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.

Map of Goa, India


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?

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

  1. Hi there ! I don’t normally do this but I had to comment and tell you how much I adore your blog! I just came across it now and I am so happy I have, it is so wonderful and you truly have a great blog. I am going to follow you so I can keep up to date with all of your latest posts. Keep up the great work!

    1. Hello! Thanks for stopping by and the follow! Your kind words are incredibly encouraging – something to return to every now and then!

      1. You are so sweet to message me back! You are so welcome, your blog is wonderful and I am so happy I came across it!
        Do you have Twitter or Instagram? I would love to follow you!

  2. Speaking of Ubuntu for the laptop, I was looking forward to Ubuntu Mobile to take off. Sad it didn’t. So much wanted to get out of Android and iOS systems…

    1. Thanks for stopping by! Yes, it seems we have to wait longer before Gnome versions become popular for smart phones.

    1. Yes Esperanza Scotto! As backpackers we are constantly looking for low maintenance and reliable things and Ubuntu is just that for us!

  3. This sounds like an awesome product! I have never gone backpacking but I do try to travel light, so it could be helpful to me.

  4. I got the new insight here. Since I just began my backpacking journey, I think ubuntu could really helpful for me.

    1. Hi Jefferson. Yes, we would recommend you consider Ubuntu OS. Its Open Source and very intuitive. We have been using it for many years now and just love it!

  5. What a wonderful OS for backpackers. I have heard of it through geek friends but didn’t know that it was especially useful to backpackers.

    1. Hey Kemi. Yes, its useful for Backpackers as there is no cost of maintenance, its intuitive, no virus management / software needed and serves all the purposes for which you would have to pay otherwise.

  6. This is exciting! You have great adventures I can only admire from my computer screen. I didn’t know Ubuntu had the portable OS. That’s cool!

    1. Thanks for stopping by and we would strongly urge you to also have similar adventures out of the screen too! Ya.. isn’t portable OS super cool! Ubuntu rocks.

  7. I believe Ubuntu is a great OS…my son has been using it for sometime now and seems happy with it…speci spec with the amount of projects he does…
    You have covered all aspects a n so much of fine details..

    1. Thanks Krish. We are not surprised your son is happy with Ubuntu! We are working on multiple projects all the time and keep getting surprised ourselves with all the things Ubuntu offers!

  8. Our computer laboratory uses Ubuntu! It’s really great. The only problem I see is the compatibility of files to other OS.

    1. Thanks Karla. We are delighted that your laboratory is using Ubuntu. Really nice to see it a part of the mainstream. We have been using LibreOffice which offers to save files in Microsoft format also.

  9. Omg we are so daft! ???? Initially we thought Ubuntu was a village in Africa and that this was an article about it haha! Nevertheless, great to know more about new technology!

    1. Haha. You are close to some extent though. The African word ‘ubuntu’ roughly means ‘I am because we are’. The Ubuntu operating system brings that philosophy to the field of computing as its an open source!

  10. Wow, never heard of Ubuntu but after reading your post, I am curious for this type of Operating system. As you said it is handy, works on Linux then it is the perfect and reliable travel companion. During traveling, accessing our laptops on the public network is always a risky option, but as Ubuntu has its own firewall, then it is truly reliable to use on public networks or Internet cafes. Thanks for sharing!

  11. Not really thought much about what operating system as I would normally travel with my regular laptop and that choice is made according to best choice for my regular working life, rather than the travel time. But am very intrigued by the suggestion of Ubuntu on a USB stick and using that to improve security in an internet cafe. Need to learn more on that!

    1. Sure Kavita. There is a lot that Ubuntu can do and how its a traveller’s kernel. We totally suggest to give it a try 🙂

  12. I’ve never heard of this and was intrigued! I am not a backpacker myself, but I can see why this would be a great choice for backpackers who have to really think about their packing choices.

    1. Well Candy, anyone who works on a desktop or laptop can benefit from adopting Ubuntu as an operating system! Its free and very intuitive to use!

  13. This is the first time I’ve heard of Ubuntu! Very interesting and sounds like it is useful. Will need to look into it more sometime!

  14. I have several more techy friends who have switched to Ubuntu. Target-wise, they’d be kind of the opposite of Apple consumers. But from what I read, you don’t have to be that tech-savvy to use Ubuntu and it seems more friendly and mainstream than I thought. You’ve given me some food for thought 🙂

  15. This is definitely a new product for me – I’ve never heard of it but looks like it can do a lot, especially for the avid backpacker. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you Christen! We have been using Ubuntu OS for a very long time. We are glad you liked the insights shared in this post!

  16. Wow, what an incredible product! And free?! This would be so useful for travel blogging, I’m so glad I saw this. Thanks for the tips!

    1. True that Erica! Ubuntu is a great Blogging Hack and we have been quite excited about our experiences with the operating system.

  17. I find it fascinating that you can carry the Ubuntu operating system on a flash drive! That would save a lot of space (and weight) in a backpack!

  18. I have never heard of Ubuntu Operating System before but sounds like a great product and that it does a lot. Something I would definitely check out. Btw I love how they come up with the name too roughly meaning ‘I am because we are’.

    1. Yes, the name Ubuntu has such a beautiful meaning. Being open source operating system, where everyone is supporting each other, this is a great example of “I am because you are”. We are pretty happy with Ubuntu and definitely recommend it 🙂

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