Is the information age killing spontaneity?

Just came back from a two week trip to Florida over the holidays, a significant milestone as it was the first time we took our daughter on a long trip. It also happened to be the first trip I took with a smartphone.

The travel experience has been completely transformed. Information in your pocket can really come in handy. With Google Maps, I could easily find  parking spots in South Beach or downtown Fort Lauderdale and find my back if we got lost. With Yelp I could get a quick review of a restaurant or find a good one nearby. And it’s nice to be able to look up phone numbers or hours of operation before heading somewhere.

But it can get out of hand as my wife reminded me when I refused to go to a restaurant due to poor ratings on Yelp. Sometimes you want to get lost in a city and go down random streets to see what’s around the corner. Sometimes you just want to happen on a funky restaurant (The owner of the Dominican restaurant Latin Star in Miami Beach invited us to try it and it was great and we also stumbled onto the West Indian chain Pollo Tropical and it was really good too).

Several years ago I backpacked around Australia and I remember a couple great days when my two hostel roomates and I rented a little Daihatsu convertible grabbed a map of Cairns area and just drove. We saw a road that was one of the windiest in the world and thought it would be cool to take. Then we saw a sign for “cathedral forest” and turned off there to check it out. Met up with someone I knew from a previous stop and asked him where we should go. He told us to check out “The Crater” (it’s actually called that) and it was a surreal place. We headed off to Mission Beach and then asked the hostel owner if there’s a cool spot to visit. She told us to check out Murray Falls a huge waterfall over a labyrinthine rock formation that created several swimming holes. None of these places were mentioned in any guide book (I was a Lonely Planet guy then) and it was one of the more memorable two days both for the experience and for the sense of discovery.

So by all means, use your mobile device to help get you out of a jam or find out stuff that will save time or money, but turn it off for most of the trip and just go with the flow. You’ll be thankful you did. Besides, a Conde Nast study showed that old paper guidebooks beat out mobile devices for efficiency anyway…for now.

2 comments so far

  1. Hiten on

    Hey JD,

    Nice one- Having also been in Florida (Ft. Lauderdale, Miami) over the same couple weeks, I know how you feel…Our iPhone was indispensable due to its amazing GPS, review apps, and Paper Toss,but I would have loved for it to be relegated to occasional guide rather than trip dictator 🙂

    PS: You should enable peeps to sign in with Twitter, Facebook etc on your blog- look at the Cap C one for an example

  2. […] year I wrote a post about how mobile internet access was killing serendipity. For example, rather than just go into that neat looking funky restaurant I just happening to be […]

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