Global Wifi Hotspot Review: Tep Wireless

Global Wifi Hotspot Review: Tep Wireless

My husband and I both have online businesses, which means we are 100% dependent on being - you guessed it - online!

So when we decided to spend 3+ months traveling in Australia (which surprisingly enough, ranks very poorly in wifi strength), New Zealand and Southeast Asia, we clearly needed to have access to reliable internet.

Cell phone companies are notorious for having horrendously expensive portable wifi options, not to mention the limited amount of data you can use before they bump the price up on you so before I even looked into it, I knew I was going to have to find an alternative solution.

I did a LOT of research scouring the interwebs and the best option I found was Tep Wireless, which is what I ended up going with and am SO glad I did.

 

COUPON CODE: If you order your own Tep Wireless device, make sure to enter inabsoluteawe to receive 10% off!

 

Here’s a rundown of what you get with Tep Wireless:

  • The wireless device: It’s a thin, lightweight device that is super easy to use.  

  • A short USB cord to charge the device that doesn't take up too much space

  • A handy dandy user guide

  • A worldwide adapter with both a plug and USB ports that you can use for other devices, as well. This adapter rocks for a few reasons:

    • Its size: It’s thin, which means it can plug in next to other plugs. I don't know if they did this on purpose, but it's genius as you wouldn't believe how many other worldwide adapters are too bulky to have two plugged in next to each other.

    • It has both a plug and a USB port, which means you can charge both the Tep and another device or even more devices if you, for instance, plug the Tep into the USB port, your laptop into the adapter plug and then your phone into the USB port in your laptop. Score!

    • The plug parts fold in when you're not using them, which means there's A) less of a chance they’ll snap off in transit and B) allows it to lay flat in the bag

  • A perfectly sized, soft container that easily fits all of the above and won't take up too much room in your suitcase.

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How does it work?

After pushing the on button, a welcome screen appears showing the country you are in, along with an option to start a session.

A confirmation message pops up to make sure you didn’t hit start by accident.

Each session is 24 hours and there's a countdown showing how much time you have left. Scroll down for more info on costs for each session.

Once the Tep shows you are connected, go to your wireless settings on your laptop/tablet/phone and choose to connect to SkyRoam.

Up to five devices can connect at once. Extra bonus is that if you’re traveling with friends, you can split the cost and you can all use it at once.

Just keep in mind all five devices are using the same data so the more connections, the slower it may be.

The manual mentions needing to enter in the password each time you log in, however I've actually only ever had to enter it into my device the first time logging in. If you do need to reenter the password, it's easily accessible on the main and only screen.

Did I mention it’s unlimited wifi too?! After 500MB per day, it does slow down a bit, but slow wifi is better than no wifi, amiright?!

 

To Rent or Buy?! 

Depending on your needs, Tep Wireless gives you the option to rent or buy your device. 

Rent it:

If you only need a wifi device for a specific trip or you don’t travel often, Tep gives you the option to rent the device.

In this case, you enter the details of your trip (where you're going, when you're going, for how long?) and they send you the device along with everything mentioned above prior to your trip.

After your trip, you simply drop it in the envelope provided with the pre-paid return label and throw it in the mail. You have two days after your rental period to send it back, which is nice since you don't have to worry about it right away.

Real talk: The daily rental price is $9.95, which I know ain’t cheap and can definitely add up, BUT if you need internet access and don't have access to free wifi, this is frankly the best option I've found thus far!

Buy it:

If you travel often or long term, buying the Tep is a really smart option (and the one we chose!).

They aptly named this The Frequent Traveler option, and while you do put more money down up front, in the long run, it will probably be worth it.

To buy the Tep, you pay $99.95 for the device (plus all the other goodies I mentioned).

Your daily fee is only charged when you initiate a session; unlike renting, which is charged whether you use the device everyday or not. 

It's also much lower at $8.00 per day. $1.95 less per day may not seem like a lot, but it adds up!

You also get three free days (a $24 value) so taking that into consideration, it’s actually only $75.95 for the device when you think about it that way.

