Why I Want to Travel the Old-Fashioned Way

old fashioned vacation

Technology hit the world like a flood, suddenly and relentlessly, until we were all swept up in it. My generation is one of the last to have experienced what the world used to be like before smart phones began to do absolutely everything for us.

Recently I was thinking about how that’s changed my favorite pastime: travel. I’m not suggesting I’m not grateful for the connectivity and the convenience. But travel used to feel so different, and I’m a little nostalgic for the experience of an analog vacation. Here is why.

Because you’d have to use real maps

old fashioned maps

The use of GPS technology is ridiculous. Can we all take a minute to appreciate that? Nowadays, I can be in an unnamed village in Thailand and my family back home can see my exact location in the world, GPS coordinates and all.

Just 20 years ago, if you were going on a trip, you needed to buy the most updated Rand McNally road map right before your trip and physically map out your route. Someone needed to be in charge of actively navigating the entire time, because there wasn’t going to be a disembodied voice telling you when to turn.

Wouldn’t it be interesting to have that experience again just for the novelty? To turn off the phones and have to actually orient yourself wherever you are? Or have to stop and ask a total stranger for directions? I know it sounds unnecessary, but it would be challenging and rewarding in the same way that obstacle races are.

It’ll help you appreciate actual photography

When I was a little girl (okay, a teenager), I used to buy disposable cameras all the time. And when I was going on a trip, I had to use actual film to document it. That meant I couldn’t take 600 pictures every day, and I had no way of knowing how a photo was going to come out until I developed the roll several weeks later.

As much as I appreciate digital photography, I feel like photography doesn’t even really exist anymore. Because now all photos are filtered into oblivion, that only vaguely resemble what you actually photographed. You don’t have to be selective about what you shoot, or think about how to frame your shots because you can just crop out the bad stuff later. And you don’t have to worry about bad lighting because you can adjust the lighting however you want, even on Instagram.

So wouldn’t it be nice, if only for one weekend, to turn off the iPhones and take real photos? And have to wind up the camera and only choose 24 things you want to photograph? Call me a sucker, but as much as I love capturing all the beautiful things I see, I kinda miss when the real world looked more beautiful than the digitally enhanced photos we take of it.

travel photography

You could make a mix tape (or CD)

I don’t know about you, but for me, one of the most important things about traveling is having the right music. Nowadays, everybody has Pandora or Spotify and you can call up any song within seconds. And that’s great. But I remember as late as college, having to make mix CDs of all your favorite songs of the moment to get you through a 6-hour drive across the state. And to this day, listening to The Beatles’ “Hey Jude” or Interpol’s “Evil” or The Dandy Warhols’ “Bohemian Like You” still transports me back to those trips, because you could only fit so many songs on a CD, so you’d hear them 15 times in one afternoon.

And like with photos, the magic of deliberately choosing the music that is going to accompany you to a new place is totally lost. Which is a shame, because the act of planning trip music is almost as exciting as packing. It’s just another small way to enjoy the anticipation of a vacation.

It would be an opportunity to truly disconnect

Do you remember when taking a vacation meant you were going to literally disappear from the earth for an entire week? We no longer have that kind of freedom. The ironic thing is that we willingly gave it up. We spend at least half the time we’re on a trip checking Instagram and Facebook, chatting with friends that are somewhere else. And while that’s nice, especially when you live in another continent for the majority of the year, it takes you out of the present moment.

Imagine taking a vacation where your boss would have absolutely no way to contact you for an emergency; they would have to just deal with it. Imagine not feeling compelled to share your photos while you’re on your trip. And just saving that for when you were back home with nothing better to do. Because that’s the thing, when you’re on vacation, there’s always something better to do.

And I say this as someone who now travels with my laptop wherever I go so I can blog (and occasionally work). I would love to not even give myself that option. To actually write down some notes and some thoughts with pen and paper, and not have to worry about finding an outlet. You would have no choice but to simply experience your destination.

You would have to actually discover a place on your own

old fashioned travel photo

I remember a time before the internet when I couldn’t go online and read 500 people’s experiences at a restaurant and look at pictures of food before deciding where to eat. And I’m a total Yelp snob. I won’t eat anywhere that has less than 4 stars, because life is too short for a bad meal.

But it might be kind of nice to have to figure it out on your own again, because if nothing else, it would help you appreciate how good you have it now. You’d have to rely on local recommendations or just judge based on how crowded a place is or how good the food smells when you walk by. There’s a lost art in that when you constantly have other people telling you what to do.

And that isn’t just true for food, but everything. We only go to the highest rated attractions, and disregard things that other people deemed not worthwhile. I think it would be a valuable experience to figure that out on your own. To stop somewhere just because you happened to walk by it, and it looks pretty cool. It may be hard to believe, in our information-saturated world, but some of the best things are still undiscovered.

That’s why I’d like to take a trip to one of the least visited destinations in the world: the past. Who wants to join me?