Have you ever felt as if you've been overseas too long and you've lost touch with what's happening in the old country?
Does it take a major event in the motherland to make you realise just how far you've fallen behind with everyone and everything - from the latest gossip with friends to the next big thing on TV?
When you pack your suitcases and travel, do you wish you could remain connected with happenings back home?
It doesn't matter if you've lived in five countries, backpacked across three continents, or travelled the world for five months and a day, there's always something you miss from home. We've all been there and felt that growing sense of disconnect.
During a wet and overcast English summer of sports programming saturating my Australian TV, I couldn't help being drawn back into the nest I flew from almost ten years before. Bleary-eyed and sleep-deprived in the early hours of the morning, I listened to reports filed by familiar British commentators and I caught the end of programs broadcasting from across the length and breadth of the UK.
Surfacing from these epic dawn endeavours, I realised I had a longing for the familiarity of my old home and a need to keep the connection going with the country of my birth. As the English summer lovefest ended, I made a commitment to myself to become more connected through the marvel of modern technology and the wonders of the BBC. Here's how I've been doing so.
|Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons (Kristina Schuster)|
1. BBC iPlayer
For three months, I've been trialling the BBC iPlayer app on the iPad, courtesy of BBC Australia. Already a fan of the Beeb and its regular supply of quality programming, I was initially sceptical that the iPad app would deliver given its limitations over the traditional television set. However, I've enjoyed being able to access most shows through the iPlayer interface. It's easy to navigate, streams the content relatively smoothly, and allows me to watch as many programs as I like under the monthly subscription.
We're spoilt in Australia by the number of British programs on national TV but the iPlayer generally provides them sooner, with greater variety, and on demand. For Australians, the ABC's iView and SBS On Demand apps are also excellent but, as I understand it, only available to those people actually residing in Australia.
2. VPN Services
Have you seen the growing number of Virtual Private Network (VPN) subscription services, including AdTelly or ExpatTelly? These VPN services have allowed me to watch a range of television channels from the UK directly on my computer or iPad from anywhere in the world. The services connect your PC to their VPN servers so that when you visit websites such as the BBC or ITV, you appear as a resident of the country. This means you have full access to their UK-only 'live TV' or 'on demand' services without getting any error messages.
When the Australian television channels reverted to local programming during the Olympics, I'd switch on my VPN service, log on to one of the British channels, and continue watching live coverage. Sometimes slow, occasionally jumpy, it always allowed me to navigate the various stations as if I was located right there in the UK.
3. Apple TV
Apple TV has been a wondrous discovery in the Ward household. I can now stream most of my iPad applications directly onto our widescreen TV through the magic of AirPlay. I can also mirror the actions I take on my iPad, rent and download movies, connect to my iTunes library, and even subscribe to the NHL.
While this has been something of a revelation, the real benefit has been the ability to watch both the BBC iPlayer and VPN service programs on my regular TV rather than only on the iPad. Eyesight saved, job well done, much happier expat.
4. FaceTime over 3G
I know, I know, this post has a distinctly Apple flavour minus the huge sponsorship dollars but FaceTime has been another great find. With the roll-out of the latest operating system on the iPad and iPhone, FaceTime now works over cellular networks as well as Wi-Fi, so I can make and receive FaceTime calls wherever I happen to be and without being hooked up to the Internet.
I'm not quite ready to wave goodbye to my relationship with Skype and I've no idea how much this new tool is costing in terms of phone plan usage but I'm slowly converting to a world where FaceTime is my preferred friend.
5. TalkSPORT Live
One thing we Brits can't long be without is our football or soccer. As the world's most popular sport, it's likely that a few others can't long be without it too.
An innovative new way to follow the English Premier League is through talkSPORT Live which gives football fans outside Europe exclusive access to live commentary of every Premier League game for free via the Internet. TalkSPORT has also just joined up with Twitter to bring its live commentary to Twitter users outside Europe at twitter.com/talkSPORTLive so there's no excuse for the soccer tragic to ever miss a game. Pretty good, eh?
So what do you use to maintain that connection with your own home or country of origin? Are there any tools or gadgets that you subscribe to and would like to share below?
By the way, the people at talkSPORT Live have very kindly donated a Liverpool FC football shirt signed by former player Stan Collymore to give away to my readers here.
Stan is talkSPORT's chief commentator and was a prolific and controversial goal scorer in the English Premier League in the 1990s. He also held the British transfer record when he moved from Nottingham Forest to Liverpool for £8.5 million in 1995.
To be in with a chance of winning this signed shirt, simply leave a comment below telling me why you want the shirt. I'll pick the best one and the winner will be announced in the next post on this blog and on the Facebook page.