Another dot in the blogosphere?

Posts Tagged ‘travel

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness. -- Mark Twain.

This warm and fuzzy quote might elicit vigorous nods and stories among those who like to travel.

I like travelling, I nodded when I found and read this quote, and I can tell a travel-related tale if need be. But let us spare a thought for those who do not like to travel.

An acquaintance reminded me of how some folk do not travel well. Her travel mate packed instant noodles and three-in-one coffee in her suitcase.

I can raise that bet. I know of folks who will pack rice cookers and rice. And brag about it. That is their travel tale.

Travel does not guarantee a change in perspective. Organisations that require their workers to go on “learning journeys” often have that change goal in mind. Unfortunately, they underestimate how entrenched people can be. 

Just because the body travels does not mean that the mind and heart do. 

Something happens practically every time I return home from an overseas trip: My iPhone does not work exactly the same way it did before the trip.
 
The problems are varied, as are the solutions.

 
A few years ago, I recall that some WhatsApps contacts could message me while others could not. At that time I foolishly updated the WhatsApp app with my foreign SIM number while overseas. When I returned, I put my original number back, but some contacts in remained in limbo.

Now I try to make sure that I use my phone only to activate a foreign prepaid SIM and pop the SIM into a travel router as soon as I can. Foreign telcos often send profile updates to the phone to make sure it works with their system, but this can have unintended consequences.

iOS Messages toggle setting.
After my most recent trip last week, I found that my phone did not forward Messages (Apple’s text messages and normal SMS) to my laptop, desktop, and iPad like before.

I found out that I had to toggle Messages to each device off in my phone settings and then reactivate them one by one. This meant getting activation codes from my other devices all over again.
 
Handoff from other device.
I also discovered that Handoff did not work between my phone and laptop or desktop. This was unusual because my iPad, which travelled with me, did not suffer the same travel bug.

After a bit of investigating, I discovered that my Bluetooth connection did not automatically reactivate after Flight Mode on my phone while it did on my iPad.

People like to say that you learn a lot when you travel. This used to be true mainly because of the new experience, culture, food, language, etc. that travel brings. We should add to that lot lessons from troubleshooting.

If you are reading this blog entry, this means that I was able to connect to the Internet a travel router I rented from Changi Recommends. (Full disclosure: I am not receiving payment of any kind to blog about this.)

Mobile router from Changi Recommends

I normally get a prepaid SIM card from the city I land in because this is almost always cheaper than my ISP’s ridiculous roaming fees and “special” packages. But since I was due to arrive late at night and deliver my keynote the very next morning, I thought it prudent to be prepared.

Reserving the router was straightforward. I filled in this online form and got both email and SMS notifications of my reservation.

You can also call, email, or use WhatsApp to make a reservation (see bottom of this page). Call only if you enjoy an automated voice wall.

Some plus factors:

  • There are collection and return counters that are open 24 hours a day at all three airport terminals in Changi. You must choose the collection counter, but you can return the device at any counter.
  • There is no charge for the first day of rental. This makes sense as you are likely to spend much of that day travelling to your destination.
  • The routers are preconfigured. Anyone who has used a mifi device should be at home with it. Anyone who has logged in to a public wifi hotspot should be comfortable following the simple instructions.
  • The package includes an external battery pack and international travel plug to keep the device juiced up.

Some minuses:

  • The extras bulk the package a bit. I like travelling light and every bit of space counts.
  • You cannot determine which provider you are on. This could mean that there are data caps you cannot control. There might also be dead spots depending on where you are (my hotel was in a 2G zone).
  • The administration panel of the mifi device is off limits. This means you cannot read the SMS that is sent to the SIM card.

As might be expected, the connection speed was good in main city areas. Expect spotty or effectively no connection elsewhere or inside old buildings.

On a more personal note, I find that old universities house not just old school practices, they have old houses that keep wireless signals at bay. It is a challenge to model connected strategies when I barely have a basic connection to the Internet.

