A laptop also allows you to write when you are offline. When you can’t access a wireless network you can simply save any text, images or video to a USB drive and take that to an internet cafe to upload. I also use my laptop as an MP3 player, DVD player, alarm clock, and in a pinch, as a flash light. Walking around with an open laptop to light your path is as awkward as it sounds!
2) Move everything you can to the cloud. Web apps are your friend when traveling. Even if you have a laptop, there is no guarantee that you will be able to use it every time you access the internet. I have several email accounts which all now go through Gmail. I have an account on Meebo.com for most of my IM accounts. Likewise, I have purchased an online storage service for archiving files and a Flickr Pro account. If I should lose my laptop, most of my data and applications would still be accessible from any computer.
The major applications I cannot use on the web are Photoshop, Google Earth, and Skype (but most every internet cafe has Skype).
3) The internet is everywhere if you look hard enough. Even though I haven’t accessed the internet in every place I’ve been, I could have if I wanted to. On Easter Island I found five different places that would qualify as an internet cafe. On Rennell Island, one of the more remote islands in a remote country (Solomon Islands) they had a radio link in the school in a village which allowed for net access. In the Marshall Islands I walked to the national telcom building to get online via their satellite uplink. I’m sure you can find some rural areas without any communications, but most urban areas should have something, somewhere as of 2008.
Sometimes the quality of the connection was painful, but it worked. I would do little more than check email and submit short posts to my website. If you REALLY need to get online, there are satellite packages which can provide data access from almost any point on Earth. It will cost an arm and a leg, but it is possible. Live webcams have been streamed from the top of Mount Everest.
4) Don’t forget the little stuff. In addition to the laptop, I have a Nikon D200 DSLR with two lenses, a 10base-T cable, a power strip, a set of international power adaptors, a USB drive, a Sanyo Exati 1000i video camera, extra batteries for the SLR and laptop, a Gorillapod, and a tripod which works with both the SLR and video camera. It sounds like a lot, but I can cram most of the electronics, minus the laptop, into a shoulder camera bag. Having a power strip lets you plug all your devices in without requiring an adaptor for each device.
Check the voltage for each device. Most electronics you purchase today can work with 120-220V so you don’t need a heavy transformer. Something like a hair dryer will usually only work with one voltage. The power strip will let you work with different outlets but will not change the voltage or the current. Take the time and figure out what the voltages and outlet types are in the places you’ll be visiting. You might not need to carry around all the adaptors. I have back up batteries for anything which requires batteries. I always have the spare charged and ready to go just in case. I don’t want to be out in the field with my camera only to have to stop taking photos because of a dead battery. Same goes with memory cards.
5) Have a disaster plan. I purchased a policy covering all my gear from Safeware. It was worth it for nothing more than the peace of mind it gives. I also scanned the receipts for all my major purchases and emailed them to myself. That way if I ever need to file a claim, I have the documentation. I have a cable lock for my laptop which I use all the time. I will often lock it to things which may be movable, but would deter anyone from stealing it. I also have a small padlock I carry to lock items when I’m at a hostel. I carry my laptop and my cameras in nylon Sea-to-Summit bags which are water resistant. (They are fine for protecting your gear from rain, but not submerging)
Back up all your data, multiple times if necessary. This might be more valuable than your equipment. I burn to DVD, upload and have a small external HD. I even had an old iPod which I filled with photos and sent back home.
Working from anywhere isn’t just an idea anymore, it is a reality. If you have the desire, the tools exist to make it happen.