I’d absolutely love to jump into a time machine, whizz back fifteen years to an era when likes, follows and retweets were more pertinent to getting laid, getting stalked and ad hoc bird imitations, and go travelling somewhere. The challenge and novelty of it would be thrilling, if not brutally difficult.
Imagine that: a world without social media. It almost seems inconceivable, in spite of being a reality little over a decade ago.
The modern day traveller wilfully shackles him or herself to their digital devices– be it a laptop, netbook, Macbook, iPad or just a massive smartphone –often without a second thought. To not be able to update our location from Mount Fuji or Instagram a Taj Mahal selfie at the tap of a key or touch of a screen would be shattering for so many globetrotters. And that is a grave embarrassment yet an inescapable truth.
I, for one, am guilty as charged– even if I’m gone for just a few days I take my MacBook along for the ride. I have to remain connected, logged in and up to date, and having my devices with me is a surefire way of guaranteeing that.
Am I ashamed? Meh. Kind of. Would I ever change my ways? Definitely not. And here is why:
Need to blog
Blogging, while not as financially fruitful as I’d like it to be, is a job for me. Fair enough, I’m an English teacher too, but whenever and wherever I go travelling, I’m going to want to blog about it. This usually occurs a week or so after I’ve returned from my trip but there is invariably a long line of articles waiting to be either written or published. I need to have all my resources at my fingertips and a safe place to store downloaded files, but that’s just me.
Need to plan and feel secure
Planning is not something I tend to do much of when off galavanting but staying one step ahead of the game is. Most hostel bookings, couch requests, internet-banking etc tend to take place at home before the big day but plans change unexpectedly, and for this you’re going to need instant internet access (where 3G coverage comes in handy). Most importantly, with your own laptop, iPad or netbook to hand, you needn’t worry about banking details, pin numbers and passwords being automatically stored in communal computers’ caches, or stealthy malefactors looking over your shoulder in internet cafés.
Need to avoid stone-age internet cafés
Internet cafés you say? No thanks. You can never underestimate the infuriating bullshit you are likely to be faced with: weak connections; slow loading time; jerky, clunky software; pay-per-minute computers, queues, people skyping loudly and automated timeouts. No. Just no. I’ll pay over the odds for WiFi every time ta.
Need to keep in touch
Depending on how long you’re going to be away for, contacting friends and family might be something you’ll regularly want to do. You’ll want privacy to Skype these people, and although there are now many hostels and internet cafés with those mini booth things that you have to pay extra for, it is ultimately a lot easier and more comfortable to do it from your own device in a quiet corner somewhere.
Need for peace of mind
Every traveller’s worst nightmare is losing their camera. Lose your camera: lose your photos. This has happened to me twice. The first time was devastating; just back from a 4-day trek in the Peruvian mountains that concluded with a day at Machu Picchu, I’d managed to lose my camera after passing out drunk at a festival. Thankfully, we really do live and learn, as the second time wasn’t quite as cataclysmic; I’d already stored my pictures of Venice and Slovenia’s Lake Bled on my laptop and in my Dropbox account. The camera, which had actually belonged to my mum (sorry mum), wasn’t too valuable, but to lose it was nevertheless upsetting. However, it could have been much worse, evidently.
Need for downtime
Nobody goes travelling so that they can stay in and watch movies every night, but during a long, dark and sleepless flight or couch journey this is naturally the only thing you want to do. The time flies by this way, and of course you won’t need to crick your neck and squint past peoples’ heads in order to view the flickery rubbish that the driver has picked to play on those tiny TVs that hang down from the ceiling. It also provides an alternative to going out and getting smashed every night of the week. Trust me, you’ll be glad of it.
There are clear pitfalls: risk of loss/theft/damage, unwanted weight, missing out on unmissable experiences, and worst of all, constant worry.
Basic travel insurance is cheap but the moment you add a laptop or expensive smartphone to the package the price tag blasts off into orbit. Some people pay it, others, like me, don’t. That might seem reckless to you, which it is– a bit –but I’ve only come this far by being smart about it. For instance:
- Never leave your device unattended, unless in a secure locker
- Buy a waterproof case
- Wrap it up in towels, t-shirts or bubble wrap
- Padlock it to the inside of your bag
- Tie your bag to your foot when asleep
- Don’t show it off in front of strangers.
- Make your laptop look shit– thieves probably won’t go for a laptop that looks worn, battered and scuffed, so maybe try adding some removable paint and keying in a load of scratches. How about that for ingenuity!
So whether you should lug your laptop/haul your high-priced smartphone along with you or not really depends on personal circumstances. Are you going to write about your trip? Will you need to regularly access internet bank accounts or other high-security sites? Will you want to back up your photos? These are all questions worth asking yourself before you go away on your trip, and if your answer to most of them is ‘yes’ then there you have it: take your laptop.
Do you take your laptop with you when you travel? Could you travel without your smartphone? Think I’m a materialistic, whiny hipster who needs to be put in his place? Please leave a comment below!