When I was travelling and working abroad as a digital nomad, I carried with me three devices which I classed as essential to my lifestyle: a netbook, a mobile phone and a digital camera. As well as providing me with the means to fulfil my freelance writing responsibilities, these essentials enabled me to keep in touch with family and friends, and maintain a record of my trip. The last time I went away for a nomadic jaunt, I noticed that tablets had become more prevalent than netbooks, and that smartphones were pretty much ubiquitous everywhere. This makes sense really as you can update blogs from smartphones and save more space in your rucksack by packing a tablet.
Of course, the downside to this is that, unlike a relatively cheap netbook or inexpensive PAYG mobile, smartphones and tablets are expensive – and therefore highly desirable – bits of kit. This leads to one very obvious and pressing question: “What is the best way to keep tech items safe from thieves when working and travelling abroad?”
Well, there are two main schools of thought on this subject.
Stowing versus storing
A lot of digital nomads - especially newbies - feel that keeping their tech items (as well as their cash/credit cards) with them all the time is the best way to ensure the safety of their most essential items. Logically, stowing items about your person makes perfect sense as this strategy provides you with the peace of mind that, as long as you don't get mugged, you can be pretty sure your expensive gear will be kept as far away from unscrupulous eyes and wandering hands as it’s possible to be.
In contrast, many other working nomads believe that keeping expensive items in their hostel locker/private room/hotel safe is the best way to go. The reasoning behind this is straightforward enough – you can do a lot more with your day if you're not carrying all your gear, cash and cards around with you. Plus, if you are unfortunate enough to get mugged, you can take solace in the fact you won’t lose all of your most valuable items in one foul swoop.
Needless to say, both of these options have their own pros and cons. Moreover, it is fair to say that some destinations will lend themselves more readily to one option than they will to the other. However, when it comes to generalising, I must say that, after more than five years of working intermittently as a digital nomad throughout Europe and Asia, I have found the latter approach to be the better option.
Why storing tech items makes sense
Those who disagree with me normally pull out the old chestnut “But isn’t there a chance your tech gadgets will get stolen from your locker/room/safe?” While I must of course yield that this is a possibility, I have some theories which reassure me as to why this is unlikely to happen.
Firstly, I have been travelling and working overseas long enough to trust my instincts. If my spider-senses start tingling the moment I enter a prospective accommodation then I will turn around and walk straight out. Sometimes you can just tell that a place is dodgy, and that the staff or other guests are on the make; avoiding these places like the plague slashes the odds of your essentials going missing significantly.
In the main, I have found that opting for accommodations that have people staying from a wide range of different countries is often the best way to go when it comes to ensuring safety and security. The reason for this is that there are lots of backpacking/budget accommodation booking sites now available on the web, all of which display honest reviews written by previous guests. If even one review mentions an incident of theft, you can be pretty sure international bookings will suffer as a result as potential guests will not stay in a hostel or hotel that has apparent security issues. If you walk into an accommodation and it's eerily quiet and/or bereft of different accents – especially during the high season - then do yourself a favour and look at the reviews it's received on the likes of or .
I personally don't think that travelling with technology, even expensive technology, necessarily makes digital nomads bigger targets for theft. As long as you're savvy enough to avoid making very basic errors, like leaving a brand new Macbook poking out of your daysack while taking a doze on a packed local train, or pulling out an expensive smartphone while waiting for a night bus in a part of town you don't know very well, then you should be okay. Using your common sense and trusting your instincts will alleviate many of the concerns you might have about the safety of your tech essentials, and after a while of being on the road, even help you to relax a little when your working day comes to an end.
Image courtesy of Stuart Edge