Travels with Laptop Charlie #1

27 February 2011

charlie laptopI don’t know if you ever read John Steinbeck’s classic book about traveling around the United States with his dog Charlie or not, but I did. It’s not as popular a book as say “East of Eden” or “Tortilla Flats”, but I liked it a lot. Of course, I’ve always been a fan of the travelogue kind of writing. I used to dream about traveling around with my dog and I did a fair amount of it. A couple of cross country trips, a trip to Alaska, and even some hitching; but the problem is that when you start traveling internationally, it’s a serious pain in the ass to bring a dog with you. I couldn’t even bring my dog to Hawaii without it having to sit in customs for three months. That’s when I finally gave up my dog and dreams of traveling around the globe with her.

Still, I remembered Steinbeck’s book and when I got my first laptop and saw the chance to name it, I decided to call it Charlie. Let me point out here, that I’m not a corporate traveler. I don’t have an expense account. Oftentimes I don’t even have money. What I do have is the desire to travel and the need to write. Used to be I would carry a notebook and a couple of pens with me, but when I got Charlie the laptop, I began to bring him everywhere.

I want to point out that this was back in 2001 and Charlie was a big heavy IBM Thinkpad that weighed about seven kilos with the plug, adaptor, and power cord. Back in those days, it wasn’t as if a guy like me had a way to access the net other than plugging into ethernet cables in internet cafes. Still, I carried Charlie with me everywhere and I mean everywhere since I was staying in hostels and camping and knew that if I left a laptop anywhere, someone would steal it, just as the guys who sold it to me for $150 in San Francisco had probably stolen it from someone who wasn’t more careful.

This first post then is about laptop security. First of all, I recommend that you put a bios password on your laptop. This prevents anyone who does steal your laptop from being able to boot it and access your information without first putting in the code. Second, use the windows user password. Third, take the time to backup your files and save them on either disks or a spare hard drive that doesn’t travel with you. Newly launched service called Dropbox is another option. If the worst should happen, you don’t want to lose your work or memories. That’s three easy steps.

Fourth. Keep your laptop with you unless you have a place where you can store it that you know is safe. Have a backpack, shoulder bag, or other easy to carry case that you can put the laptop in and bring along with you. Make sure it is waterproof!

Fifth, if you get up from the table in a cafe or other place where you are using your computer so that you can use the bathroom, go outside, or just leave for a minute…take your computer with you. Noone likes shutting it down and restarting, but it’s much better than buying a new laptop, right? All it takes is ten seconds for a thief to steal your laptop and trust me, that lady that you asked to watch your stuff isn’t going to reimburse you for it getting stolen during her watch. What makes you so sure you can trust her in the first place? Just take it with you.

Sixth. Laptops go in carry-ons and are not stored under the bus, in the trunk of the taxi, or checked in at the airport. Would you put your wallet in those places so trustingly? Does your wallet have as much value as your computer?

That’s about all for the moment, but stay tuned for more Travels with Laptop Charlie.

  • Vago Damitio travels and writes about it while pretending to do something his wife finds more respectable. More of his adventures and travel tips can be found at

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