On a late August afternoon, my wife and two kids drove to the Steele County Fair where my son was to go to his first demolition derby. I went to the airport, boarded a plane, and flew to Tucson, Arizona. I would be gone for a week during my first business trip. It was also the first time I would be away from my young family for an extended period of time.
When I returned home, my family met me at the airport. Standing by the baggage carousel, my 18 month old daughter just stared at me. I kept glancing back and forth between her and the bags coming down the chute. She kept staring. Finally she said, “Daddy, hug me.” Bending down on one knee, I squeezed her and began to comprehend just how much family meant to me.
Eight years later, almost to the day, I took my seat aboard another airplane this time headed for Hyderabad, India. I had been concerned about how I would stay in contact with my wife and children during my two week trip. Calls within the continental US are included in our monthly cell phone plan, so when I went to Tucson I could call my family as often as I wished without additional cost. During this trip, however, the calls would be international, and extremely expensive. My family is such a huge part of my life that it would be devastating not to be able to have much contact with them for two weeks. We had to find an inexpensive way to communicate with each other.
We contacted our cell phone company and enrolled in an international calling plan for the two weeks I was away. For a prorated cost of $5 per phone, our international text costs were decreased from $0.50 to $0.20 per text. The rate for phone calls was decreased from $3.59 to $1.79 per minute. A sizable reduction, but it still wouldn’t take much to rack up a hefty bill. We decided we would use our phones to communicate only if no other means were available at the time.
We could certainly use email, and Facebook to send messages back and forth, but I wanted more.
This is where Skype comes in. Skype is an internet application that allows you do make voice only, or video chat calls to another user absolutely free. I had used it before, but usually as a trivial gadget of interest. In day to day life at home, cell phone calls are free, and there’s really no need for video capability.
But when you’re on the other side of the planet, video is exactly what I needed.
Through my hotel internet connection, I was able to use Skype to not only talk to, but see the family that I was missing. So, exactly how much money did Skype save me?
Going through my history, I added up about 775 minutes of video chat during my two week trip. Had those been phone calls, even at the reduced rate, I would have racked up a phone bill of $1387.25! Admittedly, my use skyrocketed because I knew it was free. But it sure was nice to be able to spend some time each morning and evening interacting with my family.
Many people with families travel often for business, and I’m sure they miss their loved ones very much. For me, it’s just not something that I prefer to do very often. Nothing can compare to actually being at home, but Skype let me stay involved with the day to day life of my wife and children even though I was on the other side of the world.
And that, my friends, was simply priceless.