As Travel Gets Tougher…Online Gets Easier

Today, I went with my daughter all the way across the state to the Spanish Consulate, so she could begin the process of getting her papers in order for spring semester abroad. And it got me thinking…I love travel. I love visiting new places, meeting people, researching social/environmental change and cultural preservation innovations, eating new foods, seeing the sights…but I’ve grown to hate the act of moving from country to country in an airplane. It’s become soooo unpleasant, with all the petty, pointless rules that make no sense, all the takeaways of once-taken-for-granted privileges, and of course, all the delays.

But what I love about this world is how technology has made it so much smaller. Now, when I visit a country, I’m likely to already have friends there, thanks to the online world. I’m also likely to have contacted people in our international homestay organization, Servas, and to know ahead of time that I’ll be staying with people at least some of the time–a tremendous social innovation and a great deal more pleasurable than a hotel. We’ve been in the network for 25 years, but now, with e-mail, it shortcuts the process. We used to have to write to hosts abroad up to two months ahead; now, we can not only make more spontaneous plans, but also adjust our plans on the fly, if need be (as we did in Guatemala this summer, when the person we’d planned to stay with had to cancel and found us another host–who turned out to be the director of Guatemala’s national park system and took us to a speech by the country’s president!)

That technological shift is as liberating as the flying restrictions are stifling.