Why expats need the internet
If you live and work in the same area all your life, then assuming those around you do the same, you can probably get away with keeping the majority of your communications locally based, even face to face. If you want to, that is.
For most of us, the networks that life brings us into contact with are an important part of the richness and diversity of our communications, and we love being able to 'keep in touch' - whether directly or not. Even if we don't travel ourselves, those we meet locally can send back stories of their adventures, and 'take us with' them at least virtually. Closeness of relationships is no longer dependent on being in a single location, instead its all about connectedness.
If you work and travel yourself, it's hard to imagine how people managed without the communications we take for granted: cellular phones, email, social networking, gps mapping, you name it, we depend upon it and it shapes our lives. Whether you need to know the best place to get a vegetarian meal on arrival in a new city, where to find the bus station, or how to contact your embassy, the information is all out there - from a range of official sites, crowdsourced recommendations, and the curated output of a network you trust.
A lot of people don't discover expatriate life until they are past working age however, and free to enjoy the location they have always dreamed of in retirement. For many in this generation, work never involved working online at a desk, and being connected to the world in the way that most of us now take for granted. And now they are out of the loop professionally, their mindset and skills are not being systematically updated in the way that working people have no choice but to move with the flow of.
Does that mean retired expats should sit back and let the communications revolution pass them by? Certainly not! Getting connected once you have time to enjoy it can open up dramatic new opportunities, whether to travel the world, shop for familiar brands, or learn new skills. It can make all the difference when it comes to keeping in touch back home, when you can make unmetered voip video-calls instead of pay-per-second terse mobile exchanges, and bring worlds together in ways never before experienced...
But if you are worried about where to start with getting online, what should you do? For many older people, the first port of call is a smug grandchild or two, who can roll their eyes knowingly and sigh, whilst they help set you up with at the very least an email address and Skype account. But for a lot of retired expats that help is quite a distance away and inaccessible - not to mention, they are used to living and solving problems independently without looking for help from those around them!
Services like Costa Connected on Spain's Costa Blanca are specifically designed to help expats find the simplest and most cost-effective solutions to their online needs, whether to communicate, travel, work or trade. Their articles are jargon-free and clearly written, and they answer questions in a local newspaper to help with specific topics not yet covered. They even offer one-to-one consultancy and coaching, to get you started and up on your feet, whatever your online needs be they personal or professional.
If you have made the decision to live and/or work in the place you choose, rather than chanced to be born, then you have the curiosity and the sense of adventure to want to get the most out of every aspect of your life. The online world will never replace or substitute for the real life you have created for yourself - but it can enrich and enhance it in ways you never imagined, if you only explore the possibilities.