Technology makes for painless globetrotting as wireless internet prospers

Updated: 2017-05-22 07:43

(HK Edition)

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Technology has changed the way we travel, and in a good way based on my experience so far.

Making self-guided tours has become more commonplace, especially among young and exploration-minded people. The trend reflects a preference to set one's own itinerary and travel schedule at one's own pace. And technology offers convenience at reasonable costs to carry out this lifestyle choice.

Technology advancements have significantly driven down the expenses of what used to be pricey services, such as having internet connections at hotels when traveling abroad. Renting a pocket Wi-Fi can't be easier in Hong Kong, as pickup and return can both be done at the airport. During a recent trip back to Hong Kong airport, I found one such store occupies a spacious place with fancy lounges and sleek decor, a possible indicator of an upmarket move and a booming business.

Telecommunications companies have seen growing demand for data-roaming services at acceptable prices in different countries. I noticed at least one service provider in Hong Kong recently launched a campaign promoting such service, putting up huge ads near cross-harbor tunnel entrances and exits. The logic is simple. You pay for a certain amount of monthly data usage, and can use it in places other than Hong Kong - such as Europe, the United States, the Chinese mainland, Macao, Taiwan or other parts of Asia, as specified in your chosen service package.

Since a smartphone has become almost an integral part of many people's work and probably private lives too, how convenient it is to need to just to carry our smartphone when we go to places, and can still operate as we do in our home city!

For travelers, it means that a great part of our lifestyle can still be kept even in a foreign land. Texting and calling family and friends, and social media time, why not? Using an online map to determine how to get from A to B, or the driving guide function to go on the road with a rental car? Check. Starting a trip in a hurry and planning the must-see sites by checking online tips and rankings only after arrival? Not a problem. Considering rental bikes to explore a new city but needing online registration first? Sure.

Affordable internet connection is a useful tool for travelers to make sense of what they are seeing and experiencing and to solve problems - even practical ones like ordering food. It adds meaning to the traveling experience, putting the traveler in a much more resourceful position, rather than being a total outsider, when navigating a foreign place.

I can only imagine how technology will continue to revolutionize the way we travel. My guess is a greater deal of how we usually go about life will be carried over while traveling. We can overcome some of the longstanding deficiencies caused by language barriers and all kinds of other differences, to be able to do things and experience to the maximum extent the places we travel to. Maybe the future will see a generation of smart gadgets-aided travelers, who gather information and, based on greater comprehension, form decisions as they are on the go.

For many of those who still value traveling as a temporary break from busy work or from their usual way of life, traveling in the old-fashioned, less-informed sense to come across unexpected inspirations may be an important part of the fun and enjoyment. For them, staying connected with the home base may spoil the whole traveling spirit.

The good news is, so far, technology has not yet developed to the stage that staying connected, traveling or not, should be the norm. It is up to us to choose what suits our preferences - only we need to remain alert to cyber-security precautions in the wake of the WannaCry ransomware attack scare.

(HK Edition 05/22/2017 page8)