“Until now, civilization has continued to wager its future on the proposition that technology always will solve the problem, whatever the problem might be.”

—David Fromkin, The Way of the World (1998)

This quotation is a little old, but I think it’s still relevant today. While cleaning out my bookshelf I found this book from one of my first college classes. Though I remember arguing some of the points made in the book, I definitely think the book encouraged me to ask a lot of questions.  Like this long & confusing one I scribbled on the inside:

The Way of the World by David Fromkin

Technology will always be changing the way we travel

As travelers, there are many technological advances that have made travel more approachable. We’ve literally got the whole world at our fingertips. We’ve got the Internet, iPhones, GPS, SIM cards, WiFi, solar backpacks, smartphones, GPS phones, netbooks, laptops, digital watches and so on and on and on.

These aren’t bad things. They’ve just changed the way we travel. And they’ll continue to do so. It’s different than before, but what does it matter? Definitions change over time so does the way we travel.

As far as changes in technology, I think it usually goes one of two ways. People either react against change, or put all their hope & prophecies in its success. Just as you should question big changes,  you should also be prepared to adjust and adapt. It’s how we’ve survived so far. I’m taking a middle-of-the-road approach.

Technology where it’s at today is good for travel. But there definitely has to be some respect out there for those that want to avoid (whether all or some) technology while on the road.

Disconnecting & the moral dilemma

The tourist v. backpacker conundrum has been debated at length. Even recently. It’s a moot point by now, at least by all those people who are connected on the Internet. If you’re a stickler for a “more authentic” way to travel, than you’re likely not on the Internets. All power to you, but I can get just as much out of travel if I use all my wits—and all my resources, too.

Technology has made it easier for so many people to see places firsthand. In my opinion it’s the act of traveling which changes you as a person—not just what you see or what you experience, but the very act of being there.

And for me, that’s what’s really important. To be there.

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11 comments

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  1. I guess I count as old – I’m nearly 50. The big change I see is that backpackers are far more aware of risk – real or otherwise. As are their parents. My mother never knew 1/2 the things I did why travelling solo – and I think it was best for both of us that it stayed that way. We stayed in contact – in terms of letters ever few months, but she didn’t know day-to-day what I was up to – though she did generally know which country I was in and where I was planning going next – I sent a postcard every few days – some arrived some didn’t. I called her once – when there was a revolution in Nepal – to make sure she knew I was OK.

    To this day I don’t believe in being in day-to-day contact with people back home – it means you can never really disconnect and be in the country you are actually travelling in. I’ve tried smartphones – not worth the trouble or expense. I do carry a notebook because I need to run my business when travelling, Fortunately I am now old enough to not have people worried about my day-to-day safety LOL

    I’m hoping to get to Burma this year because it sounds like you can still travel like that there.

    • Adam

      Hey Lis, thanks so much for stopping by & commenting!

      I know other travelers who backpacked the world in the 70s or 80s and they all pretty much say the same thing—postcards home were enough with the occasional phone call to the parents. Parents typically knew where you generally were and where you were headed but that might be all.

      These days, with FourSquare & Facebook, my parents know almost always exactly where I am. I don’t mind :)

      And yes, I’ve heard the same about Burma. Things seem to be changing a lot over there at the moment, so this might be the time!

  2. I don't believe it either, though who knows what I'll believe in another 40, 30 or even 5 years from now. But that's the point, right? That you (your opinions, your day-to-day life) can change & adapt.

  3. I can't stand people who complain about how everything used to be so much better back in the old days, when they were young and traveled.
    Why is it that old people are so resistant to change and always think that everything they did was so much more authentic, special and better? I don't believe in that at all…

  4. I've traveled with people who insisted that traveling was about getting away from everything, and would be happy being on the side of the mountain with nothing for communicating to the outside world. I had my cell phone on that same mountain to txt updates to my website at the time and to family back home.

    Different strokes for different folks, there is no right and wrong way, just have a good time.

  5. I've carried around a Moleskin for a while now, so I haven't completely given up on handwriting and have no intention to in the foreseeable future.

  6. Thanks Candice!

  7. “And for me, that’s what’s really important. To be there.”

    Totally. And thanks for the shout-out!

  8. nectarfizzics

    OT, but seeing this post has made me realize that despite working with you for almost 2 years now, I had no idea what your handwriting looks like.

    Technology and the decline in handwritten communication is a whole other post. (Also, I think I'm one of the only adults I know who generally writes in cursive.)

  9. I agree… and I think you can still have a “spiritual quest” while embracing new technologies. Just a matter of self-control and the fact that you're still out there searching for something. Whether you're connected to the world at large, or the world right in front of you.

  10. magicant

    As a total tech geek, I like this a lot. Technology can certainly enhance the experience and allow you to share it. There's nothing wrong with a more “spiritual quest” and leaving it all behind, but I like having something that ties me to people, even as I venture off on my own.

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