The Joy of Travel in the Digital Age

Guest submission by Rob Griffiths (Webmaster of Mac OS X Hints, and author of Mac OS X Power Hound). He sent me a rough draft of this last night, and it is too funny, and too true! Feel free to copy, as long as author attribution and site link remain intact. Posted with permission by the author.

Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking about Mac OS X (one of my favorite subjects) at the Macworld Expo in San Francisco (thanks to everyone who came to my sessions!). Since I live in Portland, Oregon, I had to pack for a plane trip to the 'big city.' That's when the fun began...

Traveling has become a much more complex endeavor than it used to be. A decade ago, packing for a three-day business trip would require nothing more than insuring that you had sufficient clothes in your bag, the required personal care items, and perhaps your address book and maybe even a calculator. But that was about it.

Packing today, especially if you're giving a presentation, is a whole different ballgame...

First, you need to make sure that you're reachable, anytime, anywhere. So that means the cell phone makes the trip. And if it's a trip of any length, you'll also want to take your cell phone charger. Items one and two, check; I got both things ready to go in the bag.

Next, you're probably going to need access to your address book, schedule, open to-do's, voice memos, and all of the other nuggets of wisdom hiding in your PDA. And again, if you're going for any length of time and have a PDA with a rechargeable battery, you'll want to take the PDA's charger as well. For me, that's a dock with attached cable. Items three and four, into the bag.

This being the age of the iPod, you know you're going to take your music, too. iPod into the bag, iPod dock into the bag, and iPod/dock cable into the bag. Items five, six, and seven, check!

Most of us also use laptops when we travel, so that heads for the bag as well. And the accessories for the laptop - a spare battery for those long flights, the power brick, and the power cord to extend the power brick's range. In addition, since I was presenting, I had to bring my laptop-to-projector adapters - both the DVI and the VGA versions, since you never know what type of projectors you'll be using. There go items eight through thirteen into the bag.

More than likely, you'll want to connect to a network when you arrive at your destination, and you can't rely on wireless, so a short Ethernet cable becomes item number fourteen. At least, it should. If you're like me on this trip, item fourteen is purchased at the destination, after forgetting to pack it back home! And you may want to bring your modem cable, too, just in case! We're up to fifteen items now.

Of course, Apple does offer this great Airport Express product, which will let you roam wirelessly even when the hotel wants to keep you tethered to the desk. So there's item number sixteen. This bag is starting to get heavy!

In this age, you're also going to want some digital memories of your trip. So in goes the digital camera, taking the 17th spot. But with the camera comes a whole slew of additional gizmos. You'll want the battery charger (18th item), a spare battery (19) or two (20), and an extra memory card (21) or two (22). And you'll probably want all this stuff in a nice, compact camera case (23). Don't forget about the USB cable (24) to download those digital images from the camera to the computer, too! Good thing you decided not to shoot any digital video this trip, so you can leave the video camera and its collection of parts behind!

Now we've already established that we're taking an iPod and a cellphone, so we're also carrying a set of iPod headphones (25), and perhaps a headset for the phone (26).

If you've got people back home that you need to keep in visual contact with during the trip, the bag will continue to expand. Into it we'll add the iSight video camera (27), an iSight laptop mounting bracket (28), the iSight desk mount (29; just in case you're asked to use the iSight with a desktop machine), the two plastic clip pieces that secure the FireWire cable (30 and 31) to the iSight, and the FireWire cable itself (32), to connect the camera to the computer.

Finally, let's not forget that this entire collection of crud has to be carried in something -- something relatively substantial, too, given the size of the collection! So your "techie toy bag" becomes the 33rd and final item.

While I may not have had all 30+ things with me this week, I clearly had the vast majority! And while you can reduce the load somewhat with a combined cellphone/PDA/camera, you'll be trading in features in each of these devices for the convenience of a single gizmo. If you're a full-time professional road warrior, of course, you've probably got the money and the incentive to minimize the collection of devices. For us occasional travelers in the tech world, though, we're pretty much stuck with our pile of techno bits!

What's extra grating is that these requirements are (more or less) completely independent of the length of the trip you're taking. It matters not if the trip is for one day or ten days, you'll be taking this whole pile with you just the same!

The days of 'traveling light' are long gone, it seems.

Rob Griffiths

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