Have Tech, Will Travel
You just woke up at a quaint inn far from home, in a place where birds sing and wildflowers fill the hillsides. Pyramids, a horseback ride to Paricutin’s church mired in lava, and the falls of the Parque Eduardo Ruiz beckon. But first you need to call the office.
More options than ever are available, but picking and choosing which option can be an overwhelming proposition. Today’s traveler has more tools available than the Apollo 11 crew took to the moon. What works in Mexico, though, may not be the solution in the backwoods of Maine or plains of Burkina Faso. Communications options bear as much preliminary research as hotel room rates and flight schedules. Let’s look at some of those options.
Your basic cell phone plan may not include roaming, and coverage can be limited, but the right plan can enable access to email, the Internet, applications, and more. Even Verizon’s GlobalAccess (http://tinyurl.com/38r4pf) doesn’t cover the entire planet.
Unlocking your phone and inserting a prepaid phone card may be one solution.
VOIP works for those who’d like to pretend they’re in Austin, Texas, when they’re off in Buenos Aires. For those who’d prefer not to lug around a VOIP adapter, Vonage offers a thumb drive-sized V-Phone with a detachable earpiece microphone (http://vonage.com/device.php?type=VPHONE). Skype (www.skype.com) is another alternative, which John C. Treddenick, Jr., applauds at "Skype to the Rescue" in Law Technology Today (http://tinyurl.com/2a7fsk). These systems all require Internet access, which still isn’t everywhere. And some may block the ports required by VOIP.
If you’re not toting a laptop or if access isn’t available from a hotel room, many countries have Internet cafes on practically every block. If the keyboard happens to be in Gujarti or Lithuanian, a keyboard emulator at http://www.gate2home.com/ will make you feel right at home, typing away in English.
Your arsenal of electronic gear is worthless if you can’t connect. Sometimes it’s just easier and cheaper to have the office call you at designated times with updates and questions, just as we did in the good old days. Familiarize yourself with the time zones, and instruct the office how to call you, on a landline, on a cell phone, and on the VOIP. Calling procedures, particularly with cell phones, vary from country to country. Arm your staff and yourself with all phone numbers and contact information before leaving home. Give each option a trial run, and have a backup plan.
You don’t have to call the office every day. Remember, you’re on vacation. When you’re at home, you think twice before checking in during a three-day weekend. Please forgo the modern version of the "Wish you were here" postcard. There’s really no need to bore others with photos of your adventure and descriptions of the artisan markets, museums, and shimmering forests you're exploring.
jennifer. j. rose, a lawyer and writer living in Mexico, is editor-in-chief of GPSolo and secretary-elect of the GP|Solo Division. She can be reached at email@example.com.