Confessions of a Travel Technology Addict

Queensland Australia laptop

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.

Sweetheart Rock. Manele Bay

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?

By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer.

9 thoughts on “Confessions of a Travel Technology Addict”

  1. A few years ago while on a 6month tour my wife kept working her office job from the road. We carried a massive 17″ laptop in a metal pelican-style case on buses through the mountains of Indonesia, hopping on and off boats on small islands. The damn thing weighed more than my pack. I vowed never again.
    Now I carry a 13″ MacBook wrapped in a towel, a point and shoot digital, and little else. Everything goes carry on so I don’t have to wait for checked bags. Frankly it’s liberating. That said time gained by not waiting for bags is lost in secondary screening; customs officials refuse to believe that you can travel for months with only a small knapsack. Be warned your computer and media files will be given a thorough examination

    1. Less is definitely more sometimes. I’ve abandoned a super heavy work laptop for a very light netbook and my back has never felt better. :)

  2. I often have those exact same thoughts. Being a photographer I find it really difficult to not drag everything with me “just incase”. I am going on a big roadtrip this year and am considering leaving the laptop at home and putting blogging, facebook, and all photo updates on hold for a month… Haha, we will see if I can do it! But something certainly feels liberating about the thought! Nice post :)

  3. I feel you all too well ont this one! Seems like almost every time I go through the x-ray machine at airport security, they want to go through my carry-on to wade through the mounds of power cords, cables, attachments, lenses, etc. that make my bag look like a rolling Radio Shack bargain bin. Definitely need to trim this down…need to find some better universal power cords at the least (dual voltage of course!)

  4. Personnally, the one item I have trouble letting go is my DSLR. It’s heavy, bulky and really not pretty. But the pictures it graces me with… I can’t leave it at the hotel.

    So far I’m not too much of a techno-traveller. All I have in my suitcase is my trusty laptop, my DSLR and an iPhone. Although I’m definitely looking into getting a pocket HQ camera. I really try to make the most out of my technology before getting any new item. First because it costs a lot of money and second because it takes me a whole lot of time to learn how to use it.

    Finally, when your actual job is being a travel blogger, I guess you can say that you are never truly on vacation. You can relax, yes, but there’s always the pressure of producing great visual material and thinking about the next article you’ll write.

    Good post!

  5. Tech gadgets take a large part of my bag and while I really wish I could take less I’m a long term traveller that works on the road so I need my macbook (13 inch is fine), portable back up drive, iphone, camera and what feels like a billion little odds and ends.

    Without that technology though, long term travel wouldn’t be possible for me (and I suspect many others). So in the end, I’m glad for it.. except when I’m carrying my bags. ;)

  6. I totally understand that feeling and I am a bit of a techno geek myself. Yes sometimes it can become a burden but when i travel abroad my key things are this:

    – Camera’s (Canon 7D, Diana F+ & soon to purchase GoPro)
    – iPhone (Emergency calls & Instagram, I do switch off my email entirely)
    – iPad (Useful for the flight & Travel Guides)
    – MacBook Pro – (I take this purely so I can download my photos and begin to play around with them whilst I wait for my wife to get ready or when I have some down time in a hotel room)

    Yes it can be too much but to be honest the only thing that is truly important is my camera. It would ruin my trip if I knew I hadn’t got at least one camera with me.

    Great post by the way and its great to know that its not just me that takes all the gear too :)

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