Years ago, in the pre-mobile phone era, or even in the roaming-is-so-expensive-you-don’t-dare era, I used to do a lot of business travel. And Sally and I used to take vacations. For each of these, I would prepare a list of travel information and contacts for those left behind – Sally if I was on business, our kids or their babysitters if we were on vacation without them. This would include flights, hotels and phone numbers, contacts at my offices if I was on business and their contacts, etc. This would enable someone to get in touch with me / us in the event of an emergency.
With the dawn of mobile communications, global email and texting, this became a much less intensive and critical exercise. Now when we travel for pleasure, we usually let the kids know what our flights are, and generally where we’ll be. And of course, since I’ve been blogging our major trips, all of you are kept up to date with our location as we go along.
This all changes for Africa. For one thing, we probably won’t have cell service most of the time. When we’ve traveled to Europe recently, we were able to (one way or another) tap into the local cell networks either with a wifi hot spot or directly with our mobile phones, as AT&T (and Verizon) have made roaming affordable. Neither one has any local partners in South Africa or Botswana that I can see. We will have wifi in our city hotels, so we’ll be able to communicate when we are there. But while out and about, we’ll be mostly non-communicating.
I will look into getting a local SIM card for my allegedly unlocked iPhone while we’re in Johannesberg and Capetown, but I’m skeptical that it will work.
In addition to the cities (Johannesberg, Cape Town and Victoria Falls) we’ll be in four different camps on this trip. Two of them have no Internet connectivity whatsoever. So for the first time in many years, we will be completely off the grid. If I remember correctly, the most recent time we were even close to this was in Anguila about 12 years ago. There was no cell service, no wifi, and no phone in our room. There was a phone near the front desk that you could use, and I recall having to make some business-related calls while we were there.
In addition to the two camps that are explicit about having no wifi, I’m expecting wifi to be limited at the other two camps. While texts and emails might get through, I’m doubtful that I’ll be able to upload any pictures. And we have been in many city hotels where the wifi was barely useful in recent years. But maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised.
In any event, I have created a two page schedule of our flights and accomodations which I’ll leave with our kids before we go. Not that I expect them to need it. Unlike years past, this list doesn’t have phone numbers or addresses for our accomodations, nor the scheduled times for our flights. Rather, I just give the web link for each and expect anyone who wants to get more information – and up-to-date information – will just hit the link.