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What Are Your Favorite Travel Apps?

Buzz Poole
02/02/2011 - 12:27

How plugged-in do you want to stay when you depart for an adventure, no matter the destination? Technology is unavoidable – we use it to travel, I am using it to write this and you are using it to read this. My last post focused on how the advent of rail travel changed the world and our perception of time and space. Since the creation of the wheel, humans have always sought to create tools that make life easier, or at least more efficient. Over the course of the twentieth century and these first eleven years of this century, the acceleration of technology’s capability has been astounding. It has also changed how we interact with the world in terms of constant connectivity and the expectations that connectivity creates.

 

These days, many people have smart phones and in five years we all will, and today’s hot models will be regarded the same as rotary phones. With the proliferation of these hand-held catch-all media enablers the apps market has flourished, and the travel sector features a dizzying array of apps should you care to indulge.

 

It should come as no surprise that established brands – like Lonely Planet, Fodor’s, Zagat, etc. – have converted and re-purposed their content for e-media and apps. This makes a lot of sense. If you were going to carry around a guidebook, you might as well save some space in your bag and consult your phone for maps and museum hours. In fact, one of the real perks of certain apps is that the companies and users can constantly update them, meaning you could avoid searching for some glorious hole in the wall restaurant that has closed since the book you read was printed. On the other hand, getting lost is one of the real joys of experiencing a new place, because you never know what you will find.

 

Then there are apps like Word Lens. If you point your phone’s camera at “standard printed text” this app will translate the text right then and there, at least with English and Spanish, for the time being. No doubt about it, this is impressive. Do you lose something, however, if you never again have to engage in the joys of pantomime? Once, in the late ’90s, heading back to Butterworth in Penang, Malaysia, the car I was in broke down on an isolated jungle road. Strangers took in my friends and me, fed us and allowed us to crash on the floor. The family spoke no English and we spoke no Malay, but we smiled and pointed, made funny gestures and were shown photographs. I’m not so sure our night would have ended up the same in this day and age.

 

There is no denying the conveniences of certain technological gadgets, but I definitely do not want to use them as a filter for all of my experiences.

 

What say you? If you use apps when traveling, which ones and why?

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