It seems like the internet has been around forever, but it wasn’t long ago that travellers explored the world without it.
Photo by Dariusz Sankowski on Unsplash
The internet is an amazing tool for travellers, but there was a time, not that long ago, that people explored the world without the benefit of instant communication and easy access to information. Here are 10 things that the internet completely changed about travel, not all of it for the better:Choosing the perfect postcard
When was the last time someone sent you a postcard?
Photo by Héctor J. Rivas on Unsplash
Before the Internet arrived, travellers would scrawl brief messages on the back of picture postcards to update the folks back home on their adventures. Often travellers would return home before the postcards even arrived. Today, we instantly post status updates to Facebook that include first-person video of our gondola rides, photos on Instagram of the food we’re eating and minute-by-minute Snapchat updates on everything we’re doing.Learning to fold those paper maps
Once you unfold a paper map, folding it back to its original state isn’t always so easy. [Photo by Sylwia Bartyzel on Unsplash]
GPS-equipped smartphones pinpoint our exact locations and give perfect directions to get us from point A to point B. Google Maps is so good that no one gets lost anymore. Once upon a time, we’d orient ourselves with fold-out paper maps we got from the local tourist office and wonder if we were pointing east or west when trying to navigate a foreign city. After walking a few blocks in the wrong direction, we’d get hopelessly lost and eventually have to ask a local person for directions and hope we could understand them.Losing the bookmark in our guidebooks
The best thing about paper guidebooks is the batteries never run out and they don’t need wifi. [Photo by Lonely Planet on Unsplash]
The web offers an infinite supply of instant information about every place on Earth down to the tiniest detail. When they didn’t have access to the complete sum of human knowledge on their smartphones, travellers relied on what was written in their Lonely Planet or Frommer’s guidebooks. These books were like Bibles for travellers and their advice was indispensable, even though they were incomplete and out-of-date the minute they were published.Checking for poste restante
Mailing something to poste restante is as obsolete as sending a telegram. [Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash]
Communicating with someone on the road was a challenge in the pre-internet days. Long-distance phone calls were complicated, expensive and not always available. Instead, we would send letters to travellers in foreign cities via post restante. They would go to the central post office to collect any mail that was waiting for them. These days, travellers and their families are in touch via a constant stream of text messages because even e-mail is already becoming old-fashioned.What is a selfie?
When you ask a stranger to take your photo, you hope he doesn’t run away with your camera. [Photo by Alicia Steels on Unsplash]
If you were travelling alone and wanted a photo of yourself in front of a famous tourist landmark, you used to ask a stranger to hold your cameras to take a photo. Instead of running the risk of having them ruin your Instagram feeds and maybe interacting with a local person, these days a lot of us would rather compose the perfect #selfie ourselves.Cashing those traveller’s cheques
Those guys exchanging foreign currency for your dollars can count a lot quicker than you can. [Photo by Photo by Jeremy Paige on Unsplash]
Networks of ATMs and mobile payment systems are bringing us closer and closer to a cashless society. There was a time that tourists used to carefully hide large sums of money in their shoes and carry stacks of travellers’ cheques. If they were on a long trip, the amount could be significant, causing much anxiety about losing it or having it stolen. Cashing the cheques at foreign banks was time-consuming with lots of bureaucratic paperwork and those dealing with cash would have have to exchange dollars for foreign currency at questionable rates, sometimes with shady characters in an alleyway.Going incommunicado
When you travel, how long do you go before you contact people back home? [Photo by Thomas Schweighofer on Unsplash]
Before the internet came along, It wasn’t unusual for travellers to be out of touch with their friends and families for days, weeks or even months at a time. With ubiquitous cell phone networks and abundant wifi, it’s virtually impossible to be out of touch for more than a few hours. Despite this electronic umbilical cord, mothers will always worry about their children when they travel.Discovering things by word of mouth
You used to ask strangers you just met for travel advice, not people you follow on Facebook. [Photo by Kevin Grieve on Unsplash]
TripAdvisor, Yelp and websites like them, offer countless reviews of hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions. People used to rely on the recommendations of fellow travellers they met while having a beer at the local backpacker hangout. Somehow the word of a dreadlocked Israeli backpacker they only just met that afternoon meant more than 5,000 likes on Facebook.Having enough film for our cameras
Paying for film and development costs used to be an expensive part of travelling. [Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash]
The rise of the internet coincided with the advent of digital photography. When travellers had to pay for film and then pay again to develop prints or slides, they would think twice before taking a photo and it would be weeks before they saw the final result and realized they had their thumb in front of the lens the whole time.Trusting in serendipity
There’s no greater feeling when you travel than when you accidentally discover something great. [Photo by Jake Ingle on Unsplash]
With so much information available, there are fewer surprises left to travellers. Before the internet, they would rely on guidebooks and fellow travellers for advice, but they’d be just as likely to discover things by accident. Those things could be good or bad, but the unexpected was part of the experience and it felt like exploring, even if it was ground covered by countless other travellers beforehand. Today, the world seems an even smaller place when every destination we visit looks even prettier in everyone else’s social media feeds.Did you travel in the pre-internet days? Let us know in the comments about how travel has changed for you since then.– Mark Stachiew is a Montreal-based freelance writer who shares travel news and tips at www.stachiew.com and curates a collection of cool travel gear at www.jetsetgeneration.com.Related