I’m having a Samwise Gamgee moment.
Samwise was Frodo’s companion during the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy who accompanied him to Mordor to cast the ring into Mount Doom. In the first movie: ‘Fellowship of the Ring‘ the two leave the safety of the Shire and there is the moment wherein Sam realizes that if he takes just ‘one more step‘ he’ll be farther than he ever has from his home.
Today was that day for us. As our fellow schoolteachers announce their trips home by way of parabolic arcs via facebook updates, we are boarding a bus for Prague from Wroclaw and continuing on. Today marks the longest stretch that we’ve ever traveled in our lives.
I thought that we’d be worn out by now. By the end of the summer, we’re usually ready to go back to work, see old friends, swap stories and get back into our routines but for us, the trip has still only really begun. We are nearing the end of our two month swath through eastern Europe (our first region) which will culminate in Budapest for 2 weeks with our good friends the Macs. I’ve been surprised at how good we feel and don’t seemed to be plagued by exhaustion.
The Golden Age of Travel is Now
Ian Harvey recently wrote that the so called ‘Golden Age’ of travel (specifically air travel) is over. He referred to the time when legroom was spacious and passengers were given cocktails before take off and dressed their best before boarding a flight. Adjusted for inflation, even short hop tickets were over a thousand dollars, but the lap of luxury made it worthwhile. Sadly, he says, those ‘good times’ are over.
I disagree. Travel now is easier than it’s ever been- in my lifetime at least. I remember hauling huge backpacks around Southeast Asia, staggering into towns with a lonely planet guidebook in hand, lucky to find a youth hostel that had a bed for us. Most places had phone numbers, but we had no way to call them. Other places (if any) had websites as the internet was in its infancy. Fast forward to now and the interconnectivity of the world has made travel planning a snap. It’s sobering to realize how ‘easy’ we have it with:
- Numerous websites (Hotels.com, Booking.com) that not only book accommodation for you but compare prices and give you member rewards such as free nights and free cancellation.
- Google maps and Skyscanner which compare airline ticket prices and apps like ‘Hopper’ that monitor prices changes. Those with ‘the Force’ wield VPNs like Jedis and know to buy mid week and 4 months out. Budget airlines jockey for our dollars making low cost trips cheaper than buses or trains.
- Credit cards that reward points just through purchasing everyday items and can be applied to free tickets or class upgrades.
- Mapping tools such as Apple and Google maps which can save landmarks, restaurants, and estimate walking and driving distances. They can even tell you which busses and trains to take to your location.
- Apps like trip advisor that crowdsource customer reviews to get an unbiased recommendation on a museum, eatery or bar so you don’t waste your ‘meal out’ of the day.
- Transportation apps for the electronic scooter revolution or ride sharing apps like Lyft and Uber to save you from getting price gouged by unscrupulous taxi drivers.
20 years ago, these applications started debuting on the market. Now, they’re mainstream. The dizzying pace of innovation has inadvertently created a game of ‘catch up’ as we try to adapt to the ever changing world around us. It’s certainly made travel easier.
As we amble into the Czech Republic, here is a highlights video from Poland over the last two weeks. In the meantime, we’ll be keeping our eyes out for app ideas to help assuage the grief and time suck of not having everything instantly.
The American dream lives on.