Quick thoughts for the day coming at you from Noumea, New Caledonia. It’s 4:41am, and I’m sort of trying to be on the right schedule as I have a meeting tomorrow at 3am local time. It’s not the schedule, though, that has me so worried, as I’ve always been a morning person, but rather the internet connectivity, or rather the lack of it. Frankly, I’m surprised how frustrating it is to be without it.
This reminds me of when I was traveling in Cambodia in 2005, I took a flight from Phnom Penh to Ratanakiri, where I was going jungle hiking in the remote area where Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos intersect. To be clear, I was surprised that we walked out on the tarmac, surprised by the porthole windows, and surprised that the “checked luggage” process was to hand bags directly to the person who was loading them into the plane. However, I was blown away when I stepped onto the plane and there were people smoking cigars. It was like finding the last dodo bird: I had found a smoking flight. I was still a smoker back in those days, so I lit my cigarette and laid back into the feeling of a lost era.
I mention this story because I received a very funny message from Google when we landed in New Caledonia: no service.
Suddenly the information superhighway lifeblood was cut off and I thought to myself: how many places like this are left in the world? Of course, there is 4G here, just not with my tried-and-trusted Google Fi. So we’ll fix that, but it’s a shocking reminder of how dependent on the internet I’ve become.
Now, Tahiti has its own special internet issues, namely the way it’s sold. It’s packaged around the number of gigabits that are used, not around the speed of the service. This means that you’re actually able to quickly outstrip your monthly internet usage if you’re not careful because they have good internet speed. And when I say not careful, I mean that you’re not supposed to binge watch Chicago Fire
on a hungover Saturday because you’ll blow your entire allotted internet, with no way to add more. Then you’re stuck hotspotting video calls, which barely works in the US with full 5G coverage, let alone in the hills of Fa’a’a where 4G is intermittently available.
So while Tahiti was a bit slow at times, the internet speeds were generally fine. If we hadn’t blow through our wifi, the video calls were pristine and full resolution. If we had spent too much time lounging about when we should have been out enjoying the waterfalls and beaches… well, not great, but not terrible.But here in New Caledonia, we don’t have cell service, so the backup option is removed, and then our Airbnb has particularly slow wifi as well. This is just an awkward spot, and we’ll hopefully be able to go fix it today by purchasing a local tourist SIM card. Maybe. Let’s hope, because not being connected is super challenging right now.
Sidebar: Before you go judging for the “I must be connected to the internet at all times” vibe, the reason is that I’m in my last couple of weeks where I’m transitioning out of my previous role, hence the 3am meeting, which is 12pm in Durham, NC. I spent the last 7 years working at Adwerx and building the team, and it’s important to me to hand that off well. That’s just about impossible to do without having connectivity. So yeah, I’m all worked up about it at 4am.
But even if I wasn’t trying to wrap up my previous role, the fact of the matter is that this trip isn’t just about travel. This time around, we’re working to build sometime in Unanchor. This means I need to download Xcode and DaVinci Resolve for video editing. It means I’m working with large video files from my DJI Air 2S drone that need to be rendered down and uploaded in full 4K glory. Thankfully I’m an emacs developer not an IDE person so at least I’ve got that going for me here. All of these things take a surprising amount of bandwidth, which is simply in short supply out here.
I’m sure that we’ll figure this all out, and connecting to the local cell coverage will provide ample enough bandwidth to do the work I need to do. If not, we’ve identified a couple of alternative lodging arrangements that should provide better internet. This is a solvable problem, but really an interesting one since it helped me realize the dependence I have on being connected at all times. Feels like something to work on, and part of why we’re out on this trip in the first place.