Technology has made the world smaller and more accessible. The rise of blogging, vlogging and Instagram have instilled in us a fear of missing out. It is impossible to scroll through social media without feeling pangs of jealousy.
Technology has also made the act of travelling and backpacking much easier. With everyone owning a smartphone, it is rare to feel out of touch or off the grid. Most people don’t know how to use a map, or write an email explaining what you’ve been up to reassure loved ones you’re safe and alive. The grasp and scope of the internet is now truly global.
ISN’T THIS A GOOD THING?
Obviously, for many reasons technology is a fantastic thing. The spread of knowledge and information clearly benefits mankind (with some negative aspects). But I still lament the type of travel that existed before smartphones and wifi.
I was lucky enough to do a long trip in 2010, when wifi was mostly restricted to luxury hotels, especially in South America and India. As much as I love Instagram, I miss this more rustic way of travelling. I perhaps saw myself as a female Marco Polo or Michael Paine.
HOW HAS BACKPACKING CHANGED?
I wasn’t born in 1900, so yes, the internet has existed as long as I have travelled. But traveling to Southeast Asia or India meant less wifi, therefore less chances to contact home. My mum had to suffice with a week (or monthly) email telling her what and when I’d been.
Now travelling is all about telling everybody and anyone where you are and what you’re doing. If you haven’t posted a photo on Instagram and tagged yourself on Facebook, have you even travelled? When I first went backpacking, computers were harder to come by, so I would updated the world weekly, sometimes less frequently. And it was brilliant! Without the thought that you need to make everything look amazing, it is easier to immerse yourself. This is something I try to remember even today when I travel.
When I visited new places, I would often just find a decent looking hostel in the guidebook or from word of mouth, and head there. It was exciting to not now what they looked like, sometime better but sometimes worse! If they didn’t have room, you would then have to do the whole thing again.
Yes, naturally this could be stressful, but that was all part of the fun! Talking to people now, they often have all their accommodation booked before they even leave. Yes, this is probably more practical but way more restrictive. What if you arrive and don’t like the vibe? What if it is dirty? Leaving often means you forfeit a deposit.
Yes, I do sometimes book in advance but I am still clinging to my old-school habits of rocking up and hoping for the best! It’s safe to say it often stresses my travel companion out!
In times gone by, people used maps. Bloody crazy, eh?! Before everyone had a smart phone, the only way to navigate a new place was using a guidebook and map. Lots of people see this as a massive improvement, but I miss it!
My dad taught me to read a map from a young age and it’s something I now find easy. I get a thrill out of finding a landmark or restaurant using a map, very pathetic I know. I do try and use maps when I am away now, but often end up just using a phone for ease.
It is easy to look back wistfully, forgetting the realities. Travelling may have been less complicated before everyone had an iPhone, but there were obviously some drawbacks. Without being able to book hostels and contact home, I was less willing to travel as a solo female. But I do miss being able to go off the grid and me out of touch!
How do you feel about the changing face of traveling and backpacking?