June 7, 2020

Travel Old and New

A confirmed vertical sundial sighting in Seville, Spain…

(photo by the author)

The more things change, the more they stay the same… or do they?

This past week saw us change basecamp from Cadiz, Spain to Seville. No huge move, just a few train rides and a short hike with the luggage. We always love it when a moving day is shorter than six hours duration from door to door.

And besides, there’s always the added challenge of figuring out the essentials of a new basecamp locale. Everything, from where the garbage goes, to the closest food/ATM/laundry has to be discerned, often at the end of a very long day of problem-solving to begin with.

We’ve been problem-solving the vagaries of independent backpack traveling for going on three full decades now. As we near applying for our fourth U.S. passport next summer, we’ve reflected on just how much travel has changed and continues to do so.

Most of this, of course, has been for the better. I remember our first trip to Thailand, taking a month’s worth of travelers checks tucked in our waist pack, and then having to carefully budget out our trip day by day. Though we still carry a small supply of emergency cash, we now almost exclusively rely on ATMs day to day.

And paper maps? We now find Google Maps on our smartphone almost scary useful. No more guide books (we download those, too) and now, we look just like another guy on the street corner staring at our smartphone, rather than a tourist with a map.

And the prevalence of technology and its accompanying miniaturization means that as WiFi becomes more ubiquitous, even internet cafes are becoming a thing of the past.

Overall, I think all of these changes are for the good. Anything that frees me up to do more traveling is a good thing… surely, no one misses the daily hunt to queue up for cashing a travelers check, often for a rate approaching highway robbery at 20%?

And when is the last time you set foot in a travel agency? And isn’t it weird to think that we’ve been turning to Expedia and Kayak for well over a decade now?

And Air BnB is now our latest addiction. Seriously, why didn’t we think of that? Will traditional hotels even be around in a few years?

And you know what I want next? There’s talk that soon, you’ll be able to insert a device in your ear that will give you a real-time translation of a conversation in another language. Sort of like the Babel Fish from Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. To be sure, this is a long ways off from real fluency, but in theory, two individuals wearing such a device could carry on a real-time conversation…

This would certainly serve to upend the state of travel translation apps that are out there, and I fully expect to see some sort of earbud translator on the market before we apply for US passport number five.

Just think, we could all, at last, understand just what everyone around us is saying… let’s hope that, like in Adams’ book, this doesn’t lead to bigger and bloodier wars than ever before.

Next week: we pick up some wheels and head into the Spanish countryside. We’re thinking its time to talk about driving in foreign lands. Stay tuned!



  1. [...] we’ve talked about the virtues of careful planning during any impeding trek in the past, and how it can make or break a trip. What we want to address [...]

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