Buying it upfront also gives you:

  1. The convenience of always having it and being able to turn it on whenever you need it.

  2. The relief of not having to worry about remembering to rent it before a trip or sending it back.

  3. The option to use it as a backup just in case wifi goes down.

 

Troubleshooting:

They make it super easy to contact their support team 24/7 via phone, email, chat or even WhatsApp!

REAL LIFE EXAMPLE: When we were in Australia, we had an issue where we needed to contact Tep's support team for help.

Despite the Tep showing we were in Australia, according to Google and Facebook, we were in Hong Kong. This was only the case while we were using wifi via the Tep; not with other wifi that was available.

While we would end up going to Hong Kong for a layover later in our trip, I can assure you we were most certainly not in Hong Kong at that time! 

Now if everything was working as it should have been, I wouldn't have cared where the heck it thought we were, but the problem was that we couldn’t connect to Facebook and as a major part of my husband’s traffic comes from Facebook advertising, we needed to fix this ASAP.

Thanks to Tep's 24/7 support, we were able to get help, despite being on the other side of the world. I initially used the chat feature, then phone, then email so really got to test it all out!

Each support member that chimed in was fully up to speed on the challenges I was having, which was great as I didn't have to explain my issue each time.

As this particular issue had never happened to anyone before (lucky me!), the support team didn't have an immediate solution, but after some googling what others had done in the same situation, they were able to help us resolve the problem and get us reconnected.

(You’re welcome if you ever have this issue with Tep, as the support team now knows what to do!)

 

My experience:

Aside from my imaginary trip to Hong Kong, I’m really happy with my Tep! We really wouldn't have been able to travel as we have been if we didn't have it so I'd definitely recommend buying or renting it, depending on what your situation is.

Have you used Tep Wireless or another global wifi device before? What has your experience been? 

PS - All cards on the table, this article stemmed from a partnership with TEP Wireless. All advice and opinions are 100% my own! If this article was helpful for you, please buy or rent from this link to help me continue to do the research for you and give you my honest feedback!

Bonus: I even got you a discount! To get 10% off your rental or purchase of a Tep Wireless device, make sure to use the coupon code inabsoluteawe at checkout. High five!


 

What do you mean we may have to sleep on the glacier?!

What do you mean we may have to sleep on the glacier?!

It was an absolutely beautiful morning - blue (and I’m talking mesmerizing BLUE) skies, the kind of blazing sunshine that you can feel soaking into your skin, 70 degrees Fahrenheit – and we were psyched for our early afternoon Fox Glacier heli-hike, which, is exactly what it sounds like. A helicopter ride to a hike on the glacier!

When we arrived at the check in location, the staff went through the usual schpiel about how the weather can change very quickly and asked if we understood their refund policy if for any reason, our hike had to be cut short.

We, of course, nodded our heads, assuming there’d be no shot in hell that this would happen today, seeing as there literally was not a cloud in the sky.

They too acknowledged that while they’re obligated to share the warning with us, in that moment, they didn’t think it would be an issue, based on how perfect of a day it is.  

After putting on thick socks and warm, leather boots, we listened to the safety briefing and then headed over to the helipad for the five minute ride over to the glacier.

Oh. Em. Gee. I felt like I was in Jurassic Park, flying high, panning through the gorgeous tree covered mountains and valley below. There even was a waterfall for God’s sake – like you can’t make this up!

Some clouds started rolling in as we approached, but directly over Fox Glacier, it was still wide open, blue skies.

As we soared towards the glacier, it looked like a giant ski slope, however once we got closer, the jagged ice, flowing water and ice covered mounds came into view. While it looked white from afar, up close the captivating blue tone shined through.

Watch the videos to see for yourself. Go ahead, throw it on full screen and turn the volume up so you really feel like you’re there!

 

We landed on the glacier and after a quick crampon (aka spikes on your boots to make it easier to walk on the ice) tutorial, we spent a couple of amazing hours walking on the ice, in absolute awe of this incredible monstrosity of nature, wondering how anyone could possibly question climate change when there literally is water gushing down the glacier at unreal speeds. 🙄

Since this wasn’t my first rodeo on a glacier, I remembered that you could drink any flowing glacier water so I was excited to fill up our water bottles. I gulped down the insanely pure glacier water and it was just as delicious as it was when I drank it on Glacier Grey in Patagonia. 

