I’ve just spent seven weeks wandering Thailand, Vietnam and India. Here’s a review of the technology I used during this trip and an assessment of what worked and what didn’t.
Internet access is the key to travelling and living on the cloud. Generally speaking Internet access was freely available in Thailand, not so in Vietnam or India. In India in particular, most people rely on mobile phones and few have email addresses. We sought hotels that provided internet access with mixed success. Even if they advertised they did, the speed and usefulness of their connections was often slow and unworkable. As an alternative the Internet Cafe became a regular haunt.
Apple Mac Air 8/10
I bought an Apple Mac Air before I left. Whilst it took a lot of time to set up prior to leaving, it was light, small and fitted into my day bag.
I am completely infatuated with the sexy aluminium skin of the Mac Air. And, in an act of heresy I did buy a hard shell case for my Mac Air. If I was solely travelling around in Australia I wouldn’t have bothered. I just felt I wanted some extra insurance whilst travelling. It came through with barely a scratch.
The only thing I needed was an ethernet cable to log directly into the internet at an Internet Cafe. Again, unlikely to need this at home and a must-have for travelling.
Norman – Thanks for advising me to go with the small one – the 11 inch screen. It was the right choice!
The single best move I made was to put all my files onto Dropbox before I left and synced them to my Mac Air. The Mac Air only has a 256gb hard drive and I knew this would get clogged quickly with all the photos and videos I took. Dropbox saved the day! The Dropbox files are not actually stored on the hard drive and you can still access them without an internet connection. Any files you edit are then synced back to Dropbox when you do have an internet connection. I don’t know how this works and it’s pure genius! Highly recommended as a backup solution from the cloud and as the perfect travelling companion.
Portable Hard Drive 7/10
This was another insurance policy mostly for photos and video. One extra copy in case something went wrong. Nothing did. I think it’s a compulsory item and hopefully you won’t need it.
Google Gmail 3/10
My whole business relies on Gmail. I have six websites and all my email addresses feed into one Gmail account through Google Apps. It usually works flawlessly. Except, this time it became the big disaster of my trip.
My Google Apps account became due for renewal in the middle of my trip. No big deal, I’ll just pay it. Except I was in Thailand and the form came up in Thai. I don’t read Thai.
Google pages read the IP address you log on with. This means if you are Thailand, the pages come up in Thai. If in Vietnam, the pages come up in Vietnamese, etc. If you’re on the Google home page, this is fine because there is a small button to convert to english. Not so when you log into your Gmail. At times, I logged in and couldn’t read a word. Not useful!
Without being able to pay my Google Apps account I was locked out of all of my email. Ten days without email was not ideal for someone wanting to run an online business via the cloud.
Part of the problem was the lack of Google support. Emails were generic and unhelpful. My issue wasn’t in their help menu. And there was no way to contact them.
In the finish I had to log into an old Gmail account, have someone who reads Thai translate for me. Then the Google Checkout form failed four times.
Eventually, it was solved and within a few hours my business was alive again.
Be warned when all your eggs are in one basket you risk a big fall. I’ll have to have a backup plan for this not to happen again.
Facebook was going to be my way of keeping in touch with friends, family and colleagues. I was going to post regular photos and comments. Alas, for various reasons it didn’t turn out this way. At times it worked, and sometimes it didn’t.
- Due to slow internet connections, photos had to be compressed to be added. One step too many.
- In Vietnam, there is no access to Facebook. “The server does not exist.” We’d forgotten it is a socialist country.
- I didn’t want to be logging into too many sites with private log-in details in Internet Cafes everywhere. My preference, dial in from my computer. Unfortunately the lack of wireless access thwarted this.
I think the key to Facebook as your travel diary is to focus solely on it. I didn’t and think I missed it’s awesome power.
I only used Skype once on my trip. I made a call to a client and friend for over an hour. It was as clear as a bell and cost me nothing. Brilliant! The internet speed was clearly good in Bangkok on this occasion. I don’t think Skype would have been as viable elsewhere. Worth testing and I wouldn’t rely on it.
UPDATE: 22 Feb: Arrived home and found a message from Google support re: the closure of my account within a day of it happened. Now that’s good service! And, in my eyes warrants their score move up from 3 to 5. The only downside was that I didn’t have my mobile with me when travelling!