I am adding to my irregular series on getting connected with prepaid SIM cards while overseas. Other entries in this series: DenmarkSwedenHoi An, VietnamNikoi Island, Indonesia.

My Denmark and Sweden entries get many views every day, so I hope the information I share below on UK prepaid SIMs (Three and EE) is useful.

Three
I was in London in January this year, but did not share my experiences with Three UK (amendment: I did share something about Three UK). Back then the £20 SIM cards were easy to pick up from Vendpoint vending machines at Heathrow Airport.

However, unlike my previous visit, the vending machines were only stocked with Lebara, EE, and one or two other brands. None were as good as the all-you-can-eat data plus 300-minute 3G cards from Three.

As Three SIMs were not available, my family and I made our way to the store on Oxford. Even though the Three staff are friendly, knowledgeable, efficient I would rather avoid the crowds at Oxford!

The process of switching to a Three SIM is straightforward.

  1. Pop out the old one.
  2. Insert the new one in.
  3. Wait for an SMS prompt to restart the phone. If all goes well, you should be connected to Three’s 3G network.

Notes:

  • The SIM is a modern multi-size one. Push out the size you need for your phone.
  • The connection is not 4G, but it is speedy enough. It might be a compromise for having unlimited data. (The new packaging says 4G comes free, but I have no way of verifying this as the SIM was in my wife’s phone while I used EE.)
  • There is no tethering with this plan.
  • According to a sales associate, if you have a dual-SIM phone, leaving the other SIM in might prevent access to Three.
  • Do not expect your phone to work in the Tube as tunnels are so deep underground. A few stations along select lines might have wifi (see EE note).
  • The fastest way to pay for a Three SIM packet from a machine is a contactless credit card, e.g., MasterCard Paywave. Tap card, select row and column code in machine, collect SIM package.
  • If you opt to use cash, you will need to use exact change in the form of £10 or £20 notes.

EE
We arrived late at Heathrow thanks to the airline schedule and an unplanned flight delay. I decided we needed data and texting should we miss the very last Heathrow Express train and I needed Uber to get us to our Airbnb-rented home.

I resorted to getting an EE 4G data-only SIM (6GB) for £30.

Setting up an EE SIM is not as reassuring as Three. On popping it in, you will receive an alarming text message informing you that you have “used up your data”.

The message will include a URL that you tap or click on to register the service. Tip: Provide as little personal information as possible. After registration, you should be good to go.

Notes:

  • The SIM is nano-sized. EE includes adapters in the package for devices with mini and normal-sized slots.
  • I inserted the EE SIM into my phone and it worked fine. It should also work in a slate, mifi router, or USB dongle.
  • When used with a phone, the data can shared with other devices, i.e., you can tether.
  • EE provides a handy site that helps you monitor your data quota.
  • Like Three, the 3G or 4G signal cannot reach trains underground. However, EE cards seem to connect automatically to their wireless network on some train lines. You also have the option of using Virgin Media wifi with your EE creditials.

I did not try other mobile services as they do not offer the same value nor were the walk-in stores as easy to find.

Addendum: Lebara stores were about as common as in Denmark. However, I did not enjoy my previous experience with them. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

This part of my reflection on my visit to London for Bett focuses on travel tips.

Mobile power
As with any trip, I brought a power pack for my iPhone. The iPhone was a thirsty beast when I was getting directions, taking photos, and surfing for information, so it helped to have a portable oasis.

Local prepaid SIM
Before leaving for London, I asked around and did my research online for a suitable prepaid SIM. This wiki was a good start, but its information might not be current.

I settled on Three’s PAYG All In One 15. It might cost GBP15 if you live in the UK and can get a free SIM, but it will cost you GBP20 if you buy it over the counter or from a vending machine like the one below.