Fun fact: Glacier water is SO pure, that while drinking it sparingly is fine, if you were to drink it consistently, you’d actually get sick because it’s TOO pure for our bodies to handle. Crazy, right? Learned that in Patagonia!

Anyway, during the hike, I noticed how quickly the clouds were moving. This still wasn’t surprising, as from my experience over the past few weeks in New Zealand, there literally could be four seasons in one day, switching from cold to hot, cloudy to sunny, windy to not, in a matter of minutes.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s to snap a picture when the view is good because if you don’t, it might be gone the next time you try! Here are a few of the awesome shots we got: 

At this point, we’re toward the top of the hike when our lovely guide’s radio starts blowing up and he tells us that as the clouds are getting pretty dense further down the glacier, we need to cut the hike 45 minutes short, as it’s important we get down and safely off of it (again via the helicopter) so that we don’t have to sleep on the mountain.

Wait…. what?! Has that happened before?!

Yep! Only a few times in the company’s history, but the good news was that they had supplies a bit further down the glacier for 100 people (there were probably only 20 of us), in case we actually truly did get stuck there! We’re talking food (apparently not very good, but whatever), sleeping bags, tents and, of course, all the water we’d need. I didn’t ask about the wine, but it’s New Zealand so I only assumed they’d have a Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough region or a Pinot Noir from Central Otago.😜

Now even though the clouds rolled in and it cooled down a bit, it really wasn’t that cold so my husband and I smiled at each other, knowing we were both thinking that it actually would be kind of cool to stay there overnight, as long as they had supplies.

Based on the unbelievable views of the stars we’ve been able to see during our time in New Zealand, I can only imagine how incredible it would be from a glacier. It’s hard to capture it on camera, but it actually looks like you can see the Milky Way behind all the stars. 

We heard the man on the other end of the radio saying that we needed to hustle, as the helicopter was going to be there soon and they couldn’t waste any time waiting for us.

We walked quickly down the glacier and waited patiently for the helicopter to fly in. There was an eerie silence across the combinations of customers and guides in the middle of the glacier, waiting to see what next steps would be. 

After a few minutes, we knew the helicopter was close and let me tell you, we heard it before we saw it coming! At this point, the clouds were so dense that we couldn’t actually see it until it was about 30 feet away. Imagine hearing the sounds of a helicopter that close and not being able to see it! It definitely got my heart racing.

The clouds were so dense that as the pilot was landing, he had to open the helicopter door and lean halfway out to see exactly where he needed to be, as he couldn't see out his window. 

After his immensely impressive landing, the pilot immediately started shaking his head, explaining that we weren’t going anywhere for the time being! Our guide said that while the clouds always move quickly, he’s never seen them come in as fast as they did today so he wasn’t surprised with the pilot’s decision.

We hunkered down, realizing we might be there for a while. Minutes before, we were looking up at the bluest sky you’ve ever seen and now we were literally sitting in a cloud, with whiteness all around us. Check out the insane difference of only a few minutes!

After about an hour of patiently awaiting the pilot’s decision, he said there was an opening in the clouds that we needed to take advantage of quickly. I'm not going to lie, there was a part of me that was disappointed we couldn't stay! 

Since my husband and I were on different helicopters on the ride over due to weight restrictions, we would be traveling back to the base separately, as they had to make a few trips due to how many people were on the glacier.

I kissed him goodbye and while I jokingly took the keys to our motorhome from him, just in case he didn’t make it off, I had a moment where it hit me that he actually might not come back that night. If the clouds moved in that quickly initially, what was stopping them from doing it again? It's one thing if we would be staying on the glacier together, but once I knew I was on the next helicopter and he wasn't, I became more nervous than excited. 

With a pit in my stomach, I hopped on the helicopter and took one last picture of him (be more dramatic, right?🙄) before the pilot took my camera from me. I later learned that technically we weren’t supposed to be flying during this time so I get why he didn’t want any evidence!

We cruised just below the clouds and got to see an entirely different view from the one we had seen on the way up, which was equally as amazing, just in a different way.

This time, we got much closer to a waterfall that went 200 feet down into an abyss and floated low in between two pine tree covered mountains before dipping down into the valley, flying over local farms prior to making it to the helipad.

