Another godd idea is to obtain one of the live cds. This lets you experiment with Linux without partitioning drives, etc.
Right said joe knoppix is a very good one.
Just carry a disk where ever you go and boot it to a computer and bingo thats all you need .... Just might need it to make a small swap file on the disk.
I had used it in my prev company when the proxy server HDD crashed due to power supply issues.