It's not all technology all the time, but being a Global Nomad means using the technology available to you to find other essentials that make your life easier and since you're on the road, who says life has to be rough. What's more who said it need to be a burden.
Over the past few years I've used a blend of online and offline sources and services to enjoy my business and personal travel, and not be as hassled. What's more, in many cases I've learned to be more like a local when in a new or different place and honestly feel at home these days in Madrid, Lisbon, Paris, London, Montpellier (France) and New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Chicago, as I do in my own back yard of Del Mar, CA or my birthplace, Philadelphia, PA.
So here are some tips to make it more of a breeze and give you more time to enjoy where you are each day (and night):
Shipping, Not Schlepping
Carting bags everywhere is not only tedious, lost luggage is time consuming. So don't check it. Ship it. Services like Luggage Forward take the hassle and the guesswork out of shipping your bags ahead of time. A simple call and some paperwork and voila, your bag is shipped before you leave and waiting when you arrive. Sure any Global Nomad can do this yourself with UPS and FedEx, but Luggage Forward takes all the hassles and does the work for you. They arrange for the pick up, process your paperwork, and track, notify and pay for all the various costs. What's more they can even reroute when needed.
It's In The Bag
Just like shoes, bags are an essential for the Global Nomad. This is for carry on luggage, as well as your computer and gear bags. The best for on the go travel is the 22” rolling duffle called the Madison from Kipling. They're durable, forgiving and fashionable. Need a bit more in size, the collection of ultralight bags from Eagle Creek are really well built and durable. As for carry on and carry around town, the line of bags from Crumpler are just the cat's meow. They carry just about everything and are stylish and well built. Personally, I make lots of use of their Barney Rustle Blanket bag. So too are the line of bags from Waterfield Collection available from SFBags.com. Last but not least are the BUILTNY neoprene bags. The take a licking, and protect what's inside. What I like to do is carry one smaller bag inside the Crumpler, and be more on the go.
I Can't Hear You
Sometimes its too noisy to take a call. But you know the call was important. Three competing services: PhoneTag, SpinVox and YouMail take your voice mail messages and automatically convert them to text. They're then sent to you as either SMS or emails for your reading pleasure.
Text Me More
I’ve become addicted to quick and easy text messaging and Instant Messaging. But all people aren’t on the same networks. That problems been solved. Check out Palringo and their multi-headed instant messaging clients. I use the plural because client Palringo has applications for all the leading mobile handsets (Nokia N & E Series, Apple iPhone, Blackberry, etc.) and Macs and PCs plus an always available Web browser interface. What’s really good about Palringo is you can share more than text. You can share voice messages as well as the photos you’ve been busy snapping away on your mobile phone. But it goes one better, as Palringo can have group chats, making it a great work force as well as personal tool…Oh, isn’t that how your using you IM client now…..
Getting the Group Together
Sure there are lots of so called "free conference" calling services out there that make their money on the reciprocal compensation model, but the two services I use are actually from my clients, but I'd use them even if they weren't. First is client VAPPs High Def Conferencing. Nothing on the market today has the quality and overall foundation for making a conference call sound as good, nor be as accessible to the widest number of calling parties. Simply put, if you can Skype, you can HighDefConference, but you can also call in from a landline or cell phone from multiple countries or, if the call host allows it, via a toll-free number. The other service that I really like is called Calliflower, from another client iotum. What makes Calliflower so relevant is the intelligent interface that lets users and call participants do more than simply talk. What's more is the platform was developed and tested via the ultra-discerning Facebook crowd.
Being Everywhere, Anywhere
So you left town and you forgot to tell anyone. Don't worry, with the modern convenience of the telephone and services called “Find Me, Follow Me” you will be found, unless you don't want to be.
Three lead the pack and one's even free. The grandfather of Find Me, Follow Me is called CommuniKate. Originally named Webley, the service answers your phone, looks for you, takes your messages and lets you return your calls. With 800 service and global calling, plus voice controlled access CommuniKate is the Rolls Royce, of the Unified Messaging Services, but of course you pay for it.
Another with an almost similar suite of services, plus a few more, minus the speech control is from client PhoneFusion. They offer a few features, that Kate doesn't, like Visual Voicemail, Meet Me Conference Calling and pay as you go, pick what you want. Their value is in the know what you pay for, and only pay for what you need. What's more,PhoneFusion creates a network for small companies by riding over other networks, so there's no real need to worry about the carrier, as you simply use what your team already has in place, be that landline, mobile or VoIP.
