Ask The Travel Coach: Wire(less?) Around the World – Technology, Travel and You

Lost in the Mail, Staying Connected — By on February 21, 2012 at 12:00 pm
travel and technologyWelcome back to our info-packed monthly feature, Ask the Travel Coach! Life Sabbatical Coach Tara Russell has joined the Lost Girls team to act as our resident Travel Coach in Residence to answer questions from readers on topics from saving for travel to taking a career sabbatical. Readers, submit questions here, and your question might be answered in next month’s column! Here’s February’s question, with a focus on travel and technology.
Hi Tara,
I’m in the process of planning a long-term RTW trip and am not sure what gadgets (if any) I should be packing and/or what type of web-based tech I should be using from the road.  I’m on the fence about a lot of it and was wondering if you have any perspectives on this topic?  Thanks!
– Robin H., Seattle, WA
Tara’s Response:
Hi Robin,
Thanks for your question!  You’ve definitely hit on a topic that many would-be world wanderers need to tackle prior to hitting the road.  When it comes to technology and long-term travel, figuring out what tech to pack and/or use during your trip is ultimately a very personal decision and different solutions will be right for different travelers.  Your dream trip is all about honoring who you are and who you want to become while you’re away so the surest way to be successful is to make decisions that are in line with your personal values and goals. 
Here are a few inquiries and guidelines to consider that will hopefully help you find the right balance:
How does technology currently impact your life?  Does its role in your day to day routine work for you?  Why/why not? 
For some, travel is a way of seeking stillness in an increasingly-connected world while for others technology can be an integral and important part of their trip. 
Are you currently spending all day trapped in a cubicle chained to your computer?  Yearning to break free, ceremoniously flush your Blackberry down the toilet and escape to a desert island devoid of instant messaging, wifi, status updates and tweets?  If you’re feeling burned out from being constantly connected, consider that your trip can be an opportunity for a “tech detox’.  You may want to set some boundaries around tech use while you’re on the road; perhaps even consider traveling (gasp!) without a phone or computer.  One of my former clients traveled solo for over a year without any tech except a camera and an iPod and said that being “off the grid” and striking out without GPS and/or Google maps was one of her favorite parts of traveling because it forced her to read old-school maps and befriend locals to ask for directions; ultimately teaching her to ask for help and giving her a stronger sense of her own capabilities. 
On the flipside, some travelers truly want the convenience that certain gadgets, websites and apps can provide on the road.  Many of my clients use Facebook, Twitter and/or personal blogs as a way to feel connected with friends and family back home, which can often help combat homesickness.  Perhaps you’ve been dying to splash out on a new iPad or lightweight laptop and your trip affords you a good excuse to do so.  If you fall in this camp, strategizing about what to buy and how you’ll use it on the road can be part of the fun of preparing for your adventure! 
What are your personal and professional goals while you’re traveling?     
Have you been longing to take your passion for photography to the next level and develop a portfolio?  Maybe you want to hone your skills as a travel or food writer while you’re away.  If you have personal or professional development goals that you want to focus on during your trip, consider what technology can help you reach them.  (A shiny new DSLR camera?  Setting up a great new travel blog?)  As you know, backpack space will be at a premium so make sure that the tech you choose to tote on the road is tied to something that is important to you. 
What Message Are You Sending?
Regardless of what tech you choose to take with you or leave behind, take some time to think about how you will be perceived while you are traveling based on what you carry with you.  If you want to foster conversations and connections with locals, be judicious about where you flash your tech, especially in developing countries.  (In some areas of the world, your iPhone is worth more than many locals make in two or three years!) 
Tech can also surprisingly drive a wedge between you and fellow travelers if you’re not careful.  (Ever walk into a hostel lobby only to see that no one is talking because everyone has their nose in a laptop?)  It’s all good to keep a travel blog if you choose to (and be proud of it!) but make sure that you unplug long enough and often enough to really connect with other people – the friendships you’ll forge are ultimately where some of your best travel memories will come from! 
Can You Handle Potential Loss or Damage?
Would you be okay if your laptop, iPad or smartphone was lost, damaged or stolen?  How would you repair or replace things while far from home?  If you honestly can’t cope with the idea of losing something, do yourself a favor and leave it at home.
Are There Alternatives?
If you prefer to travel light, consider that there are probably websites and web-based applications that offer the same or comparable functionality as many smartphone apps, for example.  Internet cafes are usually easy to access no matter where you are so pick and choose what needs to go in your backpack and what you can handle remotely via the web.  (After all, you want to save some luggage space for great souvenirs!) 
Ultimately, the most important thing to remember is that your trip is all about you – it’s the opportunity of a lifetime and a dream that you have worked hard to realize.  So make sure that whatever tech you choose to pack (or leave behind,) that you develop a strategy that is in line with your personality, values and goals.
How do YOU feel about technology on the road?  How have you used it (or skipped it) during your own travels?  Share your perspectives in our Comments section!
Tara Russell, CPCC, CDC is a “Life Sabbatical & Long-term Travel Coach” – a Certified Life and Career Coach with a passion for working with clients who dream of taking time off to travel, live, work, study or volunteer abroad. As the Founder and President of Three Month Visa Coaching and Consulting, her mission is to empower her clients to transform their lives (and ultimately the world at large), through meaningful international travel experiences.  She is widely considered to be a national thought leader on the topics of career breaks and travel sabbaticals and has been featured in myriad online and print media outlets including New York Magazine, USA Today Travel, The Huffington Post, Travel & Leisure, The Christian Science Monitor and you’re ready to take your travel dreams down off the shelf and make them happen, contact Tara  TODAY – she’ll get you off the couch and on the plane!

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