Should You Bring Along Your Smartphone When Travelling?

Should You Bring Along Your Smartphone When Travelling?

Technology might make travel more convenient but we suggest that you limit your usage to get the best out of your travels.

Cycling in Bagan

It felt like 40 degrees as the sun pierced its rays on everything beneath it, including the helpless fabric of my bicycle saddle. I had just taken a photo of the crimson dome of a temple perched on a barren hill. My skin was desperate for shade but I had to keep moving. I cranked the pedals and gripped the handlebars tightly, bearing the heat that slowly suffocated my lower extremities.

Minutes seemed like days as I cycled through the unpaved road marred by a whirlpool of dust. Everything around it was lifeless, except for the large snake that welcomed my off track adventure.

Two hours before my bicycle journey, I was in Nyaung U, preparing a survival kit that includes a pair of sunglasses, sunblock, water bottle, camera, map, a whistle, a notebook, a pen, my wallet and a basic model cellphone.

According to my understanding of the map, there is only one straight road towards my destination, New Bagan. I reckoned that I should be able to reach my destination by lunchtime.

I made another stop to shake off the cloud of dust diffused by the wheels. I checked the time on my cellphone. It said 12 noon. I looked at the map illustrating that one straight road. With only a quarter of water left, the draining journey had slowly incited distress and fear in me.

There was no sight of a door that I could knock on nor a tree canopy where I could rest my head. There was also no visible water pump where I could get a few drops to stay hydrated. At that point, I only had two choices, to go forward or go back to my starting destination.

Going back would mean that I will never know what I could have seen ahead. On the other hand, going forward would mean victory for the intrepid traveller whose journey always comes with a risk. I was not sure how long more I could go before I start seeing visions.

Yet, I pedalled on, like a brave traveller should. I reached my destination after another hour – thirsty, exhausted, hungry, but ALIVE.

Whenever I recall this moment of adventure in my life in Myanmar, two questions spring to mind. Would technology have aided me during that tough journey? Would technology have hampered it instead?

During my most desperate hour, when my exhaustion was heightened by the sight of a humongous snake, a Smartphone could have possibly led me to a secret road where a shack (selling cold beer among others) stood hidden amongst the trees, eclipsed by ancient temples. Yet, technology could also have stopped me from taking the boldest leap of all – heading into the unknown with nothing but the most basic of survival kits.

Smartphones can connect us to the world and give us more options for survival. It can remove uncertainty, unpredictability, and the sense of wonder- qualities that usually make world travel one hell of an adventure. That does not mean one should head out to the wild with nothing but Granola bars. There is still a need for preparation and safety.

When it is time to face technology while travelling, it is really about knowing when to use it and when to put it down.

When you’re out in the most remote areas of the world, switch off the phone, tablet or laptop and just observe your surroundings. Your senses will electrify. You will start to think, learn and survive using the tools that you already have in you.

The April 2014 issue of Reader’s Digest reveals how powerful the human body is and what it can accomplish. The article talks about the existence of an “inner thermostat” that makes “lifesaving adjustments”. When the body temperature increases, the skin’s blood vessels release heat by dilating – the reason why I was able to survive 3 hours of unaided adventure in a blazing atmosphere.

“You wouldn’t believe how brilliantly designed you are”, the article reminds us that there is a need to let go of things which makes our lives easier and to never under-estimate the power of human spirit.

Travelling with a Smartphone is not an option I plan to ignore. In fact, I am holding one now.  I have limited my usage, the phone can only access the web when WiFi is available, it can only take pictures the rest of the time. I still rely on my best weapons – a map, my whistle, and my primitive mobile phone that tells me that I should start to head home.

About Author

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Rica Rucksack

Patricia or "Rica" runs the travel blog, Rica's Rucksack, which documents her journey in Asia and in other parts of the world. She is also the author of "The 3rd World Traveler: A Guide To Fulfilling Your Travel Dreams on a Shoestring Budget". Apart from traveling, Rica enjoys heavy metal, tennis, and sunsets.

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