Losing weight, travel style

Losing six pounds has never felt so good. 

I’ve made two notable changes in my travel kit over the past couple weeks and I have to say that I couldn’t be more happy with the outcome.

The first change was to my headphones.  Anyone who spends any time on an airplane knows the effects of the low, dull buzz of the engines.  The Emirates pilots have actually complained that the A380 is too quiet so that they don’t hear the buzz and it prevents them from resting as they normally would on their long-haul flights.  Still, the drone of flight is something that I am very, very, very happy to do without.  I bought my first pair of noise canceling headphones about six years ago and thought that I couldn’t possibly get anything better.  It turns out that I was wrong.

Eventually my Sennheiser headphones got left on an airplane.  I’m not proud of that moment in my travel history, but such is life.  Once they were gone I was faced with a need to replace them with something comparable or better.  You may hear folks rave about the Bose QC2 or QC3 kits, but I can’t imagine how they are worth the premium price.  I almost bought the Sennheisers again but couldn’t find them on sale for a sufficiently low price to justify it.  So I started looking at alternatives. And now I fly with noise isolation headphones instead, and I can’t believe I ever flew with just the noise canceling ones.

The noise isolation headphones are basically ear plugs with speakers inside.  They block something like 30 dB of noise versus the ~10 dB that noise canceling headphones will handle.  And they are remarkably effective.  I wear them while riding the subway around New York City and find it hard to believe how little I hear.  I actually take them out when walking on the street so I can hear the traffic and not get hit by a car (I came close the other day).  I have the $150 version from Shure and they are truly fantastic, as long as you don’t mind having earplugs in.  Oh, and no batteries and the Shures are small like normal headphones, so no extra bulk to deal with.

The other major change I made was getting a new computer.  This is where losing six pounds comes in to play.  I used to carry around a Dell Latitude D630.  It was huge, which meant a great big screen but also a great big load to carry around.  With the extra battery that I had in the media bay it was pretty much an eight pound brick that I was lugging around everywhere I went.  Looking to drop a lot of weight I started to look at the NetBook options out there and ended up happier than I could have ever imagined.  I now carry a two pound Acer AspireOne and it is phenomenal.

For starters, it only weighs two pounds.  That is the six pounds I dropped.  The screen is a little small, but it lets me write, review photos and otherwise work (I use it as my only computer now).  The processor may be “underpowered” by current technology standards, but it is plenty powerful to run everything I need it to do.  It was less than $400 to buy, so if if dies or is confiscated by customs I’m not really out all that much.  And, by the way, did I mention that it is only two pounds?

Seriously, if you travel with a laptop and it isn’t a NetBook form-factor it is time to buy one.  And, for those of you who prefer to run the Mac OS there are folks out there who have converted some of the NetBooks to run the Mac OS X.  It can be done in many situations.  Considering that it costs less than half the price of a refurbished MacBook Air the NetBook is not an option that should be ignored.  Trust me; your back will thank you.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. I remember when I used to travel around with an HP ZD7000, the first in their line of desktop replacement laptops. It weighed almost twelve pounds and had a desktop P4 processor in it, which was amazing for the time (2004?). Moving down to a six pound unit was amazing.

  2. I love my Bose headsets, and sadly they take up a huge amount of space in my carry-on. But I don’t really like earbuds (though my wife is a big fan of her Shure and would endorse your recommendation).

    I got an HP Mini 2133 last year and it definitely is a nice improvement even over my fairly lightweight Thinkpad X60 tablet. I might upgrade to the 2140 later this year when the high-res version comes out.

  3. I agree that a higher res version would be great, but I have come up with a pretty reasonable solution for now. I just zoom out on the apps. In FireFox or IE it is Ctrl+- to make everything in the window smaller, and it works pretty darn well. Some images skew funny when you do that, but the overall effect is basically like increasing the screen resolution back to a “normal” size. It doesn’t work with everything, so some admin/work tasks are still not so great, but for general web browsing, webmail, blogging, etc. it works just great.

    And I agree that the earplug feeling of the Shures is not for everyone. But I love mine.

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