Travelling with technology

Now that the tapas bars, Gaudi extraganzas and wide open squares of Barcelona and Madrid are already fading into memory, pushed aside by the blunt reality of the school day, I thought I should reflect on what it was like to travel with an Ipad for the first time,  and the kind of technology I found useful.

It was the first time I’ve gone more than a couple of days without a ‘real’ computer and I’ve gotta admit that I did miss the keyboard at times. However, for email, twitter, surfing the AGE website for news on the footy and even for the occasional blog post the Ipad was more than adequate. That, and it  fits into the airline seat storage in front of you, the ten hours battery life, the instant-on etc. It worked well and I used it in various ways beginning with using a little app called Plan-Pack-Go to get myself organised.

I had a Skype conversation from the apartment in Barcelona at one stage, which was seamless (wireless connectivity through most of the place we stayed in Spain were better than Melbourne) and bought a camera connection kit to import photos from my Canon into the Ipad at the end of each day. That way I could email someone a photo directly from the Ipad photo application and also had two copies of the photo: the one on the camera card and another on the Ipad. I could also upload photos to Picasa with a great little drag and drop app called Web Albums.

Of course I also had my Spanish Phrase Book App, and my DK Top Ten Guides Apps to Madrid and Barcelona, as well as some handy offline maps on the OffMaps app.

I used world weather apps Weather Watch and the international version of PocketWeather to check the daily weather in key cities and used the Ipad app for Tripit to access details of the trip I’d previously loaded into that website.  WorldClock was also handy as well as the XE Currency Converter. I put key documents like passport details, travel insurance details etc. into GoodReader so that I’d have access to them whether I was online or not. I also put the PDFs of my camera manual and my GPS manual into GoodReader and was glad I did.

For the first time I read an e-book, all the way through. I bought three books from Amazon and read them using the Kindle app on the Ipad. I didn’t find it too bright and in the bit of the trip where I was seated next to a sleeping baby (:-} I found that reading on the Ipad was less intrusive to people around me than having the overhead light on and reading a paper book. Of course, with airlines getting stricter on weight limits of bags, it was nice to have as many books as I wanted and not worry about how I’d carry them. In fact, I took 2 ‘dead-tree’ books with me as well, and left them in Spain somewhere after I’d finished them, because I couldn’t be bothered carrying them. I loved the way that I could highlight and annotate with the Kindle app and those highlights and annotations are available on my Amazon web page to copy and paste late on.

The thing about reading I found was that, if the book was good, after about 5 pages or so you were just ‘reading’. You weren’t thinking any more about the nature of the physical object you had in your hands, but you were in the story. I also liked that I could buy more books from Amazon if I wanted (and finding English language material in the brick and mortar shops was a challenge at times) and after I heard about Washington Irving’s books on his travels in Spain and downloaded a couple for free from the Itunes book store when I was in Seville. The generic Ipad reading app is just as natural as the Kindle app I think. I also made sure that I’d been regularly saving interesting looking articles from the web into Instapaper so I always had a ready supply of shorter reading too.

I did a bit of writing too, mainly using Documents to Go, but also playing around with MaxJournal as a travel journal app.

I did find it tricky to listen to the Grand Final but found a great little app called ooTunes Radio which allows you to tune into pretty well any radio station in the world. So, I heard the Grand Final over breakfast in Barcelona. That was fun, and it was an exciting game!

I’ll always have a computer, but I’m convinced there’s a place for a different kind of device too now.

I should end by saying too that at times I was totally amazed by the technology in the architecture, the water and sewage systems, the defensive planning in medieval palaces and gardens we saw.  And the beauty of it too. There were moments when I wondered whether ‘technology’ has really improved at all; I can’t imagine too many Ipads still hanging together after eight hundred years!