Internet’s been down all day until now…MiFi not working here…Cold, rainy day…

 

Our own hotspot. On the right is our MiFi that we’ve rented from XCom Global providing us with high speed Internet connection worldwide.  Unfortunately, due to our current location in the mountains of Tuscany, we’re unable to get a good signal.

What a day!  When the wireless broadband went down last night we were worried. Our MiFi, unable to pick up a signal since we arrived in Boveglio, for which we continue to pay monthly rental fees, recently has been a source of frustration.

Sending it back to the company for the $79.00 shipping fees each way made no sense. We’ll need it again in 60 days plus, when we venture out from Boveglio and… if we get low enough in the mountains, we do receive a signal for use with our smartphones. This enables us full access to Google Maps while driving  and the Internet for points of interest and information on the areas we’re visiting. 

Most likely , we’ll be needing it again when we arrive in Kenya (where we’ll have a better connection. It’s the mountains impeding the signal in Tuscany). 

To further clarify for new readers, there are two ways we can connect to the Internet while living in our vacation homes worldwide:

1.  Through wireless broadband available at the property (a criteria for us in our travels) similar to what you are using to access the Internet from your home or office.

2.  Utilizing a MiFi, a wireless portable wireless credit card-sized device that we rent monthly.  We cannot purchase the unit due to the unique contracts that XCOM GLOBAL has arranged with Internet providers all over the world (in most countries) that provide the device with the signal, once we’ve charged it and turned it on to connect wirelessly with our laptops, smart phones, and other wireless devices.  It’s battery lasts approximately three hours and then must be charged again for another three hours.  We are able to use it while charging.

As we drove higher and higher into the mountains of Tuscany on June 16, 2013, we’d hoped we’d continue to receive a signal all the way up on the winding mountain roads.  About 25 minutes before arriving in Boveglio, we lost the signal, never to return. 

Thus, we’ve became dependent upon the wireless broadband available in our temporary home which the owners, Lisa and Luca. assured us would provide a good signal 24/7 during our stay.  Unfortunately, they have no control on outages experienced by the local provider in the region.

Apparently, last night around 11:00 PM, service to the general area experienced an outage. Awaking this morning we were disappointed to discover that there still was no service.  

Of course, we became worried, concerned that it could be a week or more until it was restored, as had been the case when the cable TV service went out just before we arrived leaving us with no TV until about a week ago.  There are only two English speaking programs available, Bloomberg TV and MSNBC, both news channels.  \With these two news channels we are able to be aware of what is transpiring in the US and worldwide, important as we travel to some high risk areas. 

We had no expectations of watching regular US programming while in many countries. For entertainment purposes, which we all need from time to time, when we want to wind down and relax, we’d downloaded a few hundred shows and movies on our “MY PASSPORT,” a two terabyte external hard drive, its shows to be saved for days like today…rainy, cold, windy, and no connection.

Some have asked, “Why do we need to be online so much of the time?”  There are several reasons for us:

1.  To be able to write and post this blog.
2.  To be able to maintain contact with family and friends via email and Skype at all times.
3.  To be able to maintain financial matters, all of which are available online:  banking, investing, credit cards, payments for future rentals and transportation, etc.
4.  To be able to receive and view our online “snail mail” from our mailing service.
5.  To be able to investigate further locations we hope to visit in the future.
6.  To book hotels and transportation getting us from place to place.
7.  Organizing and arranging maps and points of interest for our weekly excursions away from our temporary home.
8.  Look up medical questions, instructions, recipes and language translation.
9.  Download books to read.  (Once downloaded, no Internet connection is required).
10. Book reservations for restaurants.  Had we not done this for dining out last Saturday, we’d have been turned away at the restaurant, as we observed happening to other “walk-in” diners.
11.  Staying in touch with the property owners of upcoming rentals, asking questions, making future payments.
12. Entertainment.  When all else is said and done, playing with our computers is enjoyable: games, streaming radio and TV shows, watching movies, staying in touch  with family and friends via Facebook or, simply reading the wealth of information at our fingertips, keeping our brains active and hungering for more knowledge.

Yes, we prefer to be outdoors as much as possible on a warm days experiencing our surroundings.  But days like today, remind us how much we utilize this amazing tool,  the Internet, that honestly, without it we’d have had a lot less enthusiasm or interest in traveling the world. 

We often speak of how difficult and cumbersome arranging long term travel was for our ancestors.  How they ever managed is beyond us. 

Some travelers use travel agencies which are quickly becoming obsolete with the advent of the Internet growing worldwide. With the complexity of our travels, we definitely prefer to take responsibility for making our own arrangements, connecting all the dots along the way. (Although, we’ve used Joaquin at Vacations to Go for all of our cruises and will continue to do so). 

