What about internet?
I’m a digital nomad!
I’ve been working as a freelancer since 2014 doing social media marketing, which you can learn more about here and one of the things I get asked a lot is ‘what about internet?’
So, this is pretty easy to answer. When I’m in town or a city I go to coffee shops, libraries, laundromats or just friends houses for wifi.
I spend most of my time ‘off the grid’ so to speak. I don’t actually have a lot of time to spend in coffee shops, or libraries, I’m too busy climbing. So how do you work without internet?
Well it’s actually pretty easy. I am on an unlimited data plan! In a recent video I said it was $15 a month, but of course as soon as I said that things changed and I had to switch plans and now I pay about $40 a month for unlimited data. To get emails and such, I pair my phone to my computer. This is how I’ve done it for the last two years until now.
The fine folks at WeBoost sent me this cool dohicky. It’s a cell booster. I had never heard of such a thing before. What I had been used to seeing was the little boosters that create a hotspot to could join that would give you better signal, but that is not what this is. THIS boosts signal of any service provider up to 32x it’s original strength, no need to connect to a device, it just automatically works.
Step 1: Mount all the things
For me this was easy, I just mounted the little white antenna on the bars holding my solar panel to my van. Then I attached the booster to the inside of the van next to my passengers seat, and finally the inside antenna on the ‘mantle piece’ of my van. They also provide you with absolutely everything you need in order to mount the two antennas and the booster.
Step 2: Connect everything for a dry run
This was important. I wanted to make sure everything worked before I started drilling holes in my van.
Step 3: DRILL MORE HOLES IN YOUR VAN
I think I counted up the number of times I’ve drilled through the sheet metal on the outside of my van once, and it came out to like… 18. Which is kind of messed up. But now it’s 19! And this wasn’t even the biggest hole I’ve ever drilled in my roof. The one for wires to the solar panel was bigger.
Step 4: Seal everything and connect it to power!
This was my first time using silicone as a sealant instead of the marine adhesive sealant I normally use. But it has rained pretty hard since I drilled that hole and it didn’t leak, so we’ll see how it holds up over this winter.
There was an option to connect the WeBoost directly to my batteries and originally I thought that seemed like the best idea, but I didn’t have the right length of wires at the time I installed it so I just ran an extension cord to my outlets witch are powered off my inverter. This means the booster is only on if my inverter is on, and honestly? I might keep it that way forever. I don’t always want good cell service. Sometimes I just want to disconnect from the grid. Also, I want to be able to shut things off if my batteries every get too low, so leaving it plugged in to my inverter is the best option for me right now.
Does it work though?
I tried to do a few tests on my own because iPhones don’t let you measure the decibels of signal, they just give you a signal strength bar. BUT they all came out inconclusive because I think the app I was using wasn’t very good. So I unfortunately can’t give you the exact data and numbers I wish I could. BUT I can give you my own anecdotal evidence and view.
This thing really works. I’ve spent the last few weeks in Yosemite Valley, where the service sucks for absolutely everyone. I’ve had people tell me they’ve been trying to download something from their email all day, and only when they come hang out near my van does it work immediately. I’ve noticed that I can load Instagram faster, I can receive text messages, I can check email and stream video almost flawlessly. And I’m in a valley! The phone service is notoriously bad here in thick forrests with massive granite cliffs on all sides.
I’ve gone into no service areas and then had 1x, I’ve gone into 1x areas and gotten a 3G signal and I’ve gone from 3G to LTE. Most of the time when I’m driving with it on I have full bars of service. It’s great! For me, this is kind of a game changer. I work remotely and sometimes I NEED to work. Like I need to download an image someone has sent me in an email and without my WeBoost I wouldn’t be able to do that.
Are there any downsides?
Well. Sometimes it doesn’t work. But I feel like some places there is just no cell signal, and you can’t boost what isn’t there. It is also a bit pricey. It’s about $500 for one of these, so it is an investment. BUT If you are like me and you really need to work from the road, I think it’s a business expense you can write off. Plus you only have to buy it once!
Finally, one of my kind of vain critiques for this product, is I think it makes my van look nerdy… I know that’s dumb and I really like what the WeBoost does for me. But like, I feel like Lyra looks like a nerd now. She used to be kind of cool and under the radar, and now she has this kind of dorky looking antenna on her head. It’s like the van equivalent of a tinfoil hat or something. Plus now I am definitely never stealth camping again. But it’s whatever, that’s a personal problem.
Worth it. If you are looking in to buying one for your RV or van I would 100% recommend it. It’s expensive up front, but I think worth it down the line.