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Posted by on Feb 28, 2013 in Blog, Change, Culture, technology and travel, Travel |

Geared Up and Geeked Out: Thoughts on Travel and Technology

“They don’t look out the window,” said a crest-fallen mother referring to 21st century children on car rides. I think back to the days when my two sisters and I occupied ourselves on long drives by staring out the window, playing games, and reading. On one particular vacation, we drove the entire way from Georgia to Pennsylvania in the back of my dad’s pickup truck entertaining our friend’s former pet skunk Stinky. Sidenote: if you ever want some guaranteed fun, take a skunk on a leash for a potty break at rest stops on I95.

iStock_000023305237XSmallTo what extent has technology changed how we travel? What are we losing and gaining by being geared up and geeked out on our journey? Technology has changed nearly every aspect of travel– the way we plan travel, book transportation and housing, keep in contact with home, manage our finances,  record our memories, and reflect on our experiences. In other words, technology has changed how we travel but it has not changed why we travel or what we stand to gain by traveling.

I have little patience for those who rail on about the golden age before technology came in to destroy our lives and humanity. I like booking my own flight and searching for stranger’s couches to stay on during my travels, thank you very much! On the other hand, I also admit that access to the internet and the ability to stay connected to my familiar world makes it easier to miss out on important moments, potential friendships, and opportunities to exert resilience and resourcefulness. Other experienced travelers have offered valuable insights on why to leave you camera at home sometimes or ways to find a balance while traveling with technology, and here are my personal guidelines to traveling with technology.

  1. Use technology to investigate rather than distract, to share rather than withdraw, to connect rather than escape your surroundings.
  2. Discern first if a particular technology saves time, energy or money before investing time, energy, or money into using it.
  3. Unplug completely sometimes.
  4. Travel with as few expensive and breakable gadgets as possible–there is less of a chance they will get lost, broken, or stolen. More importantly, there is a greater possibility of fully observing and engaging in the surroundings.
  5. Avoid judging other travelers for their use or lack of use of technology. Only they can decide what technology or gear adds or detracts from their travel experience.
  6. Sometimes you will miss out on something important because you were paying attention to a screen. Sometimes you will miss out on an opportunity because you didn’t pay enough attention to the information on a screen. Learn from both of these experiences to better apply principles 1 through 5.

Traveling with technology is a personal choice that has positive and negative consequences just like any other decision in life. What have you gained and lost from technology in your travels?