How does the phone thing work, out there in digital nomad-land?


So, you decide you’re going to travel the world for a year or so. How exactly does that work with your smartphone?

My phone company ( Verizon ) would happily charge me an outrageous sum for some sort of “world access” plan that gives me a whopping 250mb of data per month, before it really starts charging me. To put this in perspective, the black and white line drawing above might be more than 250mb.

Well, okay, that’s not true.

But still. I’d gobble that up in a heartbeat, and then the money wheel would start spinning. I’m on the hook with them until November, so what are my options?

Google Voice, Skype, and a VPN.

Let’s stat out with the bad news – my phone will only work like a phone when I have wifi. In Britain or Ireland, that’s just fine. The busses have wifi. The outhouses have wifi. In southern France…  I was lucky the Apple Store had wifi. So, there’s that constraint.

Also, people dialing my regular number and expecting me to answer won’t be able to get me. Even though I didn’t sign up for a plan, Verizon is also happy to just charge me world roaming rates, and let my phone work as it’s worked all along. This is also a non-great idea, and I’ve turned off my phone’s ability to do anything at all without wifi.

So. There’s that.

But with Wifi…  I can get iMessages the normal way, text messages and voicemail from my non-Apple friends on the Google Voice number ( because before I left I liked the GVoice number and my regular number/phone ), I can dial your cell with Skype. I can dial a toll-free number with GVoice and the VPN. The Skype call costs pennies purchased through the Apple app store. The GVoice is free. Also, FB messeages ( and probably phone service ) work just fine with wifi as well.

Jumping through some hoops, I have mostly free service around the world so I can stay in touch. As long as I’m on wifi.

Yea, that’s a big “but.” One I’m still working through.

On the plus side: it’s good to be a little less dependent on our digital smartphone overlords.

Also, one thing Verizon gets right is that my phone is be default “unlocked,” which means if I’d like I can buy a simm card anywhere in the world, stick it in my phone, and have it work. It may come to this; I confess I do miss easy texting.

2 thoughts on “How does the phone thing work, out there in digital nomad-land?

  1. Although its a bit late in the game, Tmobile’s cost structure might also help. Nancy and I used it when she lived in Canada. Unlimited international texting and 2g data is just included in the regular plan. You’d also have to keep paying for a plan, so I’m not sure that amount if money is worth it just for easy texting and 2g data.


    1. Yea, I was definitely late on the whole T-Mobile thing. I’m trapped until November in my current contract, but I’ll be looking elsewhere in a serious way. Until then, this whole post is kinda out-of-date now – yesterday I gave in. I couldn’t make the above work and still stay sane, so I opted into Verizon’s international plan. Plenty spendy, almost dumbly so. But I get text, voice, and data everywhere except, like, North Korea. Ugh.


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