I hopped off the helicopter and while the rest of the passengers made their way back towards the base, I waited patiently for my husband to return.

I saw a helicopter on it’s way back and slowly the pit in my stomach started easing up, but when it landed and he didn’t get off the plane, I started asking questions.

Turns out there were four trips that needed to be made and, of course, he was not only on the last trip, but also the last one to get off the helicopter!

Crazy to think while I’m writing this, sitting on my bed in the motorhome, I could have very well been cuddled up in a sleeping bag on a glacier, staring at the stars.

Even after all that, is it weird that I actually wish we could have stayed there the night?

Would you have wanted to stay on the glacier or be on the first helicopter out of there? Do you have any similar close call stories? Share in the comments below! 

Living that RV Life

Living that RV Life

Confession.  Before committing to five weeks in an RV, I never actually stayed in one. 😬  

You should also know that while I’m huge into off the beaten path adventures, I’m not ALL about roughing it. A smidge of it is fab, but there’s definitely a pretty clear “Rachel Roughing It” line that I’d reeeeeally prefer not to cross. 

Growing up, my family’s “camping” trips involved setting up a tent in our backyard, with an extension cord running from the house to a small TV we dragged out to the tent. My sisters and I would crowd around the TV, snuggling up on our New Kids on the Block or 90210 sleeping bags to make sure we weren’t missing out on TGIF – the best night of 90s TV hands down! We even ordered pizza to the tent once. 😮

I can still remember the bewildered look my father gave us after our shows were over, when we’d grab our sleeping bags and head inside to our warm beds to sleep. Why would we sleep outside if there was a bed inside?! Silly Dad! 

So imagine the look of shock on his face when I told him my husband and I would be spending five weeks in an RV seeing as much of New Zealand as we possibly could!

My father wasn’t the only one who had questions about our journey. I can’t even tell you how many people pointed out that I just got married five months before and if being in an RV with your new hubs for five weeks isn’t a true test of marriage, what is?! (I’ll tell you more about how that’s going in next week’s blog!)

So at this point, we’re two weeks in and I’m loving it! Definitely something different to get used to, but here are the top 10 things that I think will help you if you ever consider an RV trip: 

1.     How I chose my RV 🚐

There’s a whole range of RVs you can rent. They range from a “campavan,” (how you say it in New Zealand, duh!), which is basically a glorified van with a bed in the back and a kitchen in the trunk, to a full blown motorhome, which is a legit house on wheels. We went with a mid sized motorhome, as I needed the following to make it work for us:

a.     A table with enough room for two people to sit comfortably with two laptops without being all up in each other’s space. 💻  💻

b.     A shower and toilet (although I’ve learned a shower isn’t necessary… more on that in a bit… ) 🚿🚽

c.      A bed that didn’t need to be set up each night and put away every morning 🛏️ (Puh. LEEEASE. – I have enough trouble getting my husband to make the bed everyday, let alone setting it up each night and morning! 🙄 

d.     SPACE! There are definitely large campervans that have a bathroom and a bed, but going back to that whole just-got-married-thang, I want to make sure we’re setting ourselves up for success here! 👍

(I actually just laughed to myself, as many people wouldn’t necessarily agree that there’s much space, but I’m used to living in NYC apartments, which contrary to what you see in Friends, are NOT that big).

We named him Sir Gandalf. Sir Gandy for short. 

We named him Sir Gandalf. Sir Gandy for short. 

 

2.     Book early!

My awesome friend, Ellen Hoffman at Down Under Endeavours, warned me of this and I figured two months in advance would be PLENTY of time. However, that wasn't the case! The inventory they had when I booked was slim pickins so I’m sure I ended up paying more than I would have if I booked earlier.

Yes, I had a lot of must haves I needed checked off the list (so needy, right?!), but I’d still recommend booking well in advance to make sure you get what you want (cue the Stones singing you can’t always get what you want. Hmph!).

 

3.     But wait, there’s more (costs)… 💰 💸 💳

 Although during my initial research, I read that in addition to the cost of the rental, there will also be a daily charge for the campground, I didn’t realize the charge is per person and at least on the South Island of New Zealand, where we’ve been so far, powered sites range anywhere between $15 and $25 per person per night. It adds up so make sure to factor that into the budget for your trip.

