I realize this may sound unusual, but truth is always stranger than fiction: I worked from my own (makeshift) portable office using free wifi most of last year while traveling.
In a ten month span I found myself in strange, out-of-the way places with oftentimes no power, much less an Internet connection. It was my first vacation ever as an adult, and I had planned on making it well worth the wait.
During this long, somewhat relaxing span, I also ran my business. Luckily, all I required to keep things running were the Internet and a power source – both of which were in short supply in most places. However with some creativity and a lot of luck, I found both in almost every locale imaginable. Since power isn’t normally an issue for entrepreneurs on the road, I will focus exclusively on finding free wifi access points for the portable office enthusiast.
- Hit the Library
Strangely, almost all of the small towns I spent time in had free wifi access (or at least a connection to the Internet) available for visitors at their public library. For the very few that didn’t – they knew the closest place that did.
- Find the Visitors’ Center
Usually run by local Chambers of Commerce, most North American cities also have a Visitors’ Center for travelers looking for something specific. The Kelowna Visitors’ Center, for instance, gave me a one-page handout of all paid and free wifi hotspots in town for portable office purposes when I moved here.
- Check for Free Wifi Hotspots Online Before You Leave
Before I returned to Vancouver, B.C. (my hometown), I checked online to see if anyone had mapped out the free wifi hotspots in town. Luckily the WifiMug does just that. I even posted a own new location myself! Although this particular company is only listing Vancouver (Canada), Boston, Chicago and Seattle, a quick check for other free wifi hotspot listings netted thousands of websites.
- Ask the Locals
In two of the more unusual locations I visited I had to resort to asking passersby on the street where I could find free wifi for my portable office setup. Both of these situations netted beautiful, one-of-a-kind spots to check my email and get a bit of writing done. One, the Landmark Bakery (250-353-2250) in the small town of Kaslo, B.C. offered free wifi to anyone who stopped by, and even kept the signal on at night so you could sit out front afterhours on their quaint park benches. Another, in the tiny City of Slocan, was housed in what looked like the addition on the side of an elementary school, where unlimited access cost only $5 for a lifetime membership to the Society that ran the place.
- Check Out the Independent Coffee Shops
When all else fails, stop by or call the coffee shops listed in the yellow pages. Most of the larger chains have wifi, but it’s rarely free – except in rare cases such as:
- Blenz (Canada)
- Buffalo Wild Wings Grill and Bar (US)
- Office Depot (both US and Canada)
- Staples (both US and Canada)