I originally wrote this post back in 2007. Certain links have been updated so that they point to the Internet Archive.
I’ve had a few people ask me how I manage to stay connected. I am, for example, writing this particular article as I sit in the strikingly rustic lobby of a hotel near Austin. Just 15 years ago, what I’m doing today wouldn’t have been possible. Of course, technology has changed dramatically since then, and it is now possible to remain attached to the real world from any place you might decide to roam.
If you’re a serious traveler, then it’s a good idea to own a truly mobile laptop computer. Japanese imports, especially those svelte gadgets offered by companies like Dynamism, are usually the best suited for this purpose. My personal laptop is an ultralight Sony TX series, which weighs in at well under three pounds and follows me almost everywhere I go. It comes with the added benefit of having a ten hour battery life, making it especially useful in the car, on a plane, or anywhere else an electrical connection might not be available.
But what good is a mobile computer without an Internet connection? Despite the fact that almost any laptop built today is going to have support for 802.11b/g/n (i.e., Wi-Fi) connectivity, there isn’t a Starbucks on every street corner just yet, and public networks are still relatively scarce in rural areas. As a result, a large number of wireless providers are now offering mobile broadband cards that can be used in conjunction with your laptop computer. An unlimited access plan usually runs about $50 per month, and provides you with near-broadband connectivity. There is one caveat: Latency, sometimes over 500 ms, will prevent you from playing certain video games or using services (SSH, for example) that mandate a low-latency connection.
In addition to my laptop computer, I also carry a Palm Treo smartphone, which allows me to accept calls and read new e-mail while I’m on the road. In addition, my bundled data plan offers unlimited Internet connectivity, which I sometimes use to check my favorite Web sites. The Treo can also be used as a wireless modem (see PdaNet) with some carriers, removing the need altogether for a mobile broadband card. It should be noted that this gadget still has a number of show stopping problems, however, and should not be depended on as one’s sole device.
The availability of this technology might prompt you with one final question. Do you want the real world to follow you on your travels? While some people — myself included, apparently — don’t seem to mind it, others still do. If you think that you might be one of those people, then it could be best to simply disconnect and enjoy life.
Image Credit: “IMG_2653.jpg” by kalcul – originally posted to Flickr. Used under the Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license.