One of the most pressing issues that we’ll have to deal with on this trip of an indefinite length is staying connected. And by connected I mean the all-important internet. It’s absolutely imperative that we have reliable and stable connectivity to the internet throughout this journey. Even parts of the United States that we’ll pass through have spotty coverage.
And it’s not so I can post photos to Facebook and Instagram; it’s because we have to work. This isn’t a vacation. It’s another, more difficult version of a remote lifestyle, but that doesn’t mean we can always be relaxing on an unspoiled beach. A good portion of this trip will find us in places where we’ll have access to reliable internet, but there will be times when we’ll have to get creative.
There have been many people who work remotely who have done this before. We know it can and has been done successfully and here are just a few of the ways we’ll maximize our wifi connectivity to make sure that we minimize any negative impacts on our work.
As long as there is a sufficient 3 or 4G signal we can use our phones as mobile hotspots. We actually had to do this several times in Tulum, as the internet went out almost daily. Most of the US and Mexico has decent mobile coverage, and it can be better or worse depending on where we’ll be. However, since our journey through Mexico will be confined to the western and central parts of the country, including major cities, this will be a very viable option.
After Mexico? That remains to be seen.
Marine Wifi Extenders
Mostly used on boats, hence the name, marine wifi extenders are becoming more popular with people doing exactly what we’re planning to do. Basically, these antennae amplify distant wifi signals, making it easier to connect, especially in rural areas.
These are not inexpensive gadgets, and the price goes up with the antenna’s range and various options. Many claim to have a range of about 7 to 10 miles, but some claim a range as high as 25 miles. These claims are based on “ideal conditions” and I have yet to see “ideal conditions” defined in the context of this type of equipment. Also, those claims are targeted at the marine market sector. If you’re on a sailboat the line of sight to shore is generally unobstructed. Shore is where the wifi access point is. We won’t have that line of sight because of trees and mountains and buildings and such. How well do they work? I’ve reached out with questions to some fellow overlanders and those that replied mentioned specific brands and models and indicated positive results.
Which one will we choose? That remains to be seen. One of the chief complaints that people have is that they don’t work very well if a “big rig” pulls up next to you in the campground. Fortunately, we don’t anticipate encountering many big rigs. Motorhomes aren’t really a thing outside of the U.S. and Canada so at least that shouldn’t be a challenge or a detriment to our connectivity once we leave the U.S.
Rising in popularity around the world, co-working spaces are pretty simple. They have desks, wifi, sometimes snacks and coffee, and you pay a fee for a comfortable place to work. A quick internet search gave me results in virtually every area we’ll pass through in Mexico, and decent results for Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. El Salvador and Honduras don’t represent well, but we don’t plan to spend much time there anyway.
This will be especially handy as we visit the larger cities on our list.
Bars, restaurants, cafes and hostels often have free wifi for patrons and we have used these types of establishments to get connected in the past and will continue to do so in the future.
Campgrounds with all the bells and whistles are popular in the United States, but they’re almost as popular and abundant in Mexico. Hot showers, kitchens, electricity, and wifi are always the most popular perks. Add to that the amazing website and app, iOverlander, and we can find campgrounds and RV parks that will allow us to stick around for a while and work without worry, anywhere in the world.
Seriously, check out their website. It’s pretty amazing.
One of the best ways to stay connected is to ask other people how they do it, and social media is a great place for that. I’m a member of several overland and travel groups on Facebook, and the communities there are very, very helpful. From safety concerns to the best places to get propane, there is always someone who’s got the answer. If we’re searching for a locale with good wifi, I just need to pop into one of my groups and ask.
Learning from the Pros
Obviously, we aren’t the first people to do this, nor will we be the last. I’ve come to learn that overlanders are a tightly knit community, and are always happy to share tips and personal experience with others.
Plus, we know people who have done this. The former owners of Moby have pledged to answer as many questions as we can throw at them. We follow the blogs of friends and others who work remotely from their mobile homes. All the information we could ever need is out there, and thankfully that information comes from passionate and knowledgeable people who are happy to share.
Will has at least three co-workers who live and work from the road. Some of them have blog posts detailing how they stay connected and since they’re co-workers, it’s easy to have a chat with them and get deeper details on what works and what doesn’t. Check out some of their tips on connectivity here and here.
There is also the RV Mobile Internet Resource Center, run by some people who have been full-time digital nomads and working from an RV for quite some time (they might be pioneers). It’s not a free site, but given that staying connected is such a high priority for us, we purchased a membership. The membership fee purchased heaps of valuable advice and recommendations from others who have blazed this trail before us. You can see what they have to offer here.
We both realize that staying connected is vital during this trip. Some people have concerns about the viability of a constant level of adequate wifi that will allow us to work and meet the expectations of our employers. It’s impossible to promise that we will always be connected, but wifi issues can happen no matter where you are in the world.
All we can do is make sure that we’re equipped with the tools that we need, and I think we’ve got that covered.