Connecting while traveling internationally: No easy answers

For years now, when people asked me why I didn’t have a cell phone (no it wasn’t because I refused to keep up with technology) – I would tell them “as soon as a carrier makes it seamless to cross over the Canada-U.S. border and still have service, I will get one.” Finally this year, a Canadian carrier figured it out and the price stabilized to something reasonable. I signed on.

I traveled last spring and everything worked as promised. No extra charges; coverage 100% of the time (excluding super remote rural areas of course). However, on my most recent trip I ran into a few problems, not the fault of my carrier but more related to the nature of my phone use – I was contacting friends and family to make plans for visiting.

I was merrily texting and leaving phone messages. I did realize that for many people the only contact method I had for them was Skype, Facebook via messenger, or ultimately through email which we had been using for years because phoning was just not an option for them or for me given cost and borders.

Then it got tricky…

My granddaughter was asking me why I had her blocked. I was horrified – of course I didn’t have her blocked. We figured out it was because she could get my texts and voice mail but she couldn’t reply because she didn’t have either an iPhone or a service that let her respond to a Canadian phone number [No wonder I wasn’t getting answers from a few people I expected to respond]. I asked her what other messaging she used besides sms and specifically whether she used messenger – her answer “nothing” and “no, I don’t like it.” How is that for not wanting to keep up with technology, and she a post-millennial? We settled on email, but really, I know and you know that isn’t going to work, right?

One friend and I have always connected through skype and we settled that we would just keep doing that. I long ago cut down on skype use so I am not sure how well that will work.

Another friend who I have only ever connected with through FB sent me the message above and asked me the big question “What does the communication expert have to say?” I don’t know what to tell her but this has made me question how we stay in touch in such a globalized world and reminded me why “communication” can be so complicated (this particular example is merely a symptom).

Interestingly, searching the net doesn’t give us much of an answer about what to do when traveling internationally. There are of course things like buying a new sim card for each country (you can imagine the complications here I am sure); or there is advice on how to find free or cheap WiFi (not all that helpful); and then of course the least helpful perhaps, one-way stuff like write a blog or send a postcard. If you can get everybody onto the same app maybe that’s a solution but good luck with that venture.

So – no solutions here but feel free to comment on what you do to stay connected and make meet-up plans while traveling internationally.

twitter: @MLaFeverPhD

1 thought on “Connecting while traveling internationally: No easy answers”

  1. Hi Marcella! Ariana does what you suggested. She gets a new phone number each time she comes to the US, a new SIM card for her iPhone, and maintains her Canadian cell phone number, switching out the SIM card when she returns home. It is still not seamless; she uses FB and email and messaging and therefore my internet service (which I got to accommodate her visits) to communicate with Canada while here, but often mentions that she “has no service!” Or that it’s slow. And, yes, the sim card switching requires attention to little details, literally!!

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