Toolie Travel Blog

A million-mile flyer talks about the life of a business traveler.

ToolieTravelBlog: Business Travel, Social Media, and Privacy

It's a absolutely brilliant day here in Seattle: blue skies, puffy clouds and a brisk 53 degrees. Spring has sprung and my thoughts turn to the skies as I'm refurbishing my speaking website. The work is not done, but it will be shortly, and I will talk about it next month.

One of the features of my new website is a listing of my speaking engagements that is pulled from my speaking business management tool. I like that I can enter the data once and display it for prospective buyers. I will also reinstall my TripIt badge when everything is in place.

But my "spidey-sense" tingles when I think about advertising that I am going to be away from home. I am fortunate that McAlister is here working at home in the studio nearly all the time, but I think about the many ways in which we expose our public and private activities online these days: Facebook, Twitter; less so on LinkedIn. Now I'm adding my business travels to a website that can be seen globally. I still think that the networking opportunities outweigh the risks, but I thought I'd go over ways to protect yourself from prying eyes.

Limit the Details of Your Private Life

If you've spent any time on our around Facebook and you keep up with current events, you've probably heard about the young person who decided to call in sick to work, then talked about their activities that day on Facebook. They never considered that the boss might know about their Facebook profile and keep track of what his employees might be doing. The boss found out, and the employee was fired.

While I enjoy sharing some personal details of my life (everyone knows how MUCH I adore McAlister), I am careful to keep specifics out of my Facebook entries and Twitter Tweets. I'm involved with these entities for business purposes, so that helps sort out what I'm willing to share online.

Don't Use Your Home Address for Your Home-Based Business

When I worked at Microsoft, I had the anonymity that working for a big company provided. Unless I gave out my direct phone line, all calls were routed through the main switchboard (later a call routing system), and the AmEx bills went to the Microsoft billing department. By the time I went out on my own, I had established a business address and a business credit card whose bills did not go to my home. I've been using a PO Box for my address for the last 25 years, so I am accustomed to having control over my mailing address. Yes it's sometimes inconvenient to have to go to the Post Office, but it's a choice well worth making, in my opinion.

Have Your Address Removed from the Land Line Listing

If you still have a land line to the house (many people don't anymore), have the address removed from your phone company listing. It's surprising how many people don't realize that websites like have your home phone address listed right there online. While I might allow a home phone number to remain listed (I don't), when it was, I had the phone company withhold the address.

As an online marketer with a company that owns 85 domain names, I also use private registration for what is otherwise a public listing. Domain registration information is public unless you specifically make it private (an additional fee). I've worked with clients who register domain names using a personal credit card, who later realized that their home address was listed for everyone to see. We quickly remedied the situation, but it's disconcerting nonetheless.

Route Home Phone Calls to Your Skype Account

This is a tactic I started using when I was traveling internationally because of aging parents. Only my parents and siblings have my home number, and that way I would be able to stay connected inexpensively.

I purchased a Skype phone number, and paid 75 cents a month to automatically forward my home phone to my Skype voicemail after a certain number of rings. If I was online at my computer, I could take the call, and the caller had no idea where I was in the world. If I was away from the computer, they would get voicemail anyway, but at least they weren't waiting for 2 weeks for me to return a call. It gave the illusion that I was nearby at least, and it was comforting to me to be available to my family.

Stop Your Home Mail Delivery

It's easier than ever to arrange for your mail to be held. You can go to the US Postal Service website (for example) and enter the request online:

You can specify both the start and end dates of the hold, and you'll receive a confirmation by email.

Employ a Security System

Not everyone needs to add a sophisticated security system to their home, but for some this may be a sensible decision. If you live alone and travel a lot, you may not have any other reasonable choice.

My favorite form of security is the neighborhood watch. Until I moved to Seattle I never knew my neighbors. I was always away, or lived in rental neighborhoods where people came and went frequently. Now that I own a home, I notice much more readily the cars that are parked on my street, the stranger on foot who is lurking with no apparent reason to be present.

I still don't know my neighbors as well as I should, but I am much more aware of my surroundings. We have exchanged phone numbers, and we look out for each other. I'll never forget the first time I received a call from the neighbor across the street, who called me at work to tell me that I had left my garage door open when I left for the day. I was so thankful, I sent her a bouquet of flowers!

Here's hoping you have someone looking out for you when you're away! If not, go meet your neighbors and join the watch!
ToolieTravelBlog: A Survival Pack for Bad Weather ...
Newsletter: Full-Body Scanning and TSA Security