My 22 year old son graduated from college last May with a degree in something or other, and immediately found a low-paying, menial job that certainly did not require a college education.
     It was in an office, though, and after a GRUELING six months of working 37 hours a week, he decided it was time for an extended vacation. So with his meager savings in hand, he headed off for a two month trip to South America with his girlfriend.
     "Thanks for the education, sucker," he said as I watched him pack his bag right after Christmas. "Iíll be in touch."
     My little boy was going far, far away. I remember when I travelled while in college in the 70ís. My parents had no idea where I was, how I was doing, or if I was still alive. Iíd send occasional letters, but that was about it.
     "You canít afford to use your cell phone in foreign countries," I said. "How will we contact you?"
     He looked at me like all children look at their Neanderthal parentsówith disdain. "Havenít you heard of WhatsApp?" he asked.
     "How about Viber?"
     "How about Skype?"
     Victory. I did know all about Skype. Iíve even used it a few times when I was in another country to call home. I let him know that it was nice to know we could Skype (itís now a verb) him or he could Skype us. Pretty cool.
     "No one uses Skype anymore," he explained. "Itís for old people. You need to have an internet connection and pay two cents per minute or something. With WhatsApp and Viber you can text or call for free."
     I am so "yesterday." So I went on my phone and downloaded WhatsApp and Viber for a grand total of 99 cents. Then I took my little boy to the airport and watched him walk away for his big adventure in a land far, far from home.
     Fifteen hours later I got a text on my phone from WhatsApp. "Landed in Santiago, Chile. Anybody miss me yet?"
     This was going to be a little different than my college travels. The world is getting smaller every day. My little boy wasnít so far away after all.
     I might have missed watching the Super Bowl with him a couple of weeks later, but as he sat in front of a television somewhere in Patagonia, we kept a constant texting communication going.
    "49ers suck," he wrote during the first half. "Bring in Alex Smith."
    "Kaepernick is the man," he wrote during the second half. "Letís frigging go!!!"
     It was weird. He was in Patagonia, I was in Marin County, and it was like he was next door. And I could have picked up my cell phone and called him on Viber for free anytime I wanted.
     I didnít, though, because you got to give him his space. In fact, weíd go a few days without any communication, just to show how independent heíd become.
     But I was thankful for the technology when I happened to glance at the USA Today travel section and noticed a small paragraph on the corner of the page headlined "Cancel Your Trip To Machu Piccu."
     That was my sonís last stop, two weeks in Peru and the Cusco region, including a hike to the Inca ruins at Machu Piccu. Unfortunately, the State Department had issued a travel alert warning of kidnappings in the area that were targeting American tourists.
     In the old days, he never would have known. But now all I had to do was text or call. So I texted him and let him know about the alert. Being the most cautious child that ever walked the earth, he quickly cancelled his trip to Machu Piccu.
     "Glad to hear it," I texted back. "If you got kidnapped, it would put me in a terrible spot deciding how much ransom you were worth. Iím thinking $500 but I might go a little higher."
     "Thatís touching, thank you," he wrote back. Iíll give them that offer up front."
      A few days later he and his girlfriend were safely home, about two weeks before they were scheduled to return, thanks to the cancelled Machu Piccu and Peru portion.
      I didnít even ask when he would start looking for a job. I knew to wait at least two weeks.



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