Ubuntu in a Backpack

Ubuntu in a Backpack: A Traveler’s Kernel

In 2016, Abhijeet Deshpande traveled five months in Goa for a writing assignment. Besides a 60 liter backpack, he carried a laptop to draft stories on the move. He uses a 7-year old, sturdy, 12.1 inch ThinkPad X201i weighing about 1.5 kg. That it was powered by Ubuntu Operating System made his life easier. Here are his top reasons why Ubuntu is a great traveling companion.


For budget travelers, one of our needs is to travel longer and farther on less and lesser. We save to invest in experiences that matter. For backpackers therefore, the synergy with Ubuntu operating system is natural. Ubuntu is absolutely free. No hidden costs. It. Is. Free. Which means I not only save on the first installation, but also on every subsequent upgrade. What’s more? Ubuntu’s application environment is absolutely free too. I use LibreOffice to draft production quality documents, GIMP and Shotwell to work on images and pictures, VLC to watch videos, and Thunderbird and Firefox to check emails and surf the Internet respectively. Over the past few years, I have saved top dollars by merely switching to Ubuntu.


Living a minimalist life, backpackers know the value of comfort and ease of doing things. While traveling, there are important things (finding a clean bed to sleep, good local food) that need our time. We also nurture our hobbies of yoga, running, diving, photography, reading, or even juggling. Unless you are a tech-enthusiast, figuring how to use a laptop is not one of them. This is where Ubuntu’s powerful user interface comes in. For a Linux platform, its usability was not something that people spoke of. But, from a geeky technology known for its rock solid core, Linux has emerged as a mainstay for many of today’s leading computing platforms. From Apple’s Mac OS, iPhone’s iOS, to Google’s Android – they all have certain form of Linux at its core. Yet, no user manuals necessary! While Apple’s and Google’s systems are proprietary, Ubuntu is open source.


Other than the cost-savings on operating system, related upgrades, or the application ecosystem, Ubuntu has saved me anti-virus expenses. Linux provides a sandboxed environment and as such malware and ransomware are either not built for it or do not spread like a wildfire. An average user does not need to bother spending on annual anti-virus subscriptions and yet live with the fear of infection. Being on Ubuntu, the only thing I’ve had to do is to be up-to-date with the patches. Other than that, Canonical* – the company behind Ubuntu, provides a 5-years’ technical helpline on every Long Term Support (LTS) release. All for free.


My clients require travel stories in the popular Microsoft Word version. Ubuntu comes bundled with the LibreOffice Suite supporting a range of formats and Adobe Reader takes care of PDF files. Then there’s the Software Center (like an App Store) that has everything you’d need. For instance, I use GIMP graphics editor to review or edit image files created with Adobe Photoshop. Besides, there’s a host of other applications for photographs, music and video.


Backpackers around the world share a certain code. We may use the public transport and sleep on a bunk bed, but when it comes to creativity and design, we are usually – demanding. We go lengths to buy that perfect gear; be it a real army knife, a pair of shades, or gadgets. Intuitiveness clubbed with style makes Ubuntu an endearing fit. You may look up the range of Ubuntu wallpapers and stunning artwork on the Internet. To a large extent, it is Ubuntu’s design efforts that have made it a sticky choice.

Lightweight Hack

Continuing with backpacker’s code. While we do not mind carrying a guitar, a ukulele, or sometimes even a set of speakers to do what we love, we often discuss ways to cut down even a few grams, preferring to go ultra-light. Decisions like packing one pair of shorts versus two can take time. After all, there are times when we walk hours, carrying backpacks on our shoulders, before we find a hostel. So, unless you must carry a laptop, here’s a hack: Ubuntu is available on a stick. Yes, your own portable operating system. Simply carry a bootable USB drive, walk into an Internet cafe, and boot from the stick. Doing so, cuts down anywhere between 1 – 3 kg, depending on the type of laptop you use. This is particularly helpful when accessing confidential documents on the cloud, or when dealing with sensitive data, such as Bitcoin transactions!


Backpackers often volunteer with local organizations. We understand volunteering. The Ubuntu Open Source project is one such act of volunteering. The African word ‘ubuntu’ roughly means ‘I am because we are’. The operating system brings that philosophy to the field of computing. Can we show some love to the people (many may not travel as much) who have developed this free, fast, and stylishly simple operating system? Can we volunteer to try Ubuntu?

Whether you are making music, writing a novel, working with pictures, or with office communications, there’s a certain ‘I am because we are’ in each one of us.

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Have you tried Ubuntu as your travel companion? How was your experience? We would love to hear from you (please scroll below to leave a comment).

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5 thoughts on “Ubuntu in a Backpack: A Traveler’s Kernel

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