Four Weeks Away Without Paper…

As mentioned a couple of posts ago, I spent a few weeks up until the middle of July travelling around for both business and pleasure, hence the lack of blog activity. And of course I tried to do it without paper. Here’s some thoughts on how that went.

Airlines, hotels, car hire places never seem to check e-tickets etc. I had soft-copies of everything on the ipad (and I cheated with some crucial paper copies just in case) but I was never asked for anything more than my name, and some other form of ID (credit card, drivers licence or passport). At least where I went (western Europe, SE Asia) the only printed document required is a passport.

Printed maps aren’t needed either, but they provide a sense of context that google maps doesn’t. I had a bunch of directions saved to the ipad as pdfs, as well as live google maps (when wifi connected), a bunch of city guides and metro maps and a ten dollar iphone navigation system (kapten – not perfect but recommended and got us everywhere we had to go without o/s data charged – it has 1.8GB of maps as part of its download) and we never got lost. Misdirected a few times, but then always re-routed, and never lost. What we never had was the ability to quickly look at an overview of where we were going. Sure we could step through the route but not having a big country map meant we were never 100% certain that we were heading in the right general direction – and trust in a satnav system needs to be earned.

Speaking of guidebooks. Nothing in print needed. Lonely Planet iphone apps did no better or worse than their paper counterparts. And speaking of books. I read a bunch of them. All on the ipad and the iphone. Yep, I finally read a complete book on the ipad – actually several works of entertaining fiction. And the experience was absolutely fine. Did the ipad disappear so that I was totally immersed in the book? Absolutely. Did I miss printed books? Absolutely not.

What of newspapers and magazines? In the past, I’d spend time overseas buried in local newspapers – or if in a non english speaking country, then buying the occasional Guardian International Edition, or International Herald Tribune. This time, with web access, I didn’t bother. And even when we were offline (in the middle of rural France with no internet connection for two weeks), the stack of US magazines on my ipad (cheers, Zinio) tied me over, as did the newspaper subscriptions on the kindle. (And the ebooks, of course)

In fact, here the kindle was a real boon. Its free data access meant that we were never short of reading material. Not only were the Independent and the NYTimes appearing daily (free 14 day trial subs!) but we were never short of books. So when the nine year old became an instant Nancy Drew fan, we could easily satisfy the need πŸ™‚ We even managed to check the state of origin score for the father-in-law, although the kindle browser was the single most frustrating web experience I’ve had in over a decade. Bring on the new kindle’s webkit browser.

Of course, if I’d had a 3g ipad and managed to get an overseas prepaid SIM with decent data, then the kindle’s advantages wouldn’t have been so clear. In fact, if I’d managed to find an easy way to not pay data roaming charges for the iphone, then the same applies. But the fact remains, it’s hideously expensive to roam, tracking down SIMs in foreign language countries can be hard (esp ones with cheap data) and so the kindle is a must-have in those situations. For now, anyway.

So, can you spend 4 weeks away without paper? Without printed tickets, maps, books, magazines and newspapers? Yes, and it makes for a less cluttered travel experience. Of course, we still picked up brochures from tourist offices, and city guides and the like when staying at hotels. But they don’t count, do they?

I do wonder about the experience though. It won’t be very long from now that 3g data will be affordable around the world – and I’ll be reading Sydney newspapers and listening to Sydney radio and maybe even watching Sydney television wherever I am in the world. In fact, with hotel wifi, which is almost a mandatory requirement these days, I can do it already. Which sort of diminishes the travel experience. After all, if you’re in a different physical location, but doing the same things online as you did at home, then where, exactly, are you?

At the least the food’s different πŸ˜‰
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1 comment so far

  1. Ehsan on

    I feel so old reading this post! I think I am missing so much from the world and been sleeping somewhere in 1990’s. Jesus Crisis…I am not comfortable with smart phones as I keep losing them every couple of months and now with Kindle and Ipad I am no where close (oh yeah I have ipod !). I really thinK I should catch up, lets say at least with iphone..we will see where I would get afterwards…but need to find ways to avoid losing my cellphone 1st…hope that wont take a decade…


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