Tag Archives: travelling tips

Travelling with a Chromebook

My Chromebook was one of my last acquisitions before we set off, I dithered for about 3 months on whether a Chromebook would be able to handle everything I needed it for whilst I was away. Extensive googling gave me exactly what I expected, mixed reviews. Not on the performance of the machine itself but on whether it would even be useable whilst I was away.

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For those not sure what denotes a Chromebook, here’s a little info. A Chromebook is usually* akin to a netbook (small portable laptop) the difference that has to be made clear though is that the operating system is not Windows as you might expect but Chrome OS. If you’re currently reading this on a chrome browser, which I sincerely hope you are, then you might now be thinking “Google?”

Chrome OS is indeed designed by Google! For most of us the difference that is most stark is that rather than installing programmes like you would on your Windows or Apple computer, you install Apps like you would on your smartphone or tablet. This is where the Chromebook becomes a write off for some people. No you can’t have Photoshop, Word or Skype, sorry! The other big difference is that the OS is intended to be used with an Internet connection, when you open an App it launches as a new Chrome browser tab. If you’re now thinking “that sounds pretty useless” as I was at this point, please give my poor Chromebook a bit more time and attention.

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Right, my Acer only has 16gb Solid State Drive** so for most files, photos etc. i’m using an external HDD anyway. After research I worked out that the only things i’d be able to do whilst not connected to the internet were; write/edit documents, watch movies, edit photos, listen to music, write emails and play games. As I’m sure you can see, there’s not a lot else most of us do whilst not connected to the internet than that list. I’m not going to lie and say it’s a piece of cake and it does require some adaptation to new apps such as Google Docs and Hangouts, but all of these things are possible.

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Here are some bits you might like. I spent £199 on my Chromebook, Lauren spent the total yearly GDP of France on her 11” MacBook Air. The biggest considerations for me were battery life, price and weight. To the touch the 2 weigh the same, around 1.2kg** The Air is thinner at the front, but overall again they’re pretty similar. I’ve got a 9 hour battery life, the Air has 11 and finally my Chromebook cost £900 less than Lauren’s Air.

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I’m not trying to say that my Chromebook is superior to the MacBook Air, as Lauren has a huge SSD and is happily photoshopping as I write, but I’ve got a desktop at home to do all that. What I needed for the duration of our trip was exactly what I’ve got, a cheap, light computer with a great battery life!


Everything in the review before this sentence was written after 3 months of travelling. Here is the 14 month update as to how its held up!

I am still typing on my Chromebook, so as you can see it’s still going. The case has a few more scratches in it but the performance is still going strong. When I consider the body is plastic it’s actually done remarkably well. Whilst living in the rainforest for 8 months I did have some problems that meant the keyboard wouldn’t work. Annoying but not an issue most people will experience (it survived 6 months of humidity before this problem occurred.) On leaving the jungle some silica gel fixed the problem in under 12 hours.

Overall I would say that whilst the screen isn’t the best, it’s comfortable and the speakers whilst of lower quality have a superior maximum volume to Lauren’s Air. The built in webcam is terrible but since most of the South American internet connections are as well, a lower quality camera hasn’t been a problem.

Most importantly the OS. Have I found it a problem? Easy answer, no. There are still issues to be worked out, such as the fact that I can’t store music to device from my Google Music account, but hopefully this is just in the pipework for the imminent updates. You can still store music files and play them normally without a problem.


So yes i would suggest a Chromebook as a viable and good choice for a computer whilst travelling. I can only speak for my Acer C720 in terms of build and performance but I can say that Chromebooks are viable options for travelling.

*The Chromebook Pixel is much more heavy duty.
**With 100gb of free Google Drive cloud storage for 2 years.
***The Air weighs 1.08kg but we’re travelling so it’s aluminium needed a protector bringing the weight up

Why Do We Travel? – Part 2

After Iain wrote his blog entitled “Why do we travel?” it got me thinking. When we first announced to friends family and co-workers that we were quitting our jobs to backpack around South America, we were met with varying reactions. One of the most common was “Why, what are you going to do out there?” Initially my response was “Well derr, nothing, sweet nothing.” Though honestly I can say in the past 2 months I have never spent a day doing nothing…

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It feels like a lifetime ago we left the UK, but truthfully every day flies by too quickly for my liking. So my days are not quite as busy as when I worked 9-7pm, squeezed in the gym after and tried to cook a decent meal, but travelling full time is a busy lifestyle. A different pace perhaps but still busy nonetheless.

Even in our days of “downtime” we will usually be exploring the local shops, blogging, keeping in touch with friends and family or researching what to do next. Most nights I fall asleep reading a Rough Guide or Lonely Planet on my kindle deliberating where to go tomorrow.

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When we left the UK our plans were very loose, so loose in fact they consisted of Rio Carnival and Lollapalooza in Buenos Aires a month later. Other than that, we figured we’d have enough money to live comfortably (just!) for about a year out here, so really the possibilities are endless! Doing nothing is not an option when there is so much to see and do out there!

