Using as little technology as possible on my early summer vacation helped me reconnect with the world. Taking just a phone, a small camera and using a couple of Internet services to help stay in touch with some key people back home lightened my load and let me enjoy my time in Europe.
of personal technology helped me enjoy a great two-week trip through France and Spain. With the help of my iPhone, some
temporary WiFi services from iPass and my two-year-old Canon PowerShot camera,
I slipped through the streets snapping pictures while keeping in touch with the
folks back home.
helped along the way by ATMs, postal kiosks and railway ticket machines that
offered English language interfaces with which I could interact. Although
border patrol agents were just as surly as they were when I traveled on my
previous passport, my new RFID-equipped identification at least lessoned the
amount of time I had to spend in line.
Much as I
appreciated the technology I was able to carry with me and use on my trip, for
the most part, I was more happily engaged in the company of family, enjoying
human contact and communication with as little technology around as possible.
Unlike tourists that I saw ladden down with bulky DLSR cameras and lugging
laptops in backpacks I left all my big, battery-powered friends at home and was
happy for it.
In fact, I
blithely ignored work (and for the most part) personal e-mail while I was away.
Thanks to Skype I was able to call a couple people back in the United States to pass on the latest adventures
of my trip. But it was even more satisfying to go into a Spanish post office
and buy international postcard stamps from a human being and then spend time
relaxing at the hotel writing postcards to friends and neighbors back home.
a couple of surprising technology phenomenon. For one thing, I flew both ways
on a 747-400, an aircraft that first launched more than 20 years ago. I can't
think of another piece of high-tech equipment that was first delivered in 1989
that I use today. Although I prefer Boeing 767's (a beautiful two-aisle, human
scaled airplane) there is nothing like flying in a 747. Especially one operated
by Air France, undoubtably one of the best coach airline experiences I've ever
out I didn't miss the individual seatback entertainment systems found in other
airlines. I also didn't miss the "upgrade assault" that is so beloved
by U.S. airlines. I was met by a genuinely
friendly cabin crew offering tasty food and drink, eyeshades and earplugs. Instead
of a non-stop PA announcement about what I could buy on board, I received
pleasant hospitality on both legs of my flight. It turns out that when
passengers aren't packed in to within an inch of our lives, and given bags of
peanuts instead of meals, we need much less technology tranquilizing during the
startling to notice in both Paris and Barcelona that people talk to each other
face-to-face. In San Francisco--where I work--and Oakland--where I live--it is all too
common to walk down the street with people who are loudly engaged in what
appears to be a one-sided conversation with their telephone. Or they are
walking down the street with a scowl of concentration while they text the most
important message in the universe. Sure, people used mobile phones and I did
see people texting. But it was nothing like the level on intensity that I've
grown to tolerate in the United States.
had a very pleasant break from my computer and so-called "social
media" connections. As with the best kind of vacation, I've had a chance
to "live intensely" as one travel guide put it. Returning to my
regular way of life, I'm hoping to hang on to some of the humanity I picked up
while I was away from the office. After all, California is a great place to hang out, and
not just because it's the home of Silicon Valley.