with the size of the camera. Plugging an 85mm 1.4 Nikon (my favourite lens!) on to the end of it would seriously throw the balance out. Even the smaller Canon or Nikon fixed lenses would be too big – is this what you meant?
    The Lumix 20mm F1.7 G ASPH (pancake) is a fine lens and probably be one I’d be happy to walk around with.
    I have no quibble with the results you get with Nikon Capture NX2 – it’s just that the interface is awful and the program drops ‘temp’ files all over the place. I don’t like what Adobe’s Lightroom does to my RAW files, so I’ll put up with Capture NX2, I just have to switch off my own inbuilt aesthetic filter to use it…

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