As a kid, a walkman with a hefty supply of tapes and AA batteries was an essential part of any holiday trip to my grandparents’. I usually accompanied this with a book light and batteries for evening reading during the drive. Over time, the walkman was replaced by the discman, which was replaced by the Zen Touch (a dark time in my life). That in turn was replaced by an iPod, which was joined by a cell phone and later, a digital camera. The cellphone evolved into a smartphone, and the camera and iPod stuck around.Finally, a Kindle arrived to replace that ancient, printed literature. See the trend?
I wouldn’t call any of these necessities, but I get enough use out of all of them that I never question their value. Sticking a pre-paid data card in my phone allows me to research a museum, locate a venue, and connect with hosts whether I’m in Bangkok or Saigon. My kindle has dozens of books and travel guides for every city I’m staying in (wikivoyage.com allows you to download free e-books), all in less than half the size of a novel. The iPod takes more convincing, but the music and podcasts help maintain my sanity on long, noisy, smelly bus rides.
A tablet became my newest addition. Up until recently I viewed them as a superfluous addition to a techie’s likely too-large collection of electronics. That was until a trip to Koh Chang made us realize that all we wanted to do some evenings were sit and watch a movie on the beach. After that I started making a case for tablets: They’re handy in the classroom, entertaining on long trips, a study tool on the subway, and a much more convenient turntable than my laptop for DJing blues dances. I could go on, but I’ve clearly sold you already.
I’ve been able to justify some of these purchases: The Kindle’s practically a no-brainer, bigger and better cameras take bigger and better pictures, and internet cafes are too unreliable to contact people while abroad. However, electronics are two-edged, and I still have to hold myself accountable when traveling with them. They should be tools to enrich my traveling, rather than distract from it. I have to ask myself some questions: Will I be too busy taking pictures that I miss what’s going on around me? Will a tablet help me discover my city, or keep me holed up in my hostel checking the facebook statuses of people I hardly know? Is my iPod keeping me sane, or making me miss out on connections I could make with the people around me?
I’m excited to travel with all my toys, but if they keep me from experiencing the world around me, then I leave them at the hostel, or don’t take them along at all.
This makes me curious though. What are your experiences traveling with technology? How have they aided or harmed your experiences? Any tips for how to use (or not use) them?