 

4.     There’s an app for that

On a daily basis, I wonder how anything got done before Google and since we started our road trip, I wonder how anyone seamlessly RV’d without the CamperMate app.

CamperMate maps out all campgrounds, color coordinated by Paid, Low Cost and Free, as well as other important resources you’ll need like gas stations, wifi and playgrounds. You know, the important things! There’s even an offline version of it, which is the bomb.com when you’re in the middle of no where with no service.

While CamperMate is specific to New Zealand, I'd expect there to be similar apps depending on how common RVing is where you're going. Here's one I found through a simple search on iTunes. 

 

5.     To Power or not to Power…

Here in NZ, you’re allowed to “freedom camp,” aka park your RV for the night anywhere, as long as there’s no sign saying you can’t, ONLY if you have a self contained vehicle (aka has a toilet).

I had originally envisioned this being amazing as we could pull up to a lake, set up shop and be good to go, however you have no power… which means no charging your electronics (although you could charge your phone during the day via the USB port in the cab).

Two weeks in, we haven’t freedom camped yet! 😳

I know, I know. I need to do it. I need to just unplug and be okay with not being completely connected, but it isn't just not being able to see what Kelly wore to the bar last night on Instagram. It’s your toaster, your lights, your Kindle... Now I’m just making excuses. Okay FINE! I’ll try freedom camping. You KNOW that will be a blog post… 😏

 

6.    Da Dump 🚽☝️✌️💩

The toilet in the RV is called a cassette toilet, which is essentially a large container where all your business goes and once it gets to a certain point, you have to empty it. I was DREADING the day we had to do this, but in reality, it really wasn’t THAT bad. There’s a dumping station at most campgrounds, which is a big tube that goes somewhere I don’t ever want to find out about. I would think it would reek, but honestly, not once have I smelled anything bad at our campgrounds. Phew! 

 

7.     Showering 🚿🚿🚿

Since we’ve been staying at campgrounds, I’ve only actually used the shower in the RV once, since as long as you have flip flops and a carrier for your toiletries, it’s easier to just use the showers at the campground. 

The one time I did use our shower, I ended up using most of the water that’s housed in the RV, which isn’t a big deal because at all campgrounds, you can fill up the water. It’s just not worth the hassle of having to do it if you could just shower in the campground showers, which has way more room anyway.

 

8.     Is a cluttered RV the sign of a cluttered mind? 🤔

While I said we have “space,” it’s still a much smaller space than most would probably be used to. The pro of having a small space is that it’s pretty quick to clean, however the con of a small space is that it gets messy fast.

Even if there are only a couple of things out of place, it looks messy so it’s really important to have a specific place for everything – shoes, bags, clothes etc. My husband is still learning this system... 🙄

 

9.     Go into it with an open mind!

I initially found myself getting frustrated because the space was different than what I was used to. However, once I got a system down, I was much more comfortable. 

For instance, there’s only one plug in the kitchen so when making breakfast, I now boil water in the electric kettle for tea or coffee first since I have to let the water cool before I can drink it, then switch out the kettle for the toaster to make our daily cashew butter and banana toast. Mmmm.

 

10. A few things I’m SO glad I brought. I’ll leave the standard packing things for another post, but here are a few things that you might not think of:

  1. Hanging toiletry bag: Again with space being tight, being able to hang your toiletries on a hook helps save room.  
  2. Adapters with multiple plug ins (ie wall and USB). Since you may only have two electric outlets, it helps to have adapters or plugs that allow you to charge multiple devices at once.  
  3. Back Support for the long drives (also awesome for flights!) I have a slipped disc so it's super important I have good support and the Lovehome version is THE. BEST. I have two - one for the car and one for work and have recommended it to ANYONE with back pain. Including my mom so it's got to be good, as moms deserve the best! 
  4. My TEP Wireless device: I read about a bunch of different options leading up to the trip and the truth of the matter is, there’s no cheap option, but since both the hubs and I need wifi everyday to do our job, we don’t really have a choice not to have access to wifi. I’ll write up a post about the TEP and include a referral code so you can get a discount. Stay tuned on that! 

