Traveling with Your Own WiFi Hotspot – TEP Wireless Review

WiFi Superman

Do you have the feeling you must stay connected whenever you travel? Do you get frustrated with slow or non-existent hotel or hostel WiFi routers? Get discombobulated having no service on a bus or train?

Maybe having your own personal WiFi hotspot is the answer.During my recent trip to France I had the opportunity to use a portable WiFi hotspot device from a company called TEP Wireless. TEP’s device is slightly smaller than a deck of cards. It connects to the worldwide Internet via a cellular network wherever you are, and sends out a local WiFi signal to your devices. Each TEP wireless device has its own security passcode that you set in each of your devices (laptops, tablets, e-readers, etc.) to gain access. Since the TEP wireless device talks to the cellular network, you have “Internet on the go.” The basic TEP Wireless data plan provides for usage up to 150MB per day.

Paris view of city
A view of Sacre Coeur from the Pompidou Center in Paris

Generally this worked great for me on my trip. When I was in the car, a bus, or a train, the access worked well. In some hotels where the WiFi signal in the room was fair to poor, I used the TEP wireless device instead of the hotel network. This kept me connected, and minimized the frustration of travel connectedness.

However, there were a few drawbacks. The small battery didn’t last very long, so uptime was somewhat limited. A spare battery was included in the package, but I couldn’t figure out how to open the wireless device to change it. Since the device works over the cellular network, but not currently at 4G speeds, watching a video was problematic. Finally, and this is not the fault of TEP, the device will only work if you are in a location where you get a decent signal from the cellular network.

At any rate, the portable hotspot such as the one provided by TEP Wireless is a viable option for those digital nomads who want to stay connected around the world.

paris view
View of Paris from the Pompidou Center

“From the Grand Canyon to the Great Wall” is now available!

The new travel anthology book called From the Grand Canyon to the Great Wall: Travelers’ Best, Worst, and Most Ridiculous Stories From The Road is now available. Two of my stories are in the book and I am excited!

Book cover for From the Grand Canyon
The best travel book of the year!

From the outlandish and unimaginable to the routine and universal, world travelers get thrust (or thrust themselves) into just about every situation you could possibly think of. With From the Grand Canyon to the Great Wall: Travelers’ Best, Worst, and Most Ridiculous Stories From The Road, author and editor David Slenk has collected 67 of those creative, unique, interesting, touching, disastrous moments – in short, the best stories our travels have provided us. Stories from 54 different authors that take place in 45 different countries from all around the world.

The book is now available as an e-book for major e-book devices (Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, iPad, Sony, Kodo, etc. via Smashwords) and as a conventional print book (paperback from Amazon CreateSpace). Go to From the Grand Canyon to the Great Wall to find the links to the various on-line retail outlets to buy the book.

You go directly to here to buy the Kindle e-book version or to here to buy the paperback version on Amazon.

Thanks for supporting this project!

A Trip Around the World With Neil Skywalker

Neil Skywalker

Neil Skywalker from the Netherlands recently completed a trip around the world (“RTW”).  He and I had a virtual chat which I’d like to share with you.

Neil Skywalker
Neil with some friends in the Philippines

Why did you go on a RTW trip?

Like many travelers who are on the road for a long time I’m escaping my boring life back home. I wanted to experience a new life, and more importantly, a new me. I wanted to see something of the world and get as much personal growth as possible. I needed to get more social and easy going.

How long was it, what countries?

I traveled around the globe continuously for 2 years and 8 months. I went through 42 countries so that’s too many to mention. The only continent I didn’t visit was Africa, which doesn’t really appeal to me.

Where did you spend the most time of any one place? 

I spent six months in the Philippines exploring the many islands. I had a girlfriend there (well a bit more than one) and I visited a friend for five weeks in the south of the Philippines. It’s a magical country.

What was your favorite experience?  Favorite country?

Climbing Mount Fuji in Japan and Mount Doom in New Zealand were both pretty epic. Seeing Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Bagan in Myanmar, Macchu Picchu in Peru, and Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia were great, too. I have many favorite countries. Russia, Vietnam, Japan, Indonesia, the Philippines, Argentina and Brazil are among my favorites. In all of these countries I had some great adventures.

What was your most difficult time and why?

I had a bad time in Australia. The prices were shocking coming from cheap Asia and I didn’t like the hostels there. They looked like backpacker factories with hundreds of backpackers and it felt very impersonal. I had a hard time adjusting to the western world again and couldn’t wait to go to South America and see some actual strange culture. I have been in danger on a few occasions around the world. The worst was when I was nearly stabbed by a girl in Malaysia.  Another time I had a very difficult time trying to get my stuff back from a pickpocket in the ghetto of Salvador in Brazil.

Did you try to live like a local at any time?

I can’t really say I that I lived like a local anywhere. Personally I think that many travelers are naive and fool themselves. You will always be an outsider no matter how long you live somewhere. Especially if your appearance is very different from the local people. I have spoken to expats who were living somewhere for 10 or 20 years and even spoke the local language, but they still feel like outsiders. The friendliness of locals often depends a lot on the size of your wallet.

What did you learn about yourself on your trip?

I learned that I can always keep my cool no matter how much trouble I’m in. I also learned that a person can change lot in just a few years. I often didn’t recognize myself and thinking back of certain situations I still wonder how I pulled out of some things. It’s more about putting yourself in the right headspace and being persistent in pursuing your goal. You need to keep yourself motivated.

