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July 23, 2013

My Surface Story: 57 Days in Ho Chi Minh City with Surface RT

My Surface Story is a special series on the Surface Blog. We’re featuring the stories of real people using Surface as they work, play, and travel. Posts are written by Surface users, and we’re excited to see the many ways that Surface lets people Click In and Do More. Next up in our series is Ava Van (@Ava_Van) who shares with us how Surface RT enhanced her travels while she spent time volunteering at an orphanage in Vietnam.

A recent alumna from Seattle Pacific University, Ava is an entrepreneur, photographer & journalist and aspiring TV reporter. She recently embarked on a two-month humanitarian trip, where she volunteered full-time at an orphanage caring for children – most of whom were disabled. Passionate about inspiring others to do the same, she teamed up with media organizations to tell stories of the young lives through her photography and journalism with her Surface RT.


Ava used her Surface RT throughout her travels

As I was preparing for my volunteer trip, a dream I’ve anticipated for almost a decade, I needed a tablet that could act as digital notebook to document everything in this special once-in-a lifetime opportunity on my blog: 57 Days in Ho Chi Minh. Working full-time at an orphanage in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, I wanted to blog my entire journey and share all my adventures. I had a big commitment to myself, including my local newspapers and everyone in my hometown to do reporting and photography work of my trip. On my blog I would go into great depth about everyday life at the orphanage, a goal I wanted to fulfill and hopefully inspire people to go to a third world country and give back. Surface RT was the perfect device for my on this trip, it allowed me to do all my work projects and more.


After comparing Surface RT to other devices before I left the States I realized that nothing even came close. I looked at the iPad 4, Samsung and Nexus tablets – all were decent, but didn’t include all the features that Surface offered without paying a fortune. Not to mention that with Surface, a single accessory (Touch Cover) meant that I had the full office experience I longed for without buying additional accessories (tablet stand, keyboard, cover to hold device, etc.).

During my trip, what I appreciated the most about the Surface was no matter where I was at in Vietnam; I could turn any place into an office with the Surface tablet. Most of the time, my office desk happened to be my suitcase with a nearby fan… Other times, it was at rundown cafe shop with tiny plastic chairs and a table. Sometimes, it was simply on my bed, on days when I was too tired to sit up for after working an eight-hour shift helping care for 19 babies, and then riding home on a three-hour bus ride. No matter where I was, my office could be set up in a matter of seconds.

Surface is a perfect size and weight, a quality that was very important to me. The screen is big enough to multi task and work through multiple projects. The thin and lightweight keyboard is another great bonus, it easily clicks in and serves as a protective cover for the screen. I like how I can express myself by personalizing the keyboard with a splash of pink. The sturdy built-in Kickstand made a huge difference for me and was a feature I noticed many other tablets didn’t have.


After every interview for my editorial projects for newspapers and magazines I simply transcribed everything as I replayed my digital voice recorder. For my photography projects, in less than a minute, all my images were uploaded. I couldn’t complain because I was able to get things done very quickly.


Finally what I also loved about having Surface with me was that I could stay in contact with my family and friends. If I wanted to connect with everyone on the other side of the world I could do that with Facebook and Skype, with the touch of a button I could talk with all my family and friends far away. The mail app was also handy, I used it to respond to viewers emails coming in from my blog, orphanage donors and media organizations. I was always in the loop with what was happening at home even though I was hundreds of miles away. Surface RT was the perfect companion for my trip across the world.

Ava Van
Seattle, WA