Traveling with Technology: To Unplug or Plug in?

Day 23: BootsnAll Indie Travel Project

Today’s Prompt: Technology – Where would today’s travelers be without smartphones, GPS, iPods, iPads, or even the internet? Share one item of tech you can’t live without or tell us how technology has changed the way you travel.

I strongly believe that travel is meant for us to connect to new places, cultures, and people. I also feel that nothing drives us more apart from places, cultures, and people than technology. True, technology makes the world a smaller place, but often we are so connected to this other world that we ignore those around us.

This can be especially true while we travel the world. If we, as travelers, keep our headphones in and our heads in our phones, laptops, or tablets, how can we really expect to experience the world? It’s simple, we can’t.

Charging in Miami International Airport.

Though, if used sparingly, technology does have its place in travel. It can often help us keep our sanity or help provide us with memories that will last a lifetime. It can help us capture small moments or bring us closer to new friends we’ve made along the way. To keep that healthy balance, I travel with only an iPod, digital camera, and my smartphone. And, even with those, I try to stay as disconnected to technology as possible.

My iPod is my favorite piece of technology to bring traveling. In fact, it’s almost impossible for me to fly without it. I slip in my headphones and drift off to another place, which makes the flight a lot more enjoyable. It drowns out all that can be irritating during long flights – babies crying, children screaming, people coughing, and neighbors snoring, just to name a few.

However, it’s important to take off the headphones. I rarely use them outside of transit, as it’s important to take in the sounds of a country. I also feel that sometimes we use iPods to avoid talking to people around us. This is very sad because often it’s a missed opportunity at a connection that could have been truly special.

Digital Camera
I couldn’t travel anywhere without my camera. I love capturing pictures of the new world I’m immersed in, so that later I can look back and fully remember where I’ve been and what I’ve seen. I also love my camera because it provides plenty of entertainment and laughter while in transit. Looking through pictures and remembering what you did during the beginning of a trip can make you feel quite accomplished. It also helps you to become grateful for your trip before you’ve even gone home.

Most recently, I have learned that it’s also important to learn when to put the camera down and observe the world around you with your eyes. Often, we are so busy trying to capture a moment that we miss the chance to really experience it.

This summer was the first time I traveled with my smartphone, and in terms of keeping up-to-date with my blog it was wonderful. I was able to write posts while waiting at an airport or during long bus rides. Since I was using my phone, it was small enough for me to bring out at anytime during the day, unlike a tablet or laptop. I also loved having my phone to use the Internet and look up recommendations for bars and restaurants.

Again, it’s important to know when to unplug. I often left my phone in the safe in my room because there was no reason for me to have it at all times. I used it only during downtime, and made sure that I wasn’t spending my time, in a country far away from home, on Facebook worrying what was going on with everyone back in the States.

Overall, I do feel that travel can be enhanced with technology, so long as it doesn’t take away from the experience itself. We need to learn to disconnect from our technology, as easily as we can connect to it, to truly experience the world, especially if we are spending the money to travel around it.

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