How to be a lean, mean remote working machine

Seems like half the people on the internet are trying to figure out how to make money and travel full time. Or if they’re not, they want to tell you how to do it (for a price).

Since we started traveling without having the “make money” part 100% nailed down, we’re gonna dodge this aspect of remote work in favor of one we can actually help with.

In this post we’ll share the three core gear choices we made to create a lean, highly portable mobile office setup. Y’know, in case you want to leave the RV and run your biz or blog from a trendy little coffee shop every once in a while.

Or, if you have to stay at La Quinta for a couple of days while your RV is in the paint booth after body damage repair.

Our mobile office gear trifecta for mobile work

When we left the RV to head to the hotel, we each took along a small laptop bag with our personal gear. We also brought a couple of internet connectivity devices to share.

Work-wise, that was it.

This lean setup enabled us to handle all our Site Care customers, update our own website, work on a client’s site redesign, fulfill most Help Time requests, onboard a new client and troubleshoot and fix issues with that client’s site.

If we hadn’t said anything no one would have known we were working off of mobile internet and sharing a tiny hotel-room desk.

You know we mentioned it, though. Why keep up BS appearances when there’s an opportunity to get a laugh?

1: Mac or PC for remote work? Nope.

At the RV, I use an iMac (larger desktop computer). Brian switches between his Windows laptop and a Samsung Chromebook Plus. I also have a Chromebook – an Asus Flip.

Chromebook to the left, iMac to the right.

We knew before we moved to the RV that I’d need to replace my old Mac. The question was with what.

A Mac is definitely best for the design aspects of my work. As portable as laptops are, though, the only ones Apple currently makes are short on screen real estate and steep in price.

Instead, we picked up the iMac and a $400-ish Chromebook (you can get ’em cheaper, but this one had some fancier features I really liked). I knew from using a borrowed Chromebook to handle a client emergency that it could handle 90% of my day-to-day.

The Flip has a touchscreen display and folds so you can use it as a tablet. It’s so versatile that I can use it for almost anything I don’t need a huge screen or Mac software for.

Check out the Asus Chromebook Flip* here.

2: Get über connected

Sure, we might’ve been able to get by on hotel wi-fi (unsecure by the way), and ya – one can find free hotspots here and there. But when your business depends on connectivity you do not leave home hoping for wi-fi.

You bring it.

Brian is the connectivity genius in our relationship. He was already pretty nerdy here, but following Chris Dunphy & Cherie Ve Ard of the Mobile Internet Resource Center bumped Brian up to geek status and put our mobile internet game on steroids.

If connectivity is important to your livelihood, the best advice we can give you is:

a) Get a Mobile Internet Resource Center subscription; this is how we hear about new deals and technology the moment it comes onto the MIRC radar – and before it goes away. Unfortunately, anything related to mobile connectivity or cellular data devices and plans comes and goes. Constantly. You need to be in a position to jump on it or lose out.

We don’t recommend MIRC because we’re affiliates or get paid (we’re not, we don’t, and we only recommend what we know will serve our readers well, affiliate or no). It’s because we constantly see people overpay or underequip.

This does. not. work. if you are serious about your business.

Because Brian jumped on MIRC’s advice every time he thought it’d benefit us, we now have plans with every one of the four major US carriers. Three of them are unlimited. Including our phones (which we don’t need to use as hotspots), our total bill for all carriers is between $150-$200/month.

That’s all the voice and data we need to run our business, keep in touch with family, stream music and watch an episode or two of Breaking Bad every night.

b) Don’t rely on a single means of connecting to the internet. I don’t care how many GB of Verizon (or whatever) data you get with your iPhone. Or how cheap Sprint is. We’re not even nine months in and I can tell you that no carrier works everywhere. Hell, we discovered that before leaving Georgia.

c) Use tethering only as backup or emergency internet. When you can’t take a call because you’re tethered, or you can’t let a computer task finish because you have to leave and take your phone with you, work suffers.

3: Use the best notebook EVER

I’ve tried to get away from paper – especially since we’ve downsized so drastically. But I’m very visual. Apps tend to be less useful for me because they hide my stuff.

And – lemme just admit it – anything requiring the same screen that can show me Reddit or Twitter or Instagram is as likely to be a productivity suck as anything else.

Trouble with paper, though, is soon after getting those thoughts down in writing it becomes problematic to organize, share or find them.

Before we moved to the RV, I had at least a dozen yellow legal pads with blog post outlines, meeting notes, site hierarchies, to-do lists, URLs to check out, etc. If I actually tried to refer back to anything more than a day or two old, it was a nightmare.

The Rocketbook is different.

First off, the pages are reusable as long as you write on them with Pilot’s Frixion pens (you can get these anywhere). The pages are silky-smooth and paper-like, but not paper.

The Rocketbook works with an optional free companion app. With it, you can snap one or more pages and automatically send them to Dropbox, Google Drive, e-mail and other destinations.

The app saves to regular ol’ formats like PDF and PNG, so you can send notes wherever without worrying about the recipient needing a special app.

The Rocketbook only has 20-ish pages, so it doesn’t take up much space or weigh much of anything. In 2-3 months of constant use I’ve yet to fill it up.

When I want to free up space I snap anything I want to keep, then use a damp microfiber cloth (the Rocketbook comes with one) to clear the page.

The Rocketbooks cost us less than $30 each. I don’t even use mine with the app all that much. But for me, they’re a game changer and a non-negotiable part of a solid mobile office setup.

Get your own Rocketbook* on Amazon.

What would you add for better remote work?

Are you a digital nomad who could add something to our robust (but lean) setup? Or an aspiring location-independent entrepreneur with questions? Leave us a comment below and let us know.

*The links for these asterisked items are affiliate links. If you purchase them through our links we will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.

We write about products and services we use personally or for clients, and that we know will serve you well. We think you should purchase them whether or not you use our links.

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