Technology and Travel

It’s easy to underestimate the role technology plays in travel. Then I remember my grandmother, who chooses a coach holiday from a brochure and sends a cheque in the post. That’s such an alien idea to me.

I use my laptop to research destinations. I find flights on Skyscanner. I look for accommodation on comparison websites. I renew my lapsed EHIC online. I check in for my flight from an app on my phone. I take eight to twelve hundred digital photos per trip and save them on a portable hard drive afterwards. I write a digital diary while I’m away and post it to Facebook so people at home can read it immediately. I wear a GPS tracker so I can map interesting days out. I take an action camera in the pool. I Skype my mum sometimes, if the computer & wifi signal are both strong enough.

Travel technology

Let’s have a look at the stuff I might take with me. Not pictured: my full size laptop, my camera (using it to take the photo!), the 1001 chargers, wires and plugs that accompany this lot.

There’s my camcorder, my GPS, my GPS tracker, my Instax camera, action camera, Kindle, netbook, Fitbit, smartphone & iPod (ok, ok, the iPod is in my car. The photo is of my elderly iPhone 3GS which plays music in my office.)

People talk a big deal about disconnecting while you’re away, having a digital detox. Maybe that’s a good idea if you’re so addicted you’re snapchatting people in the same room as you – but otherwise, why do you want to switch off the magic technology can do?

Granted, I carry virtually my own body weight in assorted smallish electronics and their chargers. How many different shapes of USBs did they think we needed because I have to take five or six different ones sometimes, to say nothing of power strips and international socket adaptors. And maybe I don’t need four cameras. In my defence, I don’t take all four of them everywhere.

But I reluctantly admit a Kindle is more space-efficient than a pile of books. The GPS is both tiny and invaluable. I wish my netbook had a bit more brain because that’s invaluable too. The phone, to be honest, only really gets used for Instagram and for writing first draft blogs in the bath (safe in a waterproof case!) and the occasional emergency call. It’s a phone of extraordinarily little brain.

By the time this is published, I’ll have just returned from ten days in Iceland. As I write, I haven’t gone yet but my plan at the moment is to make a video – technology that’s been around since at least the eighties but which has only made it to the likes of me this decade, since camcorders stopped being the exclusive preserve of the millionaire. Why is any of this a bad thing to be put away? Technology is great and it can hugely enhance your travel experience.

After all, without it, I might have found myself spending a week in a motel on an industrial estate in a non-scenic part of Suffolk.

I wrote that at the beginning of September. Eight days ago, I was in Iceland, killing an hour before picking up a camper van, charging my phone when the cable burnt out. That’s never happened to me before. I’m still horrified at the thought that the whole thing could have caught fire or exploded or electrocuted me. By dumb luck I got a new cable at the one shop in the entire country I was told stocked such things but it didn’t work. I spent very nearly a week afraid I was going to need a whole new phone, totally uncontactable for five days, until my camper & I got back to the capital.

I hated those five days. Mostly because my mum assumes I’m dead if I ever leave the house & I had no way of reminding her that I wasn’t dead yet. Partly because I couldn’t write the daily blog/diary that I write while I’m away.

No declaiming here how good a digital detox felt. Cut off, abandoned, unable to get help if needed. No. It’s a horrible idea, especially when it’s forced on you by malfunctioning cables.

I left having promised myself I would always take multiple phone cables with me & I’d buy myself an iPad mini for travel this winter. I love communications technology