Ditch the technology
We’re all addicted to technology. It provides comfort and excitement, relieves boredom, and increases our friendship network. Every year it becomes cheaper, easier, quicker and more addictive. Now we can’t live without it, not even on holiday.
What happened to holidays being a break from the real world?
You see, I used to be jealous of your travel photos. I really did. When you brought the Barcelona photos to work I wanted to be in the Gaudi Park. I even wasted half an hour admiring your “best holiday ever…” photo album on Facebook.
Now I just laugh. You’re not enjoying yourself. I can tell. When I see the mobile upload next to the pyramids I just think ‘loser’. Egypt is so action-packed that you found time to broadcast your whereabouts to the 773 ‘friends’ you have on the internet.
Shouldn’t you be enjoying the moment, revelling in the beauty, running from a camel, kissing your partner, being attacked by a camel, and generally doing everything except playing on a mobile phone?
Parisian cafés, quaint eastern European hotels, Bavarian beer houses, Kathmandu’s chai stores… these used to be the iconic places nobody forgot.
It was in these places that travelers would gather and swap stories as inimitable as the surroundings. A Swedish snow sweeper, a Kenyan professor, a German rally car driver, everyone had a story to tell.
But as the electronic affliction spreads those stories are no longer heard, first hand. Conversational intonation has been replaced by ratatat on keyboards.
Speakers still play quaint local music, but it’s to no avail; the clienteles’ earphones connect to Skype and relay that, back at home, Paddy went to the same bar he always goes to last night. But fear not, those of you wanting to know about Swedish snow sweeping. Just go on Google… someone will have a blog.
Backpacker hostels and tourist bars used to be about learning new card games and making friends. Now they are filled with contagious technology. Wifi brings in the tourists who gather alone.
I like internet cafes. They cost money and have the comfort of a hospital waiting room. You go there determined to surf efficiently.
Wifi just encourages meandering tedium. Why ask the Masai tribesman the best place to see the wildebeest migration when you can search the web and read competing accounts from 17 different tourists?
Now, I must confess, I was one of those people. Drinking my Erdinger Dunkel with my head in an electronic screen of football results and MSN gossip.
I would find the blog of that rally car driver and chuckle. I thought it was cool to be up with technology. But now I’m bored. I’m drinking my beer and all I see is laptops, iPads, and touch-screen madness.
And I can’t talk to the barman as he’s turned his Zepellin up because 35 competing Skype conversations could be heard from space.
But, I hear you say, we need to communicate. My mother needs to know I’m safe after my trek through the Amazon.
The rationale for instant and continuous electronic communication is irrelevant. If addiction was rational we would overcome it.
We’re in danger of losing the most important aspect of travel: the connection of different cultures. As we submerge ourselves in the macro the nuances of the micro become obsolete. The ambiguity of written language destroys the charming cadence of local language.
Directions from the web are trusted over those from the helpful street kid. Nobody considers the family homestay because it doesn’t have wifi.
It would be pathetic to think about holidaying in our own house, watching a 3D recreation of Varanasi’s labyrinth, hearing a soundtrack of rickshaw wallahs and ritual bells. Yet we’re in danger of this becoming reality.
Nothing can recreate the atmosphere, charisma and beauty of the places that make the world so special. Yet unless we continue to interact at a local level, our holidays will be nothing more than a series of images and sounds.
Turn it off. And enjoy those unique feelings and impressions that can never be replicated.
Sent from Zimbabwe using my Blackberry… told you we were all addicted.