It started simply with just a camera and a cell phone. But then, seemingly over night, it grew into an avalanche of technology, camcorders, phones, laptops and iPads, each with their own accompanying cord. Before I knew it, my entire carry on bag was filled with a portable Radio Shack of gear.
Living in 2011 is great, but with every new convenience added to make my life easier, it seems that my bags get heavier. I began to worry that rather than helping augment and document my travel experiences, all of these gadgets were preventing me from truly enjoying travel.
Part of this commitment to all things digital come from work obligations. TripAdvisor recently conducted a study revealing that 69% of all Americans stay in touch with their work while on the road. It can be as innocent as a quick check of their email, or taking entire vacation days to work from the road. I hate the term, but this has been called a Fake-Cation.
While I may not like the term, the fact is that, for Americans at least, all of this new technology means we can never, ever leave the office. Just as we take our Facebook accounts with us wherever we go, along with that also comes our work. Using the criteria in the TripAdvisor study, I haven’t had a real vacation in years, if I ever have had one at all.
Aside from connecting us with work, the technology that I carry Sherpa-like through airports and hotels is all designed to help me record my trip, making the experience last for a lifetime. I have two cameras, one that fits into my pocket and a larger one. I have two video recorders, again, one for the pocket and a larger one. Then comes the Apple products, the iPhone and iPad. I love the iPad and can do a lot on it, but not everything, hence the need for a small netbook. That’s seven articles of technological convenience, along with their power cords, and it doesn’t even count what my partner brings.
Keeping up with all of these devices while traveling can be a pain, but I honestly do use them all. But I began to wonder if I was truly experiencing enough of my travels, content instead to see everything from a view finder.
On my last trip, I conducted a small experiment. While hiking out to a gorgeous spot, I only took one camera (ok, and a cellphone). I know this doesn’t sound like a lot of progress, but leaving behind the balance of my gear was a hard commitment emotionally. Turns out though, I really didn’t miss the extra gear. My bag was infinitely lighter and I was able to quickly ascend the path without stopping a hundred times to document every breathtaking vista with multiple life-recording devices.
In the end I didn’t have as many photos as I normally would have, but that’s ok. I was able to experience the moment much more by taking in my surroundings without the benefit of a tool to aid in the process.
Many of us become addicted to getting the latest and greatest gadget, especially those of us who like to travel frequently. Ironically, rather than help us better remember the travel experience, too many gadgets may actually prevent us from having the experience in the first place.
What do you think? Is there such a thing as too many travel gadgets? What’s the appropriate balance?