Also, travel agents don’t often handle the single family vacation homes we’ve been able to find and subsequently rent for our preferred periods of time.

How did we entertain ourselves today while “out of touch?”  We washed more laundry, finding covered spots in which to dry it considering the inclement weather.

We made a great breakfast of scrambled eggs with sautéed onions and Crimini mushrooms with Emmenthuler cheese and a side of Italian sausage and regular bacon which we were surprised to find at the grocery store in Pescia. Together, we chopped vegetables for tonight’s dinner.

We found a deck of cards and played “Gin” for several hours for the first time in many years. We’d forgotten the rules, playing anyway and it all came back to us.  We weren’t able to look up the rules online! I won.Tom forgot that he always won years ago. I’m a lousy loser.He’s worse.

Feeling frustrated for a lack of entertainment for Saturday night and not wanting to drive the winding roads that had many warning signs, “Slippery when wet,” we’d decided to stay in tonight. Preferring to save our downloaded books in the event it could be a long period without Internet, we hesitated to spend the entire evening reading.

For the first time since we left Scottsdale, Arizona at the end of December 2012, I plugged in My Passport, external hard drive, browsing to determine which shows and movies we might watch tonight. 

Actually, with no TV at all in Kenya, we’d hope to save all the downloaded videos to watch during the almost three months we’ll be living there. Ah, what the heck! Tonight would be the perfect night to watch a few!

Moments after plugging the device into my computer, I heard the familiar little sound of an arriving email.  “We’re back on!” I yelled out to Tom, causing him to be startled. Yes, we were back on.

Quickly, I sat down in this not-so-comfy kitchen chair and began typing away, anxious to let our readers that we’re still here. Some readers, who hadn’t received the automatic emails (which is now working again) assumed that we’d either fallen off the steep road while driving or we’d quit writing. 

I’ll promise this, dear readers… If we don’t write a word for two or more days, either we’re traveling (it takes two calendar days to arrive in Kenya), the Internet is down or something unfortunate has happened to us. In every case, we will post at the first opportunity, sharing the story and photos describing our absence.

“Consistency” is our middle name or, if you’d prefer the less braggadocios version…we’re rampant creatures of habit. We don’t expect that traveling the world will ever change that!

MiFi troubles…Naples today…

 

It was fun to see the Celebrity Equinox at the pier in Naples, Italy, the ship we’d boarded on January 21 on our way to Belize, arriving on January 29, 2013.  It seems so long ago.

 

The area was not conducive to walking.

 

Views of the port in Naples, Italy.
Without boarding a bus, we really couldn’t get a good shot of the area in front of our ship.

Every  time we’ve loaded our wireless Xcom Global MiFi when we are in port or near land, we’ve watched in wonder as the little hot pink light shines bright indicating we have a strong signal.

Staying  “connected” is an important piece of our worldwide travels, not only for posting our blog and photos each day but also staying in touch with family and friends, banking and financial matters including checking our credit card balances frequently, arranging connections for our next  move, future travels and cruises and of course, checking out information about areas we are visiting.

We look forward to returning to Naples this summer to check out some of it many historical sight.

Yesterday morning when we arrived in Civitavecchia Italy, the port entrance for visitors to Rome, a 90-minute bus ride, we lost the signal within minutes of connecting. Of course, we do have access for the ship’s expensive and horribly slow connection, preferring to us it only when absolutely necessary, mostly when out to sea.

Shortly after losing the MiFi signal, I began the process of checking and rechecking all of our options to get the device working again, referring to the included manual and also online instructions, none of which worked.

Hopefully, this summer, we’ll be able to identify some of these historical sights.

As a last resort, I contracted the company, Xcom Global for assistance. Their information states they have 24 hour tech support by email. Sending them an email at 10 am yesterday, Friday, we didn’t hear back until this morning, Saturday.  Apparently, the 24 hour email tech support wasn’t available and our 11 hour time difference required we wait to hear back until their regular office opened in San Diego, California.

Much to our dismay, after following their many step instructions to a “t” we still couldn’t get service. Frustrating to say the least. They’re closed on Sundays, the day we’ll be out to sea, unable to use the service during that time anyway. Thus, we have no options until Monday.

The hilly terrain of Italy leaves us excited to explore.

We did consider that the signal may be “too weak” in these two areas in Italy to “grab” a signal.  It is possible that the problem lies there. We won’t know for certain until we arrive in Greece on Monday, when we hope to get off the ship to explore Mykonos.

In Naples today, knowing we’ll be coming back over the summer, we wandered off the ship on our own trying to find a few good advantage points for exploring and photo taking. Barely recovered from our illness, immune systems comprised, we felt it made no sense to get inside a germ-laden bus with other passengers to see the sights. 

