In the summer of 2012, the only traveling I did (besides taking the boys to camp in North Carolina) was my journey to and from Tampa to conduct my doctoral research. Having completed a major goal in my life (getting the PhD), I was ready to party!
Stan and I planned our 2013 European trip beginning in March, and left in June. This year, we decided on a 3-week driving tour of France. Stan did most of the planning this time, but we talked about the route we would take. We would start in Normandy, and take a counter-clockwise route around France, stopping on our way in the Loire Valley, the Dordogne, Carcassonne, Provence, the Alps, the Burgundy wine region, Colmar, and finally Paris.
Busier Than Ever
One question I’ve been asked since completing my PhD is what I am now doing with all of my free time. What free time? My work at the university has been busier than ever. I seem to recall stepping down as dean about 9 years ago because I just wanted to teach. Oh well. It seems the better you get, the more you are trusted, and the more work you are given. Still, being able to do this work from home is such a great benefit.
So, as Stan and I prepared to drive our kids to Camp Sea Gull (the best camp in the world!) and fly out to France in June, my university was piling on the online work. I needed to be able to run web conferences, make phone calls, and be available. I needed to have constant access to the internet. Using the smartphone from home is very, very expensive. My previous method of relying on the wifi found at our B&Bs was not going to be good enough this time. I found an online mobile company that rented mifis and cell phones, and seemed to have great reviews.
What the Heck is a MiFi??
Cellomobile provided me with a mifi that we could connect up to 5 devices at a time. (If you go with them, let me know so I can gather user experiences to share with others.) With my mom along on this trip for the first week, and Stan also doing some of his own online work, this was a solution that needed to work. I also rented a basic flip phone (very inexpensive) with a US number students could use. Between a mifi and a cellphone with a US number, I was able to hold live web conferences from abroad, call my dean as needed, and be available to my students. The devices worked perfectly, and there was one fringe benefit I never considered: If I had the mifi in my pocket, I could create a mobile hotspot for my cell phone while sightseeing on foot. I could connect my iPhone to Google Maps, and figure out walking directions to the closest cafe! It was a good thing I had these devices, as the wifi at each of the B&Bs where we stayed our first week were all down or had very weak signals. Technology saves the day.
After the harrowing drive out of Paris our first night, we arrived in Honfleur to begin our adventure. Honfleur is a beautiful little town that rests on a harbor, and is famous as the place where Monet began his impressionist painting career. Honfleur was also a much-needed respite after two nights in NYC, a trans-Atlantic flight into a flooded Paris, and a two-hour drive to the Normandy coast that took seven due to said flooding around France’s capital city.
We needed to chill out in our little garden spot, amble the streets of the town, enjoy some crepes, and just remember to breathe again. After a few days, we would be off to the see the WWII sites, the D-Day memorials, the American Cemetery, and the Bayeux Tapestry. For the next few days, though, we were going to relax. I remembered how to do that, right?
Enjoying the Laptop Lifestyle
Despite the added responsibilities from work, I wouldn’t trade the location independent lifestyle for anything. Adding the technology to the trip made it even more worthwhile, as I could focus on the journey and not the technology. As much as teachers and educational leaders love technology, it’s just a tool to enhance our classes, our relationships, and our lifestyle. Ideally, it slips quietly into the background so we can enjoy our experiences.
Do you want to live the laptop lifestyle? I highly recommend it. Comment below! I always comment back.
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