Keeping in Touch

Letters

We’re often asked questions like “how do you get your mail?” Truth is, we don’t get very much now! Think about it: we can do our banking and manage our credit cards online. There are no utility bills, because we’ve sold the house. Apart from that, I bet most of the mail we used to get was junk, so that’s no loss!  We do have a mailing address. We use Traveling Mailbox. There’s a monthly fee, with a number of levels you can choose from. We get an email with an image of the envelope, whenever there’s new mail, and then we have choices. We can have them open and scan the inside, then we can either save it as a PDF, or delete it, or have it forwarded to us. If we know what it is, and it’s something we’re expecting, we get it forwarded. Traveling Mailbox will forward our mail to (as far as I know) anywhere in the world. There’s a small fee, plus the postage cost. This service has worked very well for us since we’ve been travelling.

Phone

We were living in the USA before we became permanent travellers, so we set up a US-based T-Mobile cell phone service.  There’s no annual or monthly contract required, unlimited data and texts are included with their international plan and in a very large number of countries, calls are only 20 cents a minute. We have however been caught out while in Belize, which is NOT on the list of 20 cents a minute countries! Nor is the Cook Islands. But lots of countries are, and this is a great plan. Even Nomadic Matt recommends it! Using the same phone everywhere we are, means we keep the same number, so in case of emergencies, family and friends can reach us easily. If you’re in a country where calls are much higher than 20 cents a minute, if you’re staying somewhere with free wifi, set your phone to make calls over the wifi, and you’re golden! For local calls, we either buy a cheap local phone, or a local SIM card to use in our unlocked phones.

Internet

What did travellers do pre-internet?! It is SO easy to make travel and accommodation reservations online, look up top sights to see, restaurant listings, etc etc if you have an internet connection! We have been in places where the connection is slow, or expensive (Yellowstone National Park!), then we just have to tailor our usage accordingly. As added protection when accessing email, or banking or credit card websites, or buying online, we use a VPN service. There are several out there, the one we use is Hotspot Shield. A VPN (Virtual Private Network) shields your online traffic, and gives protection to your personal information and passwords from potential hackers. There’s lots more detailed useful information here on Nomadic Matt’s site. Of course if you’re using a computer in an internet café, you won’t be able to use a VPN, so don’t check your bank account in a café!  If we have good internet connections, not only can we make our travel bookings, but we can update the blog on the road, keep up with email, and chat with friends on social networks.

Skype

Most people know about Skype, it’s a terrific way to contact people, if you both have an internet connection. Skype accounts are free, and as long as your connection is reasonable, you can chat to the folks back home easily. I also discovered that you can use Skype to phone landlines! My 85 year old mum doesn’t use a computer, but we still like to keep in touch. For a very reasonable fee, I bought an English phone number – mum can phone my Skype number, for free (it’s a local call for her) and either reach me direct, or leave a voicemail. I also pre-bought minutes to phone England, so I can regularly phone mum on her landline from Skype on my laptop, and keep in contact. You can also pay-as-you-go, but if you’re going to phone one country regularly, it’s better value to pre-pay for a package.

Cloud Printers

My previously mentioned mum won’t use a computer, but still has internet at her house, from when my internet-using dad was still alive. When we were in England last year, we bought her a cloud-enabled printer (most current printers are cloud-enabled), set it up on her wifi, and with a bit of software and a bit of fiddling, got my laptop connected to mum’s printer, through the magic of the internet. So now, when I’m on the road, I can write letters, include photos, and when I have an internet connection, I press Print, and my letters will print out on mum’s printer in England! It’s magic and she loves it! I can also share the printer information with other family and friends, so that they too can print notes and pictures to mum. This is a great way to stay connected. I also have the app on my phone, so I can instantly send her photos or a note from my phone.

Also don’t forget to back up your documents and photos in the cloud. Read this cautionary tale!

Not having a permanent address is really no barrier to staying connected to the world!

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