Running through my bill paying cycle this morning I was struck at how technological progress has made traveling for extended periods of time such a practical no brainer. Here I was Skyping my son thousands of miles away and high grading which bills and other pieces of mail he should scan and email to my current location in Bangkok and that I would later deal with online. I was reminiscent of the early days of travel when leaving to travel around the world meant months of dropping entirely off the grid, out of sight and disappearing from any contact or communication whatsoever with and with whomever you were leaving behind.You literally had to leave everything aside as if you were planning your funeral.
When you came back you were like an ethereal revenant, so strange that people treated you with a special suspicion. We take a lot for granted these days, for young people who have never known anything other than the current state of convenience, you should realize how good you have it.In the ‘old days’, in the 60’s and 70’s I wistfully remember as the ‘stone age’, there were no cell phones, no travel guides, no guest house dorms, no Skype, email, no internet, no tweets sms, no no no none, nada…on your own…can you imagine?
In those days I wrote letters and postcards, affixed lovely weird stamps, supervised the postmarks placement and this would take weeks and even months, if at all, to arrive at your intended recipient. Phone calls from a long distance booth at a capital city post office at Christmas was the one time a year you could get in touch, communication was fantastically and prohibitively expensive for a budget traveler. Emergencies were dealt with by telegram and telex. We had Post Restante , the General Post Office and mail dumps in cooperating hotels in the hopes that your schedule worked out and travel plans got you where you wanted to go on time to pick up your dog-eared letters from home.
The world before the Lonely Planet and back packer phenom was a very different place. I liked the unique and spiritual ‘adventure’ aspect of traveling back then, the world has become too predictable and homogeneous , less of a journey and more a ‘vacation’ for my old travelers bones. It used to be that getting to a place was so difficult that few would seek to venture out, now any bozo with a passport and freshly waxed dreadlocks can play at being a traveler, when being a traveler used to be a calling. In my mind I am alone and naked on the pristine beaches where the beer bars now proliferate, the memories of an ancient routard won’t sell tickets to paradise.