Think Before you Pack
The golden days of travel seem to be long gone — security is tight, the amount of luggage you can carry is limited, the amount of “airport time” is getting longer and longer, and most international airports seem to be about the same size as the W&M campus. Carrying around a lot of excess items that you may never use can quickly become a pain in the neck — literally! Conversely, it can become very expensive to not bring certain items along if you need to purchase, rent, or pay someone else for this functionality while traveling. Hopefully with a little thought you’re more likely to hit the “sweet spot” of what tech you bring along and what you leave behind.
The first question I ask myself traveling is “what do I REALLY need for my trip”? And by this I don’t mean what technology, but rather what functionality. Check email? Browse the web? File storage? Collect photographs, video, or audio? We are all creatures of habit and it’s easy to fall in to the trap of thinking (for instance) that you have to check email while traveling or perform some sort of Web activity just because we do it almost every day … but do you really need to do this while on your trip? A trip is not “normal life,” and it’s okay to forgo some of your regular activities temporarily. An automated away voice/email message might be all you really need for a short trip. If you can free yourself from these types of tasks, you might really enjoy simplifying your life.
2. Tools for those needs
You might have a high-quality camera or laptop that you really love to use. But are these the tools that you want to carry and “risk” during your travels? Or are there other options available that better suit your needs for the situation? Many of us may have several devices that can be used to achieve a specific task. For example, you can record video using a traditional video camera, almost any “photo” camera, nearly every phone, as well as tablet devices.
It pays to think about where you can take advantage of overlapping functionality to reduce the total number of things you need to carry, and where the quality of what you need to do dictates the use of the “best” device for that task. A smart phone or tablet might be the only device you need to bring along if all you need to do is to check and shoot off a few emails, take snapshots of people and places, check maps as your travels change, do a bit of Googling, and even record the sounds and voices of a place. On the other hand, if you plan to work on your latest book or want to collect high quality photographs of far away animals, you may want to bring different tools for the job.
If you find that technology will play an important part in your travels, it pays to do a bit of research before departing. What type of phone and electrical system does the country you are traveling to have? How accessible is the Internet? What kind of performance can you expect? Are there public/private computers you can use, and what type are they? Keep in mind that just as in the US, there may be regional differences within a country when it comes to accessing these things.
It’s not always easy to navigate to the sweet spot of functionality vs. bulk vs. performance vs. “letting go,” especially if you are new to international travel. It’s likely that you may get it significantly wrong, but you can learn from your mistakes and improve your chances of getting it just right on your next trip.