Wednesday, March 4, 2009

To Flashpack or Not to Flashpack

How difficult was life before we had computers? Just trying to think about that question opens up a whole world of further questions – one being, how much more free time would we have without them (I don't know about you, but StumbleUpon is something that has been eating away at my unoccupied moments.) As a teacher, I appreciate how much work my profession must have been before the internet allowed a quick +”Hamlet” +”creative project” google search. Not that I do this, mind you - no internet I've seen has suggested having them create a musical about the play, yet. But it's a nice safety net to have, nonetheless.

Now, when it comes to travel – it has been of even greater benefit. Planning flights is a relative breeze; finding hotels is a near-simplistic task.

Keeping in touch with friends, family, and the world at large is no longer a daunting task requiring an assortment of postage stamp, proper knowhow to find the local boxes, or even a fist full of quarters to feed pay phones.

Sure, this is nothing you don't know. After all, you're reading my homeward bound communications right now. This blog was originally created to update those left behind as to my whereabouts, and my pseudo-adventures – though it seems to have grown beyond its original intent.

There are a number of options open to those wishing to patrol the interwebs from the road: cyber cafes exist in most tourist cities; hostels offer computer use, often for free. But, how much do you trust those options?

Public Computers
They can be fine for checking google.maps, or looking up local concert information – but would you really trust putting your credit card number into one? Would you feel safe entering your e.mail password?

I have had to set up a number of dummy e.mail accounts for travel on the road. I am far too aware of the likelihood that somebody, owner or malicious user, has placed a key logger on the server. it's for that reason that if you do plan on using a public computer, I would advise you to set yourself up with a number of gmail accounts that you can use for this purpose. Also, you may want to sign up for a paypal account so you can access your credit card without putting in much personal information.

But there is another option available:

Personal Laptops

Well, I have been told that taking a computer around the world with me is the way to go. Now at first I thought this would be a foolish idea, just something else to try and keep track of – but as time went on i started to come around to the idea. Really, what was the problem with adding a few extra pounds to my luggage (two pounds to be exact.)

Now, as luck would have it I knew somebody who was looking to offload their ASUS 701 eeepc. It had served them well as they toured Europe for a few months, and it might be everything that I need for myself. All i really want to be able to do is check my email and write a post every now and then.

Months ago, when I was in London I was hurting for the internet more than I ever had been before. To be honest, I might not have even entertained this idea of personal travel computers had I not been stressed for a half week trying to find Abbey Road. Like everyone else who heard of the Beatles growing up, I too wanted to stand on that road and take the required picture. Sadly, i was not able to.

And why? Because i couldn't, for the life of me, find it. I searched high and low in book stores for something that would help point the way. I checked free tour maps, and even snuck into shops to search through their atlases. There was no proper information to be found. And my National Geographic travel guide didn't see fit to include any information about that location either.

To be honest, the closest I came to finding that daunting street was a bag that had the street sign printed on it, limiting the location in the city it could have been located within.

Had I had access to the internet, it would have taken no more than a few minutes to track down, and visit.

But now, at this very moment, all I have are memories of a search, not a picture of my wide gait captured mid-motion. Which is fine – I walk away with something that will help me for the rest of my travelling life. Have access to a computer.

And for the low cost of these eeepcs (some banks give them away for free) it would be foolish not to pick one up.

So, for the next two weeks I'll be trying it out. It will come to New York with me, where I'll hopefully be able to find some wifi hotspots to hook it up to in order to upload images and posts. If nothing else, it will allow me to write ahead of time, transfer the text onto a memory stick and upload quickly at a cybercafe (through a dummy account I allow access from). Even this will end up saving me time and money.

The only downside? The keyboard. Whether it was always like this, or the previous trip through Europe altered it – typing can be a pain. Not only is the keyboard cramped, with an awkward shift key that makes me really ask how much I care about proper punctuation, some of the keys also stick.

There is nothing more frustrating for me, than having to slow down my typing and firmly press each button to make sure it registers. So if you notice spelling mistakes in the future, try to take this excuse into account. I attempt to go back and catch them – but just like Pokemon, it's nearly impossible to catch them all.

The U, C, S, I, and K seem to be my biggest rivals. So if I'm ever sick, or need to communicate the fact that on any given day I believe that I suck – well I'll be out of luck. For the most part it's just the U that hates me with all it's being. And, you know, I never realized just how often that letter came up before now.

Computers: always teaching us something new.


  1. Thanks for posting this. I have never even thought of creating a dummy account nor using paypal for travel purposes. How naive am I? Bloggers: always teaching me something new.

  2. Flashpacking (in this case carrying a netbook on your trips) is def the way! Quoting your post on Flashpacking Tumblr and you can be sure to be featured in the next Flashpacking Blog Carnival on The Tux in the Backpack.

    Happy Flashpacking!

  3. "...trying to find Abbey Road. Like everyone else who heard of the Beatles growing up, I too wanted to stand on that road and take the required picture."

    Is this the picture you were looking for?:

    Found you thru pret a voyager. Happy trails!

  4. is there any laptop in particular you would recommend or would a ipad be sufficient???


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