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The Art of Finding Internet Access on the Road

The Art of Finding Internet Access on the Road

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    As I write this post, my internet access is intermittent at best. The wireless router that I’m supposed to have access to seems to work in spurts, and not very big ones. And as someone who depends on the internet to do my work, this is not a good thing. And because I’m on the road, my internet options are a bit more limited than they would otherwise be. But, after consulting the concierge and making a few phone calls of my own, I’ve got a whole list of internet options worth trying in a foreign city.

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    8 Internet Access Points On the Road

    1. Starbucks, Borders, McDonald’s and other chain hotspots. Many big chain cafes and coffee shops offer wireless internet, with varying levels of price (both straight out and a requirement of purchase). I’ve gone so far as adding on the T-mobile plan that allows me to log on to their wireless hotspots at Starbucks and other locations. And while I know the same doesn’t hold true for many people, if I’m not in a town with a Starbucks, I may have other issues beyond a lack of internet access.
    2. Local cafes. Many small coffee shops wireless internet, and usually it’s free. Internet seems to be one of the few arenas in which the locally-owned shops can compete with chains, and it allows you to get a bit more local color while traveling. If you’re staying at a hotel, you can probably get directions. If you’re couch-surfing, visiting relatives or using an alternate means of finding shelter, you may have to try following the hip-looking kids or asking around.
    3. Internet cafes. I’ve only ever used an internet café when I was actually abroad, but I’ve started to notice a few in just about every city I visit. And internet cafes are often listed in the phonebook, which can make for a bit more convenience than going down the list of coffee shops trying to decide which ones offer wireless.
    4. Hotel business centers. Most hotels come equipped with a room full of computers, printers and fax machines. If you’re a guest, you’re likely to be able to use the center for free, but you may be able to walk in off the street and use it for a fee similar to what you might pay at an internet café. Unfortunately, of those business centers that do charge fees to guests, the rates to use a computer are often surprisingly high. My personal policy has been to skip on those with high fees: if I’m going to have to shell out a few bucks for internet, I’d like to at least get a cup of coffee with it.
    5. Public libraries. Public libraries often offer free internet access, but there are some hoops you may need to jump through: time restrictions, library cards, residency. In the past, I’ve been able to explain the situation to the librarian in charge and gotten a temporary waiver. I’ve had the best luck if I’m asking for such a favor during down times. One other less convenient aspect of using public libraries is closing time. Most libraries close right when I’m starting to really get into my work, making them useful but not the best option for me.
    6. Tourism offices. I wouldn’t have necessarily thought of tourism offices as the greatest place to find internet access, personally. But I’ve found that many offices have internet kiosks of various types as a service to tourists. I even spotted the following sign as I was driving through Kansas yesterday at a combination rest stop / tourism office: “Maps. Internet Access. Free Coffee.”
    7. College common areas. Many colleges have secured their wireless internet, but quite a few still have computers with internet access commonly available on campus. If those are also password-protected… well, I’d never suggest that anyone do anything wrong regarding another person’s password, but the average college student is very easy to make friends with.
    8. Data cards. Data cards are generally not the least expensive option for getting your computer online, they are an option worth considering if you find yourself on the road on a regular basis. Same goes for using your cell phone to get your computer online. And while you might not generally consider buying a data card or activating a data plan on your cell phone a last minute method of getting internet access, desperate times have driven some people to slap down their credit cards at the nearest cell phone store.

    While it’s perfectly possible to find internet access flying by the seat of your pants, if you know ahead of time that your internet access could be problematic, you may want to do some research. If you can locate a couple of internet access options in your destination — preferably close to where you’ll be staying and open at the hours you tend to work — you may be able to avoid a last minute rush around town, looking for a wireless hotspot just so you can upload some small, vital project after your hotel’s internet access quits working.

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    There are even directories of internet hotspots you can look at — although, since they are all online, you will need to check them out before you entirely lose internet access. Most providers of commercial hotspots, such as T-mobile, also have a list of locations where they provide internet access.

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    • Wi-Fi-Freespot Directory — A list of free wireless access points in the US
    • WiFi411 — A searchable directory of wireless access locations that allows you to limit searches by network provider, cost and other variables
    • JiWire — A list of wireless hotspots
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    Last Updated on January 13, 2020

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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