Packing Light or Packing Right

Packing Light or Packing Right

What globetrotter doesn’t have a passionate opinion to voice when it comes to the topic of tech-savvy travelling? These days, most people would choose to travel with a smartphone over a map and compass in a heartbeat. Have we lost all sense of tradition? Does falling victim to the modern traveller ways make you a hobo imposter? A flashpacker? A phony? I’m writing this totally hypocritically, but I can’t help but get lost in thought about the adventures we would be enjoying if the smartphone (shock horror) wasn’t invented.

Because I’m financially confined between the distance of my workplace and my humble abode, I am constantly daydreaming about future travels. A combination of this confinement, the purchase of a new backpack (tough times had seen me barter my old one in exchange for three bottles of passion pop) and watching that viral ‘Look Up’ video got me thinking about technology and its impact on modern-day travelling.

I love the idea of packing light, but let’s be honest, unless you’re a 45-year-old dirty old man, it’s pretty tricky to restrict your load to five kilos. Although I probably could have done without lugging around quite a few things – namely that 100-pack of baby wipes – they came in handy in the most unexpected of times. As rewarding as travelling with just the bare essentials may be, I still only like the idea of it.

Initially, I’m guessing the ultralight traveller’s backpack consisted of of a map, a compass, a pocket knife, some clothing, a toothbrush, a book, a disposable camera, a notebook, a torch and a phrasebook. But when I think of light packing today, I think of the crème de la crème of multitasking: the smartphone, which can pretty much compact all of the above into one (maybe minus the knife, clothes and toothbrush). Your phone can be a weather man, a book, a boom box, a dictionary, a video camera, GPS, a personal trainer… the  list goes on. With the availability of apps and WiFi, our phones can do all the tasks we originally needed our actual knowledge and skills to perform.

Isn’t that the most embarrassing thing a human can admit? I use Google at least five times a day at work to answer the most idiotic questions. I use the flashlight to get from my light switch to my bed on a nightly basis. Where would I be without my guardian angel of an iPhone? How would I survive?

Admittedly, I’d probably be okay. Because you know what else is a brilliant tool? A map. I’m talking about the hard copy kind, the ones that come in book form, use grid format… you know, those satanic things that destroyed your mental patience in your in year 8 geography exam? Having one of those handy could have saved me a lot of forced taxi fares all due my dependence on technology. You may not be able to simultaneously smash a level of Candy Crush whilst following the voice directions to your next hostel, but you can rely on it not malfunctioning. It will never not load the other half of the page because you’re too poor to pay for more data, and – my most re-occurring issue – after a 12-hour bus ride, that map will not run out of batteries. But still – when combined with a torch, a phrasebook, a camera, a radio and a compass, it’s going to take up a lot more room in your backpack…

We are continuously reminded of the negative impact technology has had on us us. We are all victims, and we all know it, and no matter how many moving YouTube videos we watch about it, we still won’t act upon the message because we are already so addicted to comfort of our smartphones. We’re the most connected and up-to-date we’ve ever been.

So I’m just going to go against everything and say: pack it. Just give in and realise that you can live without your phone, but it would be a heck of a lot easier to get through day-to-day life with it right by your side. Put that multi-tasker in your pack and don’t feel ashamed about it. Again, I admire the idea of living with a beaten-up old Nokia, or even with no phone at all – kudos to those who never gave into the iPhone gang, but I’m happy being a technology whore.