A funny thing happened to me the other day. I was looking at all my lovely tech toys that could accompany me on my trips – and then I started hyperventilating. It was a sensory overload – a freakout over the simple task of surfing the net, but the conundrum of what do it on? laptop? iPhone? PC? Sometimes there’s such a thing as too much choice. It got me to thinking about technology and travel. I love my electronic gadgets, they’re better than children – they don’t talk back (unless you change the settings to do so) but really when you think about it, most of them are completely unnecessary for the global nomad.
Not including my digital camera (a given), my three most treasured items to take on a trip are my MacBook Pro, iPhone and Amazon Kindle. It would be great to be able to carry a nice HD video recorder, SLR camera and tripod, maybe an Acoustic Guitar (yeah, I’m that guy) - but it’s just not viable.
Besides weight restrictions, the biggest problem I have with my chosen three is that none of these gadgets have a specific function that can’t be utilized from one of the others. I can Skype, surf the net or listen to podcasts from my MacBook or my iPhone. I can read books from all three. The main difference being that they do one or more particular functions better than the other two. I love them all for their differences (much like you would children. Except red headed kids).
The Laptop is an absolute luxury item when on the road. It’s great for watching movies and updating my travel blog but keeping a journal and writing up the blog posts later easily negates the latter. The iPhone is handy – if I’m going to be backpacking around a country for a while I usually get a prepaid SIM, and of course there’s the bonus of having all your music with you, and you can watch video’s, albeit on a much smaller screen. And the kindle is great, 1500 books in my pocket weighing about the same as a magazine. However, I am starting to miss the romanticized notion of being on the road with nothing but a camera and a journal full of notes. Always surfing the net or listening to your iPod can really decrease the possibilities of chance encounters with some really interesting people.
Having said that, I do think the positives outweigh the negatives as far as taking some tech stuff with you. The iPhone and iPod Touch have over 100,000 applications available on iTunes. Most of them you’ll never use but there are some great travel related apps such as TravelFish’s new range of travel guides in Asia, TripAdvisor’s Top Picks app is good for restaurant reviews, and Lonely Planet’s new program which allows you to download their city guides and Phrase books. There are currency converters, weather apps and some really cool translator programs too. Of course it goes without saying that the iPod’s primary function of playing music and podcasts is invaluable during long distance transit. If I had to choose just one thing to take with me, it would be my iPhone.
Big laptops are great but oh so bulky. In a previous post on Have Pack, Will Travel, Jeff writes about the value in taking a notebook like the ASUS Eee PC 1000HE, instead. They’re so much smaller than the average laptop but still retaining some necessary features like USB and webcams. They’re generally pretty robust meaning you can just chuck them in a daypack and pull it out when you need it.
The Kindle. I was sceptical at first because I like the feel of holding a book in my hands. But like an Oreo cookie, I can never stop at just one and before I know it most of my baggage allowance is taken up with some travelogues to get me in the mood, like Thomas Kohnstamm’s Do Travel Writers Go to Hell?, or Paul Theroux’s Ghost Train to the Eastern Star. I don’t think I’ll ever replace guidebooks with their electronic counterparts, but for normal novels the Kindle has proven invaluable. I don’t know if I’ll need the ever need a capacity for 1500 books, but hey, it can’t hurt.
Technophilia needn’t be a dirty word. It’s just about not going overboard with the technology you take with you, and trying to find that balance between using your gadgets to enhance, not hamper your travels.
Headline iomage courtesy of jeroen020