I CAUGHT MY REFLECTION a few days ago on the “balcony” of our budget hotel near central Kuala Lumpur (it was a concrete box in a series of larger concrete boxes, but it was, technically, outdoors), and the image I saw was of a young man in his t-shirt and boxers, pacing in desperate search of a few more Internet bars on the top left corner of his iPad. It was an embarrassing sight.
This is, of course, not the first time I have grown immeasurably furious at technology on this trip; just a few hours after it aired, we tried to stream the latest Breaking Bad online for a half-hour before I went to bed exhausted and angry.
It’s profoundly unfair to let technology change the atmosphere of travel like that, but I allow it, because I am whipped by technology. I decided to blog about these journeys, to accept the conveniences of last-minute hotel bookings, GPS maps and the entire blogosphere in lieu of hefty Lonely Planet tomes. There’s no question that our iThings make travelling way, way easier; to say nothing of the above, they simply make bus rides tolerable.
In this way, I have sold my soul to the damn things, because technology has become a focal point of travel in a way it really should never be.
Technology is a tool, not a lifestyle. I often forget that. I of course have no natural right to watch Breaking Bad as soon as it comes out, but I want to, mostly so I can avoid spoilers on social media, and yes, I realise the irony. But realisation of irony and admission of guilt alone aren’t good enough, because this lifestyle is frankly way easier, and Breaking Bad is a really good show. So I don’t change.
Of course the answer is “don’t fall into extremes” and “everything in moderation” and maxims like that. We all read travel articles with head-slappingly obvious titles like “10 Reasons To Put Down Your iPad While On Vacation”, and we understand these reasons to be true in theory, so why is it so difficult to change one’s habits?
V and I have travelled through most of East Asia without our iThings—China, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, and, of course, Korea for two years, during which I had a phone, but it was certainly not smart. I wonder how much more entrenched in gadgets I would be if I had opted for a smartphone from my first day in Korea, but the obvious answer scares me to think about.
My hope for a solution may lie in the very problem itself: when technology fails, as it invariably does, the best solution is to ignore and embrace the opportunity. This is a difficult reality for someone who is trying to, y’know, blog and stuff, who is effectively addicted to the Internet, but I bet V would appreciate my mental presence more in those moments than she would my wrath.
If anyone has any ideas or, I don’t know, practical suggestions for how to cut back on the Internet without feeling like you’re falling behind famous travel bloggers who tweet every meal they sit down for, my comments section is open.