8-bit beach geek holiday

Geek holiday

Paradise doesn’t have to be analogue…

“Abroad” means zip all these days. Half the people I work with are in a different city or a different country, and they get to travel frequently. Why would being in a different country mean you can’t do any work?

If you think it’s getting harder to break away from your job (and it is), I can already tell who you’re going to blame. Technology, right? Mobile phones, email, laptops and the Internet. According to you, they’re the bad guys. Well you’re wrong. It’s your fault.

I know travelling with electronics is a bit of a burden. We’ve all been there. I’ve struggled through airport security, tangled up with headphone wires and trying to juggle a passport, iPod and ebook. I’ve argued with family over who should be first to borrow the plug adaptor before their phone dies. I’ve even been so distracted by what’s happening on-screen that I’ve ignored the landscapes I came to see.

But in all these cases, technology is not the problem. We’re just using it badly.

Internet

You’ve gone abroad for the weather, sights and people. Why spend a week messaging and emailing people who are in the wrong location (back at home)? You’d be better off chatting with locals or at least someone who knows the area.

Travel tip: Use Trip Advisor, City Guide websites and online forums.
Holiday hell: Spending your time on Facebook – it should be forbidden during any holiday.

Emails

What happens at work, stays at work. Don’t bring it with you. You’re not going to

  1. do anything productive
  2. enjoy finding out about the chaos you’ve left behind (and have to go back to…)
  3. get the kind of connectivity you’d expect at home

My only travel tip: Turn off your Blackberry and bury it at home.

Photos

Memory cards and autofocus have taken the hassle out of photography and with most mobile phones containing a camera, nothing is more democratic than photography. Film now seems so awkward, so art house. And since photos are fundamentally for sharing, it’s as if they were designed to be digital all along.

But there are two problems with this shift:

  1. Quality has dropped and quantity has exploded, resulting in hundreds of rubbish photos online.
  2. Immediacy. Constantly reminding friends (as in several times a day) while you’re away means you’re both showing off and not having as good a time as you’re pretending to have.

Travel tip: Less is more- don’t take thousands of shots and don’t over share while you’re away.
Holiday hell: “Here’s me on night out. Here’s what i ordered in the restaurant. Here’s another one of me…”

Twitter

Let’s face it: birds migrate, and take their chatter with them (in fact, they’re probably even more chatty after the journey). So I don’t think it’s fair to totally outlaw sharing your adventures in 140 characters. But just this once I’d suggest using Twitter to broadcast and not listening to the rest of the noise. It’ll suck you back into your daily life, kinda undermining why you went on holiday in the first place.

Travel tip: Tweeting poorly translated signage.
Holiday hell: Reading about what’s trending back home.

Foursquare

If you’ve got a competitive edge, you won’t be able to resist checking in while on holiday (“checking-in” to locations while abroad gets you extra points and can unlock new badges within Foursquare). But at what price? Is using your expensive data and GPS really worth it? Do you want to be fretting about signal everywhere you go? Fundamentally, is this exactly what you’d be doing at home? If it is, you might want to consider a trial separation from your phone (your obsession sounds unhealthy…).

Travel tips: Use Foursquare’s “explore” search tool for restaurants, activities and bars.
Holiday hell: Checking-in anywhere but your hotel.

Maps and money

Nobody likes looking like a tourist, even if you are one. If you’re struggling with directions or currency then maybe your phone can come to the rescue. Web and GPS enabled apps mean you’re no longer at risk of getting the map the wrong way round, or messing up the exchange rate.

Travel tip: Use the Currency or XE app.
Holiday hell: Broadcasting your naivety by struggling with a paper map.

Language aids

Too many people think they don’t need to learn a language, and technology isn’t helping. At one point you had to be reasonably proficient to navigate a phrase book; now you don’t even have to try.

So I’ll try a different tack. If you’re in a stranger’s house it’s generally pretty decent to live the same way they do. And to speak to them. So even if you do let technology do the hard work, at least try to speak their language. That’s all I ask.

Travel tip: Try out the WordLens translation app.
Holiday hell: Not learning how to say “hello” because you no longer have to.

Final thoughts

I’m more than happy to travel on a budget, but can’t imagine a holiday without batteries. We’re used to moving fast, keeping updated and it’s this kind of repetitive behaviour that keeps us mentally chained to our desk when we go away. Tame your habits, turn off the fire-hose of information and technology can still be your perfect travel companion.

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