Things I can’t live without

When people talk to me about what I do – how I live, and what I make my living with – many of them ask me, about the things I own and that I work with.
On this page, I’m trying to give you a very detailed list of exactly those things.

Obviously, I’m not going to go into detail about stuff like plates or pillows. Instead,I want to give you the things, that I couldn’t live without or that seem most important to me.

This list will constantly grow and evolve with me and my experience.

Full disclosure: There are affiliate links in this post. If you click through them and decide to buy the product due to my recommendation, you will support me and About Wings without any additional cost to you. Find more details about Affiliate Links here.

 

 

Van Life

This is what started it all and so it seems obvious to begin right here. Living in a van has freed me up a lot. I don’t have to pay any rent anymore and when I don’t drive a lot, my costs are down to insurance, food and entertainment.

But of course you need some basics to get started. All these products are the ones I use. If you prefer other brands or models, go for those!

 

Hermes – Nissan Vanette Cargo d2.3

hermesDiesel is cheap compared to petrol in Europe (In the USA it’s exactly the other way around, I’ve heard). So, I have decided, going with a Diesel engine would make most sense.

To make things clear here: I didn’t actually chose the van and I probably wouldn’t have back then. Hermes was an unexpected birthday present coming from my mum, while I was working on a kickstarter campaign to buy a van myself.

However, I have to say that I have been very happy with this model. Nissan is known to build very reliable cars and Hermes is no exception. After thousands of kilometers, being driven by somebody rather new to driving, Hermes has never broken down or (knock on wood).

On the other hand, I know that eventually, I will probably switch to a bigger van. Hermes is an amazing bedroom on wheels, perfect for travelling, but I’m looking for something that’s an amazing mini flat on wheels, perfect for living too, in the long run.

I also have to say, that all the interior is custom built by me. He was an empty transporter, when I got him.

 

 

Light Weight Sleeping Bag

Sleeping BagGet one on Amazon US, UK, DE
This sleeping bag has been my companion for many years and yet, I didn’t need it very often. But every time I did, I was incredibly happy I had it. Since it’s rather thin, but effective it has been a helpful addition to my duvet every time it got too cold in the van, but also – zipped open – a great replacement for it in the warmer nights.

It’s fair to say, that if you plan to go to really cold areas, this sleeping bag should be more helpful to you:

-18°C Sleeping Bag from Amazon US
-10°C Sleeping Bag from Amazon UK
-10°C Sleeping Bag from Amazon DE

 

A Hot Water Bottle

Talking about warmth: This really is something you’ll love me for reminding you off. It has saved me so often when it got cold outside. Alternatively, you can fill warm water in plastic bottles. But in this case you can’t pour boiling water in there, since it’ll melt them.

Also great are the small heating pads that you can reuse over and over again. Simply put them into boiling water, until the chemicals inside have become liquid again and easily activate them by clicking the little metal piece inside. They are great in socks (cold feet are the worst) but don’t stay warm as long as hot water bottles do. But since it’s complicated for me to quickly boil some water in the closed van they have come in handy very often.

 

 

A Camping Stove

StoveGet one on Amazon US, UK, DE
Talking about boiling water. As many of you know, my cooking means are very limited at this very moment. My stove is literally a camping stove, that’s tucked away into one of the wooden boxes, when I don’t need it. It’s connected to a bethan gas bottle that you can get and refill at any petrol station. Don’t fall for the cookers on Amazon, that come with gas bottles which look a little like hair spray. You can’t refill them and you will be dependent on rebuying those bottles until you start using another stove…

 

 

Solar Charger

Get one on Amazon US, UK, DE
I. LOVE. THIS. THING.
I have recommended it in my book ‘Travel More – The Field Guide to Travelling on a small Budget‘ and I will recommend it again.
I always thought it’s silly to get small solar devices like this, instead of saving for proper solar panels. And even when I unwrapped it I was worried I might have bought a piece of junk. So the first thing I did was plugging my phone into it and letting it charge in the mainly cloudless Austrian afternoon sun on the 20min walk from the post office to the van. When I arrived, the phone has gained 20% of battery. I was blown away.

