It’s 8am and Juliet, her husband Ken, myself, and Ricardo are sitting on the porch of the Queen of Diamonds Inn in Murfreesboro, Arkansas, munching on biscuits and gravy. We can literally feel the temperature rising with the sun. There’s a steady stream of people coming in and out of the main house of the Inn as they grab juice and coffee. Between mouthfuls of biscuit, Juliet swipes through her iPhone and comments on how the Inn’s ratings on Yelp are oddly different than what all four of us are currently experiencing (in other words, people on Yelp criticizing the biscuits and gravy don’t know what they’re talking about).
This gets me thinking of all the times our smart phones have helped us make a decision on where to go and how to spend our time on this adventure. We used the maps app on our iPhones to get step-by-step directions to the hotel, Yelp to decide which restaurants in the area were the best choice, and even snagged a great deal on a hotel in St. Louis using Hotwire. The more I think about it, the clearer it is that smartphone technology and the Internet of Things (IoT) have completely changed the way we travel.
Gone are the days of disappearing into the abyss of the world for weeks on end, with only a postcard or the occasional phone call home to tell people you’re alright. Guidebooks and maps have been replaced by internet-enabled iPhones, Androids, and tablets making “getting lost” virtually impossible. Now, we can share, like, comment, and contact everyone at the push of a button, regardless of location, just as long as there’s service. There is now practically no limit to our connection to the digital world.
The noon sun blazes down on the back of my neck as I lug what feels like the hundredth bucket of crater dirt back towards the sifting station. I look around at the various groups of people camped around the area. Most are busily digging or sifting through their dirt, while others are tapping away furiously on their phones, snapping pictures and raising their devices like relics to the sky, eager to post to Facebook and tell the world about their experience.
I sometimes wonder about smartphone technology taking away from our ability to be purely “in the moment”. As families and other adventurers took picture after picture, I hope they still took in the moment through their own eyes rather than solely through the camera lense. To me, this is the biggest obstacle of technology. It reduces how much time we spend absorbing experiences in real-time for ourselves, while maximizing our ability to share our activities with everyone and anyone through a single click.
Regardless of whether IoT helps or hurts our “in the moment” experiences, it does enable easier and more fluid travel. We all know plans change on the turn of a dime, and technology has certainly made for easier adaptation to those changes. But it all comes back to maintaining control of technology and not getting lost within it. Remember to put down the phone or tablet, and take time to enjoy the experience without being attached to the digital world. Trust me, you will be surprised at how liberating it feels.
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