Questioning technology for travel

I’ve traveled a lot. That’s probably an understatement. I like to think that I have certain things down to a science. I know exactly what I need to do to make my life as easy as possible while traveling (i.e. never assume you can find food when you need food, view long wait times as an opportunity to relax, dress in layers including some kind of scarf, never ever let the overhead air circulation device blow on you because you definitely don’t want that virus in 3-5 days.) I know what I need to bring and what I can leave behind.

Yet as I prepare to leave for LOEX tomorrow, I find myself with a new-to-me problem of reducing my technology luggage. Is an iPod, a smartphone, a Kindle, and a laptop too much? Yes. Yes, it is. I know that I can hypothetically consolidate all of these bits of technology into my smartphone given enough time, smartphone memory, and 3G data, but I am quite new to the smartphone world and left it all to the last minute to figure this out.

It is interesting how my life is different, living out here in the mountains. I know that I significantly under-use my smartphone here, in a way that I wouldn’t if I lived in a city with public transit and reliable cell phone coverage. I am slow to understand all the things that can be done with a smartphone. Because I don’t spend a couple hours a day on a bus or subway, I have not figured out how to sync my music and podcasts to my phone. I have not tried my Kindle app. I don’t read blogs on my phone. I know that I can do all these things on my phone, but I just don’t need to. I read my blogs on my laptop. I watch movies on my laptop. I listen to music on my iPod nano almost exclusively in the gym, where the built in clip and miniature size make all the sense in the world.

I also realized that part of the reason I want to bring all of these devices, aside from the making-my-life-better part, is that the user experience is so much better on separate devices. Why read blogs on a tiny smartphone screen when you can do it on a laptop? Access and time being equal, I would not prefer scrolling around a tiny screen and magnifying tiny images on a phone to seeing my blogs in their best form on a computer screen. Why would I read a book on my smartphone when I can do it on a non-backlit screen? And I am not checking my email on my Kindle. Been there, done that, not worth the hassle. I choose my devices because I like they way they do things, not because there isn’t a different or more streamlined way to do it.

I grant you that the iPod doesn’t need to make the trip, in the strictest sense of the word “need,” but it is very small and already loaded up with my favorite podcasts. I’m bringing my Kindle because, well, it is also loaded up and ready to go. I have decided to leave my laptop at home, since using it as a security blanket is not worth lugging it along. The phone, obviously, is going.

The one technological aspect of this trip that I haven’t yet questioned is how I’m going to take note:. Paper and pen, all the way. Fewer typos, much more flexible, easy to pick up and put down (and drop, if it comes to that), easy to balance on a knee, and usable while not looking at it. Not to mention, I’m a doodler and pen-fiddler. Bringing an iPad would no doubt be the “cool thing” to do, but it is not nearly as functional.

All of this has brought a new dimension to my understanding of my technology usage. What do you all consider to be your essential technology travel kit? Any tricks or apps I need to try?

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