ChargerIf you travel and know that you won’t always have a power outlet to use at hand, get this thing.
Or even, if you only want to work with a USB-chargeable device in the park, get it.
They are great to fix to your rucksack as well. So for everybody who loves hiking or travelling with a tent it’s perfect.
I use it to charge my phone, my tablet, my digital camera and also very important: My external battery (look below).

During my research for this post I even found out that there are now even more powerful foldable solar chargers available. With those you can even charge laptops (Sadly I couldn’t find any adapters for Macbooks…)

52W foldable solar charger on Amazon US
60W foldable solar charger on Amazon UK
120W foldable solar charger on Amazon DE

 

 

External Battery Pack

BatteryGet it on Amazon US, UK, DE
Or should I say, external batterIES? So far, I’ve only got one, but as soon as I allow myself to spend some money on more, I will. They charge via USB input and output and are perfect for recharging your phone (up to seven times) or tablet (up to two times).

They can be charged with the above mentioned solar charger and believe me, if you’ve got one of the solar chargers, you want to charge them with it. I always feel guilty if I run out of devices I can charge with it. It’s like shooting energy into the universe, never to be seen again. Instead, harvest it as well as possible and try to have a battery charging at all sunny times.

 

More FREE Travel Tips:

 

 

Devices

This is a very important topic for me, since I earn most of my income with those devices. I consider myself a Digital Nomad, as I earn my money with remote work and passive income streams that I set up online. These devices are my most used gadgets.

 

 

Macbook Pro

MacbookGet it on Amazon US, UK, DE
Quite an expensive device to carry with you in a van and I hardly ever leave it in there when I’m not home. I got it long before I started this journey and I also have to say, I wouldn’t want to change for any other operating system anytime soon. Apple simply does what it’s supposed to do and is perfect for Graphic and Web Designers like myself.

Also, editing the About Wings episodes simply works much better than with any Windows computer I’ve ever edited video with.

 

Lenovo A8-50 Tablet

Get it on Amazon US, UK, DE
Rather new to the family, and yet quite essential to me. I literally write this article on it right now. For years I have said, I wouldn’t need a tablet and that it’s just a little toy. And for most people that’s probably true.
TabletAfter all those years I have, however, decided that it was about time to get a device I can work on and that I can charge with my mobile solar charger (USB only) or external batteries.

And so I got the tablet. These days I use it to write articles on Google Docs, downloading and listening to podcasts and reading my saved podcast articles. Every now and then I also calm any movie or series cravings with it.

It has helped me enormously with little writing and research jobs. Due to it’s size it’s easily carried and in combination with an external bluetooth keyboard (on Amazon US, UK, DE), a proper cover (on Amazon US, UK, DE) , and the solar charger, I would say it’s the best companion for travel bloggers who are or aren’t in cities very often or don’t have the money for five cups of tea in a café every day.

Also, I have to mention, that it’s probably the best quality you can get for this ridiculous price.

 

 

Wiko CinkPeaks 2

WikoGet it on Amazon US, UK, DE
One of the cheapest Android smartphones I could find on the market and yet it fulfils nearly all my needs. The camera resolution is well enough for Instagram and the GPS also started to work properly as soon as I installed this app.

The very big plus point for this phone is, that you can insert two different SIM cards. Which is nice if you don’t want to carry two separate phones with you for your home country and the one you are in at this moment. Also great for business people with two phone numbers, I figured.

However, my beloved HDR photography app does not work on it anymore. That was a big downer. Besides that, most apps seem to work just fine, though.

 

 

Canon EOS 600D (T3i)

Get it on Amazon US, UK, DE
This is the answer for all the people who ask me what I shoot the beautiful videos with. Not only is this DSLR great for taking pictures, I also use it for a lot of the video in About Wings. For the more advanced videographers: I have Magic Lantern installed on it to have more control over the imagery and colour settings.

CanonI also use a Rode Video Microphone (on Amazon US, UK, DE) to capture the Sound without hearing the lens movement or wind in the recording and generally get much better sound quality. I use the boom pole, but usual other projects but About Wings. For documentary filming its’s simply easier to keep it directly on the camera (especially when filming alone). If you plan on getting it, I suggest you add the dead cat, if it’s not included already. It saves your sound from the wind.

There are plenty of other models for DSLR cameras out there and you really don’t need to go with this one. I just really like Canon since their technology has never let me down while it’s still quite affordable.

