The more I travel, the more I am blown away by the increasing globalisation and interconnectedness of absolutely everything. No matter where you are while in transit, there is always a payphone, internet accessible computer, or wireless internet, connecting you immediately to the outside world. No matter how far from home you are, you can literally be connected to home within seconds with just one call or email, and programs like Twitter, Skype and Facebook allow people to always keep tabs on you, where you are, how you are, what you’re doing…
The increasing ease of internet access is the most noticeable, at least for me. Almost everyone that I see on a bus, in a train, or sitting at the airport that is using their phone is no longer sitting on it texting, but browsing the internet, tweeting, or writing an email from their multi-purpose cell phone that acts more like a mobile computer than a calling device. Even my iPod has wifi capability, and I can usually check my email by connecting onto some sort of free, unsecured network. Just walking down the street in a big city will give you access to maybe 10 different private networks at any given spot, and cafes and restaurants lure you in for business by offering free wifi. Airports are offering more and more free wifi networks, and now even airplanes flying 35,000 feet in the air somehow offer wireless internet.
Internet has certainly revolutionised travel, allowing us to search and book flights with any airline (or search engine, like www.dohop.com), to virtually anywhere in the world, and nowadays you don’t even need a boarding pass since airlines are offering a paperless flying option – simply show the barcode from your emailed check-in confirmation on your internet-adapted phone/ipod.
Other technological advances have made travel a powerful, easily accessible tool in other ways. Planes are getting bigger, faster and less pollutant, boats are getting bigger and bigger (have you heard of the Norwegian Epic 4,000+passenger cruise ship built this year?), and tourism infrastructure is popping up in the most remote corners of the world with travel & tourism becoming the largest, fastest growing industry in the world. And, with more flights, more hotels, and more travel options, competition drives airline prices down, internet offers heavily discounted last minute bookings, and almost anyone can afford to travel in a do-it-my-way fashion.
I’d say all this technology is a blessing just as much as it is a curse, because even though the internet makes our lives much easier, it also makes things faster, perhaps even makes us a little lazy, and keeps us constantly connected to the outside world. This is of course a wonderful thing, gives us a sense of safety and security, but sometimes when you’re traveling, the best thing to do is just to get totally disconnected from where you’ve left, not having any communication with anyone that might temporarily remove you mentally from the new place you are physically.
I sometimes wonder what it’d be like 200 years ago when traveling was a serious profession only undertaken by the bravest explorers and funded heavily by big shots like the state, the church or precious royalty. Its nice to know that there still are a few places in the world left to be explored, to be seen as the first foreigner… but with all this fast-forward travel and travel becoming accessible to everyone, that won’t last for too much longer.