In this day and age, pretty much everybody is expected to be connected and reachable. The fact that you are away from home or out of the office is not a valid excuse for people not being able to communicate with you. While it is easy to stay connected on the road using your cell phone at the very least, it is an entirely other matter if you are abroad.
When you are abroad, you are still expected, or required to communicate. From re-sending that report your boss lost, to reaching a local contact, to getting others know where you are, and how great it is there, you will need to stay connected in some way or another.
Staying connected means two things: basically it is the ability to use your phone, such as making calls or sending messages, or to have access to the internet. We will address the ability to use your phone.
First you will need a phone that works overseas. Since the US and Canada use phones that run on a CDMA network and are locked to their service provider, that phone is pretty much useless abroad. There are carriers such as AT&T, T-Mobile USA, Suncom, Sprint and Verizon that offer GSM phones that can be used abroad, or GSM / W-CDMA that act as dual purpose phones. In a pinch you can even rent or buy one along with a local SIM once you have arrived at your destination. The problem with that is while it is great for local calls and texts, it is not so great for the people back home, who will have to pay international rates to reach you and whom you will have to notify of your new number, but we will address that problem in a minute.
While getting a local SIM and an unlocked phone solves the problem of local communications, there is still the issue with making overseas calls. Using your old phone and US carrier for either calls or for the internet is expensive as the roaming and data charges are usually high. You can ask for travel packages that give you calls and internet service at discount rates, or a pre-paid plan to control your usage, but roaming and data fees are never comfortably cheap.
One solution is to use local calling cards for calls from your destination to the US at greatly reduced prices. The other, better solution, especially if you expect to make and receive a lot of calls overseas is to find a VoIP provider, and use their service.
Voice over IP or VoIP, is a telephone service that uses the internet rather than phone lines. To use it, you will need, a smartphone like an Android, iPhone OS, BlackBerry OS or Windows Mobile phone, an internet connection or Wi-Fi hotspot, and the app of the service provider downloaded and installed into your phone. The benefits are that using it allows you to make voice and video calls to other users of the app for free, and to make calls to any other cell phone or land line for a greatly reduced fee. Different providers have different strong points as one is better at video conference, while the other is better at group chats or mobility. The upside to suing it is that you get to stick to a single number, which negates the need to inform your 1000+ contacts that your contact details are different, and that it comes with a whole host of business applications as well. All you have to do if find a provider that suits your needs best and set up your smartphone before you leave.