I was reminded again today just how much things have changed for expats in the past 10 years… especially when it comes to communication.
My wife, Suzan Haskins, and I moved to Quito, Ecuador from the U.S. in 2001, and back then we were overjoyed to be able to use the new and exotic MSN Messenger loaded on our gigantic old laptops to send and receive text messages to the folks back in the States.
It wasn’t the same as talking on the phone, but landline connections for international calls were sketchy and expensive, and e-mail just wasn’t doing the job when it came to having something that approximated a conversation with our loved ones.
As balky as our Ecuadorian Internet connection was, and as shaky as MSN Messenger was back then, when everything worked, texting in real time from Ecuador to our folks back home was kind of like magic. It made us feel a lot less isolated and gave us a sense of moment-to-moment security that made our first move abroad a lot easier to handle.
What a difference a decade makes. Today Suzan and I stay connected with friends, family and work around the world via the Internet in so many ways that we actually lose count sometimes. As Internet speed and bandwidth has improved…and devices have become smaller and more advanced…Suzan and I are far more amazed when we can’t reach someone on the other side of the planet than when we can, even from our little Andean Mountain village where we live part-time.
With so many new communications options, and more coming online all the time, the challenge isn’t staying connected… it’s determining the best way to connect in the first place.
Case in point—we used to keep a Vonage modem hooked up at our house in Merida, Mexico so that, if we had guests stay in the place while we were travelling, they’d be able to make international phone calls. The cost was minimal, and the convenience factor was high.
But somewhere along the way we and almost everyone we knew put Skype or some other Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) program on their personal computers or smart phones. Suddenly even the low cost of keeping the Vonage account was unnecessary… all that was necessary was access to the Internet, and we and our guests were making international phone calls on our own.
That being said, there is something to be said for talking on a real telephone rather than a headset and microphone on a laptop, which is how we often use Skype. Enter MagicJack, which is the size of a mint tin and allows you to plug a real telephone right into your computer for unlimited calls to anywhere. Followed closely by a new stick drive from Vonage that allows the same thing.
Oddly enough, we still spend the lion’s share of our communication time on e-mail and an Instant Messenger of some kind… but when we need to call, there are two options to choose from. And not mentioned in these options are FaceBook, Twitter, and other social communications programs that also have instant messaging capabilities.
These changes have made an incredible difference in the quality of life for expats moving abroad, and the pace at which they’re happening is stunning. It can be hard to track, especially when lumped in with all the other issues that go into making a successful move overseas. One place to get a handle on all those issues is a new kit we’ve just completed. It’s called the Blueprint to Your New Life Overseas and it covers a lot of issues you may not think of right off the bat… like how to manage your money from abroad, how to successfully move your pets, how to understand residency visas and working abroad, and a lot more.
It’s all there in the Blueprint to Your New Life Overseas and we’ve included 12 videos that take you step-by-step through the process of making your overseas move as successful and painless as possible. We had lots of fun putting it together… but it would have been almost impossible for us to do while traveling and working for International Living without some of the very same new technology that I just mentioned. As I said, these technologies have changed everything, and we’ll tell you all about it… and much, much more… in the Blueprint to Your New Life Overseas.