Last, and by no means least, is Google backed (and former client) GrandCentral service. Totally free, GrandCentral is your one number for life. You can link up to five phone number to be called, go into “do not disturb mode” and also return calls when listening to your voice mail at the touch of a button. You can also screen the calls, listen to messages being recorded, block unwanted callers and most of all send telemarketers to the Spam list and never be bothered again by them. What do the all have in common? Your voicemail is delivered to your email box, complete with the calling parties number, as long as it's not blocked.
There's No Place Like Home
We all like to be in place that feels like home. After a while boxy, corporate hotel rooms without character, employing people who don't really understand service or your needs gets old for the Global Nomad. So while the points add up, when you don't have to travel, they don't really matter. Hotels in the Tablet Hotels list of properties make the trip a lot more enjoyable. Most are high designer properties, in very cool and hip neighborhoods. What many also offer are better grade amenities, solid Internet access, a comfortable working lounge, tasty food and knowledgeable and helpful staff. In over three years of booking, I've only had one off the mark night, and then they more than made up for it in droves.
For longer stays, corporate apartments fit the bill. To book always go local. The best properties are in the new buildings. You'll get less services than the typical hotel, but bigger rooms, better furnishings and lots more room. For long stays of five days or even a few nights, they offer a better atmosphere than one room for the price. For example, in London, England I tend to use the services of Marlin Apartments. Their pads are spacious, well appointed and have all the broadband a Global Nomad needs to work just like home.
Feed Me, Feed Me
When it comes to finding out where to eat, I rely on a variety of sources. First is of course the Internet. I tend to search a variety of local web sites, including the local market alternative newspapers and foodie oriented gossip sites to get a feel for what's new and tasty. While this takes a bit of time, it often leads to some real gems, and an avoidance of the tourist traps or over-priced guide book only places that anyone can find. One sure fire way to make an informed decision is to use the Zagat Guide or the ViaMichelin web site. Both offer summaries that are based on independent reviews by either regular diners or a team of inspectors. I also like to use Square Meal in London based dining tips, and ChowHound for finding off the beaten track places in the USA and elsewhere and getting really recent intel on what's what just about everywhere. One last tip. The very local restaurant guidebooks, authored by natives, or the local magazines and newspapers are a treasure trove of insight and expertise. For Paris, two essentials are the Guide Lebay books. The two pocket sized guides, one on Restaurants and the other about Bistros are my go to guides for great dining.
For booking restaurants I tend to use a the easy to use and widely acclaimed OpenTable web site to book a table as much as possible or just call the restaurant directly. There's no better feeling knowing you have a table someplace when you land and really want a good meal, vs. simply hotel dining, which I have to admit is getting much better in the more upscale properties. Another online service for booking tables I like to use in London is TopTable. While not as user friendly as OpenTable, the range of restaurants is there and if you've done you homework and book early enough, you'll likely get a table. One difference though, is unlike OpenTable, TopTable isn't real time so there is always the risk that you may not get the time or table you want.
Two other tips that almost always insure great service are using your hotel's concierge to book places you choose, or which you run by them. For example, when I'm in Paris at the PullmanBercy , chief concierge Bertrand and I always share restaurant tips and keep each other updated on our dining experiences. Another approach is to have friends call for you. Beyond the concierge, I've made friends with a few restaurateurs around the globe and they call their friends in the biz for me. The latter approach makes you a local everywhere you go.
Take Me, Please
Here in the USA I tend to favor Fidelity Investment backed Boston Coach in most cities (except New York City at the airports where they have faltered twice) for airport to the city transfers. In places like Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia though, their dispatchers and drivers are top notch and their online reservation system about the best around. In my home region of San Diego, CA the best around are from La Costa Limousine. The reservationists are just the friendliest. The dispatchers courteous, and the drivers about as personable and timely as you'll find anywhere.
Elsewhere I tend to rely on my hotel's concierge or bell captains for transportation advice and suppliers. For example, in Paris there's no need for a private car service, as the bell captains know whose got a Mercedes or BMW to run you to the airport in style. In London, I tend to take the Heathrow Express or Gatwick Express trains after a quick cab ride in the standard of all cabs, the black London cab.
Being a Global Nomad doesn't have to be challenging. It just means working smarter in advance, so you can work better, and with much less effort, wherever you may be.