 

 

Sony DSC-W830

I actually discourage you from buying this camera since it died on me after only two months (I’m gonna send it to the repair service). I had to replace my old Flipcam after about five years and since I was in a hurry for the About Wings production, I bought it in a local shop in Sitges, where they didn’t have a big sortiment.

FlipCamOriginally, I was happy with it. The angle it could capture was much wider than of the old Flipcam and the colours seemed good to work with as well. I just wonder what I have this camera for, if I can’t put it into my pocket without having to worry about some little part in the lens breaking? Not very robust.

Since I don’t want to run around with the big DSLR camera all the time and be able to capture spontaneous moments as well, I need at least one smaller camera as well.
I can recommend Flipcam (Get it on Amazon US, UK, DE). They have good quality that lasts for quite some time.

GoProI definitely want to get a GoPro Action Camera (On Amazon US, UK, DE) additionally, as soon as I can afford it. In the unlikely case you haven’t heard of GoPro yet: They are pretty much undestroyable and are being used for very risky recordings. If you ever happened to watch a modern sports video where the camera is attached to the person or gear, it’s likely it was recorded with a GoPro Camera.

 

 

Kindle

kindleGet it on Amazon US, UK, DE
Last but definitely not least. I’m a big fan of reading actual, physical books, but lets face it: For a traveller the Kindle is by far the most practical choice. It holds thousands of books, has no lit, light reflecting display like tablets (and therefore looks like a sheet of paper), the books are usually cheaper digitally than printed and the dimensions of this handy device simply can’t be beaten by an actual book.

I love reading, and especially on rainy days the Kindle has been a life saver. But also hanging around in a hammock somewhere in nature, the Kindle is the ideal companion.

 

Follow the Adventure:

 

 

Online Resources: Work

I consider myself a Digital Nomad. Most of my work simply happens in the digital world and therefore I think it only makes sense to show you my virtual resources as well.

These are the services I use most to keep all my things together and organise my work.

 

 

Blog Hosting: Hostgator

HostgatorI’ll start with the work related things. I’ve used Hostgator to host my websites and blogs for almost three years. Their entire servers are powered by green wind energy, which intrigued me. I got started with the Baby plan for $3,96 USD per month.

While Hostgator has proven to be reliable the first two years, the third one has turned into a disaster. They got hacked and all my pages were down for about two weeks. The company seemed to deny the incident, their customer service took ages to even reply and with the plan I had, they didn’t provide a backup. Even the manual backup hasn’t worked for me to this day.

Things learned: Hostgator is cool if you are just starting out, but don’t plan to stick with them for too long. Here comes the alternative:

 

 

Blog Hosting: SiteGround

SiteGroundI only just switched to SiteGround’s GrowBig Plan for 7.95€ a month. While I had a few troubles, moving my websites for the very first time, I have to say, I saw the difference of their customer support immediately:
While Hostgator took three days to answer my desperate emails, SiteGround got back to me within three minutes.

Their service seems to prioritise uptime and customer support. Which makes it ideal for me.

I have only been with them for about a week, but I’m already very happy. I will definitely write an update once I know more. However, so far I can only highly recommend them (don’t let me down guys ;))

 

 

Domains: GoDaddy

For domains, however, I mainly use GoDaddy. This is simply a matter of taste, I guess, since most domain services out there provide pretty much the same prices.

 

 

WordPress

WordpressI run most of my online presences on WordPress. It’s the most used blogging platform out there and has had plenty of time to improve over the years. Also, you can find loads of themes and plugins out there, that make it quite easy to set up a page, even if you don’t know much about coding.

I want to add, though, that WordPress can be a bit confusing for beginners. Especially setting it up can get a little complicated. If you are looking for somebody to help you with setting up or maintaining your blog, I’ll happily help you with it!

 

 

Newsletter: AWeber

Email serviceIn order to have a successful online business, you should definitely start working on your email list. To do so, one of the services I can recommend is AWeber. I’ve used it for quite some time, but found the much cheaper, self hosted Sendy at some point. You might not want to start out with Sendy, though, since it is incredibly complicated to set up and update. Also, the system doesn’t seem to be perfectly polished by now. It keeps driving me nuts. Go with AWeber first and start growing your list. I’ll happily tell you when Sendy has finally reached a more user friendly level.

