Troy Wilkinson writes: I couldn’t let the recent Back in a Bit piece “I travel therefore iPhone: why only idiots travel without a smart phone” pass without comment. Though in fairness to Ben Oliver it has nothing to do with the contents of his article and everything to do with the editor’s rather mischievous choice of title.

I don’t normally get riled about being labelled an idiot, as it tends to happen often enough. For a start, there’s my questionable dress sense. And being a Tasmanian doesn’t help. But for some reason, as someone who doesn’t own a smart phone at all, I took umbrage this time.

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It’s not that I’m a completely cranky old technophobe — I’m young enough to have had computers at home since I started primary school, obtained an undergraduate degree in IT and have so far spent my entire full-time working career in the industry. I’ve been in on the Web ever since Yahoo’s HTML background was a plain grey and well before Google became the search engine de rigeur. It’s just that I’ve somehow missed the rush fuelled by portable mobile devices to be connected all the freaking time. And especially so when travelling.

Travel for me is pure escapism, the welcome chance to break free from the routine and hum-drum of the everyday. And a large part of that normal life includes the constant distraction of electronic communication. To shake all that enables me to focus more on the destination that I’ve made the trouble and expense to come to, and to better appreciate everything novel or unusual I can find there.

I’m not normally one to walk around a new place with a guidebook permanently attached to my face like an oxygen mask, so I don’t really need a smart phone as an alternative. What really lures me is the mystery of what could be around the next corner, the next district or the next hill. An occasional glance at an old fashioned map will do to get my bearings. And it’s much the same when driving, where the trouble I can get into with a paper map and following road signs is no worse than being subject to the whims of a smart phone navigation app.

It would be deluded for me to think that just by shunning the smart phone I’m somehow blazing new trails in a golden age of world exploration. But like Christopher Columbus I may sometimes unwittingly head in the wrong general direction and go on to find something pretty amazing anyway. Also like Columbus I’ve managed to subsequently get safely back home (a considerable feat for the times and something I feel he and his crew don’t get enough credit for).

As for crowdsourcing a city’s new restaurant sensation or the current nightspot of the moment in which to be seen, I’ll mosey around the streets and see what I happen upon. If I don’t find anything that rocks my world, that’s OK. Chances are I wouldn’t have got in anyway (that’d be the questionable dress sense again).

This isn’t about snobbery, that my preferred way of going places is somehow more adventurous or authentic than those who rely on smart phones when they travel — I couldn’t ever pretend to be a travel snob. I’ve done Contiki tours. And enjoyed them. It’s only a defence that just because I choose not to be all hooked in whilst on the move, it doesn’t automatically make me a complete imbecile.

Perhaps I’m defensive out of jealousy of Ben Oliver’s intended audience. My breaks these days are measured in days or weeks and not months, so by the time I want to use Skype to talk to my folks or look up the news to see what’s happening in the world, I’m already back to the familiarity of regular life, with my travels but a memory.

And now I wait with some curiosity to see what lively tag the editor chooses to headline for this post that will in turn wind up someone.

You can find more of Troy’s writings at his blog Troy’s Gone Walkabout.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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