Could you find your way in a new city without GPS?
I asked myself this question when I was looking with a friend for a restaurant. We had a map. A traditional map. And we were hopelessly lost.
To be fair we had our smartphones with us as well, but we were in a city famous for pickpockets, it was late already, and the area didn’t look safe. It seemed smarter to have all the valuable things hidden if we are obviously sending an „I’m a lost tourist” vibes.
Trouble is that it’s not that easy anymore.
Not so long time ago I was able to do it without any problems. I was easily finding characteristic points to localize myself and my way. Now, after a while of relying on my smartphone to choose the most optimal way, it took me a while to regain my orientation skills.
But it was not the only thing that we did „the old way”.
It was a refreshing realization.
I love technology, gadgets and all those things that make life ”smarter”. You will not catch me trying to convince anyone that it ruins our social life or make people stupid, but I do admit that it changes a lot of things. When there is a discussion about its influence on aspects of life like work, hobbies or dating, the aspect of traveling seems to be out of the discussion.
But things have changed significantly!
- People travel more than everThere are so many means of transport available that can transport us much faster. It’s also easier to find affordable travel and accommodation options. Especially when one has internet and know where to look. The financial situation of many people got better, and this combined with decreased prices made many things much more accessible.
- It’s easier to find your way.
You don’t need to have almost any spatial recognition to follow GPS instructions. There is no looking for characteristic points or following the streets names. It’s much more difficult to get lost as long you have a proper device with you, which can be relaxing for many. At the same time, I noticed that my brains stopped storing some information about places I have visited, because I’m walking more on autopilot. It’s making the experience of walking the streets much more superficial for me.
- You have access to the most recent information.
The biggest issue with paper guidebooks is that they stop to be relevant pretty fast. My friend wanted to visit a museum in Barcelona, that she saw in the guidebook. She was so looking forward to it! But it was very disappointing to discover that they closed it 2 years ago… It’s very unlikely to have it happened if you check necessary information online. Things change often, and you can be up to date not only with attractions, but also events and new cool places in the city. A pretty awesome change in my opinion.
- You can focus on whatever you want.
The popularity of traveling and the ease to find information let us focus on whichever aspect of traveling interest us. Whether you want to focus on ancient ruins, bars, best restaurants, shops or nature, there is a huuuge base of information making it simple to discover whatever you please. There were so many people that were looking for it already, you can easily find what interest you the most.
- Everybody is taking photos
Most people have an opinion if it’s a good or bad phenomenon. The fact is that every year more and more people are taking photos on every occasion. The bad part is that now not having a photo from somewhere might seem like we weren’t there. The pressure to document everything can be distracting from the experience… and it’s not like it’s always possible to take a decent photo. But for sure we don’t have time to care about all those photos afterward, nor rewatch your shaky-hand footage.
- It started to be overly fashionable
There are so many things „you absolutely must see before you die”, quasi-inspirational traveling quotes and beautiful photos on Instagram, that might put a lot of pressure and expectations on the experience. It can be a fun killer and I’m also not very convinced that traveling makes people enlightened individuals only because they left hometown for a while.
- It indirectly (and directly) changed a lot of places
Many touristic spots are much different than they were before. Because of amounts of people traveling there is a bigger earning potential, so people are more motivated. It’s the most painful change in my opinion. The beauty of many monuments disappears covered by selfie-stick sellers, all kinds of opportunistic marketers and some not-so-very-thoughtful tourist throwing garbage everywhere. It’s definitely not something that locals tend to appreciate.
- We look at the screens more often
The journey used to be a time when I was looking through the window and enjoying the view. Now it’s much less likely, and I believe it’s the case not only for me. Earlier there were books, sure, but the screen is much more captivating. There are many interesting things that one can see on the way, so I believe I missed a couple of such things. It’s also not that good for the eyes.
Technology made traveling and navigating in the new environment easier for sure. I find it the biggest advantage, because fewer people are stopped from doing what they want by economical or fear-driven reasons.
At the same time, I learned to appreciate the beauty of using a traditional map and moderation in photos. The first it helped in noticing the way a city is built, understand it better and on a deeper level. I remember much more details as well, from places I was finding my way with a traditional map. The second creates a nice balance between being present in the moment and „saving” memories forever. When I know I will not be able to take a photo that will look decent or I don’t have any idea for it, I don’t bother. I used to photograph everything obsessively, but sometimes it’s much more valuable to spend the given moment enjoying it and observing its beauty directly and not on the screen.