Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

January 22, 2022
Bookmark and Share

Have Internet will travel

Web cafés are finally making it easier to get online while you're on the road

Last August two doctor friends ran into each other at Orly International Airport in Paris. Each had just arrived with their spouses -- he from Vancouver, she from Toronto. The couples discussed their travel plans over coffee. One was headed into Paris for a few days before going on, the other was connecting through to Rome but, they discovered, they both planned to be in Prague in about 10 days. Wouldn't it be fun to get together? Yes, but how?

Neither was sure where they were going to stay or even their precise day of arrival. In the old days they might have suggested meeting in the main plaza under the town clock, at American Express or city hall. But they had a better idea -- use the Internet to stay in touch. It was agreed that the couple in Paris would set up an email account at Hot- under a name they devised on the spot and were certain would not already be in use -- a combination of their last names and a set of three numbers. They settled on a password and the Rome-bound couple scuttled to the gate for their flight. That evening their friends went to a the CyberCafé Latin on rue St-Jacques, near their hotel and set up the account. The couples exchanged messages every day or two using Internet cafés in a variety of places and arranged to meet at one in Prague, a week and a half later. It worked like a charm.

Many Canadian MDs now use the web to find good deals on hotels or rental cars or book last-minute flights. Far fewer use the Internet to stay in touch when they travel. There's good reason for it. Until recently, getting on the web or picking up messages when you were away from your home or office connection was no easy task. That's rapidly changing.

Most airports now have terminals that will connect you to the Internet through a pay phone; larger hotels offer in-room Internet connections for laptops; on the road, truck stops have terminals, as do many copy stores such as Mail Boxes Etc. and Kinko's. Most libraries in North America offer the service and then there are the Internet cafés themselves -- thousands of them scattered across the globe (see Finding Internet cafés, next page).

From Taos to Rome
I had my first experience with an Internet café last May in Taos, New Mexico. Locating it was the first challenge. There was nothing listed in the yellow pages and no one I asked had a clue as to whether the town had such an animal or not. Finally I phoned a local computer store and they sent me to the recently opened El Picasso's. The experience, once I got there, was entirely satisfactory. I ordered a double espresso and spent the next 15 minutes downloading email and replying to messages. The total cost: $4.75, including the espresso.

Before I left for Taos, I'd asked a friend and veteran Internet café user, Torben Schioler, how you manage to pick up messages on your local server from a remote connection to the web. "You can't," he explained. "You have to set up an account with a web-based service. I use Hotmail but there are lots of them out there." In the end I chose to set up an account with Netscape, Explorer, Yahoo and a host of others can also accommodate you. These services are free and take only a few minutes to set up. By sharing your password with others, friends and family can have access to the account as well. To keep in touch, you simply address messages to the shared address as the clever medical couples travelling in Europe did.

Advanced computer users who know the usernames and passwords to access their local server can, on Internet café machines that also give you access to email programs, reprogram the mailing account to access their home server account and retrieve their email. If you do this, don't forget to reset the computer to the original parameters or subsequent users will have access to your account!

One other note: Internet cafés are often wonderful places to hang out in a foreign city. For one thing, tourists like yourself tend to congregate there. Proprietors and staff are usually surfing nuts themselves, share a connected feeling to people all over the world and are a great source of local information. TreviNet Pl@ce in Rome, for example, has its own tourist discount card and provides services in six different languages.


This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.