Technology and Travel

If anyone has spoken to me in the past month, they probably know that I went to Spain for spring break. I went alone, to a city where I knew no one, and where they spoke a language other than English. Sure, I speak enough Spanish that I was able to talk to anyone I needed to and navigate through the country without problems, but it was still a foreign environment. (for the most part I had no problems – I did have the tendency to just choose foods at random in restaurants because the menu made no sense).

However, there was one aspect of my trip that was very prevalent: technology. Oftentimes when people talk about travel and its benefits, they talk about “disconnecting” and “getting away from it all”. For me, that feeling was very difficult to find, and apart from maybe one instance, I was probably connected for the entire week. If I needed wifi I could go to the nearest American chain restaurant, my phone still sent text messages, and it was usually either in my purse or in my hand, as I used it as my primary camera. Perhaps it was because I was in a big city, and if I were backpacking through the Alaskan wilderness things would be different, however, to me I feel that we have reached the point where connection is omnipresent – even if I were backpacking, I would probably bring something with me that had GPS. (And I would definitely not be alone).

With that experience, I want to be able to explore the connections that we have with technology and how it has affected travel for individuals. Do we even have to travel to see new places? We have instagram that gives us pictures of every place in the world. Do we even gain new experiences when we visit new places? Sure, they are new to us, but I know that I was not the first person to take a panorama of el Valle de los Caídos, and I definitely won’t be the last. Finally, is true disconnection, or at least a disconnection with our origins, even possible? I don’t know. I definitely wasn’t able to achieve it last week. Even considering the people that I met on my trip, the interaction with them was different as a result of technology. We didn’t just “meet up”, we used whatsapp (or wasap, as it is commonly referred to by Spanish-speakers) to make plans, facebook to make sure we keep “in touch” as our respective journeys end, and instagram to take pictures of the memories we were making. What happened to experiencing without recording? When we have to take a moment to take a picture of what we’re doing, it removes us from the act of eating, the act of talking, the act of seeing, the act of living. Technology has changed travel irrevocably. Sure, in some ways it facilitates exploration – 100 years ago I wouldn’t have been able to fly from Ohio to Madrid in less than 12 hours, but in other ways it hinders it. Maybe travelers would be better served by leaving the technology behind – not always, but sometimes it just might help us to access why we travel in the first place.

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