The biggest drag in the world for Digital Nomads, or people who are ‘location independent’ is getting a reliable internet service.
I create content every day, whether videos for YouTube, blogs here at PlanetPatrick.net or food reviews at Absolutely Stuffed (.com). That doesn’t even include Instagram, TikTok, Twitter or Facebook pages.
This may be no surprise for you. Being on the road is liberating, a release of the spirit that was tied to the corporate world, and yet access to the internet continues to rely on service providers that assume we are all boxed into our two room apartment, to which they can bring a fiber optic cable. I have been that service user. And when I stay in hotels or use internet cafes or co-working spaces around the world, I still need that provider.
When you do get to your hotel or campsite, the promised existence of a wi-fi service or the hoped-for speed is rarely what is advertised. It simply doesn’t exist or is choked off by contention ratios. When I am living my #vanlife, I’ve yet to meet a service up to the job of uploading multiple GBs of video, pictures or blogs. And when I go #offgrid… then forget about it.
One of the perks that I offer to my Patreons or YouTube members is early access to videos. It embarrasses me to say that simply can’t offer what I have promised if it takes more than 24 hours to upload one file. The algorithms of YouTube and other platforms seem to work best with regularity and consistency of posting. More often than not, when I’m on the road, I’m running around like a headless chicken trying to find a way around the Digital Drag that is keeping us all offline.
I’ve been watching announcements about Starlink like a hawk. Starlink is part of SpaceX and has been rolling out a satellite-supported broadband internet service around the world which, it claims, manages to avoid most of the drop-out and intermittent access problems of traditional satellite internet providers. I am NOT supported or sponsored in any way by Starlink or its associated companies.
Starlink is already available in the last location I had a permanent home, but its availability is limited and there have been long waiting lists in some locations. For US users, in particular, there are multiple forums that have been discussing if you could bring your Starlink on the road, using a rumoured ‘PORTABILITY’ function available to some users. There were hopes, prayers and speculation.
I got a call out of the blue from a friend in the US who knew I was watching this story. Not only had PORTABILITY been launched, but Starlink have literally JUST LAUNCHED a new service, specifically for RVs (camper vans, motorhomes)!! I got the text while I was cycling from a campsite in rural Holland into the city of Groningen, to go find internet access in a cafe!
When I got to a reliable connection, I could see that there were some important facts for me to look at:
- The service is not available in every country, but IS available in the country I am currently staying in (Holland).
- Delivery is to your chosen Delivery Address, not to (for example) your Residential Address. This means that I can order it while on the road, despite my registered bank details being in a different location.
- The service is Pay As You Go. There are some rules around this, but you can pay for a month and then Pause it if you need to.
- There seem to be some rules about using the service outside of your ‘Home Continent’ (not sure I have used that term before). I’ll keep an eye on how practical those are.
- You cannot use the service while in motion.
I did some serious thinking. The upfront cost in the EU is €720 EUR which includes the equipment cost and shipping. The cost per month is €124. However, this does get you unlimited data in locations that would otherwise be entirely off the grid. The only caveat for me is that the service has not yet launched in Norway which is one of my next locations to visit. I had to check with the campsite owners that they were willing for me to have a parcel delivered here, which they were only too glad to agree to.
However, being a full-time Digital Nomad does demand access to the internet at regular times. It is how I am trying to earn my living (please consider joining my Patreons). I can’t see any other way to approach my work, my vocation, than to make use of a service such as Starlink which will save me hours in managing data uploads as well as cycling around cities trying to find access (which I am always happy to pay for).
Reader, I clicked the button. The order is confirmed and I received an email saying that delivery should be within 2 weeks. I’ve already had word from DHL that the order has “dispatched” but in 3 days, that first entry has not been updated. I’m hoping that it won’t take the full 2 weeks to arrive. However, I’m very glad that the campsite at which I’m parked in my RV/Motorhome has room to keep me if needs be until the parcel arrives.
So stay with me as there will be another blog entry on this (at least one) which will let you know when the parcel arrives, which will handle the unboxing and then test the service here in Holland, and as I travel around the world.