How has technology changed travel?

KathmanduIt wasn’t all that long ago that John and I boarded that plane to Pakistan to spend a year cycling around the Indian subcontinent. 22 years, in fact. In technological terms, that’s an eternity.

It was June, 1990 when we checked our bikes and panniers in and climbed into a plane for the long journey to Asia. For the next year, we explored the back roads of Pakistan, China, India, Nepal, and Bangladesh on our bikes. It was adventure at its finest.

Travel was different back then. Affordable international phone calls and VOIP calling were unheard of. In fact, during that year of travel, John and I made exactly one phone call to our parents – to tell them we had gotten engaged. Those two calls cost us a small fortune.

Twenty years ago, travel meant disappearing. We hopped aboard a plane and vanished, then reappeared at some later date with stories to tell.

Now, things are different. When we left Alaska in 2008 we carried laptops capable of connecting with the world from any of the many wifi spots around the world. And many travelers chose to carry iphones or other portable devices capable of connecting from virtually any place on earth. Communication is instant; stories are told immediately.

As much as I enjoyed blogging about our adventures and being connected with old and new friends alike, in some ways I think something is missing from travel these days. I’ve tried to put my finger on what it is that’s missing, but can’t quite capture it. Is it the feeling of being “out there”? Of being totally immersed in foreign cultures? Or is it that the world is smaller these days whereas it used to be bigger?

What do you think? In what ways has travel changed with the introduction of today’s technology?

*with cooperation from Rebtel

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

About Nancy Sathre-Vogel

After 21 years as a classroom teacher, Nancy Sathre-Vogel finally woke up and realized that life was too short to spend it all with other people's kids. She and her husband quit their jobs and, together with their twin sons, climbed aboard bicycles to see the world. They enjoyed four years cycling as a family - three of them riding from Alaska to Argentina and one exploring the USA and Mexico. Now they are back in Idaho, putting down roots, enjoying life at home, and living a different type of adventure. It's a fairly sure bet that you'll find her either writing on her computer or creating fantastical pieces with the beads she's collected all over the world.

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4 Responses to How has technology changed travel?

  1. Amy Milstein September 25, 2012 at 7:44 pm #

    I spent 4 months in 1992 traveling across the lower 48, solo in an old Ford Escort with no CD player and no A/C. No cell phone, no email, no digital camera. It was fantastic. I actually loved the idea that no one could reach me. I made maybe a call a week? Maybe less, to my parents. My time was spent driving until I felt like stopping, pitching a tent in a local campground and exploring until I wanted to drive again. A young single woman traveling with no way to call anyone? Can you imagine the outcry in the current fear-based environment? And of course, I only met generous, kind people. Never had a moment of fear or unease, and I camped alongside men who were working the oil pipelines, separated from their families and desperate for some company. We’d chat for hours in camp and then head to our respective tents. They all knew I was traveling alone. Hmmm maybe I should write about this on my blog instead of subjecting you to a blog-length post! Loved your story.

  2. Cinda September 25, 2012 at 10:59 pm #

    While I’m new to traveling by bike, from 1976 to 1986 I traveled extensively on five continents and rarely made a call to the USA. Mail was slow and unreliable. Sometimes I used the corporate courier to send letters/postcards to let people back home know that I was okay. Once a year or every two years I came back to the states for a few weeks loaded with goodies for everyone, stories, a boatload of film to be developed – either prints or slides.
    Different as I set off for the next adventure -with cell phone, tablet, digital camera. We’ll see how it all unfolds.

  3. Yvette September 26, 2012 at 4:32 am #

    I’ve never been able to take a big adventure without shooting an email back home if I needed to every few days to assure people I was still alive, sorry. 😉 That said, I love traveling and ditching the cell phone even now…

    I think the best new technological change by far since I’ve started traveling was my Kindle. I remember what a HUGE hassle it could be to get English books (not to mention the weight!) in times past as I’m a voracious reader, and now it’s just not an issue *at all*. Soooo much nicer!

  4. Selín Trigueros September 26, 2012 at 4:32 pm #

    I’ve always been a traveler. In my college years, in the 80s, I traveled to Sao Paulo to the Amazon. I went by train, bus and ferry. It was an adventure. Wearing just for transportation (I did not know exactly how it would) and a bit to eat. I was super limited. I arrived in Manaus, in the middle of Amazon, dirty, hungry, night and not being sure if I was going to find my brother or not. It was crazy. To return to Sao Paulo my brother paid me a flight out of the jungle area. Then again by bus. Some miners invited me to eat something several times.
    I think what has changed in traveling now is, especially, that you know in advance what to expect on the trip. You can even see pictures of where you’re going. And obviously you can keep in touch during the trip. It is good because you travel insurance. And you’re going to a place “known” (virtually). The downside is that because of that you lose the element of surprise, the factor ADVENTURE. And I think the essence of traveling is not knowing exactly where you’re going. But going into the unknown. If you know where you’re going, that takes away flavor to the trip. I think.

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