As Tom and I have both stated all along, our health and well being will remain first and foremost in our travels. Since embarking on this cruise four days ago, I can honestly say we’ve never spent more time washing our hands. Hopefully, our somewhat obsessive behavior will serve us well to disembark on June 16th in good health.

On Tuesday, we’ll arrive in Istanbul, Turkey having yet to hear if our ship will enter this highly charged area of political unrest.  We shall see and keep you posted, hopefully, with our Internet connection intact soon.

We survived it all..December 21 and MIFI rental for world travel…

As Tom’s three sisters and two brothers-in-law walked out the door yesterday, the day after Christmas, they asked us of we were getting excited. 

Tom, not giving me a chance to answer, chimed in, “You know what?  Jess planned all of our world travels.  And I just went along with it, figuring that the world was gonna’ end on December 21st and it wouldn’t matter.  So now, it does matter, and it’s time to start getting excited.”

We all roared with loud bursts of laughter. I had nothing more to say after that.  They were all headed back to their winter homes in Apache Junction, Arizona, and us, today back to our awaiting vacation home in Scottsdale to hook up with them again on December 30th for final goodbyes and sister Colleen’s birthday party.

Yesterday morning, we met up with my dear sister Julie and her significant other at son Richard‘s office in Henderson to have our wills and health care directives witnessed and notarized which will be secured in the family member’s hands while we travel. Yes, it was morbid doing this, but a necessary element of our travels and life itself.

Handing Julie our complete medical files put our minds at ease that should we ever need anything she’ll have it readily available. Julie like me, embroils herself in the details, making her a logical choice.  Of course, she would immediately notify all of our children if anything happened to us.

In addition, we have designated Julie as our contact person.  We will report to her with the contact information, phone numbers, and email for property owners prior to departure and arrival at each location. For instance, if we are due to arrive in France on a certain date and Julie doesn’t hear from us within 24 hours, she will immediately notify our adult children and begin the process of finding out what has transpired.  This is important.

We’ve all heard stories of travelers being kidnapped, lost in a jungle, or any other possible scenarios. It’s unlikely any of this will occur to us. In the event, an unforeseen situation does occur Julie will be highly diligent in tracking us down.

This provides all of our families with a sense of security. Although a little time consuming, it’s also a comfort to Tom and me to know that a nearly immediate effort would be instituted to “find us” if we’re missing. Julie, a TV producer, is an experienced world traveler with many worldwide contacts.  It’s logical for her to be assigned this task.  Thanks, sis!

Yesterday, we ordered our MIFI from XCOM GLOBAL that provides us with global wireless Internet access for up to five devices from a small wallet-sized device.  I’ve mentioned this many times on this blog finally placing our first order.  Pricier than we anticipated at $538 for the first month, we bit the bullet. 

The usual cost for using the device in one country is $399 a month plus shipping which may be as much as $100 each time it is shipped to us, with the high cost of international shipping.  We refused the $3.95 a month insurance for the device, at another $120 a month. 

The reason this particular first month’s rental was so high is due to the fact that we chose to try the device while cruising through the Panama Canal, which including it being set to work not only in Panama but also Mexico, Columbia, and the US while we’re in ports of call.  While at sea, it won’t work being too far from a cell tower. 

During those periods of time, we’ll use the ship’s Internet access at $395 which provides us each with one hour online per day for each of the 15 days for this first cruise.  This is expensive at $26.33 at roughly $13.17 apiece per day. 

MIFI from XCOM GLOBALalthough represented on their website that they offer unlimited access, will not allow more than 750 megabytes in any three day period.  If we do, they will turn off the system.  This allows us each 100’s of email messages per day, many more than either of us currently receive. 

We had decided that this would not be sufficient online usage for us.  We have personal business to conduct, ongoing travel research and arrangements, and of course, email messages from family and friends.  Thus, when Internet access if of poor quality or unavailable, we will order the device to be sent to us.  At this point, we anticipate using the MIFI approximately six months of the year since many vacation homes will have high-speed Internet access.

We are asking everyone to please continue to send us an email with text only beginning January 1, 2013, while we’re using the MIFI.  Receiving text-only email messages will mean “the world” to us being so far removed from everyone we know and love. Please keep the communication coming minus the videos and multiple photos.  Posting those videos and photos on Facebook will enable us to see them when we aren’t monitoring our usage.  We love hearing from you.

Today we’re heading back to Scottsdale, after more sorrowful goodbyes, for our final four days before our trip to San Diego for two more days before boarding our cruise to the Panama Canal, taking us away at long last. It’s hard to believe it’s finally only one week away. 

We have to repack all of our bags, clean our condo, finish our insurance planning, go to a birthday party, and brace ourselves for what is yet to come.