What are your fears or hesitations about traveling in an RV? Would you try it out? Chime in and let me know your thoughts! 

 

WTF does In Absolute Awe mean anyway?!

WTF does In Absolute Awe mean anyway?!

It was January 4th, 2016, in Torres del Paine National Park, Chile.

My fiancé at the time/now husband and I were driving through Torres del Paine, (which - FYI - is the most insanely beautiful National Park that I've EVER been to) when we saw what I later learned was Hosteria Pehoé, an idyllic hotel perched right on a little island in the middle of Lake Pehoé with a gorgeous pedestrian bridge that connected it to the main road.

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My jaw dropped and I knew we had to pull over so I could take in the view.  I, of course, had to snap a bunch of pics with my point and shoot, my iPhone AND my GoPro (because what if one of them took a better pic than the other?!).  

Despite being pretty sure it was a private island only for guests, I was drawn to walk over the bridge and check it out for myself. We walked by the main house and a few smaller houses, where we assumed the guests were staying and happened to see this little path that went up a hill into a bunch of trees.

Again, I ignored that pesky thought that jumped into my head questioning whether we were allowed to be there and up the path we went! When we got to top of the hill, the trees opened up to what honestly has been the most unreal view I’ve ever seen.  

It’s not like I hadn’t traveled before or seen amazing views, but this time, it literally felt like a giant wave had come over me. I was so taken aback and filled with so much emotion that I started crying at the sheer beauty of it.

That was definitely the first time Mama Nature made me cry, but that feeling…

That wave that came over me…

I’ve felt that before.

The sheer size of the Redwoods and how small they made me feel.

The shadows of the dunes in the Sahara at dusk right before sunset.

The transparency of the water while snorkeling between two tectonic plates in Iceland.

That’s what being In Absolute Awe is all about. That feeling that washes over you. That magic that takes your breath away. That moment where nothing else exists. 

I’ve always had an enormous amount of respect for Mama Nature. I’ve always been in absolute awe of her and everything she has created, which is why when I decided to spend this time traveling, my first stop couldn’t be anything other than New Zealand, as I’ve never heard anything other than utter amazement from those who had been before.

I can’t even believe today only marks being here for ONE WEEK. I’ve seen so many incredible views and excitingly enough, still have four weeks here! I’m SO grateful to have this time and promise to share more of it with you over the next few weeks!

More to come! xoxo

And then just like that, it was my last day of work!

And then just like that, it was my last day of work!

I was really good at my job. My clients loved me. I genuinely liked my colleagues and my boss.  I was at the height of my career following a personal record breaking quarter.  My boss was prepping me to move into a role that would give me much more seniority and be the lead of one of the top focuses of the company. I would have made more money that year than I ever had before (and we are not talking about chump change here!).

And I left.

I left the comfort of a paycheck that covered more than I needed for my mortgage, bills, vacations – you name it.

I left a great job with awesome benefits (free catered lunch, stellar healthcare, supportive environment).

I left what I had worked so hard to get to.

Why would I do that?! People dream of having that kind of security! Are you crazy, Rachel?!?! (I am, but not the kind you’re thinking ☺).

I wasn’t passionate anymore. I wasn’t excited. I wasn’t challenged in the way I wanted to be.

I was comfortable.  I was bored. I didn’t care.

I saw how worked up my colleagues got about their accounts and how emotional they were about their business and I couldn’t remember the last time I truly felt that way about mine.

Sooo I left! I left to do something that I know I’m passionate about, that I know I won’t be bored of, that I love SO much, down to my core. TRAVEL!

“Ugh, be more cliché, Rachel. Another person quitting your job to travel the world? You’re such a millennial! What are you going to do for money?! How are you going to pay your mortgage?!”

Honestly? I don’t know... (I mean I do know that I am fortunate enough to have saved a good chunk of dollah dollah bills to last me a little while), but long term? I’m figuring that out! Instead of finding another job that I could learn to love, I want to start with my passion and allow it to evolve, taking shape as I go.

Is that nerve wracking? A little.

Is it uncomfortable? Sure.

Have I ever done anything like this before? Nope.

Is it exciting? HELL YEAH!

So… are you ready to join me on my journey? Hope so!