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The Globe-Trotting Linux Geek: Staying Connected and Working Remotely - page 2

Geek on the road

  • August 12, 2009
  • By Juliet Kemp

My big connectivity problem was whilst crossing the Pacific and Atlantic (on a cargo freighter). There is no internet at sea. Actually that's not strictly true: the captain had satellite email, so essential emails could be sent, but I couldn't check my own mail or get web access. An Iridium phone would have worked, but for me it wasn't worth the cost and hassle. Being offline altogether for three weeks was strange – probably the longest time I've spent without net access in the last 13 years.

Writing itself is really the easy part. Having said that, writing about servers when everything you have an account on is the wrong side of the world can be an interesting (and slooooow) experience. Using the eeepc – the only Linux box I had locally – as server was even more interesting. But the freedom of being able to do my job from anywhere I wanted to go (beaches and cafes all around the world!) was fantastic. I became sufficiently good at writing whilst on trains that I now use that as an excuse to head off and visit people ("I can work on the train!"). Net access is of course spotty on trains, but this can be an active advantage as it provides fewer distractions.

I also had life-details to deal with, in particular money. Online banking is great; although less so when my bank introduced those card-reading machines a month before I got back. Cash is easy to get hold of abroad these days: I never had a problem finding an ATM. Having a local bank account when you're in a country for a while is useful, but shutting it down again if you fail to do so before you leave can be an enormous nuisance. (Although in the end ANZ, my Australian bank, were very helpful.) I did return to a truly gigantic pile of mail on my desk (helpfully opened for me by my partner). If you don't have a Helpful Partner, other options for mail are redirects (though I wouldn't want to trust that internationally), PO boxes (less useful if you're actively on the move), and Poste Restante. Sadly, Poste Restante seems to be much less reliable now than it was the last time I used it, in India six years ago.

Finally, there's the social life issue. Vanishing off to the other side of the world involves leaving people behind, and therefore trying to keep in some kind of contact with them. IM and Skype are both fantastic. Mobile roaming charges are astronomical (and it costs nearly as much to receive calls); a local pre-pay phone is worth it for anything more than about a month. Letters are great too, but see above about the perils of poste restante (when I got back to the UK, my mother handed me a letter that she'd sent to Vietnam eight months earlier and which had returned to the UK the week before I did).

It's been an interesting experience, and much more straightforward than I originally feared. It's nice to be back in the UK now and to have a base again – but I'm much more relaxed now about picking up my laptop and taking off for a few days, even if that's only locally. And I have absolutely no intention of returning to the 9-to-5!

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