It's just about summer time and that means there are a lot of people gearing up for short term mission trips. I am an advocate of these trips, especially for young people because they provide experiences and challenges you cannot find anywhere else.
If you are wondering how you can call home from another country, if you will be able to charge your camera or how to get things organized, keep reading.
Here are my top four tech-tips to help you before, during and after your trip.
1. Use Evernote to make your packing list and much more
Hands down, my favorite app is Evernote. I have been using it for over a year now and I absolutely love it. There are a million uses for this hi-power note taking app and I use it in a variety of ways.
It's also extremely useful for traveling and missionary adventures. Here are three ways ways I use it.
Keep important information in one place- Wherever I am, I always have my medical records, passport, birth certificate, plane tickets, itinery, and a lot of other information at my fingertips.
All of this is kept in Evernote. Since I have Evernote on my laptop, phone and iPad, and it all syncs, I always have access to it.
Evernote is a free app and I used that for a long time. Of course, there is also a premium version for a yearly subscription fee. I use that now because one of the features is a password protection function which helps to keep your data safe if your device is ever lost or stolen.
You can also sign into Evernote via the web from any computer and access all of your notes at any time.
Make a packing list- weeks before I leave, I make a new note and title it "packing list". I then begin to write down everything I intend on taking with me on the trip.
If your team leader has sent you emails with what to pack, you can even forward that email straight to your Evernote account using your Evernote email address. You can organize your list by having a section for things you have and for items you need to purchase.
When it's time to pack your bags, you can have your note open and place a check mark by each item as it goes in the bag. Be sure and make a list for each suitcase. Make a separate packing list note for everyone in your family and you will know exactly what items are in what suitcases for each person.
This will be extremely helpful if you lose a bag during your travels. You will easily know exactly what's missing and what needs to be replaced.
Keep notes during the trip- you will have lots of memorable experiences during your trip. Evernote makes it simple to keep a diary of all those memories.
You will meet new friends who you want to remember. With Evernote you can record phone numbers, email addresses and anything else. The beauty of it is that you can type it in a new note and not worry about keeping up with paper.
One of the most useful features I have found is the ability to add pictures. When you have a note open and you are writing, you can easily snap a picture and it automatically inserts into the note. You can also access your camera roll on your phone or tablet and insert pictures from there.
This is great for remembering specific places or people. You can also snap pictures of items in a store or the market. I like to snap pictures of things for sale because it helps me to see how much the different items cost.
2. Use Magic Jack on your smart phone to call home
You have probably known about Magic Jack for years. Remember, you plugged a port into your phone and then plugged a phone into that?
Yeah, I knew you would remember. But did you know that they have an app for your smart phone now? I didn't until a friend of mine told me about it last year. I downloaded the app before we left for the Philippines and I used it every week for five months.
What I like about using this app is that it integrates with your smart phone to access all of your contacts. It's just like using your phone. All you need is an Internet connection and you can make and receive calls for free.
I was even able to use it without Wi-Fi because I bought prepaid data for my smart phone on a local network. Although that only worked when the skies were clear and I was standing on one foot, it did use it a couple times to make important calls when I was out and away from Wi-Fi.
If you have a mom like mine who requires you to check in, I highly recommend you download this app before you leave!
3. Purchase cheap, prepaid phones to communicate on the field
I got this idea from my friend Todd Crusenberry who leads medical mission trips of 10-12 people each year to the Philippines.
This year, when they arrived, we were exchanging their money at a local mall when he noticed a cellular dealer near by. He wanted to have communication between his team if they went in different directions and he wanted to easily communicate with myself and the national pastors.
He bought three cheap phones for, I think, $12-14 each. He then bought SIM cards and enough minutes to talk and text for 15 days. Those phones turned out to be a tremendous help during the time they were there. One of the men who came with him had to be hospitalized for three days and they left a phone with him to use. That alone was invaluable.
I had to run errands to get additional medicines several times and I was able to call and text with questions.
Another option is to simply buy a local SIM card and insert it into you own cell phone. You'll have to check with your cellular carrier for the details but I was able to do this for five months with my iPhone 6 with no problem.
Your phone will need a SIM card slot and it has to be unlocked. If you have that, you should be good to go.
4. Learn and understand how to power your gadgets
Different countries have different voltages that are the standard of their electric power. For example, in all of North America and Canada, 110 voltage is standard and the electronics manufactured there are built for that voltage.
But, if you travel to Asia, or down to South America, you are entering a different world as far as electric voltage goes. In the Philippines, the standard voltage is 240, much different from the 110 voltage in North America.
It is important that you understand the voltage situation before your trip because the first time you plug your 110 volt appliance into 240 volts, you will be crying the blues. I had that unfortunate experience earlier this year in the Philippines with my beard trimmer. Luckily for me it only ruined the charger and I was able to buy a universal one and keep using it.
Most of the laptops, cell phones, cameras and other digital gear being produced today have power supplies that are very universal. I was able to plug my laptop, Ipad and Iphone directly into the wall socket with 240 volt power with no problem. But, we had a crock pot (and my beard trimmer) that was only 110 capable.
You can very simply find out what voltage your device is made to handle by looking for a tag on the power supply. It will tell you the input voltage and the output. You want to be concerned with the input. If it says 110 v only, don't use it where there is a 240 volt power source.
But, if the input reads 110-240 v, you are good to go. You won't damage your device because it was made to work with voltages from 110-240 volts.
You may find that you need an adapter because the outlets might be different from the prongs on your device power cord. Adapters are just that, adapters. It is important to understand that adapters do not change the voltage, they only make it possible to plug in your device to the socket.
There is such a thing as a transformer that can be plugged into the power source and then your device plugs into the transformer. The voltage is "transformed" to the correct voltage so your device is not harmed.
Sometimes you will encounter a mission house or motel that has made some power outlets with a different voltage to accommodate travelers. My best advice is to not take their word on that issue. Sometimes a language barrier can cause hundreds of dollars worth of toasted equipment!
I would recommend carrying a voltage meter so that you can be absolutely sure what voltage you are dealing with.
Here's a website I found that has tons of info on this topic as well as the voltages for many different countries.
A mission trip, like summer camp, is a time to get closer to God. It's also a time to focus on serving others. Sometimes that means less gadgets and more quiet time.
Don't get carried away with social media and other distractions while on your trip, but do use technology to help you with the important stuff!