Reflections on pre-smart phone travel - Travels Blogs

Reflections on pre-smart phone travel

Over the past few days, I’ve come across a few different pieces about how travel has evolved thanks to technology. My favorite was this one from the Telegraph, which discussed backpacking before and after the age of the smart phone.
This got me thinking about my own experiences abroad, and in particular my first big trip overseas. It was a two month trip to the UK, during which I and a few other people filmed a group of students who were on a literature study abroad. Technically, I was part of a film crew, but we were all sort of mixed in together and felt like one big group.
During that trip, each night members of our group would convene in the common rooms of hostels to discuss the things we saw, had read, or the Big Ideas lots of college-aged people love to talk about.
Every few days or so, I’d also call Laura, to whom I was engaged at the time. No one on our trip brought a cell phone ? international minutes were very expensive ? so I would have to buy calling cards and find pay phones. Some days, we were in places that simply didn’t have phones, or they only had one phone and it was always in use.
Occasionally this was a problem. About halfway through the trip, Laura was involved in a serious bike crash that involved being airlifted to a hospital. By the time I found out about it, she was back at home. She had a concussion and was extremely groggy when I first spoke with her.
It was tough finding out about this after the fact, and even tougher because I knew I’d then have to go days without updates. Given the opportunity, I would’ve called constantly. But I didn’t have that opportunity, so the waiting, the anxiety, and the process of getting sidetracked from the disaster by travel all became an integral part of that experience. And the toughness of those things, the process of being removed on so many levels, made both the communication I did have and the travel experience generally more memorable ? as I’m sure it has for every traveler through the centuries who received delayed, alarming news and was helpless to do anything about it. Of course, things were already changing then. I could make calls, rather than waiting for letters, pony express dispatches, courier pigeons, or whatever other ways people communicated in the past.
Laura checks an iPad while in Italy.
And since then, communication has only shrunk the world more. When Laura and I went on our own multi-month trip a few years later, we brought an iPod touch and had internet at every hostel and offline maps of all the major cities we visited. A few years after that, I had an iPad with a cellular connection and used it to navigate overgrown trails along the River Wye. And earlier this summer when Laura was in Iceland ? including way up in a distant part of the north ? we spoke every night using cheap international minutes.
I enjoyed all of these technological advances. We live in a particular time and might as well embrace it. I hate the ide...

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