How did you adjust after finishing the trip?  What did you do?

The last five months I have spent behind my desk writing, editing and publishing my book. I can almost say that writing is the easy part and once you finish your manuscript the hard work really starts. Especially the last few months I have been working 100 hour weeks just to finish everything. I can’t wait to start socializing again outside my little circle of family and friends.

Any future travel plans?  Anything left to do?

I’m dying to get out of the small country of Holland and hit the road again. I’m thinking of trying to get a job as a tour guide or something similar somewhere in the world. South America would be my first choice to work. I love this part of the world and it’s culture.

Do you have any tips to give?

Just do it! Don’t plan too much and just go with the flow.  Keep cool no matter what happens and be patient. Enjoy all of the things of the culture you’re immersing yourself in.

Neil’s new book about his RTW trip is available on his website at Around the World in 80 Girls.

From the Grand Canyon to the Great Wall

Book cover for From the Grand Canyon

Next month two of my travel stories will be published in a new travel anthology book called From the Grand Canyon to the Great Wall: Travelers’ Best, Worst, and Most Ridiculous Stories From The Road.

Book cover for From the Grand Canyon
The best travel book of the year!

From the outlandish and unimaginable to the routine and universal, world travelers get thrust (or thrust themselves) into just about every situation you could possibly think of. With From the Grand Canyon to the Great Wall: Travelers’ Best, Worst, and Most Ridiculous Stories From The Road, author and editor David Slenk has collected 67 of those creative, unique, interesting, touching, disastrous moments – in short, the best stories our travels have provided us. Stories from 54 different authors that take place in 45 different countries from all around the world.

Travel is a very powerful thing – whether your travel experience is full of one-week vacations, year-long globetrotting jaunts, missionary work or military deployment, travel affects everyone in both positive and negative ways. It shapes who we are and how we see the world. It exposes us to different cultures and new sights, and helps us connect with people we would never otherwise meet. It also brings with it scores of incredible nights, interesting conversations, brutal mistakes, and maybe even a handful of life-long friends.

So, are you a 100% self-confessed world traveler seeking inspiration for your next trip? Want to see how your worst mistake ranks with some of our most epic disasters? Or maybe you´re hoping to understand a bit of the life of a globe-trotter? Looking for inspiration for a trip of your own – or looking forward to wincing at our mistakes and self-inflicted problems, totally satisfied living with a/c, hot water and no language barriers to trip you up?

Or maybe you just want to read a bunch of well-crafted, quick-hitting, entertaining stories from around the world?

Grand To Great brings our huge, wild world home with an outstanding collection of stories, experiences, and thoughts from around the globe. Stories that will make you laugh, cry, and think. Experiences that will inspire you to get up and create your own story – either right here at home or out in the farthest reaches of our world.

So join David and authors from the USA, The Netherlands, Japan, Argentina, England and so many more countries on their never-ending trip around the globe – for better or worse, one amazing adventure after another.

The book will be available in as an e-book for major e-book devices and a conventional print book.  Go to From the Grand Canyon to the Great Wall to sign up for 10% off the price of the book and receive an update when the book is ready for ordering.

Which of my stories made it into the book?  Buy it and find out!

Thanks for supporting the travelers/authors. Enjoy!

How To Learn English

How to learn English infographic

There are many people around the world who would like to learn English. But what is the best way to do it?

How to learn English infographic
How to learn English?

Some people learn some English from watching American or British movies and TV. That sounds very difficult and potentially limiting to me. If I had done that, I might only be able to say “These aren’t the droids you are looking for.” How would that help me order a hamburger, medium-well, with cheddar, and sweet potato fries?

Others learn a few words from English language popular music. I don’t that think that would be too useful, given the typical lyrics in songs. English second language speakers who learned from pop music having a conversation:

“Shake your groove thang,” she said.
“Who dat? I shot the sheriff!” he replied.
“Beat it!”

It’s hard to be dedicated to learning English in the usual classroom setting in a non-English speaking country. You might be able to learn some vocabulary and basic grammar, and perhaps learn to read basic English. However, when the teacher is not a native English speaker, the students can sometimes learn strange things.

My niece Dorota visited my family in the US from her home in Poland. She had taken seven years of English classes in school and was a very good student. One day we were talking about verbs and she asked me to conjugate the verb “beholden.” She said that her English teacher back in Poland had a list of very important verbs and that this word was on it. She struggled with the verb’s conjugation and asked for help. I had to patiently explain to her that her teacher was misinformed and that nobody ever used the word “beholden” anymore unless they were writing poetry that no one would ever read.

I think the best way to learn English is to become a foreign exchange student for a school year in the US, the UK, Canada or Australia. Stay with a family with one or more students of a similar age. Attend a local high school in one of these countries. Get completely immersed in the English language. Go to class, make friends, and talk with your host family every day.

A couple of years ago we hosted a foreign exchange student from France. Natacha was not very confident speaking English when she arrived in August. My French from high school was very rusty, so I couldn’t help her out. She had to sink or swim on her own, with a little help from a French/English dictionary.
Within a few weeks of going to an American high school and talking with us every night she was becoming remarkably fluent. By the end of the school year in May, we couldn’t get her to stop talking!

How to best learn English? If you possibly can, get on a plane and go to any place where when you say “I’ll have a grande non-fat triple half-caff black and white mocha,” you get what you ordered.

More information on learning English may be found here => Kaplan International.