Technology on the Road

This was a vaguely contentious issue between us which has been largely resolved. The Wooky was an old school traveller and his mantra is “we’ll just turn up and see what happens”. Before we set off in August 2012 he argued that once we headed off on our journey we no longer needed the tools to be connected. We didn’t need a phone or access to the internet.  We could send the odd postcard home (like that was ever going to happen) and, clutching the latest copy of whatever guidebook you consider your bible, turn up at hostels ad hoc and get a room. Basically make it up as we go along.

However, I argued, the world didn’t stop in the 1980s and it went ahead and invented the internet and the reason the internet had taken off in such a big way was because it really was quite useful.  Guidebooks are great but are out of date as soon as they go to print.  The internet on the other hand is constantly updated.

The Wooky’s preferred method of travel was much like that of my uncle’s generation (way back in the 1960s) where you disappeared for months on end with no word apart from said postcard once in a blue moon and maybe a phone call on special occasions (if there was a phone to be found in wherever you happened to be in the back of beyond at the time).  Those days were gone, I argued, and the Wooky was just going to have to accept the world had changed and move with the times.

Although the Wooky grumbled that the whole point of our trip was to escape and he wanted to get lost on our journey and not be contactable at every turn so I tried to convince him by highlighting a few of the benefits:

  1. laptop was required if we were going to keep a blog and the blog, while on the one hand would negate the need to keep a journal, would have the added benefit of keeping friends and family updated as to our current whereabouts (and state of health) and thereby keeping anxiety levels at home to a minimum.
  2. Internet – If we were going to be able to connect to the internet we could access Facebook, keep in touch with friends and family, and entertain with anecdotal status updates.  Ditto the anxiety levels.
  3. Accommodation is easily booked online (Booking.com and Hostelbookers were great for that and there was always email for those places that did not do online booking through third party websites).  Why make it harder for yourself when you can be assured of a bed that night?
  4. Mobile phones could be used with local SIM cards. Otherwise where free WiFi was available (which it was, almost everywhere except Australia) we could access the internet on with our phones.
  5. Our iPods held most of our music library.  They also held our Pimsleur audio courses which we could do on the road. Ditto the WiFi.
  6. Books are heavy but as an avid reader I won’t be without one or two (I once read 12 books on a 2 week holiday to Goa).   Much as I love the feel of a proper book, a Kindle is the way to go.

Everyone carries the internet with them these days and despite the Wooky’s attempt to cling to the stone age we are no different. This is a list of our travelling hardware:

  • A small and cheap laptop each
  • An Android phone each capable of taking local SIM cards
  • An iPod each
  • A kindle each
  • Bridge camera with a great zoom (fab for those sneaky surreptitious shots)
  • Underwater camera
  • Memory cards
  • Hard drive
  • Bose portable wireless speak
  • Various leads and adapters

Technology takes up relatively little space but quite a lot of worry given the relative value compared to everything else you’re carrying.

Snippets of Advice

Our little nuggets of advice about your technology, how to safeguard the hardware and your precious content, and how to make the most of it.

Transfer your photos etc to memory sticks or cards – we nearly lost our laptop in Xian Railway Station and would have been gutted to lose our photos.

Backup your laptop fairly regularly to the hard drive – we didn’t have a hard drive on our last trip but the more information and resources our devices hold, the less we want to take a risk that it all goes horribly wrong and we lose everything.  The hard drive is the size of a cigarette packet and so in terms of memory is like a Tardis.

Lock up most of your stuff in a safe if there’s one available.  You will need to take the odd calculated risk, usually in more remote places with limited facilities.  Generally just keep your wits about you and trust your instinct.  And don’t be afraid to ask people to keep and eye on your stuff while you head off for a swim.

Not something that we do but some people download lots of movies onto their hard drive to watch while travelling.  We prefer to look out the window or people watch.

Book accommodation head at busy times like public holidays or where you want to stay in a particular place, or where accommodation is limited  Otherwise, and particularly off season, there are almost always cheaper alternatives that you won’t find on the internet but that are just as good and often better.

Keep a blog even if you just do it for yourself.  You will thank yourself when you come home and are able to look back on memories you may have forgotten.

Compromise

The Wooky now concedes technology has its place in modern day travelling but we both enjoy those times we find ourselves so far off the beaten track you can’t even get a phone signal.

The Wooky still likes the excitement of not knowing what’s around the corner.  Me, on the other hand, I like to know that I will be sleeping in a bed at the end of a long journey.

I think we meet somewhere in the middle.

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