Home » Technology – As An Expat I Can’t Live Without It

Technology – As An Expat I Can’t Live Without It

Several years before we moved to Panama I traded in my desktop computer for a large laptop. With a 17-inch screen, it was quite adequate as a desktop replacement and I worked happily with it for about four years.

Occasionally when I traveled I would complain about its weight – 10 pounds all by itself. In the laptop bag, with all its accessories and other paraphernalia, that could shoot up to 25 pounds. Have I mentioned that I’m small? And no longer young?

Last fall I traveled back to the US and, after hauling laptopus gigundicus through several airports, I vowed “never again!”

This spring it was acting up a lot, so before my trip back to Orlando last month I ordered a new laptop. It’s not quite as big, and only half the weight. My talented son volunteered to juice it up for me by swapping out the hard drive for a solid state drive and turning the original drive into a portable backup drive.He worked his magic and had it ready for me on arrival.

Naturally, I left gigundicus home in Panama. My plan was to use it as a dedicated entertainment machine after I got home. I had spent hours before the trip uploading files I would need to the cloud for retrieval with the new laptop.

What could possibly go wrong?

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Lots, as it turned out.

My biggest problem – and still unsolved I’m sorry to say – was email.
I had backed up my old Outlook files, but my new computer won’t recognize them. Since there’s a ton of important information stored in those folders, that was quite a blow. Oh, I found other ways to send and receive email, but my storage system was unavailable.
Thinking that perhaps my backup file had gotten corrupted on its way to or from cyberspace, I told myself, “Not a long-term problem. When I get home I can just hook the two computers together and retrieve it that way.”

Not so much.

After I arrived back home, I plugged in gigundicus, pressed the power button, and … nothing. Black screen. Some flashing lights on the keyboard, but nothing else. Uh oh. From what I could determine, the problem seemed to be a dead CPU.

“No problem,” I told myself. “I’ve got this enclosure with my portable backup drive in it, I’ll just remove the hard drive from gigundicus and swap them out. Then I can plug in the portable drive and access my data.”

My husband (the guy with the tools) unscrewed the back of gigundicus, removed the hard drive and placed it into the enclosure … which wouldn’t close. Turns out, when we looked closely, the connectors were all different.

Now what do I do?

I’ve discovered there’s a computer repair shop here in town that may be able to transfer data off that drive for me, but I haven’t had the time to take it to them because I’ve been busy trying to catch up on work. And, truth be told, I haven’t had the heart to take it in.

if I take it to them I run the risk of hearing more bad news. They don’t have the right equipment to do it, or maybe the hard drive itself has a problem.

I’m afraid if I hear either of those, I’ll lose it. Big time.

Here’s my other big problem. When we moved overseas, I didn’t bring any software disks with me. There are some programs installed on gigundicus that I have no way to install on my new laptop. The disks are stored with my brother-in-law back in the US. I have a complete system image of the old hard drive, but that’s only helpful if I want to restore it to the old computer.


For those of you who use your computers to email friends and family, browse the internet and check your bank balances, technology failures are irritating. But when you’re running an online business from your laptop abroad, technology failures can be disastrous. Not being a tech geek, I’m not sure what the solution is. For the moment I’m grateful that I have a laptop that lets me do my work, even if I do feel as if I’ve got both hands tied behind my back without access to the files and programs I rely on.

I’ve decided to invest in the spare parts that are easy to replace but hard to work without, so I’ll be getting another battery and power cord.

I’ll continue backing up regularly.

Beyond that, if you have any suggestions, or if you have stories to share about traveling and living abroad with tech problems, I would truly love to hear them!

by Susanna Perkins.

Susanna always wanted to experience life in another culture – she just never imagined it would become the “sensible” option. Believing that, when life hands you lemons you learn to juggle, she found herself with an entire crate full of citrus following the financial meltdown in the US. She started tossing fruit around and ended up, with her husband and three small dogs, in Las Tablas, Panama. With a more-or-less reliable internet connection she works as a freelance writer and shares her expat insights and experiences on her website, Future Expats Forum, and teaches non-technical people about WordPress at WordPress Building Blocks

Read Susanna's other Expat Focus articles here or click the button below to view her own blog…

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