General Practice, Solo & Small Firm DivisionMagazine / J. Michael Jimmerson

Traveling and Staying Connected

Traveling abroad is exciting. Going to Europe or Asia for the first time, you can’t help being overwhelmed by the many new sights, sounds, and people. However, if you need to connect back home to pick up e-mail or documents, being overseas can mean a communications blackout unless you have planned appropriately.

The key to functioning when traveling is to be prepared. Most road warriors appreciate this concept and pack accordingly. Unfortunately, key differences between countries can throw a monkey wrench into the works. Specifically, you must pay close attention to power and telephone systems in each country you intend to visit. Like anything, the key is to be prepared.

When you travel the world, you will encounter various power outlet configurations. In general, the same power outlets are found in the same region. For example, Western Europe shares one configuration, Africa another. Some countries are transitioning from one system to another so you need to be careful. For example, in France, they are moving from a flush mounted outlet to an inset outlet. Some adapters may not work on the newer systems.

Several companies make regional power adapters (Samsonite and TeleAdapt) and these are an excellent option if you are traveling to more than one country. TeleAdapt ( is a good option because it provides both individual country and regional power packs. These cover approximately 260 countries throughout the world. A word of caution here: these power packs do not convert voltage. If you are using a laptop, you must make sure that it is rated for international use.

Having power is important but the next challenge is communications. Like power outlets, telephone systems throughout the world vary widely. Before you can connect to the phone system in your hotel, you must have the proper adapter. In addition, your modem must be compatible with international systems. 3COM and others make global modems that can be used anywhere in the world.

Even with the proper adapter, the phone must be able to handle tone dialing. On a recent trip to London, I could not connect through the hotel phone system despite my best efforts. Even if you are prepared, the infrastructure may not cooperate. Also, the communications companies may inhibit your ability to connect back home. For example, while traveling in Mexico recently, I could not access e-mail or the Internet because my hotel phone could not dial out directly. All calls had to go through the switchboard. Try that using a modem. Even dialing in for voice mail was a nightmare. So I just resigned myself to foregoing e-mail and hanging on the beach. Oh well!

Even if you have mastered both the power and telephone systems, you need to stay prepared. Traveling abroad, you should maintain a heightened sense of security for your computer equipment. Always keep your computer case firmly in hand, particularly when traveling through airports. In fact, when I hop in a cab, I never put my computer case in the trunk ever since I had a cab driver speed away from me at Newark Airport with my bags still locked in the trunk. In the hotel room, you should keep your computer equipment secured with a cable such as the DefCon1 from Port or a Kensington computer cable. Alternatively, consider locking your notebook in the hotel room safe when you are out. Above all, remain vigilant.

Finally, just because you can use your notebook on the road does not mean you must. Take a break and enjoy the change of scenery. CL

J. Michael Jimmerson is a lawyer, author and legal technologist. He is a manager in the Legal Business Solutions team at Arthur Andersen. He is the co-author of A Survival Guide for Road Warriors, a best-selling book on mobile computing for lawyers, published by the American Bar Association. He can be reached by phone (312/507-3005) or by e-mail at (

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