Long distance. It's the next best thing to being there.
Remember the Bell Telephone commercial from years, OK, decades ago?
The explosion in the communications industry has shrunk the world, bridging the gap from home for those living on the other side of the globe.
"Technology's amazing," former Purdue and Valparaiso basketball star Robbie Hummel said during his junket home last weekend. "Even from 10 years ago, it's a lot different. It makes it easier, for sure."
Hummel is playing professional basketball in Santiago, Spain, but thanks to Skype, FaceTime, Twitter and text messaging, he's able to stay in touch with family and friends back in the United States.
He has a Slingbox, so he's able to keep up with college and professional basketball, even if there isn't all that much worth watching in West Lafayette this season.
Santiago, a city of 100,000 located on the northwest coast of Spain, is best known for its cathedral, the reputed burial place of St. James. While it's a popular tourism spot, the appeal wanes once you've been there a while.
"There's not a whole lot to do," Hummel said. "The city's not that big."
Having former college rival William Buford of Ohio State on his team and in the same apartment complex helps make being in a foreign country more enjoyable.
When Hummel's family visited for Christmas and New Year's, Hummel's mom Linda said they passed the time watching plenty of movies. The city isn't as international as places like Barcelona and Madrid, so there aren't as many folks who speak English.
While Spanish is the national language, Gallego (a form of Portugese), Galician and Castilian are also spoken, making it even more challenging for someone with a basic grasp of Spanish.
Linda recalled the family going through a grocery store with a pocket translator, trying to figure out what was what. Fortunately for Robbie, the food is good.
"The seafood's some of the best in the world," he said.
Hummel's car, a hybrid Prius — if you watch "Family Guy," you know it's what Brian Griffin drives — as well as his apartment and medical and playing expenses are all paid for by his team, Blusens Monbus Obradoiro Cab. He's just responsible for his food.
Hummel joked that his biggest adjustment may be with the metric system, having to translate heights, weights and gas prices.
While the American players stand out in Spain, they live a largely private life.
"They don't bother you much," said Hummel, whose apartment is just a few minutes from the arena. "I've probably signed like 50 things since I've been there. They are very passionate about their basketball."
Carl English leads the league in scoring, though Americans are likely more familiar with former Chicago Bull Andres Nocioni, who plays for Caja Laboral.
The schedule in the 18-team Liga ACB has been an adjustment for Hummel, with games only about once a week. The team flies to most away games, though they do take an occasional bullet train.
"We practice a lot," Hummel said, wishing the calendar was busier.
While games are 40 minutes, like college, Hummel said they seem longer, despite the lack of TV timeouts.
The season lasts into May, after which Hummel will return to the United States to play on Minnesota's summer league team. The Timberwolves retain his draft rights for three years.
"I stay in contact with them," Hummel said.
The team's website is www.obradoirocab.com. Unless you know Spanish, bring your dictionary.
This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.