Technology has changed the way we live our day-to-day lives and (for worse or for better) it’s also changing the way we travel. No more waiting to develop our film, or documenting a moment in a journal, or even fighting with a huge map that is trying to fold itself into a small origami swan. With the click of a button we can now instantly share what used to take weeks of work. Our friends and family – even strangers – can join us as we check out the Mughal architecture of the Taj Mahal (on Instagram), dance by the full moon in Koh Phangan (on Snapchat), and get lost in the glens of Gaelic folklore (as narrated on Twitter).
Although it’s added a new dimension to how we experience a place, and despite all the convenience, when I consider the moments I have missed by my obsession with technology, I realise that my devices held me back from experiencing a lot of what is good about the world. Here are the 5 times technolog ruined my trip.
1. Searching for that perfect Angkor Wat shot at sunset
After sizzling in the Cambodian sun for nearly two hours, I was finally sitting at the edge of the crumbling stones that together create the masterpiece that is Angkor Wat. While sitting around waiting for the sunset that draws millions of travellers each year, I grabbed my phone and began to snap the natural wonder with my shoddy camera. As I fiddled with the settings and filters, I became irritated by how my phone wasn’t doing the moment justice. What I didn’t realise was that by the time I was fed up, the moment has already come and gone. The sun had cooled behind the earth and I had nothing to document it, not even a proper memory.
2. Getting lost in London (and not in a romantic way)
From the beard-filled bars of Shoreditch to the humming markets of Knightsbridge, London is a city built for a good time – unless you spend that time decoding your confused phone map while wandering the city’s tangled boroughs. Within five minutes of arriving at the riverside metropolis, the pavements seemed to be leading me in all directions, and as a force of habit, contradicting my urge to be audacious, I reached for my my phone. That sidekick that’s led me astray so many times before. For the next three hours I walked blindly past Jimmy Hendrix’s restored Soho apartment, nearly tripped over the floating performers in Covent Garden and ignored the grand echo of Big Ben, all because I was determined to connect the blue and green dots tangoing on my phone screen.
3. Forgetting folk music in Afytos
North of the Greek Islands with their ruins saturated, seafood enthusiasts and sun worshipers alike, there’s a cliff-side village that acts as a weekend getaway for the locals of Thessaloniki – a tourist-free paradise that I was lucky enough to find. The first evening in Afytos and I was tingling from a few bottles of Mythos beer, sitting in an open-air café that had been built around an olive tree, its branches contorted into a fairytale canopy. A local gentleman nearby was strumming his lyre and singing folk songs out into the night. Unfortunately, instead of of just soaking up he ridiculousness of my surrounds, I grabbed my phone and found the little yellow Snappy icon that connects me to the digital world. By the time I succeeded in removing myself from the candlelight shadows and recording a flawless snippet, the man had tipped his hat to the audience. I broke from my Snapchat-driven haze only to realise that all I had captures was an inaudible video, with only eight seconds of crackling footage to give me an idea of the magic I had missed.
4. The worst New Years in Chiang Mai
After a day following the hanging lanterns through and streets of smiling artisans and craftsmen, I slumped exhausted in my hostel and checked through the collection of fresh market treats I planned to share with my friends during our New Years Eve celebrations. There was three hours until I was meant to meet them, so I felt there was enough time to indulge in the Modern Family I always reserve for moments of much needed decompression. Happy in the hours of mind-liquefying banter, time escaped me. It wasn’t until I heard the vague numbers being chanted through the hostel corridors that I realised the New Years countdown had begun. Here I was, sprawled beneath a mosquito net, ringing in the New Year with a reflection in my computer screen.
5. Loathing Soccer in Ecuador
Exhausted after a SCARY drive that had been guided by (it seemed) nothing other than a tessellation of stars, we arrived at our wooden loft in the foothills of Otavalo. Our accommodation sat in the shadow of a peak’s silhouette, with a porch that offered 360-degree views of the small Andean town. Once we’d settled in, we wrapped ourselves in blankets and sat in awe of our surroundings…but of course, not for long. Because this place had WiFi. Before we even had a chance to clink our glasses of wine together in celebration of our five-month journey through South America, my partner was streaming a “do or die” soccer match on his phone. What should have been a significant moment in our adventure suddenly turned into 90 minutes of cringing at the echo of ooh’s and aahh’s, wishing, in vain, for silence.
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