A Big Hand for Compact Technology!
The minimalist ultralight keyboard that keeps my big fingers happy
After the double take, there’s usually a subtle smile. My hope is that I’ve sparked an idea or perhaps a new way of cracking the nut. The darting eyes most often come from curious customers waiting in line for their favorite morning drinks at the local cafe. At other times, the more daring, social, or inquisitive will come up and ask a few questions. I welcome the break in writing to share what I love and how it has transformed how I travel.
At the moment, I’m actually not at a coffee shop. Nor at a tea shop for those who know me well enough to know that I sometimes prefer matcha over a cup of joe. No, as I sit in this particular spot blogging away, the closest pairs of shifty eyes are lying in darkness around the corner over there that leads to the master bedroom. Dream away, my friends. I hope the pitter patter of my keyboard isn’t waking you up. It’s just now the crack of dawn and I’ve found a comfortable spot to write sitting in semi-darkness at the dining room table of a friend’s house in Santa Cruz.
While everyone else has been sleeping, I’ve been busy putting “pen to paper” so to speak. So what’s so special about that you ask? Maybe it’s everyday that you sneak away to some corner of your house to pound away at the keyboard while the rest of the family is sleeping? Could I have picked a more boring mundane topic to write about?
To shed some light on the matter, one of my readers recently asked me what types of technology I packed for minimalist ultralight traveling. Besides my phone, what else did I bring? A tablet, chromebook, or laptop? Questions from others also revolve around what fits best in my 20 liter backpack or who makes the best and lightest laptop that’s still rugged enough to withstand the dings and bangs of nomadic travel? Does it make more sense to bring a tablet instead of a laptop? Hmmmmm…I haven’t the faintest idea.
There is one question that I find very easy to answer. What kind of phone do you bring? Hands down, it’s an iPhone. I love the Apple ecosystem. But that’s not the whole picture when it comes to technology…
What often evokes the smile or the questions and comments from that random cafe patron down the street is the answer to the question of what technology I don’t have. You see, when I’m on the road, I do everything only on an iPhone and a small, compact and lightweight portable bluetooth keyboard that saddles up well with my phone. I pack no other technology. I don’t bring a laptop, chromebook, tablet, or any other electronic gizmo, even on international trips clear on the other side of the globe. All my technology fits comfortably in my pants pocket for ultimate portability, compactness, all the while still fully qualifying for featherweight class. The keyboard folds up, fits easily into my pants pocket and weighs less than 6 ounces, yet it is a fully functional, standard sized QWERTY style keyboard.
Thankfully, our friends here in damp, cold Santa Cruz left the heat on last night so I can take my beanie off, roll it up, and use it to prop up my phone amongst all the other exhibits that make up the mini sculpture park of their dining room table. The keyboard is parked right at the phone’s base to keep it from slouching down off the beanie and slamming down on the table, which would surely and suddenly open the pairs of eyeballs that are busy fluttering away in REM sleep around that far corner behind me.
Bringing this folding bluetooth keyboard has been a refinement to my minimalist ultralight traveling over the years. I’ve taken it on at least a half dozen international adventures and many more domestic trips with only it and my phone as my constant companions. Having this keyboard has unlocked the ability to write things (like this post) quickly and easily without having to navigate through a bazillion autocorrect typo mistakes as my fat fingers attempt to navigate the tiny onscreen keyboard at the bottom of my phone. And since the keyboard fits nicely in my pocket, I can bring it just about anywhere I go.
Even with challenging languages, unfamiliar character alphabets, and hard to find information, the fact that I only bring a phone hasn’t limited me on trips to such far away places as Vietnam, Israel, Morocco, Colombia, Spain, Japan, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and South Korea. The phone has everything I need to help me translate and keep up with the rest of the world travelers around me. If weight and size were no object, would I prefer a larger screen than the one on my standard size phone? Absolutely. Would a laptop be more user friendly in some instances? Of course. But a small phone and this compact keyboard pairs well with the ultralight minimalist travel ethos of being able to pack up quickly, easily, and go just about anywhere at a moment’s notice.
Though I was skeptical at first that bringing only my phone would be enough to get by, it’s now a confident cornerstone in my efforts to keep tare weights down and to shave off the number of items needing to be stowed away in my pack. Because you’re always going to bring your phone wherever you go, right? So why not just use that? It’s worked quite well for me. No, scratch that. I love it! Since I discovered the pleasures of writing for fun (beyond the many boring emails and tech memos of a professional engineering career), I’ve also found that pairing my phone with a small portable keyboard to be an essential addition to enhance the quality of my travels.
However, as with all the things you may be considering taking (or more importantly not taking) on your next adventure, my recommendation is to stop and think to be sure you’d actually use a wireless keyboard before you stow it away in your pack. If you don’t like to write, save the weight, and leave the keyboard at home. Instead, just bring your phone. Its virtual keyboard will suffice. I’ve done that too on less “wordy” trips.
However, supposing you’ve been recently inspired like me and you want to get back to using those typing skills you learned in 7th grade to write long passages of prose, then I would suggest buying a wireless keyboard. I’d recommend ones that:
are small and lightweight (you think I’d recommend anything else?)
connect to your phone via bluetooth to minimize the amount of cords you need to lug around
fold or roll up easily to fit in the pocket of clothes you’d regularly wear during your day-to-day travels
have a full size QWERTY keyboard
allow you to use the same “home” positions for your fingers as you do with a standard keyboard
are able to recharge using the same charger you brought for your phone
include a battery life indicator
have a hard case that can withstand some wear and tear
The Joyzy keyboard I’ve grown to love was found in the basement of a department store in Kanazawa, Japan. No surprise, it’s also available on Amazon. The device has worked well for me, but I’m sure there are dozens just like it. But no matter the make and model, bring it along with you if you like to write, especially when traveling solo, for you never know exactly when and where inspiration will strike!
Anyway, the morning’s marching on. It’s time to sneak into my friend’s kitchen to start the hot water for my tea. Maybe I’ll power down the keyboard while I’m waiting for the water to boil as I don’t know how much charge is left on my keyboard; it’s only 7:30 and our friends often sleep until 11:00. Maybe next year’s model will come standard with a battery life indicator to let me know just how much longer I’ll have before I’ve got to resort to using the stupid onscreen keyboard that was clearly not designed for people like me with my big hands and fingers.
Yes, I realize that all the technology that you love to bring on your trips already has many of the features that I list above and come with full keyboards, big screens, and long-lasting batteries. You’ve already got it covered. And, I agree with some of your arguments that carrying only one piece of technology does come with some risk in the event of theft, damage, or loss. You won’t have that other piece of technology to turn to in case the worst happens. But, nevertheless, I do hope that you at least stop and think about what you bring with you on your next trip and how all those items may add to the bulk and weight of the pile of stuff that you’ve got to carry, watch, manage, and maintain while your off on your next adventure. If you’re looking to save on some significant weight and bulk when it comes to packing it all up, maybe sometime take your phone and a pet keyboard on a smaller outing someday to see how you like it. Just maybe you’ll find it’s all you need.