On Tech and Travel

Often with my brain, one thought leads to another obscure idea and to another until I’m thinking about something completely unrelated to my original thought. This time started with a cookbook in Prague and ended up contemplating technology and its effect on traveling.

Let me explain. Last week I was sitting in a restaurant in Prague enjoying my last meal in Europe. I wanted to find some hole in the wall, off the beaten tourist path, traditional Czech restaurant.  When the menu has no English on it you know you’re somewhere “traditional.” I looked at my plate of basically four different kinds of meat alongside dumplings I thought how I should look into buying a Czech cookbook to bring home. After spending months in the Czech Republic I thought it might be nice to learn to cook something “Czech” so that others who’ve never been may get some level of insight of the country no matter how small.

(Mission Accomplished. Can’t get more traditional Czech than this)

My thoughts then turned to how unnecessary it would be to buy a cookbook and bring it all the way home when I could just Google ‘Czech recipes’ when I got back to the States, print some off, and have my own cookbook. This solution seemed both cheaper and easier. But am I missing out on something by not taking advantage of being IN the Czech Republic? By choosing to print out recipes from the United States did I miss an opportunity both during my trip and when I look back on it?

This is just a small example but it got me thinking. How often do we disregard ideas or delay actions because technology has made it easier to achieve something similar( likely less authentic than the original) but involving less effort? Once that question was in my head I was able to recall plenty of instances over the past few months that where I was guilty of doing that exact thing.

One of the first things that popped into my head was something simple. Buying postcards. I spent 5 months in Europe and didn’t buy a single one. Coming back from Australia I brought back dozens and dozens of them from all the different cities and islands I had visited. Why the change? Each time I passed a place selling post cards I just thought that if I really wanted a picture of the city I could just find it on the internet and click print. Is there really a difference? Plus then I wouldn’t have to carry them around. Which begs the question has technology changed the way that people act or what they feel the need to bring home with them when traveling?

Most people would agree that technology has had a positive impact on traveling the world. We are able to keep in touch with friends better than ever regardless of location. We carry our boarding passes on our phones. Plane, train, and bus rides are much more tolerable when you can just watch movies. Technology has lead to us being able to capture pictures at basically any moment. We send snapchats and tweets. We post nearly every aspect of our trip to instagram and facebook. But does being constantly “plugged in” detract from really experiencing what’s in front of us when we’re traveling? Do we miss the things that really matter when we’re constantly looking at the world through a lens? Do we even care or is capturing the moment to show other people more important than really experiencing that special moment of your life.

I confess that there have been times I’ll take a picture and the first thing I want to do is upload it to instagram. Countless times I’ve seen something completely random and wish I could snapchat it to my friends back home. Is this the new norm? Are we all destined to be plugged in every moment of our lives regardless of what’s right in front of us?

What do you think? Has technology effected how and where we travel to? Does being able to Google earth any location make you more or less likely to go there? Has placing yourself somewhere virtually become enough to detract people from traveling? Or have things like Stumbleupon made you more likely to visit places you didn’t even know existed? Feel free to let me know what you think based on what you’ve seen or experienced.

Don’t get me wrong I’m beyond thankful for all the technological advances over the past decade. And I don’t have all the answers to the questions above. But having the answers is as important as asking the questions. It’s important to remember that technology is merely a tool to help make our lives easier. It’s even more important to find a balance between the real and the virtual. Because when you do you’ll not only look back fondly on your vacation but you’ll actually enjoy it the first time around.

Stay Gold.

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