However, if you know how to deal with your server very well, by all means go ahead and install Sendy! They are constantly improving and even the few glitches are worth the amount of money you save with this one time purchase!

 

 

Dropbox

If you don’t use Dropbox yet, I suggest you change that very quickly. You’ll even get some additional storage if you sign up via this link.
On Dropbox I keep mostly work related data. Nothinglike bookkeeping material, but a lot of logos, designs Dropboxand sometimes videos of all sorts. It’s also great to send data to clients since you can have shared folders with them or simply put a file into the public folder and send them the public link.

It’s always been very reliable for me. As far as I know it’s one of the oldest cloud services there are but it doesn’t cease to keep me satisfied. If you invite your friends to sign up too, you both get an additional 500MB for free to the basic 2GB. That goes up to 16GB. For everything more than that, you will have to pay. But cleverly organised, I never had to use the paid version. Although I happily will, as soon as it’s necessary.

 

 

Google Drive

I mainly use Google Drive for writing. It is great to keep all my articles and other texts synced between all my devices automatically. This way I can write on the tablet (in the van, charging with the solar charger) and publish from the laptop (in some café) much more efficiently.

 

 

Online Resources: Private

So far I’ve only shown you the work related resources. And those are indeed very important. After all, most of my money I earn via the internet. But there are some other services I couldn’t live without: The ones for the private life.

 

 

Hyve

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 22.45.21This is a quite new cloud service for me. Hyve really is designed to hold mainly your private stuff and share it easily with your friends. The service claims to be the first free cloud service in existence – powered by ads.

You can pay the ads away and get faster bandwidth. But the true power of Hyve lays in what the name already suggests. The more friends you connect with on Hyve, the less you will pay for the premium version. And that goes down to a price of zero. That’s right. If you share it with enough friends, it will be completely free for you. Even without ads. So why not connect? 🙂

 

 

Spotify

I’m a big proponent of Spotify and I happily pay the 10€ a month to listen to my playlists offline as well. It’s a great service that keeps my playlists as moving as myself.

 

 

Skype

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 22.47.13There are plenty of social media platforms out there that help you connect with family and friends. But I don’t think it’s necessary to mention all of them. However, Skype is an amazing tool to see and talk to your loved ones over long distances without paying a dime. I do pay for one additional service, though. It’s about 3€ for the ability to call any landline or mobile phone in Austria. Equipped with the Skype app, it’s only a matter of having Wifi to have super cheap phone calls to countries around the globe.

 

 

Online Ressources: Travelling

These web services are important to every traveller out there. Especially if you want to travel on a small budget. There are hundreds I use and we will go into depth about many of them in separate blog posts on About Wings. But here I want to show you the ones I use most.

 

 

Airbnb

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 22.48.33Sometimes it simply gets too cold outside to sleep in the van. And many people don’t even travel with their van. For those, I can highly recommend Airbnb: The platform where people can rent out a part of their homes – or entire apartments – to travellers. And many of these places go for well affordable prices per night. I have used Airbnb several times and have always had a very pleasant experience.

If you want to try it out I have a little present for you. Click here to get 23€ off your first reservation!

 

 

Couchsurfing

Pretty much the free alternative to Airbnb. People offer their sofa or even a guest room to travellers to stay for a few nights. But it’s also a great place to meet new people and talk with locals. There are plenty of Couchsurfing events in every city. Organised by locals as well as travellers. Why not join in?

 

 

WiFiMap (Android)

WiFiMapSeriously, this app is a heavensent. There are many alternatives out there but so far, nothing I found could compete with it. This is a collaborative map of WiFi spots around the globe. including passwords of cafés and sometimes even home WiFi (if the owner allows it).

At least in Europe I found internet with it in pretty much every city so far. Even smaller towns. The spots can be downloaded for areas and looked up offline. Some of them are free, the bigger cities tend to cost a few cents for the offline view.

 

 

Final Words

As mentioned above: This list will keep growing over time. Sometimes you just can’t think of every essential thing and sometimes a piece gets replaced. Therefore it’s always good to come back every once in a while.

By signing up for the Feathered Messenger you can make sure to be notified about any major changes. Also it will provide you with frequent tips about travelling and update you about the About Wings adventure.

The Feathered Messenger:

Join the Adventure!

Robin’s RoadTrip Mix