When Todd and I arrived in Panama the second time, we couldn't find a decent apartment to rent. Prices had gone up by 50% since the last time we visited, and it was Carnaval Season, which crushed availability. So we stayed in a hostel. The location was great, our room was decent enough, but to call the internet sporadic would be too kind of a compliment. We couldn't find any coffee shops that had wifi, so we ended up paying by the minute in an overly air conditioned "cybercafe" which boasted amenities like plastic patio chairs and a guy next to us browsing hardcore gay pornography all day.
If I knew then what I know now, and what I'm about to share with you, I wouldn't have had that problem. It turns out that there's a company which caters to businesses by offering office space all over the world. And I mean everywhere. I first found out about this in Toronto, searched for the closest location, and it was half a block away from where I was staying. In San Francisco you can stand at one location and see another one a block away.
The company is called Regus. I'd heard about them before, because I know that they contract with American Express for the Platinum Business card, but I assumed their services were so expensive that I wouldn't consider a membership. And that's kind of true-if you want your own office, it's definitely expense-account priced. But they also have a "Business Lounge" program, which gives you access to a common area with comfortable seating, wifi, snacks, tea, and coffee, in any of their 1100 locations. The price for a worldwide membership is only $49 per month, which is cheap enough that I would consider buying it, and would definitely buy it if I was traveling constantly.
But, it turns out that there's a way to get it cheaper. Much cheaper.
I recently signed up for a service called TripIt. You forward your itineraries for flights, car rentals, and hotels to them, and they parse the email and put the information all in one place. With a teensy bit of work you can get the information on your Google calendar, and can then sync it with your Android phone, which is pretty amazing.
TripIt is one of those services that's so great that I wanted to upgrade to the paid version, just to support them. Their premium features were barely an improvement over the already-excellent free version, though. I was about to abandon the idea, when I saw "free one year subscription to Regus", listed almost as an afterthought. If you pay $49 per year for Tripit, you get free access to Regus. I signed up without a second thought.
(hold on a sec while I skate down to one of these places to check them out)
So now I'm sitting in a Regus at 425 Market Street in San Francisco. I'll be honest-the business lounge isn't nearly as grand as I imagined. In fact, it's not grand at all. It's an office at the end of a long hallway with no window, four chairs, and some power plugs. Here's a picture, taken with my laptop webcam because I didn't think to bring my camera and the memory card on my phone somehow got corrupted.
Despite the fact that I'm currently working in an office, this office makes me remember how much I don't like working in offices. Then again, the point of this isn't for me to have an office every day, it's for me to have access to a good workplace anywhere in the world at any time-and it's definitely way more than sufficient for that.
Plus, there's the internet access. The internet access they have here is the fastest I've ever been privy to. I'm downloading 2.5 Megabytes (not bits) per second. Uploads are fast too, which means that this is my new go-to spot for uploading HD videos that I make. And for backing up my computer. And for restoring those backups when I screw up my computer.
And let's also remember that I'm paying a solid four dollars a month for this. It could be a Brazilian favela-style shanty shack with a cable modem from 1999 and I'd still fork over the cash. So overall I'm pretty psyched about the service.
Sorry about posting this so late today.
I didn't want to go too much into detail about TripIt here, but it's an awesome service. I use it all the time now.
Gear post coming VERY soon (within the next two posts, probably). I finally got a backpack that I'm totally happy with, and that's all I was waiting for. Might put off the RV post because I have a pretty insane idea for another upgrade... looking into it Friday.