Staying Connected

Seasoned traveler Nick Topitzes of PC/Nametag compares Madison to the cities he visits - and reports back on his findings.

Traveling as much as I do, I would often feel disconnected from home, my business, and Madison, so I have developed a variety of ways to keep me connected to home — even from a foreign country.

One could argue that we spend too much time tied to our workplaces and that it is good to get away, but I am not necessarily talking about the workplace, although that is important. I stay connected to the office with my notebook, iPhone, and checking for messages. I receive a variety of reports daily which help me manage the business, and I have access to a “dashboard” which tells me how different parts of the business are doing.

What I am talking about is connection to “home.” The things that tie us to Madison are news, sports, culture, our families and friends, the weather, etc. Many business folks stay connected through checking various news sites, and I’ve added some twists to that:

Various News links: When all else fails, I go to and The Journal Sentinel does cover some statewide news in greater depth than our thinner and thinner Madison newspaper. It is a sad reality that newspapers have been struggling but hopefully the return of advertisers will mean more news. I also go to the various television sites. And (that goes without saying).

Slingbox: Slingbox, for those of you who aren’t familiar with it, is a device that you add to your home network. You purchase the cigar-box device for less than $200 and there are no other fees. I have connected one to the television and DVR in my lower level. It is also connected to my DirecTV (or your cable provider) and my home wireless Internet. With this setup, I can remotely select which programs I want to record, play them over the internet to my laptop, and watch Badger games, Packer games, the local news, or favorites that I can’t pick up on the hotel television. Often I will come back to the hotel at around 9 p.m. and review my saved national news programs or watch a game. Being able to see local sports and news keeps me in the loop. I can also view events and news on my iPhone using Slingbox. AT&T has some capabilities on this but I like Slingbox. It is great to be able to watch the Badgers when you are in Hong Kong, London, or even Des Moines.

The telephone and Skype: Part of our company policy for over 25 years is that we will pay for a short daily phone call home for any employee travelling. We feel it is important that you touch base with your family. Not just the people you live with, but siblings and parents. Also friends. If you have limited minutes on your phone, explore Skype. Not only can talk to family members (or loved ones) but you can also see them if you wish.

Photos: Make sure you have a photo of your loved ones. It doesn’t have to be displayed all the time, and you can carry them in your wallet or on your iphone and laptop. It helps you remember why you are travelling if you are working. They are expecting you to contribute to the family income.

Routine: I try and arrange things similarly in the bathroom and on the nightstand. I try and have a cup of coffee as soon as I get up and I start checking emails. Little things but they count.

Food: Many hotels provide comfort foods. I try and find a good Greek restaurant, so I can have something that is special and has been part of my life for many years. Or I find myself just going back to a restaurant that I like from a previous trip. That doesn’t mean I don’t experiment — that also is part of my lifestyle.

CCTV: My company has an extensive closed circuit television system that I can link into with my notebook. No, I am not checking up to see if everyone is working. It does allow me to see the business loading docks and get a sense of the inbounds and outbounds (although the dashboard does a better job.) The main reason why I use the CCTV? I like to check the weather outside the building. Is it sunny? How much snow did we receive? Have they plowed and shoveled yet? Is it raining? Sometimes it is not convenient to call or just too early, late or a weekend and there is nobody who can tell me what is happening. The local television weather doesn’t tell me what is happening right outside my door but my CCTV does. Just another sense of connection.

There are lots of other ways that you can make travel less stressful and keeping yourself connected. You might want to add your thoughts to the comments section below.

Sign up for the free IB Update — your weekly resource for local business news, analysis, voices and the names you need to know. Click here.