Here is my old beat up camera. It is with me every where, and I'm going to tell you why.
I believe that I have a highly functional travel kit. I'll describe what I have, and perhaps you also will want to some of my ideas into your own collection of things that you take when you travel.
First item you should alway have is a camera.
When flying international or domestic, a trip is something to remember. I think back to when I was a young man at IBM San Jose. John S, one of my managers, would carry around a camera on our trips. I thought this a little uncool, so I never had one. In retrospect, I wish I had. There so many places that I went that I forgot many of them.
However, I have changed my habits over the last 6 years. I now take a good number of pictures, which will serve as memory joggers some day.
For instance, here is a picture of the Amsterdam airport. Just one shot, and I am instantly transported back to my layover. Airports are fun, and fun to remember.
The camera that I carry around is a Sony Clie DSC-U30. It has to be one of the smallest cameras ever created, and it has the benefit of being powered by two AAA batteries. Unfortunately, it is discontinued, with a rabid fan base that keeps the resell value very high on ebay. I will eventually replace this once it fails in the next year or two. Until that time, I have snapped over 6000 pictures with it.
Secondly, if you are taking pictures, you should also be taking notes. The best tool for this a PDA. As explained recently in my personal blog, I think that a PDA is by far the best way of taking notes, (and I would encourage to take these notes and blog them).
Now, there are two ways of going with a PDA. A thrasher that you won't mind if you lose, or a nicer one that may have more function. I tend toward the thrasher if I had only one. However, I ended up with both, until recently when I lost the expensive one.
However, taking notes isn't the only thing. You also want to be able to store them in a logical consistent fashion. For me, the best way of doing this is with an application called "Daynotez" by Natura software.
This is an application that runs on either Windows Pocket PC or Palm OS. The main reason for Daynotez is one of time stamping. You simply open the application, and start writing. A new note is automatically generated, and the new note is attached to a little calendar that stamps the day and the time that you started writing. Then you can simply flip through the calendar to find your note date. In a nice addition, your writing database is backed up to your computer every time that you sync the PDA to the computer.
Now, why use a PDA? Why not just use a notebook computer. Or why not use a pen and paper. Let's look at both in turn.
The computer has four major issues:
1. It is too big to stick into your pocket.
2. You cannot write on it with a pen when you don't have an area big enough to type in.
3. For the most part, a low battery will put you out of business.
4. Most computers are not "time to ready" in 4 to 5 seconds.
The pen and paper also has some massive short comings:
1. You cannot type on it with a keyboard. Now, perhaps you can't type quickly. Then shame at you. There is no reason that you shouldn't learn how to touch type. There are few skills as important as this. As soon as you learn, you'll stop with the pen and paper.
2. Once you have writen something, it is now locked on a page, which can't be electronically searched. If you went through all those great places and wrote something, wouldn't it be nice to actually be able to do a search on a word or phrase and pull up that note?
A PDA can solve all the objections for either paper or a computer. The one thing to make this a complete package is a foldable keyboard for your PDA. You can type or write. I actually wrote this whole posting on my PDA while I was flying from Amsterdam back to LAX in business class. As you can see by the picture to the side, I can easily set up my PDA on my airplane tray and I'm in business. This is very fast, and the PDA comes on instantly. It is as fast as getting out a pen and a pad of paper. The keyboard in this case is slightly cut down from the normal size keyboards that are on a portable computer, but I have no problems with typing on it. It is really quite fast.
The PDA in the Sony system sits in the middle of the keyboard, although some systems will have the PDA setting by the side. It really doesn't matter all that much because you rarely will be looking closely at the typing, if you touch type. You are just trying to get some thoughts down so you can transfer them later.
In the following picture, you can see that they PDA is the normal small PDA that was sold for so many years. This particular version runs on AAA batteries. This makes the PDA unbelievable useful.
The PDA runs approximately 8 hours or so on a pair of batteries. I carry anoter set of AAA batteries so I can get at least 16 hours of run time.
The great thing about a PDA is that you can use it for multiple things. I am a constant reader, and a PDA is a perfectly acceptable reading device.
As written before, I keep 8 translations of the Bible on my PDA. I also carry books, and most of the classic books have already gone to the public domain. While I have many classic books that I bought years ago, I would not buy another. I would simply download them to my PDA.
Finally, now that I have my PDA, keyboard, and camera I simple place this entire ensemble into my fanny pack that I carry with me everywhere. I admit that the fanny pack makes me geek beyond geek. However, it is the great invention in the world. I can go pretty much anywhere and have a world of entertainment at my finger tips.
However, this is a very unique system because you will not be able to buy it. The system was made by Sony, and the keyboard used to be $100. However, when Sony out of the PDA business, I bought four keyboards for $80. I then bought 4 PDAs for around $110. So for around $200, and had multiple PDAs.
I knew that I had a killer system, and I knew that carrying around PDAs as much as I do would kill them, so I bought these. I had already destroyed one PDA and one keyboard. I gave one keyboard to our Japanese sales person, so I have 3 PDAs and two keyboard left. That'll last me for another 5 years.
If I had to start over again, I'd probably get a high end windows phone using Windows PPC version 6. You can buy a bluetooth keyboard similar to the Sony one. This should give you the same package. Regardless of the exact form factor, the principle stays the same.
There are even some stronger advantages to the PDA/Phone combo. If you get an upper end phone, you will also get a camera, MP3 player, and a multifunction tool that can also be used as an alarm clock while traveling.
[Come to think of it, this makes so much sense to me that I'll be looking at maybe moving to this system in the future.]