Travel in the Time of Pokemon Go

The other day I found myself hiking up to Prague Castle when suddenly, a Pikachu appeared on my map. I whirled around excitedly and ran down to catch him, but the bastard escaped from my Pokeball.

That’s a strange thing to write as a grown woman in my late 20’s. But that’s the world we live in. When I was a child and Pokemon became popular, I didn’t care for it very much. But kinda like you remember Mariah Carey lyrics for the rest of your life without even meaning to, I remembered Pikachu, Charmander, and Bulbasaur.

And to my bewilderment and curiosity, 20 years later, when terrorism is devastating Europe, when Turkey is in the middle of a military coup, and when the United States is in the midst of the most embarrassing election cycle in its history, all everyone can talk about is Pokemon. So naturally, I downloaded the app. And having spent some time exploring Prague through its augmented reality lens, I have some tips to offer vacationing Pokemon Trainers.

  1. Don’t let the game keep you from fully experiencing your surroundings.

Pokemon Go can be an awesome reason to visit places in new cities you would never otherwise discover. In fact, I have to admit that over the past week or so, I’ve gone out of my way to go sit in cafes or go to neighborhoods I wouldn’t have otherwise seen because there was a lure or a rare Pokemon nearby. I credit the game with that. But if you’re standing in front of Big Ben or sitting down at a nice Italian restaurant and you can’t stop looking at your phone, you’re making a mistake. Pokemon Go cannot replace real life experiences. So when you get where you’re going, put your phone away and enjoy the atmosphere.

  1. Be respectful of your surroundings.

I’ve read some horrible things about people playing the game at funerals or in places like Auschwitz. I recently visited Auschwitz myself, and if you’re in there playing Pokemon Go, you are obviously not mature enough to be there. Tell your parents to take you home so you can catch Jigglypuff in a nearby park and let everyone else around you – people that may have lost family members in the Holocaust – reflect and grieve in peace.

  1. Don’t be afraid to meet new people.

One of my favorite things about the app is that it brings people together in a very real way, which is rare for technology – so much so that it’s intimidating for some people. But if you’re going to spend your afternoon chasing after digital pocket monsters and battling other trainers on the steps of the Church of Saint Ludmida, you should own that shit. It’s a great way to meet other people who are nerdy with whom you might have something in common. You never know if that girl looking for Mewtwo behind a dumpster could be your future wife.

  1. Don’t let it drain your battery.

I don’t know about you, but when I travel, I live and breathe Google Maps. Pokemon Go is a huge battery drain, because it keeps your screen on and your GPS active. To avoid getting stranded in a shady part of town in an unfamiliar city without a way to call an Uber or look up directions to safety, you should always keep tabs on your battery life. Whenever possible, carry an extra battery or portable charger. The game also has a Battery Saver mode, which turns your screen off when you put your phone down or in your pocket.

  1. For the love of God, don’t kill yourself over Pokemon Go.

Watch your step. Don’t step out in the middle of the road while looking at your phone. Don’t walk over cliffs in search of Pokemon. And if you’re hell bent on taking a midnight stroll to see what rare creatures you can find, don’t blind yourself to your surroundings. For every cute stranger that you can flirt with over their latest catch, there is a person with a gun who wants your iPhone. Your life and safety are more important than an imaginary character.