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So you're hooked on the Internet. You surf the web daily. You correspond daily with everyone from long lost friends, to distant family members, to co-workers, via e-mail. You can't imagine leaving it all behind when you hit the road for business or pleasure. Luckily, you won't have to!

It is easy nowadays to keep connected whilst travelling. All it takes is a portable computer (laptop or notebook, palmtop or PDA), a phone line (a hotel phone will do), and a basic understanding of how to adjust your Internet settings to compensate for being away from home.

If you do not own a portable computer, it is becoming increasingly easy to find inexpensive laptops, palmtops, and personal digital assistants (PDA), so now is a good time to consider buying. Online auction sites are good places to look, as are discounted electronics warehouses both online and via text catalogs. You do not need much, bells and whistles are largely unnecessary when it comes to getting online. I have a relatively old, very simple laptop running an operating system I am familiar with (which is important, you don't want to have to learn how to use the machine from scratch!). Used laptops can be a very cheap alternative to buying a new computer, especially if you are going to be taking it on the road, where you can risk losing it.

Once you have the computer and a travel destination, you'll need to either find a local number for your Internet Service Provider (ISP) in the area to which you are travelling, or sign up for a nation-wide free ISP that you may use for the duration of your travels. Please note that for international travel, you will have to investigate ISPs in the country to which you are headed, and you will have to invest in a voltage converter in order to plug your portable computer into an outlet.

If you have an ISP that has servers in many states, then it may be easy to find a local number for the destination area. Call your ISP or check their web site. Record the information, and dial up to their server (when you reach your destination) using the new number. Remember, some hotels will require special prefixes to dial out to an outside line, so take that into consideration when you set up the computer's dialing properties. Since every computer and every operating system will have different methods to setting up dialers, you must check the instructions or help files for your portable computer for how to set up a new dialup location.

If you are using a local ISP, or an online service such as America Online that requires software you may not be able to fit on your portable computer's hard drive, consider searching for a free nation-wide ISP. Once you have decided upon an ISP and signed up for its services, follow the instructions that came with your computer to set up a new dialing location. Bear in mind the dialing prefixes you may need to adjust when you reach the destination.

When you have the Internet connection sorted, it's time to consider methods of checking e-mail and surfing the web with your portable computer. Many of the popular browsers such as Netscape and Microsoft Internet Explorer are free, and you need only download the setup files from their respective web sites, or request an installation disk from the given company. Once you have installed a web browser on your portable computer, surfing the web is as easy as it is as home! All you need is to dial into the server you've selected for your travel time, and away you go!

There are many free web-based e-mail services that can be a good alternative to your normal e-mail address, as you can check most of them from the web, using a web browser. Use your favorite search engine to find one you like and to sign up for its services before you leave for your trip. Give all your usual e-mail pals your new address for use during your travels. To check your e-mail you need only connect to the Internet, open whichever web browser you've set up on your personal computer, connect to the free e-mail server's web site, and check your mail! If you have an online service such as AOL, look into the possibility of checking your e-mail account directly from the online provider's web site.

If you are only going to be away for a short time, or do not wish to purchase your own portable computer and set up the various software needed, many libraries offer computers with Internet connections. Before you leave, investigate the possibility of being able to surf the web and check web-based e-mail at the local library in your destination area. Again, it is a good idea to set up a web-based e-mail account with a free service, so that you may check your e-mail easily with a web browser. If no libraries in your destination area have Internet access, research an Internet café. Not only will you be able to surf the web and check web-based e-mail, but you can also enjoy a beverage or snack while you do!