Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Technology and foreign travel

I was thinking today about how drastically technology has changed my foreign travel, virtually all to the better. On this trip, for example, I have made arrangements--both professional and personal--through email, Facebook, and Twitter. I can use Google Maps to figure out exactly where I have to go, and I feel more connected to my family at home.

When I was doing my dissertation fieldwork here in Chile in the 1990s, I spent hours playing phone tag with people, and a single interview could take many days to sort out. Long distance calls were still really expensive.

I am a technophile, but I do wonder about the downsides. When I did my junior year abroad in Madrid in 1990-1991, I was almost totally disconnected. I lived in a dorm, and no room even had a phone. I would set a day and time with my parents, who would call the dorm reception. Then she would ring a bell in my room, which meant I had to run down the hall to what was basically a phone closet. To get any baseball scores, I had to take the metro into the city to buy a slightly aged Sporting News, which I would take to a cafe to read.

What it meant, though, is that I became more immersed. I spoke Spanish more than I would've otherwise, and I explored Madrid more. I wonder whether I would've had the discipline to do that even if I had instant access to everything in the world in my dorm room.


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