We are big fans of keeping the plans loose and rarely plan much further than a few days ahead but due to circumstances we have been forced to book our Inca Trail in Peru. They only allow a limited number on the trail each day so you are forced to book at least 6 months in advance. However given that this trek is not until the end of September we have a fair amount of flexibility still to play with.

So what are our motivations for travelling? In 2011, on our first round the world trip, we had a limited time in each country we visited, as we had onward flights booked. Our aim really was to tick off the “must see” sights in the guide books and move on to the next place. This time we are, as we like to call it, “slow travelling”. Although we are still drawn to see the “top sights” we also want to see the places and the people.

I’ve not fooled myself into thinking you can truly know a place with a few extra days…but it sure is fun trying to get to know it. It’s fair to say we didn’t need 10 days in Rio or 11 days in Buenos Aires to see the tourist attractions. Yet one of my fondest memories will be finding my favourite veg stall in San Telmo market and being welcomed back each day with a cheery smile…so much so they put up with me asking for the Spanish name for each vegetable! Or even being talked at by the locals on Rio’s buses yet having no clue what they were saying but smiling and nodding all the same.

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Hopefully in the next year we may even find a job volunteering and stay put for a while, so we can really experience a place. Who knows where but this would certainly be a new chapter to our travels. Like other backpackers part of the fun for us has also been meeting people, both locals and other likeminded travellers. As after all isn’t half the fun of travelling exchanging stories and advice with others?

So why do we travel? Because everyday is different. There is so much out there to see and do. We can’t possibly hope to see everything but we are going to have a pretty good stab at it over the next year, so keep reading…

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Why do you travel? We would love to hear your thoughts.

Why Do We Travel

Lets face it, the worst part of travelling is travelling. The expectation of going on a big trip, adrenaline, nerves, excitement, tears, it’s a complete emotional rollercoaster, it’s like being 13 again. Then comes the airport. Check in happens hours ahead of when you actually want to be there and then you have to tackle security. This wouldn’t be nearly so bad if it wasn’t for that person in front of you, you know the one I mean. “Have you emptied your pockets Sir?” The following affirmative answer is immediately shown to be an outright lie by that oh so revealing “BLEEP” from the metal detector. Lo and behold the empty pockets in fact contain: keys, phone, wallet and various pieces of change, some of which aren’t even in circulation any more. Finally, after the ignominy of walking around with no shoes for a bit, holding your trousers up with one hand because your belt has somehow become lost inside the scanning machine, you make it through to duty free.

Duty free is where you don’t really want to be. When you’re after some discounted booze it’s great, but when you’re about to head off on a multi-month holiday, a two litre bottle of Vodka isn’t exactly high on your list of priorities. And so you grab an overpriced coffee, a sandwich and go and find some seats. Next, the boarding process…now this is really quite fascinating. We all get to our gate way ahead of schedule and sit there staring as the minutes creep past. When boarding finally opens, everyone leaps to their feet and stands in a queue less than a meter from where they were just sitting. I do this as well, I even fail in stopping myself from doing it. I think that we’re all just eager to get on the plane because that will officially be the start of the holiday. Start of the holiday or not what we’ve actually done is leapt to our feet to board the plane and get started with the worlds most boring game of sardines. Theres only one person having a good time and it’s the guy sitting sloshed in one of the bars completely unaware of the announcements asking him to please board the plane.

For Lauren and I, we had a short flight to Rome followed by a not so short flight to Rio. Every time we long haul I convince myself it would all be so much better if next time we just pay for that extended leg room or maybe even upgrade. It never happens though, we book economy and sit down with our knees jammed into someone elses back. This is the worst bit of travelling. The first couple of hours are fine, movies, free food, free booze and all you have to do is sit there, it’s great. Then you have to try and sleep. I can nod off standing up, Lauren however, isn’t so lucky. Even if you can sleep, you don’t wake up refreshed at the other end with a broad smile shouting “Hello world!” You’ve just slept in your clothes in a cramped, not quite sitting position, knowing that when you get off the plane at your long awaited destination, you’ve got to face a whole new set of challenges.

Everything above is true except the first 10 words: lets face it, the worst part of travelling is travelling. I hate the travelling whilst i’m travelling, but once I reach a destination I suddenly see that 13 hour flight or that 2 day bus as the arc that carried me to paradise and then, I forgive it everything. I think the trouble stems from the fact that you’ve just left somewhere that you’ve come to love. You sit there on transport, usually cheap and dirty, wondering what the next place is going to be like. The bus gets us there and it’s amazing, somehow that bus journey is now “an experience.” Rather than 2 days of spine jarring pot holes and a weird smell coming from under one of the seats, it has become a fond memory. Then again maybe we just do this to ourselves so that we can bring ourselves to get on that next bus and just ramble on.