Travelers. Adventurers. Expats. Wanderers. Digital nomads.
As much as we’d like to think that we are a form of the new evolved mankind, refusing to be boxed in by any government, border, or the antiquated notion that one and only one place on earth is where we belong, we are still not free.
That’s because, for the vast majority of people who undertake a trip abroad that constitutes more than one or two weeks of vacation, we’re still anchored by one inconvenient necessity: we need to work.
Unless you’re independently wealthy, that’s the harsh reality, as you need to somehow eke out an existence by the fruits of your labor even while you travel or live abroad.
Sure, you can just relax and enjoy it for a while, but that gets old very quickly (trust me – I didn’t earn income my whole first two years living in Costa Rica and Nicaragua while I was writing my first two books) and the savings account dwindles even faster.
The good news is that over the last few years, virtual work has been on the rise, gaining widespread popularity and acceptance as people can work online for a whole host of different jobs and tasks. However, whether you have a cushy corporate job that allows you to work from home – or the beach in a foreign country, you’re an entrepreneur not tied to a retail location, or you work in the digital trades like design, content creation, virtual admin, affiliate marketing, or drop shipping, etc., you still need one thing above all else: access to the internet.
Without it, you’ll lose your source of income, your clients, and probably your sanity pretty quickly.
For me, I’m still shackled to the internet even though I live abroad in the Philippines and Southeast Asia. That may seem enviable, but I often find myself living in cities and restricting my sojourns to more built up places where I think I can get internet.
I always want to visit the more remote islands, beaches, and countryside destinations here in the Philippines, but I’m seriously restricted by internet access. Even super popular places like Boracay island (voted the top island in the world) have wifi. However, the signal can be so weak, it’s effectively unusable.
I remember when I lived there in 2013-14, I would literally run from coffee shop to coffee shop and restaurant to bar all day in search of a wi-fi signal that was good enough to get my work done. Of course, they would tell me that they had wi-fi so I’d order a coffee or something and sit down, only to find that the signal did connect but was so weak it was worthless. And it wasn’t like video conferencing or something that required a high-level signal, just social media posting and posting blogs. Well, almost five years later and it hasn’t really improved there. I’d visit amazing places like Leyte, Siargao, Batanes, Batanes far more often – and stay longer – if I could get an internet signal.
In my utopian scenario, I dream of the far off places I’d go in the four corners of the globe if there was just one universal internet that could be accessed from anywhere, without depending on local infrastructure, towers, and providers – like a satellite internet whose signal would be just as strong in Timbuktu as it would be in New York City.
While there has been talk of such a service (come one, Elon Musk!), we’re not there yet.
But the next best thing may be Google Fi.
Google has doubled down on Google Fi, there long established but somewhat forgotten world (or almost) internet and calling plan.
To be clear, you still will be dependent on accessing internet signal no matter where you go, but there are some huge advantages to Google Fi for travelers and those who want to live or explore abroad.
For instance, you can connect to one of three mobile 4G LTE networks around the world, and automatically connect to over 2 million secure wi-fi hotspots globally. That happens seamlessly when you are using Google Fi, so you don’t need to start monkeying with your settings or try to log in to something that works with passwords. You also don’t need to worry about buying local SIM cards and paying for international plans anymore – which is a huge plus for travelers who country hop.
Here are the other highlights, according to Google:
Google Fi covers 170 countries around the world. Considering that there are approximately 196 countries officially (rogue nations/disputed states etc. make up about 10 more), that’s pretty much the whole globe.
Those nations span from Afghanistan to Zambia and a whole lot in between, including when I checked for the countries I’ve lived in over the last seven years: Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, and the Philippines.
However, I saw that they exclude the nations of Syria, Iran, and North Korea, etc.
How much does it cost?
For $20 per month you can access unlimited calls and texts.
For $19 per month you get 1.9 GB of data to surf and use the internet. That can easily be expanded at a rate of $10 per 1 GB.
Their most popular and flexible plan is only $20 per month plus taxes and fees, with free calls and texts, and free (slower) WiFi that’s easy to increase in $10 increments, if I’m reading their website correctly.
Voice calls using Google Fi’s network (not wi-fi) are only 20 cents per minute.
One of the highlights is also that you don’t need to sign a longterm contract – or any contract at all. Instead, you can just pay month to month, and you even get your first month free.
One of the big problems when you travel abroad with your U.S. phone is figuring out the roaming and international charges. Of course, they make those purposely confusing, so you come home from your trip to face an $800 cell phone bill.
For that reason, Google Fi offers their own unique Bill Protection. After 6 BG of data, the internet speed slows down but is free. Google also reports that 99% of their users use less than 15GB of data every month.
Now, here’s the caveat – you need to use either one of Google’s phones or a phone compatible with Google Fi (and the list isn’t expansive).
Here are the phones that will work with Google Fi:
• LG G7 ThinQ
• LG V35 ThinQ
• Moto X4 (Android One version)
• Moto G6
• Nexus 6
• Nexus 5X
• Nexus 6P
• Pixel and Pixel XL
• Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL
• Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL
• iPhone 5S and later (Beta)
But, if you have one of those phones, you can easily add on the Google Fi service.
I may just have to sign up for Google Fi soon and test it out here in the Philippines. Out of curiosity, I checked through Google Fi’s network finder feature to see if Boracay was included, and was pleased to see it is!
That’s good news – but the proof is actually using it! Stay tuned for that review coming soon!