Tips From a World Traveler

PC World
Thursday, March 13, 2008; 12:08 AM

You think a three- or four-day business trip is challenging? How about a four-month journey to eight countries--using 14 different plane tickets?

Randy Ross, a former PC World executive editor, recently took that journey. From August 30 until December 20, 2007, Ross ventured solo to Venezuela, Greece, South Africa, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Australia, and New Zealand.

While many don't have the opportunity to travel so extensively, I figured we could all learn something from Ross's travels. So I asked for his tips on making the best use of technology when far away from home for an extended period.

Some Web sites make it easier to plan an international, multicountry itinerary and get estimates of ticket fares. But you'll still need a travel agent to get exact costs for your travel, Ross says.

The sites Ross used for research, along with his comments, include:

To prepare for the trip, Ross scanned essential documents--including his passport, prescriptions, immunization records, and driver's license--and stored the digital files on a USB flash-memory drive. That way, if he lost the paper documents, he still had digital copies. The USB drive was password-protected and includedEditPad Lite, a free text editor.

"Every Web cafe I visited had a PC that used a USB drive," Ross says.

In addition, Ross uploaded the documents to a password-protected, free Yahoo Groups account as an additional backup. Though he didn't need the digital documents, they might have come in handy: Somewhere in South Africa, Ross lost his USB thumb drive.

"I couldn't bring a notebook," Ross says, because it would be too heavy and fragile. "Anything that was really valuable had to fit in my money belt. There was always a chance my backpack could get stolen from a bus baggage rack or from a hotel room, or that I could get robbed."

Instead, Ross relied primarily on public computers at Internet cafes.

"Stopping into a hostel or guest house and asking to use their Web terminal is a good option when you can't find an Internet cafe," he adds.

Like many world travelers, Ross kept family and friends up-to-date via a blog. His is calledRandy's Travel Diary. (Warning: The site contains occasional adult language and situations.) He recommends writing your blog posts in a word processing document and saving the files to your USB drive, then copying and pasting the text into your blog. The reason? Sudden power outages in some countries and inadvertent keystrokes made on foreign keyboards could wipe out everything you've typed into a new blog posting.

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