Wow, is it 10 years already? Exactly 10 years ago I was on my first self-organised trip and I’m taking this occasion to ramble on how the way of travelling has changed. So in 2005 I finished my first year of studying and I was ready to conquer the world during the summer break. Interrail and backpacking was THE thing at that young age (I guess it still is) and the idea of taking any train to any destination perfectly conforms to the idea of freedom. The same year Google Maps launched, but it was just a funny toy for me at first. I didn’t know any of the sites like TripAdvisor, booking.com, Kayak or all the other travel search engines (although some of them existed already). However the first iPhone came out two years later, Wifi was by far not as common – so there was no way to be online on the road. Me and my former bf got our Interrail passes at the railway station and we decided on a 3-weeks limited pass for Italy and Greece. There was no checking any reviews or bookings in advance. We learned how to read train schedules and wrote down the times. We had two thick guidebooks and paper maps we got at the tourist information. I had a mobile phone but roaming either didn’t work or was expensive, so I got phone cards. The most modern gear we had was our digital camera, which had about powerful 3 megapixels, but look – the photos ain’t so bad!
Train journeys may have a romantic image but let’s face the truth: It was high season and the trains in Italy were packed whereas the train network in Greece was actually non-existent. Second class cars weren’t air-conditioned sometimes. Sleepers at overnight trains – not for Interrail travelers. The lavatories – yuck. The most fun part of the journey was probably the ferry ride between Italy and Greece which was included in the ticket. Sleeping on deck, watching the stars and waking up with the sunrise over the open ocean were the most memorable experiences I made during that trip. I also enjoyed the amenities on board and watching the busy activities at the harbours.
So what are the differences? Travelling has been more exhausting for sure. Very often we stranded at the railway station, loaded with heavy luggage but without a clue where to go first. Finding accommodation was a gamble, especially when you were on a budget. Sometimes the tourist information got us something, but mostly we trusted one of the touts who was waiting at the stations. (Is it still like that?) And that’s the point which brings me the upsides: You were forced to talk to people in pretty every situation (but without Google Translate). No Google Maps told me which way to go, no TripAdvisor recommended me a place to stay, no website showed me what time the next train is. And probably the biggest difference: No social media where you feel the urge to share the best beach photo, what you had for dinner and whatsoever. There was less control and you had to be open for surprises. Failing was part of the experience. Isn’t that real freedom? And although I kind of miss those old days, I think I got so used to the convenience of modern technology that I hardly could do without it. I want to know where I’m going to spend the night when I arrive. I want to get tickets online to skip the queue. I want to share my photos on Instagram and this blog to be recognised. There are dozens of other examples…
What’s your opinion?
I can’t remember the last time when I used a phone booth actually 😛
San Benedetto del Tronto
Sleeping on deck wasn’t the most comfortable experience but the sunrise paid off for it.
On the ferry back to Italy
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