The way we travel has changed drastically thanks to rapid technological change. Just a few decades ago, going to another country could mean falling off the map. You’d only stay in touch with friends and family through the occasional expensive phone call or letters, if you were away for long enough. Even as the use of email became more commonplace, keeping up while traveling could mean searching for an internet cafe and paying outrageous rates for an hour or two with a slow, unreliable connection. Today, we have the ability to research, book and share trips literally at our fingertips.
The Rise of DIY
Once upon a time, you had to contact a travel agent to book a complicated trip. Now, even if you are cobbling together a round-the-world journey involving planes, trains, buses, cars and more, you can find out nearly everything you need and make your reservations online. Information used to be harder to come by as well, usually available in just a handful of guidebooks compiled in the previous year at the very latest. Now, you can scour the internet for blogs, forums, social media groups and more than can give you up to the minute information on the best restaurants, the best places to stay, the most overrated sights and the things you can’t miss. Being a savvy traveler when it comes to technology also means knowing when to go the low-tech route, if you’re trying to reserve a night at an independent hotel, guesthouse or bed and breakfast, put down your phone and give the place a call yourself. You may be offered a lower rate than you can get anywhere online since the establishment does not have to share a portion with online brokers.
Work and Bills
Technology means that you might be able to travel for much longer than you could have just 10 or 15 years ago. Extended travel used to largely be the domain of the independently wealthy. After all, most people can’t afford to leave their jobs for months at a time to hit the road. However, today, many companies are open to telecommuting as an option, and beyond that, there are opportunities for both freelance and full-time jobs that you can do online from anywhere. The other concern for many people may be managing their finances. For example, if you went to college, you probably have student loans. Many people take out some combination of federal and private loans to help pay for tuition, rent and other expenses. It usually takes years to pay them back, but while you’re on the road, this is as easy as setting up an automatic payment or logging in to a site monthly to make a payment yourself. You can do this with any other recurring expenses as well. Managing your money should be little problem as well since for several years now, online banking has meant you rarely need to visit a physical bank. If you are planning to travel overseas, you might want to look into banks, including online-only ones, that offer great rates for taking out foreign currency at ATMs.
Gone are the days of painstakingly trying to make yourself understood in a foreign language with a phrasebook or dictionary. These days, there are apps that can translate for you instantly, at least if you haven’t had time to take advantage of the many additional apps that can teach you as much of the local language that you need to know to get by as a tourist. It might be easier to list what travel apps can’t do for you than the things they can. They’ve got you covered for finding accommodation and restaurants, using a map to find your way around a strange new city and connecting with locals. Even mobile apps not specifically created for travel have some great features that make the whole process easier, from allowing you to download books and movies to help pass the time during long journeys or layovers to messaging services and social media that helps you keep in touch with loved ones while you’re away and instantaneously share with them pictures and recordings of your travels.
Augmented Reality and Other Virtual Ways to Travel
If too many bills, too many commitments or something else is keeping you home, you can still indulge in some pretty exciting virtual travel experiences. Augmented reality isn’t just for companies that want to advertise what their hotel rooms or cruise ships look like although that’s certainly one common use that can help ensure you know exactly what you’re signing up for. Thanks to virtual and augmented reality, you can visit Mount Everest, the Grand Canyon and the Great Wall of China without leaving your home. If you’ve got a treadmill, a stationary bike or a rowing machine, you can exercise while watching videos of people walking, running, cycling or boating in exciting places around the world. Vlogs made by other travelers can help prepare you for future adventure trips like walking the Appalachian Trail.
Behind such industry jargon as big data or slightly overused phrases like the ‘internet of things’ lies clues to the future of technology and travel. Information that companies gather about you will be used to offer you increasingly personalized travel options. Travel will get easier, too, as hotels use smart technology to make it easier for you to control things like your room temperature, luggage increasingly comes equipped with sensors that let you track it with your phone and your preferences in any particular environment can be communicated before you even arrive on the scene.