Staying Connected When Abroad

Traveling abroad is fun. It is a rich, rewarding practice that gives you insight into a fuller spectrum of the human experience around the globe, and gives you a deeper understanding of the globe you dance around the solar system on. But unless you’ve got a small mountain of plug extensions, access to Wi-Fi, and a few bars in the upper right-hand corner of your phone, you might find it hard to share your newfound connection to the world with your friends and family back home.

Don’t Fry Your Device: Get the Right Plug

Before you go abroad, start by backing up your electrical devices. Frying your laptop on a wonky chain of electrical plugs connected to an outlet strip connected to an extension cord is terrible, but it’s even worse if you don’t have your files backed up elsewhere. All the pictures and beauty of your trip can be fried with one bad decision to plug in on a “maybe this will work” situation. Bringing a full array of plugs, or just double checking that there isn’t an alternative plug, or that your continent specific plug will work in that particular country will help avoid a daisy-chain of borrowed plugs from other international travelers — and save you some luggage space. There are only 15 plug styles, so finding the one that works for you, shouldn’t be difficult.

Stay Connected Securely (Especially for Work)

It’s wonderful to get a vacation where you can slingshot yourself into the wind, and completely forget you work for a living until you get back. But, realistically, if you’re running your own business, or are an irreplaceable member of the staff, you will need to check your email about once a week. If your job depends on internet access to process credit cards, or talk with clients, it’s important to ensure access to a secure connection before you go.

Private Wi-Fi through a trusted source, like the password protected one at your local hotel or cafe, will help you avoid some of the downfalls of an open network. It is also great to update your security systems before you go. Keep in mind that an HTTPS site will offer you a little more protection (especially if you’re putting in your credit card number), but won’t be failsafe.

If you’re getting online to handle your finances or business, be extra wary by using the most secure version of the site (updating your WordPress making changes), and making sure all your client correspondence is secure. Extra security is helpful, like using a client portal instead of email while abroad, using e-signatures, setting a firewall, or using a VPN.

Wi-Fi: What to Expect

Whether you’re looking for public, super fast Wi-Fi, or just want to hop online, looking into the availability of Wi-Fi will help you determine if a country-specific-sim card is necessary. Double-check the availability of service in the country. You may be able to get away with Wi-Fi calling instead of paying for in-country service (or if you’re lucky, you might have both). You can always travel with a portable charger, take tons of pictures while out and about, waiting until you get back in service to upload. You will probably be able to find some sort of service or Wi-Fi (even North Korea has a popular mobile phone service).

Can You Call Home?

Wi-Fi is great, but it is nice to be able to pick up your phone and call your family back home. You can start off with an unlocked GSM (it’s a sort of unlocked cellphone) and plug in a different SIM card. Skype and Facebook calls use Wi-Fi and can be a little cheaper than spending minutes. Calling cards are also a pretty good option if you aren’t planning to use your phone, but need to make an emergency call.

Staying connected while abroad can be hard, especially if it’s your first time. Start with a way to charge your device, use a secure line (especially if you’re doing work), get on Wi-Fi,and give yourself a chance to call home.