Technology to Keep You Connected to the U.S. (or wherever home is)Posted: 05/17/2011 | |
Living in Europe has long been a dream of mine. I really wanted to experience life outside of the United States. When the opportunity presented itself, there was no way I was going to turn it down. However, truth be told, I am a homebody. I have lived in two states my whole life. Until this year, my international travels have been a couple of forays into Nogales, Mexico to buy cheap blankets, tequila and souvenirs. Save the Wizard of Oz references, I don’t mind being from Kansas and living in rural America.
I get homesick, despite all the amazing sights here in Italy.
What is a country girl from Kansas to do?
Here are some of my favorite pieces of technology that I use to stay close to family, friends and business contacts.
- Internet Service. Just like in the U.S., I am addicted to the internet. However, here it is for a different reason than it was back home. I use the internet as a lifeline to connect to my loved ones. I also use it to get in touch with the insurance company, pay bills and order things online. Without internet service, I would truly be lost. We use the Telcom Italia DSL service. I have only had one outage in 9 months, so I can say it works pretty well for me. I know other communities have more options, but I did not research them. Our small community does not offer a variety of internet service, so we take what we can get.
- VoIP Phone Service. The whole name for this services is Voice over Internet Protocol. If you are technically inclined and want to know more about it, How Stuff Works explains VoIP here. For the rest of you, VoIP is a phone that uses the internet to connect. There are many providers, but I use Vonage and have been very happy with the service. As long as my internet works, I have a U.S. phone number and can dial family members without a huge long distance bill. Another good thing is that my eighty-year-old father can dial me just like I was living in the same town. No confusing country codes tacked on the number. Transferring your current number is a breeze and I actually kept a number I had in the U.S.
- Skype. Skype is really another internet calling service. You won’t need a router as you do with Vonage. I uses Skype’s video calling the most. Looking at someone while talking makes the conversation more real. It is great for using when aunties want to see their growing nephews, too! While Vonage charges a monthly fee, Skype is free to use if you call only other Skype users. You can buy credits to call land line and cell phones. The credits are very cheap. You could easily do away with the VoIP phone and use only Skype. Some people have great luck with Skype, but others have trouble with call quality.
- Facebook. Stop groaning. Although Facebook is one of the biggest time wasters on the planet, it is a great place to post photos and see what everyone is up to stateside. Set your privacy settings carefully if you are a private person and only allow people you know well to “friend” you. Make sure to take notice when Facebook updates to keep those privacy settings where you want them.
- Kindle eBook. For those who love to read, finding English books and magazines can be a challenge. The post library has books and will get others for you through inter-library loan. To me, the magazine selection stinks and the Army Europe Library catalog does not always have a book available. Amazon regularly has free eBooks available, although they are not best sellers, some of them are pretty good. Subscriptions to magazines, newspapers and blogs are also available for a fee. I love my Kindle!
These are my five favorite technologies that I use all the time.
What do you use to keep in touch with family and friends in the U.S.?