This post is short, just to say two things.
Our US mobile numbers are still active.
Friends and family: We found a way to use our US phone numbers while abroad. You can still call and text my mobile number: texts become instant messages in Google Hangouts and calls go to voicemail which Google Voice automatically transcribes into emails to me. This also enables me to make free phone calls and texts to the US from my same US mobile number even while abroad, using Google Hangouts.
Addy’s phone is also already set up the same way, so she can stay in touch with US friends while abroad. We had a little trouble getting Lydia’s mobile number transferred; I’m still working on that, but it should be done soon, if Verizon is cooperative. To do all this, Google charges a one-time fee of 20 USD per number. (Not bad!)
Thanks to Paul and Nina for the advice!
We want to thank the WheelingIt blog for telling us exactly how to do the whole process. They wrote an extremely thorough, accurate, and useful blog post on how to do that whole conversion process. It is definitely a nontrivial task, especially if you’ll be abroad when switching. (Google Voice won’t let you convert your number if your computer isn’t in the US at the time. I used TunnelBear‘s free trial 500MB of VPN service to solve this.) I’ll try to post in the comments of WheelingIt’s blog post thanking them directly for the thorough and helpful advice.