Some of you might have read my technological revelation discovered a couple of posts back. To cut a long story short, I basically got stuck in Rome without any cash and the internet wasn’t being much help. I had preplanned to be able to use my online accounts to shuffle money around as and when I needed, but when I tried to access these accounts from Italy it wouldn’t work. Turns out that many banks (including mine) block access to web banking based on your IP address. For some reason they figure nobody takes holidays and needs to access their banking online.
Anyway I managed to sort it out by switching my IP address to a US one by using some sort of proxy/VPN system. I am not quite sure which one but it worked ok and got me accessing my bank accounts from my hotel wifi again. But when I returned it got me thinking, that we often get blocked accessing stuff online and perhaps this method could work in other areas. You’ve probably seen it yourself – tried to watch a video on YouTube or accessing some media player site somewhere and being told it’s not available in your country and stuff like that.
Well I have lots of time and figured if I could change my IP address to a US one for online banking – then I could change it for other reasons too. My hunch was right and after some online searching I found that thousands of people were doing just that – for example to watch UK TV in America. Suddenly the possibilities seems to open up for me, learning French by watching French TV online, accessing the BBC Iplayer and all the TV stations in the UK I love so much. The reality is it’s quite simple and easy to do, for every blocked service I’ve tried to access using my proxy/VPN service has worked. I even watch the Irish news on their national station RTE whilst sitting in a coffee shop in downtown LA. Suddenly I felt the internet had got bigger again and what was better it was being controlled as much.
If you’ve ever been blocked from watching or doing something online simply based on your location – I urge you to check these tools out. Just search for online VPN/proxy programs and you’ll find loads of them – most are pretty reasonable and the best ones have servers in many countries for you to use.
I’ve mentioned this before, but thought it was worth another post. I’ve just been on a mini trip around Europe, not quite a Grand tour like the Victorian gentry from the UK, but not bad for a guy from LA who’s been saving up. I managed to visit three countries, well actually a couple more if you count transit lounges, the UK, France and Italy. I had intended to visit Germany but I just got kind of distracted and also didn’t want to end up like the American Lampoon movie where they don’t know which country they’re in half the time.
It was wonderful and I can recommend a similar itinary if your time and funds are limited – for an art lover it was wonderful. I started in the UK flying into London for a few days, mainly to get a look at the art galleries. I visited the Tate, the British Museum and the National Gallery which is right on Trafalgar Square. The buildings were incredible never mind the art collections inside, I literally spent a day in each even eating lunch in their respective cafes. There are so many other galleries in London, it’s firmly on the top of my to do list. I didn’t manage any of the traditional sites simply because I ran out of time.
I then caught the Eurostar into Paris which is is a high speed train/ferry which travels under the channel. Here I was a little more touristy as I simply had to go up the Eiffel tower, although it was incredibly crowded and to be honest could have lived without it. Then back on the art trail with the Louvre and the sister gallery, the Jeu De Pomme. Then it was off to Rome after two days by a direct flight which toook little less than a couple of hours.
It was in a room in Rome that I suddenly had a bit of a panic, somehow I had managed to lose my wallet with the remains of my foreign currency. Fortunately it wasn’t much and I didn’t lose any bank cards so the loss was minimal. I did however need to do some financial juggling to get funds back in my hands. The problem was that my main bank account with a debit card, had very little money in it and I needed to transfer some cash into it. I had predicted this emergency situation by signing up for an internet account meaning I could switch money around on my travels if needed.
However this pre-planning was in vain, I simply couldn’t connect to my online bank account whatever I tried. I finally discovered that the reason I couldn’t connect was that my online banking had a security block placed on it which meant you couldn’t access the site using a foreign IP address. The idea was that no hacker or bad guy sitting in a Russian cyber cafe could swipe my cash online I guess. The problem was that I couldn’t access the site either, anyway after some long and costly phone calls to my bank I finally came up with a plan. I got it from this website which explained how to get an American IP address by using VPN and proxy servers – http://www.proxyusa.com/usvpn.
In literally five minutes I had subscribed and connected to my bank using a US IP and I could happily move money around using all my accounts. Anyway if anyone finds themselves in such difficulty it’s worth checking out, another advantage is I could access my US Netflix account too! It’s the sort of technology that stops me accessing BBC Iplayer in USA and lots of stuff on Youtube I presume. The only worrying aspect was if I could figure out how to bypass the banks security blocks, I was pretty sure a Russian hacker could too!