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Many people do not want to be sought after by thousands of people while away. That is true especially if you are on vacation! But there are some people that travel to be sought after by the masses and, for some of you, your travels could actually have that same type of draw to thousands of people!
Before Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and all other forms of social networking, there was a social network of sorts that was in existence that connected people of similar interests from all over the world – without any wires to connect them. I am talking about Amateur Radio, or what many refer to as ham radio. Amateur radio is called that because it is a hobby that operators are not allowed to receive pay for (which would make them a professional). Before the advent of the cell-phone, amateur radio operators were at the core of any emergency response action and are still widely used for that when the cell networks go down (in natural disasters and such). Amateur radio is a wonderful exploration of wireless technology that offers a wide-range of options from talking to someone down the street with your handheld radio to talking to someone on the other side of the world by bouncing your signal off of the moon. There are methods of propagation used such as bouncing your signal off the atmosphere as well as bouncing it off of meteor trails and rain drops. There is a lot available for people interested in technology and communicating with others!
Learn About Other Places
But it is also a great way to explore other countries and cultures without ever leaving your house. I have had the opportunity to speak with people in over 120 countries, some that many people have never heard of. I have spoken with astronauts while they were on space missions and have even spoken to the the late King Hussein of Jordan. I have taken Russian lessons from a fellow amateur radio operator in St. Petersburg and have learned about the cultures of the people of the Togo Islands from an operator there. I have participated in contests (which are designed to hone operator/communication skills and technical skills) that had me speaking with thousands of operators around the world in a 24 hour period as well as contests that had me communicating with other operators – all just by bouncing the signals off the moon. I have spoken with radio operators in the most distant and sparsely populated specks of the world as well as speaking with people in major cities. In all of these instances and more, I have been able to learn about different places in the world and the people that inhabit them with real, first-hand knowledge.
What Does This Have To Do With Miles?
But what does all this have to do with miles, points, and travel? Well, there is a subset of the amateur radio population who travel around the world and do take their radios with them to communicate with others from their locations. This gives them the opportunity to be the operator in that foreign country and speak with other operators back in America or maybe some of the nearby countries to their temporary location that may be hard to reach from America. But, there is yet another subset of amateur radio operators that go further than just taking a radio along with them in their travels. These operators travel to operate from special locations around the world. There are hundreds of thousands of amateur radio operators who are trying to communicate with operators in as many different countries as possible. There are awards given to those operators who are able to do that, starting with those who have worked operators in 100 countries. From there, it goes on and on. Eventually, it gets difficult to work some countries because there may not be that many operators there or even people! Sometimes it is hard to get a reciprocal permit to operate in those countries while other counties can be expensive or hard to reach.
What are some of those locations? Well, one of them is Easter Island! That’s right – a location that many people in the frequent flyer community have visited in the last couple of years because of great fares has actually been a location that is highly sought after by amateur radio operators for contact. The list actually includes many places that people within the travel community visit as a result of good award availability or unbelievable fare sales/mistakes. So, if you were to get your Amateur Radio license and a radio, you could actually do just what you do now – travel to exciting places – but now you could actually be sought after by thousands of people all over the world during your downtime! I have been in some places where I was the one that many people wanted to talk to and it is amazing to just hear the airwaves explode with hundreds of people all trying to get your attention at once! You really feel quite popular! And this can all be done in your hotel room with a portable HF (high-frequency) radio, power supply, and wire antenna strung up in your room or just outside your window. Not hard to setup at all and it can provide some additional excitement to your trip as you help other people participate in your travels.
How To Do It
It really is not that hard to get an Amateur radio license (it is governed by the FCC so you need to take exams from certified volunteer examiners to be licensed). There are books published that serve as the question pool from which your test questions will come. Once you get your license, you can either take additional tests to be licensed for increased amount of frequencies (the higher you go gives you more access to frequencies, some of which provide longer distance communication) or stay with what you have and have fun with some really high-tech forms of communication. After that, get a radio and start communicating! You can do it from home or the car! It can help be a window to the world and provide insight to different people in places as well as give you ideas of where you want to travel. And, when you travel, take your radio with you to help others enjoy the new country and you can feel like a very important person as tens of thousands of people try to communicate with you (providing their is a reciprocal agreement between the US and the country you are visiting for amateur radio licensing, otherwise you will need to apply for a special license or permit in those countries to operate).
If you have any questions about this topic, let me know. I have been an Extra class (highest level) operator for the past 14 years. I have served as an exam team leader, taught Amateur Radio courses, been published on amateur radio subjects as well as winning or placing in many categories in national amateur radio contests. I love the hobby and have been privileged to learn from some great tech people as I built some of my own gear. If you ever get into the hobby and get licensed, let me know! I currently am not set up in my location but plan on getting setup again soon to communicate. It is a great way to expand your travel horizon – before you ever leave your home!
If you do get licensed and want to operate in other countries, make sure you check the licensing requirements for those countries. While many countries are reciprocal with the US, they still may have limits on what frequencies you can use, how much power you can use, where you can setup antennas, etc. Always make sure you follow the laws of the lands you are visiting! Amateur radio is governed by laws and they need to be observed. To find out more, click here.
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