It's a difficult decision and one I've often grappled with: should I take my laptop when I travel?

I've traveled both with and without, and there's a good case to be made for each.

If you're thinking of taking your Mac or PC with you, please think through the pros and cons - the list below should help.

Women on the Road News: Contents for Issue #16

  • The Pros and Cons of Laptop Travel
  • What's New on the Website
  • Travel News from Across the Web
  • Cause of the Month: Prenatal Sex Selection - When Boys Matter More Than Girls

The Pros and Cons of Laptop Travel

Before we look at the pros and cons, there's an important question you have to answer: Are you a writer? Webmaster? Photographer? Do you use a computer to earn a living? If you need a laptop for your work, you'll have a more compelling reason for taking it than if it's to Skype your friends.

I travel as a journalist and though I find a laptop useful, I don't always take it with me. Often I move my documents onto a flash drive and just take that along, using computers along the way.

If you don't need your laptop all the time, if you can carry your files any other way, or if you suspect a separation from your laptop might be beneficial, then it's worth spending a bit of time on the decision - because you can't really change your mind once you've left.

The Pros of Laptop Travel... Here are just a few of the excellent reasons why you should take your laptop on the road:

  • Privacy - you can Skype and chat without anyone looking over your shoulder, or you over theirs

  • Keep up your travel blog in the quiet of your room

  • Store music, films and other Important Things

  • Show new friends pictures of your family and hometown, and organize all your pictures on your own time

  • Work on your own website offline

  • Use GPS software to trace your route

  • Play games indoors when the weather is lousy

  • Do some work: write reports, do accounts...

  • Look up maps and plan your route - or do any other kind of research, for that matter

  • Get instant translations if you don't have a phrasebook

  • Save money on Internet cafes

Remember, WIFI access is getting more common and is often free in certain establishments.

You may also be able to use your own laptop in Internet cafes - but you can't count on it. Some owners won't let you, and others will charge a hefty fee. Still, this kind of mobility is becoming increasingly common...

Convinced you should take your laptop with you? Perhaps. But please, read on - there are also plenty of reasons to leave it at home.

  • There are Internet cafes on nearly every street corner - even the most remote villages will usually have some sort of Internet connection with a computer attached to it

  • You might not find an accessible signal nearby, and what good is a laptop without a signal?

  • Even if you do find a signal, it will probably be unsecured so your data will be at risk

  • You'll spend time worrying about your laptop and keeping it safe...

  • Your laptop might get stolen and then where will you be?

  • Laptops break down, and finding help isn't always easy

  • Laptops are prone to accidents: you could drop yours from a bus window (I have), spill sugary liquid on the keyboard (ditto) or neglect to pack it properly and find its guts full of sand (particularly on a Saharan journey!)

  • Buying a laptop costs money - why not spend it on something else?

  • A laptop takes up valuable space in your backpack

  • It also makes your backpack heavier, especially once you include chargers, disk drives and other peripherals - not to mention a case or waterproof bag

  • Last but not least, you might spend too much time glued to your screen. Shouldn't you be out and about, meeting people and making friends?

If you can think of any other pros and cons of laptop travels, I'd love to hear them so please let me know by emailing me and I'll add your tips to the website page when I write it up next month.

What's New This Month on Women on the Road, the Website

Teaching English in Japan, by guest writer Honor Dargan, who has lived and worked in Tokyo for eight years

Solo Travel for Women
If you spend any time on the road on your own, you'll begin to change - subtly, and in more obvious ways

Google Maps for Sightseeing
A great way to keep in touch is to use Google Maps for sightseeing and to let everyone back home know what you're up to while you're on the road

Digital Travel Photography, by guest writer Peter Liu, who makes a living as a professional photographer

In our ongoing series of interviews with women writers, journalists and bloggers, Women on the Road talks to travel writer and photographer Kim Wildman

Travel News From Across the Web

The Greatest Travel Gadgets of 2008

2008 Travel Movie Awards

Top Hostels of 2008

The Top 10 Travel Health Problems and How to Handle Them

11 of the World's Most Interesting Endangered Animals

9 Places to Experience Before They Literally Vanish

Travel Destinations

8 Cities That Burn Through Your Money

City Tips for Berlin

Banda Aceh: A Travel Destination?

And for my fellow foodies...

11 of the World's Most Vegetarian-Friendly Cities

Devouring Pork Floss in Hong Kong

The Better Side of Burmese Cuisine

Blog of the Month:

My Kugelhopf - For those of you who, like me, love food and travel - sometimes all wrapped into one!

Cause of the Month: Prenatal Sex Seletion

Sound a bit jargonistic?

Translation: choosing the sex of your child before it's born - and getting rid of it if it's the 'wrong' sex.

Technology has now made it commonplace to know what gender your child is before birth. Some people use the technology to get rid of unwanted children - say if they'd rather have a boy than a girl, which is often the case.

Some countries, mostly in Asia, have even had to legislate against revealing the sex of a child to prevent abortions from taking place.

This press release from the Population Council explains what's happening in China, although China is by no means the only country where prenatal sex selection takes place.

In India, legislation has tried to ban the practice but without success, as this post explains. In addition, the practice may be spreading to overseas communities in such places as Canada and the UK.

The good news is that the issue is being discussed widely. Ultimately, the solution will lie in both greater empowerment of women and a change in society's perception of our value. Not everywhere are we equal.


ActionAid UK

UNFPA: Sex Ratio Imbalance in Asia

Because I Am a Girl

A Word of Warning

Some of you may remember Kinship House, an orphanage in Uganda accepting volunteers to work with the children. Unfortunately, not all charitable projects work out - and this one didn't.

The head of Kinship House has been accused of a number of ills against the children and has been arrested. The children are fine and are temporarily being cared for elsewhere.

They need a new home, though, so if you'd like to help, please consider making a donation through Kinship's sister organization, BULA.

A Free Offer for You!

You may have noticed a new Free Offer on the website for new subscribers of Women on the Road News - my Bare Minimum Packing List, developed over years of travel.

This offer is available to all new subscribers. Would you like one too? I wouldn't want you to miss out so if you'd like to have your own copy of this handy checklist, please email me and let me know. I'll send you your own personal copy!

Next Month?

There's everyday travel... and then there are Unusual Types of Travel. Find out what they are next month!

Don't Miss Out!

Please forward this newsletter to your friends. As always, it's published on the first Tuesday of every month. And if you don't want to miss anything new on Women on the Road, please subscribe to my RSS feed - that stands for Really Simple Syndication - and it really is.

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Happy travels! Leyla