Challenges of communication on the road
Keeping in touch while you're wandering
Living full time in a 19-foot Airstream provides an incredible amount of freedom. The ability to pick up and go wherever and whenever you want is more addicting than I ever imagined. Although living a nomadic life brings quite a few challenges, the most difficult to manage is simple communication. Now, I'm not talking about communication between yourself and your traveling partner (after all, they are rarely less than two feet away), but rather communication between yourself and your friends, family and businesses.
I have come to realize that most fulltimers travel from one spot to another, often staying up to a month or more in an RV park. However, we prefer to get up and go at least once a week and find out-of-the-way locations, which often do not support WiFi or cellular service. So our communication challenges are a bit more complex than what you would likely encounter if you stayed in RV parks for longer periods of time.
As is common among fulltimers, prior to leaving on our big adventure we set up a box at a mail drop location and transferred all our snail mail correspondence there. Since we have electronic banking, we don’t get a lot of snail mail anymore. However, there is still the odd item that need to be delivered. So every few weeks a friend of ours gathers the mail and forwards it to us wherever we may be.
At first we were having her forward it to RV parks where we were planning to stay. However, preferring to be more nomadic than that level of planning required, we began having it sent to the post office under general delivery. Yes, this old-fashioned method of retrieving mail is still around in the U.S. Simply have the package addressed to yourself and General Delivery at the address of the main post office in any city. The post office’s generosity in holding packages for up to 30 days provides us with the freedom of movement that we so crave.
Of note, there are quite a few private services that will open your forwarded mail and either read it to you or scan the documents and email them to you. I was uncomfortable with that and preferred a more private method.
Like any good modern-day consumer, I had become quite proficient at online shopping during our pre-nomadic life. However, being on the road means not always having a shipping address when you need it. To compensate for this, we became more buyers than shoppers. When we spot something we need (when living in 19 feet, you buy only what you need) we would purchase it immediately rather than researching and buying the best deal on the internet. Sometimes, though, you simply have to order online. There are some handy options for this, including shipping to the post office by general delivery as previously mentioned or using the ship-to-store option that most major retailers offer. Like the post office, they will hold your package for 30 days and sometimes longer.
The last communication challenge is the most important by far: the ability to connect with loved ones not travelling with you. Of course, email is great, as are social networking sites like Facebook and Google Plus. After that there is the old-fashioned cell phone call. But nothing quite beats the ability to talk face to face that services like Skype and some smart phones provide. The downside of a smart phone application is that both people have to have a smart phone and both people get charged for use. In contrast, most people already own a computer, many computers have built-in cameras, and using Skype is free.
However, as I mentioned before, we are often not in locations that offer WiFi or good cell reception. To combat this, we purchased a cell booster and a WiFi booster. These devices will increase the level of reception. You still need a modicum of service, but they often enhance the signal enough to allow a decent telephone call or access to the internet.
Since I believe life becomes more abundant when shared, I hope some of these communication ideas will help you enjoy more time on the road and, even better, share your adventures with the people you love.
For more on our adventures, please visit our blog at http://www.sltandppr.blogspot.com.