Coffee shops, libraries, pubs and Karma.
- Written By: Brock Butterfield
It's a common question we get when traveling or from online inquires. "What do you use for internet on the road?" With being on the road full time since 2014 I have found many options for staying connected and feel like I've got it mostly dialed in. My motive in finding good and reliable internet comes from writing these blogs for you fine folks as well as providing IT Consulting for my clients who I do everything remotely for. Everything from from website design and management to desktop and server support. Having internet on the road is essential to keep the gas tank full.
It's actually really not that hard to find Wi-Fi on the road as libraries, coffee shops, rest stops, Wal-marts and pubs offer free internet most of the time.
Coffices (coffee shop offices)
Ben Girardi hashing out some photography work at a coffee shop in Jackson Hole while shooting with Bus Life Adventure.
Most coffee shops these days offer free wi-fi and I love good coffee so if I know I'm only going to be working for a few hours then I'll pop into the nearest local coffee shop (I try support local everywhere I go as opposed to Starbucks and big chains) and grab a house drip and perhaps a brownie before sitting down to work. Some of the pros of a coffee shop are the people watching, good atmosphere and usually if you're an extrovert you'll make friends with a local and learn about good camping spots, hikes, places to eat, etc.
Some comfy seating for some work.
Some of the cons of a coffice is it can be loud so headphones are required to focus, finding a spot with power close enough to plug into can sometimes be tricky and I always feel bad if I'm working longer than a few hours. If I ended up staying longer I try to make another purchase so they don't feel like I'm freeloading of their wi-fi. But, that's just my own moral dilemma.
Oakridge, OR public library with high speed fiber internet.
Quiet, the smell of many leather bound books and no guilt of hanging out for hours without making some sort of purchase. I typically choose libraries if I know I've got a big chunk of work to do and will be in front of the laptop for hours. Most libraries also have "study rooms" or "law room" that you can request to use. These rooms allow you to spread out all your stuff, make loud phone calls and leave your stuff in a locked room while you drop the kids off at the pool. Also known as going poo.
Nice quiet workspace in Oakridge Public Library.
Cons in this situation can vary by town and their funding. You could have speeds slightly better than dial-up in most smaller cities. The smell of mothballs from the old timers reading the paper or attempting to "Book face" can be somewhat strong. However I did hit a gold mine in Oakridge, OR were I found 30mbps of fiber down AND up. Bend, OR and Salt Lake City, UT also have extremely fast and reliable internet but Oakridge, OR takes the cake with hardly anyone there, friendly staff and a beautiful interior with skylights. Plus you're in the middle of the Willamette National Forest so when you do step outside the views are stunning.
Hanging in the pub and using my Karma Go.
Also known as "pubs". These fine establishments carry delicious microbrews and cask beer along with food. Wi-Fi is usually abundant and I like to locate a local pub when I've got to do some work a little later in the afternoon or evening. Another great option for getting to know the locals and learn the lay of the land.
Cons at pubs is that you might end up drinking more than you do working but is that really a con?
The Boffice (Bus Office)
Breakfast and Wi-Fi in the "boffice".
Sometimes I just need to crank down on some work without distractions of the general public or I'm on the road when I get a call from a client and have to pull over to update web content for them or reboot their mail server. In this case I rely on one very important tool. A hot spot. In the beginning I would use the hot spot on my phone using Verizon's network but would always end up paying for an extra GB to get by or upgrading to a larger plan which was more money.
However, I had heard about this new company called Karma from Adam Sauerwein when I interviewed him for his bus conversion. Upon digging into them it was right when they were making some big changes and people were PISSED. I decided before I committed to anything fully with them I wanted to check it out for myself first so I ordered a Karma Go. After using Karma's service for two months I was actually really impressed. It runs off the Sprint network so the coverage is good although not as good as Verizon's but nowhere near their price.
Actual speed test just outside of Eugene, OR while on the road.
Speaking of pricing I love their Refuel option. You pay for a certain amount of data and it never expires until you use all of it. This is very different than my Verizon plan where if I don't use all my data that I pay for then I lose it. You can also earn data by sharing your Karma with others when you are in public places. Your hot spot will show as an open network and people who connect are prompted to sign up and get 100mb fee to try and you get 100mb added to your data when they do. Their 100mb doesn't count against your data so no need to worry about sharing with strangers.
Disclaimer: Karma gave me the free device and service for a month to try. Check their website for latest pricing and details.
**Update: With Verizon Wireless introducing their unlimited data plans I now simply use my phone as a hotspot and tend to have the best coverage.