As I pack for my upcoming trip to China (countdown: 2 days until departure), there is something new that I’ll be bringing along with me on my trip. It sits there discreetly and unaware. It is small and shiny yet one of the most life-changing hand-sized objects I now possess: My shiny new iPhone 4S.
I held off as long as I could on buying a smartphone. I have a cellphone and only got the texting feature on it a year before. I found that texting was an easier way to bug my busy husband with a quick question at work. I didn’t get a smartphone for two reasons. First, I am a stay-at-home mom who does not work. Thus why on earth would I ever need one except for my new passion with blogging. Second, I didn’t want to become one of those people (if you are one of those people, I do apologize!); those internet/text/cellphone obsessed people who are practically glued to their phone, constantly texting, checking emails, and surfing the net while talking to someone else face to face! I have been in those situations before, as the ignored friend, while I’m trying to have a conversation and the person I’m with isn’t really listening. How can you listen and read emails at the same time? Quite frankly, my social life isn’t all that exciting, earth-shattering and time-consuming. I know I’m old-fashioned but I’d rather just pick up the phone instead of use Facebook or texting. Thus for these two main reasons, plus not to mention the added expense of having a fancy gadget, I held off for as long as I could without being tempted into getting a smartphone.
With the release of the new iPhone 4S, however, I changed my mind and finally gave in to temptation. For this tiny handheld object will enable me to connect to the internet and call, text, or write home for free from anywhere in the world. All I will need is a WiFi connection and I’m set. No more phone cards or dirty old phone booths. No more trying to call ten times a day in hope that they’ll be home an answer my call. None. Instead, this stay-at-home mom who needs to man the fort even from thousands of miles away can do so at the touch of my fingers. I can call my home to check in on the kids. I can be reachable in case of a question or a problem. No more stressing. No more waiting. No more wasting time. I’ll be able to call and be in touch!
It is hard to fathom what life was like before the internet. How on earth did we survive? As someone who grew up in the eighties, in an era or shall I say life before the internet, it continues to amaze me each and every day how much technology has changed the world and my life. When I was a teenager, we had to call someone on the phone if we wanted to chat. We had to go to the library and search through books and clumsy old microfiche for our research papers. We had to read books. It was all so different.
When I went to college in the early nineties, not much had changed. The internet was still not in existence. How terrible it was to type up my ten to twenty page papers on a word processor and have to white out each mistake or simply start all over again? How depressing was it to spend hours on end in the dull, quiet library searching through book after book in order to research papers. Every time you needed information, it took time to get it. Information was not at the tip of your fingers like it is today.
In 1993, I spent nine months living abroad in France without the internet. The Minitel was around (the French early version of the internet) yet the world-wide web did not exist. I felt like that entire nine months was a vacuum, an abyss, and an absence of contact with my friends and family at home. To talk on the phone, I would call and hope someone was home. I could only call every two weeks and talk for a short time because it simply was way too expensive. Thus, I reserved phone calls for only my immediate family and sent those cumbersome, blue-colored Aérogramme (handwritten letters, glued together letters) to my friends back home. Of course it took weeks to arrive and weeks for a response. I felt completely isolated from my life back home and that unfortunately added to my homesickness.
By 1994, at my first job out of college I finally got a company-only email system at work. Email and the internet still was a mystery and I didn’t have a personal computer either (yes, not having a personal computer nowadays is unheard of but back then computers were more of a luxury than commonplace). By 1995 at my next job in Chicago, just as the internet was commercialized for public use, I got a better email system and the rest is history. The internet craze began. The dot.coms, the lush stock options, you name it, it was happening…until the crash. Yet, the internet still survived and thrived, and has continued to change the world and people’s lives each and every day. I know that it has certainly changed mine.
Last April, I went to Morocco with my iPad, installed Skype and called home for free. It was the first time ever that I was able to call home not using a phone card or being in a phone booth, while traveling abroad. It felt like a dream. It was wonderful.
Here is a picture of me inside one of those dirty, old phone booths somewhere in South America (thanks Dad for always taking these pictures of me calling home. I always got mad but he made a point!)
As time went by, phone cards became easier than using the good old phone shops. But they didn’t always work and the phone itself was always sticky:
Fast forward to just last November 2010, and here I am in the middle of the Himalayas at God knows what altitude or where, making a call directly to my home in Minnesota from our guide’s cellphone. I talked for ten minutes and it only cost a couple of bucks. Unbelievable! In a country where people average less than $2 a day, they all have cellphones as it is the only means to keep in touch in the mountains.
I can’t believe how much technology has changed our lives and in particular traveling. The world is getting smaller and smaller as we grow together and not apart. It is a beautiful thing. Yet something to also be prudent of. I never want to let technology take over my life and be glued 24/7 to my phone. Knowing myself, I won’t be.
But who would have thought twenty years ago that this would all be possible?