January 8, 2013
“How did anyone travel before the internet? I guess we did, but I would be lost without it now. It is our lifeline to the rest of the world. An internet connection is at the top of our list when looking for our next lodging.”
Our computer keeps us connected to the rest of the world. Back in Minnesota, our son collects our mail and tries to keep us abreast of anything needing our attention. We have our bills set up on automatic payment. Our account at Wells Fargo lets us pay anything that is not automatic. We set up a phone number through Skype. We can make and receive calls to and from the US, 800# are free, the rest cost about 4 cents a minute. Video Skyping always helps us feel like we are not so far away.
We have had excellent luck with Toshiba laptop computers. The computer that I came with was in rough shape due to Apex running across the keys and knocking off two. It hung in there for another 1 1/2 years. The new one we brought suffered a blow. The strap on our backpack broke and the computer hit a corner: messed up the hinge. We eventually replaced it since we wanted two functioning computers. You do not want to buy a computer in South America. They are VERY expensive!
Some features we have enjoyed: backlit keyboard, HDMI output (can hook to TV), video camera (a must for Skyping), and upgraded Wi-Fi & battery life. One computer we got with a solid-state hard drive – possibly survives better in the rough roads.
When working online, you have to keep the time change in mind. Since we went south instead of east or west, we only vary by a few hours from home. It was actually harder to keep track of the time differences between the countries of South America. Each country had their own idea of what time of the day it was. To make it more challenging, Argentina decides on an annual basis whether to do daylight savings or not. A few years ago they experimented with different zones for north versus south.
We soon found that Wi-Fi is not a given…even if a lodging says it has it. Also, the strength may fluctuate or disappear…sometimes for days. Since we are so dependent on the internet not only for information but also for planning the next leg of our trip, it became our top priority when looking for lodging. We had great internet in Montevideo. Our place in Piriapolis did not have internet. We thought having a 3G stick with Movistar would work out well, but it was expensive. Not great when it came to downloading books. We decided future lodging needed to have internet.
Speaking of lodging, we were always booking our next stop. It took time to find lodging that accepted dogs and was in our price range. Then, we read the reviews: amazing how many times we were alerted to a place that was misrepresented. We used the dotcoms of VRBO, airbnb, booking, and TripAdvisor. Between the four of them, we usually had enough choices. Having dogs definitely shortened the list. One time we entered our specifics: 130 options…then we added the dogs: 3 left. Do not travel with pets if you are not willing to go through many hassles. Border crossings go to a whole new level of difficulty.
Just thought of one more thing: We bought upgraded computer headphones with a mic. They have been useful when using our computer for calls in noisy places.