When you’re traveling the world and working online, one big concern – especially if you’re getting online at airports or train stations or other big public places – is protecting your data and privacy.
After all, nobody wants to get on a free internet connection at the airport only to find out some asshole tracked what they were doing and stole their passwords.
Which is why I use a VPN (Virtual Private Network).
What is a VPN?
If you aren’t familiar with the technology, it’s primarily a layer of protection between you and the internet. It encrypts any data you send so that it can’t be seen by any third parties. And it gives you a new IP address so that nobody can track where you’re browsing from. Big companies use them to protect employee computers and there are lots of small VPN companies out there that will let you protect your personal machine for a small fee.
Even better for travelers, VPNs often let you choose your location. This is a handy trick for doing things like:
Accessing US-only content
One of my favorite recipe sites, for example, blocks European web traffic because of the GDPR privacy laws here in Europe. With a VPN, I can get to my recipes by choosing an IP address in California or Oregon or New York.
Another good example of location-specific content is video-streaming services like Hulu or Netflix. If you want access to your usual account while traveling, a VPN can make that possible.
(Psst, this post contains affiliate links, which means if you purchase something through one of my links, I get a commission at no extra cost to you.)
Getting the best travel deals
Sometimes airlines will sell the same plane ticket for different prices in different markets. Which means you might be able to pay less for the same route if you buy from New York instead of Dublin or Italy instead of Switzerland. With most VPNs, you can change your location with a couple clicks and search fares from multiple places.
Getting around the harsh content firewalls some countries put up
In places like China, there is a lot of internet content that’s simply blocked. If you’re traveling there and need to access it, it can be a huge pain.
A good VPN can help you get past that (though do keep in mind that China enacted a ban on VPNs, and I am not a lawyer and cannot give you legal advice about whether it’s wise to use one).
Which VPN do I trust?
After much research and trials of three different VPNs, I finally settled on one I’ve been very happy with: Express VPN. (And good news: If you use my link to buy it, we both get a month free. Win-win.)
A final disclaimer
As I said above, I’m not a lawyer and can’t advise you whether it’s wise to do things like use a VPN to get around China’s Big Brother firewall. If you have any concerns about things like that, I recommend more research and perhaps a consult with someone who better understands the law.