The global nomad survival guide

Posted by Mike Walsh

12/19/12 3:22 PM



Living on the road is like living in a city, albeit a very unusual one. When you spend enough time waking up in one country, and falling asleep in another — the boundaries blur. Countries become like neighbourhoods, separate but strangely interconnected. You don’t have to be a gypsy, a spy or even just a frequent flyer addict like Ryan Bingham to be a global nomad. You just have to spend more than 100 days a year on the move. So if that’s you, you might find this list of 10 survival tips useful.


#1: Automate Your Schedules

Keeping track of flights, airports, connections and gate changes is exhausting. So don’t. Download two apps — Flight+ and TripIt. Firstly, set up TripIt to automatically scan your email inbox for hotel confirmation receipts or flight itineraries. Then, the minute you make a booking, TripIt will recognise the information and automatically pass it to the Flight+ mobile app, giving you a schedule of your upcoming flights, tracking information for delays and gate changes, as well as automatically adding the flight departure and arrival time to your Google Calendar so that you can share it with your team.

#2: Live In The Cloud

Your two biggest risks when you travel for business are losing your passport or your laptop. One of those things you can immediately mitigate. Sign up for Google Drive or Dropbox. Personally I use both, but you should investigate which suits you best. Store all your files, data and content in the Cloud — so that if you lose your machine, you can be up and running again very quickly.

Being Cloud-savvy is a good habit to develop. Local storage is increasingly passé. Soon— given how powerful our mobile devices are becoming, many will opt travel without a computer at all. After all, how many of you pack a TV when you stay in a hotel?

#3: Prepare For The Worst

The more you travel, the more you will come to accept that at some point, in some place, things will inevitably go pear-shaped. I’ve narrowly missed hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes and terrorist attacks — but I’ve also been caught up in military coups, lost bags, missed planes and only the other day, left my wallet in Bogota. The better your plan B, the less you will stress when plan A goes awry.

So never book the last flight out of a city, unless you enjoy spending the night in airport hotels. Buy a Lugloc to keep track of your luggage with your phone in real-time. Put all your essentials in a small ‘go-bag’, so that in the event of natural disaster, robot uprising or zombie apocalypse, you can grab it and run. Frankly, if you are travelling to somewhere sketchy — I would take at least five minutes to think about a potential escape plan. In my experience, there are relatively few dicey situations that can’t be improved with a little foresight, a stack of cash and a portable phone charger.

#4: Route Around Roaming Charges

The days of coming home from a holiday or a business trip to an outrageous phone bill should be over for most global nomads. Sure you can pre-pay for a data bundle before you leave, but real travel pros will opt for a next generation, global service like Truphone. Truphone not only provides worldwide data and voice roaming plans, but they also offer local numbers in countries like the UK, Germany, Spain, Australia and many others — all on the same SIM. That way, your friends in New York can call you when you are on a beach in Sydney — and it will still be a local call, for them and you.

#5: Master Flight Hubs

If you are a big corporate executive, you probably don’t book your own travel — in which case you can safely ignore this tip. But if you are running your own company, or are watching costs closely — understanding the dynamics of flight hubs and airline booking systems is essential.


Here is the simple truth: the same flight can cost twice as much when you travel in one direction rather than the other. Originating flights in some cities is dramatically cheaper than others. Test a few alternative routes online before you book, and you will save a lot of money. Also, find a good travel agent and learn how to incorporate ‘round the world’ fares into your plans. They will save you a fortune when you fly between business hubs, which tend to attract premium pricing.

#6: Speak Travel Geek

When things go wrong, you will find yourself talking to a call centre representative in a virtual facility outsourced to the middle of nowhere. These people can ruin your life in three mouse clicks, especially if they can’t understand you clearly. So memorise the airline call signs, more formally known as the Nato Phonetic Alphabet. As soon as they answer, bark your reservation number in code to them. Clarity will prevent mistakes and if nothing else, will make you feel like a travel Jedi for a few precious moments — that is, before they place you on hold for another hour before disconnecting you altogether.

#7: Lose Yourself

The very definition of sadness is a business trip consisting of airport, taxi, hotel, meeting, room service — and then the same in reverse. So take an extra day. If you are in an area of town you like, use Expedia or HotelTonight to search for highly rated hotels in your immediate vicinity, then check out of your dull work hotel, and into somewhere fun. Use location tags on Instagram to figure out where the cool bars and restaurants are around you — and then take a moment to relish the fact that, unlike millions of other cubicle bound workers, you are living the dream of perpetual motion.

#8: Become A Member

Getting to elite status on airlines is not only an ego thing, it will save you a lot of time and heartache at check-in, security and while waiting for flights. Pick an anchor airline from each of the big travel consortiums (OneWorld, Star Alliance, SkyTeam) based on your travel patterns and regular hub cities. If you hit platinum on one alliance group, you can often get them to status match you on the others. Also very useful are services like FoundersCardthat not only get you up to 20% savings on flights, but can also secure you heavily discounted rates on cool hotels. If you do join, you can use my VIP Promo Code, FCMIKE643.

#9: Invest In Your Luggage

When the world is your home, your luggage is your furniture. Invest in it. I’ve tried almost every brand out there, in infinite configurations. My conclusion? You can’t go past Rimowa. It’s industrial, tough and sleek. I use an aluminium four wheel IATA sized carry-on to store my laptop and breakable items, and a matte black travel trunk for my clothes. Interestingly, Rimowa are now exploring the future of smart luggage, with built-in electronic tags, which will soon allow you to check-in your bags from anywhere.

If you want to really nail the whole ‘living-in-a-suitcase’ thing, make sure you also buy some soft, zipped internal travel packets from Muji — these will let you organise your shirts, pants and anything else with military precision.

#10: Learn To Run

It’s not glamorous, but when you arrive on an A380 packed full of tourists at LAX, just remember that each and every one of them that get ahead of you in the line represent 10 minutes of your life you will never get back. So wear sensible shoes. And run.

Topics: Global

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