The SIMs from the vending machine come in a three-in-one pack (normal, mini, nano sizes). The SIM is set to go; there is no need to activate them by calling a number, scratching top up cards, or typing in codes. Take out your old SIM, put the new one in, restart your phone, and start surfing/using your new number.

This prepaid plan gave me 3000 SMS, 300 minutes of calls, and unlimited data over a month. You cannot tether the phone and thus share your Internet connection. However, you can if you have a jailbroken phone like mine.

The 3G and 4G signal was relatively poor in East London where I stayed and also where the ExCeL Centre was located. I would often get only a 3G, one dot/bar signal. This was often not enough bandwidth to tether. Fortunately, there were lots of free wifi spots at the Centre, museums, libraries, etc.

Finding your way around
Google Maps might be your best friend. It was mine.

The Travel for London (TfL) site’s journey planner is mobile-friendly and fast, but I got more mileage out of Google Maps. It not only provided different options, travel times, and congestion warnings, it also provided greater details like walking directions and which exits to head for.

There is no 3G/4G service underground, so it is important to cache information beforehand. The eastern train lines are over ground so that might buy you some surfing time.

The Tube map and signs underground might look confusing. But they are clear when you realize that you must have TWO pieces of information: Your destination and the terminating point of your train (this also applies to the bus services).

If you are taking a more than 30-minute train journey, it is rare that you stay on one train. You train hop to get from one point to another. When underground, you might lose your sense of direction especially when moving from one platform to another. Often one platform might serve trains going to two or three end points. Make sure you get on a train whose terminating point allows you to travel to your destination.

Accommodation
I opted to go for an Airbnb place because hotels around the conference centre were expensive and filled up quickly.

I stayed in someone’s home for a week and used that as my base of operations and travel. Not only was the deal cheaper, I was able to live like a local and get tips from the couple that hosted the stay.

The following were added after publishing due to a revisioning problem.

Groceries
London is the land of Tesco. There are thankfully more of these grocery stores than there are McDonald’s joints. But I found that some items were cheaper at Sainsbury’s Local.

These grocery stores are great for buying bottled water, snacks, and cheap meals. If you really have to eat on the cheap, Pret A Manger is a chain that seems to be everywhere.

Cash or card
While it is useful to have cash on hand, a credit card that supports wireless payment is fast and convenient. I used my MasterCard’s PayPass at the prepaid SIM vending machine, Oyster PAYG travel card kiosks, and grocery self-checkouts.


I have invested in an LTE travel router, the Huawei E5372.

I have written before that BYOD is often about BYOC. This device not only helps me when I travel, it also helps me with my consulting work.

With a mifi device, I do not have to depend on others. I can create my own ad hoc wireless network, dictate my own policy of use, and get the job done. This could mean conducting wireless presentations, feeding five to ten learning stations, or getting something done at any time and any place I can find a 3G or LTE signal.

No mess, no fuss, no muss. A plus: I model for others how they can do the same thing cheaply and sustainably.

It is an investment that pays off when you consider what you get back in terms of peace of mind and a reputation for great work!

Someone wrote in the ST forum [paywall] [at HWZ]: I encourage those who are unhappy with life in Singapore to travel abroad. She said this in the context of rebuking those who complained about life here.

I could just as easily encourage those who are too happy with life in Singapore to travel abroad. I would remind us not to get complacent or cocky about life in here. We have a lot to learn from others.

Some people travel physically, but not mentally. Their bodies get into planes, trains, and automobiles, but their hearts and minds are firmly rooted to home. As a result, everything is not as good as it is at home.

Video source

I think that everyone should travel to learn. If you come back not a better person, having a new perspective or habit, or inspired to change something around you, then you have wasted your time and money.

Tags: ,

http://edublogawards.com/files/2012/11/finalistlifetime-1lds82x.png
http://edublogawards.com/2010awards/best-elearning-corporate-education-edublog-2010/

Click to see all the nominees!

QR code


Get a mobile QR code app to figure out what this means!

My tweets

Archives

Usage policy

%d bloggers like this: