It’s not uncommon to see travellers spending more than the recommended daily allowance on their gadgets while on holiday. Our addiction to modern technology, and more specifically, to our smart phones, means that we are incapable of doing without them even when we are supposed to be adventuring through foreign lands.
If you were a Pintrest fan at home a week ago, who’s to say you won’t be tempted to scroll though pin after pin now that you’re in Rome or Rio De Janeiro? Some people just can’t seem to do without their usual dosage of social media when they’re on the road. It’s an ugly truth about the world we live in today. It’s not uncommon to see a hostel stayer remain indoors and online for the majority of their stay. It could be for Facebook reasons or to keep up with your favourite sport via streaming.
But I think it’s important we appreciate the ways in which technology has affected our travels positively. In many ways it has created a simpler and even safer way to travel.
How does technology help us travel safer?
Social media is one of the ways. ‘Checking in’ may sound to some like a lame thing to do, and in certain ways I guess it is. Victoria is at –Starbucks, or Victoria is at –Barcelona. (The former being a tad more lame than the latter.) But it occurred to me that if you’re travelling solo and for whatever reason, go missing, social media could come in very handy. If you’ve checked in recently – that would be a starting point for your search.
Simply talking a friend or family member online means there’s always someone out there who knows your current location. The same with uploading a photo that you took five seconds ago with your iPhone. The way social media keeps us connected could get annoying if you’re keen to fall off the face of the Earth for a while. But I have a feeling the modern parent wouldn’t appreciate that too much- they’re too used to keeping virtual tabs on us.
Certain apps for smart phones also do a great deal in terms of keeping us safe. One like Citymaps2go is useful for finding your current location without needing to connect to the internet. Simply download the map of the city you are planning to visit and not only will you have the map but a little pin showing exactly where you are. Perfect for avoiding getting lost and ending up on the wrong side of town.
Then there’s the Travelsafe app that contains a database of emergency service numbers for just about every country you’d ever care to visit, plus plenty for those that you wouldn’t. There’s also embassy details should passports go missing and – for the truly paranoid – the option to pin certain services to your home screen as widgets.
Technology also makes travelling that much easier
There are times when I think that my life would be simpler without computers. I’m not the most technology-savvy person and when things go wrong there’s little to no chance of fixing the problem myself. That being said, I can’t deny that my life would be way more complicated without it. New technologies are very much part of my life and I’m the first to admit that I rely on them a lot. A smart phone that connects to wifi, internet banking and Google Translate are all things that make my life abroad that much simpler (when they work).
Then there are all the apps. Apps, apps and more apps designed purely for the traveler/tourist/person not in a familiar place. One that detects the nearest ATMs, one that help you navigate the New York subway and even one that supposedly sends a cab to your exact location when you click the ‘pick me up’ button. I’ve never been a huge ‘app’ person. Probably a lot to do with my technology-savvy-less-ness. It took a long time and a friend of mine to finally get me onto the Facebook app (now that I have it I don’t know how I went so long without it).
One that took my fancy is Google Goggles. If you stumble across an important looking building but have no idea what it is, fire up the app, take a picture of it and so long as what you’re pointing as is famous enough, the app will send you to its Wikipedia page. Google doesn’t always get every search right but it often does. Plus it’s a fun way to go about enlightening yourself. Although, you may need to find the ‘wifi-finder’ app first so you can get connected.
When our parents travelled or lived abroad in their youth they would find themselves disconnected from home for weeks or even months at a time. I’m grateful that I live in an era that allows me to live out my dream and at the same time not have to live with being so far removed from the important things in life- family and friends. And of course I’m grateful for Google maps.