When I first started traveling on my own in 2006, travel was still truly an adventure for me. From catching a bus to even something simple like putting food in my mouth, everything was a a stimulating, “new” and slightly difficult (in a good way) experience.
You had to rely on the good graces of people, the curiosity of others like “what the hell is this Aryan kid doing in the middle of the mountains in the Philippines?” and what navigational tools you had at your disposal like paper maps. This was when travel was “real” to me. And it seems like nowadays, if you want that visceral, off-the-beaten-path travel experience, you literally have to jump off the grid to places so secluded, you might just bump into Bear Grylls.
In the past 5 years, smart phones have become so utilitarian and ubiquitous, that you can be walking virtually anywhere in the world and not feel like you’re holding some unattainable, futuristic device that anyone would be happy to do a little shank and grab.
Our little pocket brains are also our cameras, our flash lights, our navigational aids, our most important work tool, social life, dating life, hell, literally everything!
If you are on Wi-Fi (which is easily discoverable literally anywhere in the world these days), you can use Google Maps to get anywhere on foot, public transport or by car without ever opening our mouths to ask, “perdóneme, dónde está el hostel loco?. You actually don’t even need service or Wi-Fi for the GPS to work!
I buy a SIM card anywhere I go now for a few dollars to have data (which is mostly 4G), and I can even make my phone a hotspot so I can literally crack open my laptop anywhere to answer an urgent email. Guess what, I’m using my phone as a hotspot on the bus as I write this post!
While I sometimes long for the days when traveling literally made me feel like Marco Polo, I also don’t miss it all that much either. I’m 27 now, and with that age comes slightly more responsibility, i.e. supporting myself.
In reality, being able to be connected with ease anywhere I go makes my life that much easier, and a location independent lifestyle a viable reality. If I had to be offline for 3 or 4 days at a time, I couldn’t do what I do the way I do it.
While I feel slightly addicted to my iPhone, I also don’t really feel like I could live without it the way I want to, sad as it sounds.
So in conclusion, when people ask me, how can you just take off and travel anywhere at the drop of a dime? I tell them, in reality, my life is basically exactly the same as it is anywhere in the world. I work for a few hours a day, I seek out decently healthy places to eat, I find gyms, and I enjoy my life in reason, i.e. no different than I would be doing in Miami, I just might happen to be in Mexico City one week and Bangkok the next. I might have also found out all that information on my iPhone too, oh well!