Travel and gadgets

20140421-091221.jpgIn 2012 I wrote a post about the differences in travel planning today from an extended trip I had taken in 1975.

Just as technology made planning a fairly painless experience, it also made a big difference to life on the road, if handled with some thought and care.

My tech inventory 1975:
one new Olympus 33mm roll film camera

Our tech inventory 2013:

  • one 64 gb ipad mini – wifi only
  • one 64 gb iphone 5
  • one new Fuji Film FX1 digital camera
  • 2 hearing aids plus a backup
  • adapter plugs and a multi plug power board with two USB slots

The camera was a trade off, I usually pack a Digital SLR camera with an inter-changeable 70-300mm lens. However, I do find this a burden when using a day pack and given the proposed cycling decided to opt for something smaller that still had plenty of manual control. I did not regret that decision, the Fuji fitted into my pocket rather than shouting tourist like the SLR.

A priority when booking accommodation was the availability of free wifi but we did not stress if there were stops where we did not have it.

I carried only essential apps on the phone and ipad. These were:

  • offline translation apps
  • offline maps for the areas we were travelling in
  • Evernote with upgrade so that I could store offline copies of all booking docs, itinerary and other planning notes
  • Kindle for ipad for the travel guides plus other books for reading
  • WordPress app for publishing blog posts
  • Gmail app & Safari browser

What was the outcome?

The compact nature of all of the tech gear was appreciated, I could carry it all around with me during the day and still have room for coats, water and snacks.

The associated charging gear and cords could be painful. I thought I had that well organised but “disaster” struck on several occasions. I left the adapter plug in our first Hotel. No adapter, no camera, phone or ipad.

During the second week we found that using both USB ports on the power board overloaded it, took out the power in our room and the board was munted. The rest of the trip required the sharing of charging time on the replacement adapter. It worked fine

I kept the cables and plugs in their own smallish soft packing rectangle with the cables always tied to avoid tangles. I had a spare camera battery which reduced the recharging shuffle.

Communication with home was great, no different from being at home, except for the time differences. Using wifi worked fine, it met our needs. When we did not have it we did not really miss it.

The offline maps were a saviour on many occasions, the extra storage on the ipad and iphone meant that I could download images to the ipad and sort them on the go while I could use the iphone for taking a few movie clips.

The iphone assumed a more important role halfway through the trip, my FX1 developed a “firmware problem” whatever that is, but in short, it would not let me take any more pictures. So the iphone became our camera. I download and app which gave me several of the features I would miss, quality suffered a little but it worked fine for taking snaps.

That was not the end of my tech issues, hearing aids tend to be fairly sensitive to moisture, biking up to hilltop villages in 30+c temperatures tends to cause quite a bit of moistures, usually from the head. So the amplifier on one of the aids gave up. The backup came out and despite diving into a swimming pool while still wearing it, it held out.

In summary, the gadgets come with their potential problems, but they made one heck of a difference to many aspects of our travels. In 75, my camera and film were stolen the only backup I had was pencil and paper but unfortunately zero artistic talent.

Being able to remain in touch with those at home via email, Facebook and blog posts, having translation at your finger tips, not having to pack around bulky maps and guide books and sorting and backing up images as we went were all great changes that I appreciated.

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