How to Harness the Cloud to Reduce Stress While Traveling

picture of the ocean in brazil. The water is shiny and the clouds above are dark.

Overloaded traveler: “Where’s all your stuff?” Me: “Up there, in the cloud.”

There is magic happening all around us. Tiny bits of data are being transferred via various wavelengths of invisible energy from device to device to network to device, to be caught and captured by vibrating electrons in remote physical locations all over the world. You can harness this system to lighten your load while traveling, and to enhance your experience by reducing your paranoia regarding the safety of your data. The tech I use to harness the power of the cloud while traveling is as follows.

Spotify

For music, Spotify is amazing. Spotify is, according to their website, “a digital service that gives you access to millions of songs”. If you have an internet connection and you only want to use Spotify on your computer, you can download their software for free and you’ll have access to all of their songs. I love the setup – there is a simple search bar at the top, you type in an artist’s name, and if they are on Spotify, it lists their top five hits and all of their albums. You can then drag and drop their songs into your own playlists. It syncs with Facebook so you can see what your friends are listening to which will help you discover new music. I use their premium service – for $10/month you can use Spotify advertisement-free on your mobile, in offline mode,  and you get slightly better sound quality. My favorite feature of this service is probably some peoples least favorite feature – you do not own the .mp3 files you are listening to. The .mp3’s do not “exist” on your machine and cannot be transferred to friends in the traditional sense or burned to a CD. The upside to this is that you do not have to manage a large catalogue of .mp3’s, transferring music from storage device to storage device, filling up hard drives and wasting time. All of your playlists are synced on all of your devices at all times via the cloud. If you lose a device, you do not lose your music stash. Spectacular.

When I was learning Spanish a friend of mine recommended that I start listening to Spanish music as a supplement to my other learning methods. I found her on Spotify and subscribed to her Spanish music playlist, and started listening. When I told her this, she let me know that she had created that playlist for her Mom to learn Spanish and she had all the songs transcribed and translated in .pdf form. She sent it over to me and it became my favorite way to study Spanish.

Amazon Kindle App

Digital books are the future. They take up no space, waste no trees, and will soon be more beautiful than any physical book could possibly be. Detach yourself from your addiction to paper tomes, and revel in the freedom that this attitude generates. Many, many books are currently available  in digital form. You could read them on your computer, your smartphone or an e-reader like the Kindle Fire. I choose to read them on my iphone via the Kindle App, simply because I do not want to carry a separate e-reader with me if I can avoid it. For some people, the iphone screen is too small to read on but I have eagle vision so it works for me. I take a lot of notes while I read, so the highlight and search features of the Kindle App come in handy. When I finish a book, before I start the next one, I transfer all my the highlights into a note on Evernote for future reference. I love to think about how my entire library fits in the palm of my hand, and that my notes are always available in Evernote.

Evernote

Behold the magic that is Evernote. This beloved new free note taking software is so popular that an e-book created by Brett Kelley called “Evernote Essentials”, which details how to use Evernote like a ninja has sold over 12,000 copies. You can use Evernote to “remember everything” as they advertise. I use it to, among other things, keep detailed “to do” lists, to store my favorite quotes from various books I read, to brainstorm new blog ideas, to keep a journal, to store health records, and to store vehicle maintenance records. All the notes I keep sync with all devices so, for example, my to-do list is always available on my phone, which comes in handy when I hit the grocery store. I also have an Evernote plug-in for Chrome, which allows me to “clip” web pages, tag and store them for future reference. Did you just follow a series of untraceable links and end up on the outskirts of the internet, only to finally stumble across an article detailing exactly how to build the flying-cat-helicopter you have always dreamt of? A couple quick button presses and that article is saved to Evernote forever. Genius.

Evernote also affords me a way of quickly jotting down ideas as they pop into my head. My writing could be described as “sporadic” at best. I have had to train myself that when I have a useful idea it needs to be written down, right then and there. It helps to have Evernote at my fingertips for these situations.

Dropbox

Don’t have a dropbox account? Click here and sign up. Right now. It’s a cloud based storage system that looks like just another folder on your computer. Except it’s also in the cloud. And on all of your other devices simultaneously. Drag and drop a photo into your dropbox folder on your computer, and it automatically syncs to your wireless devices and any other computers that you have dropbox installed on, as well as to a remote server. I use it to store a copy of my driver’s license and passport, as well as my favorite pictures of all time so they are accessible to me wherever I may be. Destruction of one device does not mean destruction of my precious data. And for anything that I do not upload to dropbox (storage is limited with the free version) the next piece of software offers peace of mind.

Backblaze

For $5/month this cloud based service will store your entire hard drive as well as any external drives you may connect to your computer. It has unlimited storage capacity and the magical ability to decide for itself what should be saved, which it tends to decide is basically everything on your machine. You can set it to refresh at any interval you choose, or you can have it do a manual refresh. I let it do it’s thing once per day.

So there you have it. The stuff above should reduce your load by at least 2 pounds – no need for an external hard drive, separate .mp3 player or physical books to take up any space in your bag. And sleep easy knowing all your precious data is backed up in case you drop your backpack in the Caribbean.