Let me preface this post by saying I’ve arrived in Melbourne and I may or may not be getting too old for hostels.
I happily remember my time in Europe as one of new friends, cheap accommodation and a staying social while traveling alone.
Four years later and I feel ancient. I got into Melbourne late Monday night, had to crawl over a mess of smelly teenage boys while cloaking myself in a threadbare sheet and thought, “What the hell did I do?”
That said, the two days I’ve now been in Melbourne have been an eye-opener.
First of all, I have my computer with me. I can’t tell you how much this changes things. I remember having to cram in a week’s worth of internet time on one of those massive coin-operated desktops in creepy internet cafes in Amalfi. Now I’m always connected, which is both awesome and a little sad. I’m nervous about leaving my fancy computer in a hostel so I’m lugging around multiple pounds of technology on my back while exploring this new city.
So there’s that.
There’s also the fact that this is my first trip EVER without a guide book.
Why? Well, my bosses handed me my very first iPhone before I left with the promise I’d work from the road. This little piece of metal has changed my life.
I always used to say I’d never get a smartphone. I didn’t want to be one of those people walking down a perfectly beautiful street with their eyeballs glued to yet another screen. Or, worse, I didn’t want to be one of those people who can’t look at a human face for more than ten seconds without one eyeball darting to their phone. You’re not being sneaky, I see you. We can always see you.
Travel has changed so much in just the few years since I last backpacked. I haven’t gotten lost once in two days because I have Google Maps. I haven’t had to poke my head in every single coffee shop to ask if they have wireless because I have the Free Wifi app. I don’t need a guidebook because Melbourne is as keyed in as they come and all I need to do is whip out my phone to find the best and closest things to do in my neighborhood.
I’m also ditching the hostels so I can couchsurf. While the whole concept of staying in a stranger’s house freaks me out, I can’t do a 14-bed dorm for one more night. Plus, college travelers are annoying the crap out of me and all I want is a local who can tell me the best coffee/vintage store/laneway. Double plus, I need me some friends. As excting as all of this has been and as much as I love my privacy, you’d be surprised how lonely you can get in two days.
I realize a lot of this tech existed in 2007, but not to the degree or accessibility that it does now. I don’t know how this changes me as a traveler, we’ll have to see.