Some people dream of traveling the world on a budget and staying in touch as digital nomads. Married couple Sam and Toccara Best have made that dream a reality.
Both have been producing a travel blog from far-flung locales called Forget Someday for more than a year mainly by using only their cell phones with no monthly carrier contract. They rely on free Wi-Fi with occasional assistance from Google Voice and Google Hangouts on Sam's Android phone, a BLU Life One X unlocked, which he bought for about $150, (Amazon price) .
Their blog is stocked full with photos and videos, many shot and edited using iMovie on Toccara's more expensive iPhone 5S. (Off-contract, the iPhone 5S originally started at more than $600, (Amazon price).
They also rely on some relatively high-end camera gear, including a Go Pro video camera (Amazon price). Recently, they took time-lapse shots with the Go Pro mounted on a tripod from the bow of a Viking River Cruise boat on segments of the scenic Douro River in Portugal, their latest destination.
They carry all their gear and clothes in backpacks and smaller carry-on bags, jetting, cruising and hiking their way around the globe. In the past year, they've visited Vietnam, Eastern Europe and Hawaii among other destinations. Their bucket list includes one of their next conquests: to see a polar bear in the wild, probably near the Artic.
Sam picked his smartphone, made by Miami-based BLU, because it was inexpensive and got good ratings. He previously had used an iPhone and doesn't regret making the change.
"It takes a while to charge, but with my normal conservative use, I only need to charge it every other night," he said. "The speaker is mostly crap. I think the camera is great if you can get close to your subject and it has a wide lens, which I love."
Their decision to eliminate a monthly wireless service charge might sound risky to business travelers or people trying to constantly post to the web, but it has worked well for them.
"We don't have a monthly service," Sam said. "We add $10 to our Google Voice account as needed for calls outside the U.S. After a year on the road, we still haven't had to recharge, as most calls to other countries range from 2 cents to 15 cents a minute. Google Hangouts allows us to make and receive calls and texts while on Wi-Fi. Google provides a free phone number, or you can pay a small fee and port your old number."
Sam said traveling and posting to the blog with no monthly service has been "extremely effective, but it's not for everyone… We don't need to be connected 24/7, and there are so many places these days that offer Wi-Fi that we get by just fine without a monthly plan." If they know they'll be visiting a spot without Wi-Fi, they can just pop in a cheap SIM card to stay connected. With the ability to download offline maps with Google Maps, "navigating cities without an internet connection is a breeze," he added.
"The biggest downside is that you don't have an instant connection," he said. "If you're walking through a rural area and you want to search for restaurants near you, you'll just have to wait until you find Wi-Fi. That gets a little annoying, especially when you're hungry. "
Texts, calls and emails show up as as soon as they connect to a Wi-Fi network. "Everyone with whom we keep in touch knows this and they're not expecting an instant response," he said. "Since we travel full time, it's very rare when we have to respond to a message quickly."
Deciding to eliminate a monthy service contract might sound risky to many smartphone users, but Sam and Toccara, both 34, are more determined and adventurous than most. "The digital vagabond lifestyle happened to fit our circumstances at a very opportune time," he said.
Toccara is a high school counselor near San Diego and found that having three months of travel a year wasn't enough. Sam is a novelist and was working at home. When he isn't blogging or sightseeing, he is writing his ninth book (Amazon price).
"We wanted to see more and experience new things while we are still fairly young and without children," he added. "I had been working from home as a novelist for some time and we had been saving up money for a while … so we figured it was time for a year off. Toccara tendered her resignation, we didn't renew the lease on our apartment, we sold our car, put our most important belongings in storage and we took off. We have now surpassed a year on the road and we honestly don't know if we'll be setting down any time soon."