We hear many apocryphal tales regarding the evils of smartphones and the Internet.
Myriad cartoons, blogs and articles bemoaning the dumbing down of society and the lack of interaction they have caused.
I am aware of these cautionary tales and I am sure there is some merit in having concerns, but I am now speaking from personal experience and I can honestly say that, when used correctly, they can revolutionize your life.
No statistics or research studies to cite, just what I have personally experienced since leaving behind everything I knew to finally go and see this wonderful planet of ours.
I don’t have years of experience of travel, but I do have years of experience of the internet and downloading useful apps to my iPhone.
Here are some of the ways this has made my new travel addiction a fun and worry-free experience.
Firstly, getting to your first destination.
From the comfort of my most recent temporary home I logged into Skyscanner.
This is a fantastic app that scans the majority of flight providers to find you the cheapest or quickest or most direct options available.
It even allows you to look at the cheapest options in a range of dates so you don’t have to search each time for the best option.
Once you have chosen the flight that you want, you can click on it and it will take you to the website you need to complete the transaction.
All done within minutes.
My first flight was with RyanAir and I got directed to their app, which just made things even easier.
I am pretty sure that all major flight providers have an app now, but this is the one that I used and it made the daunting task of catching a flight easier than getting a bus in London.
From this app I was able to choose my flight and pay for it using either PayPal or my bank card, without having to leave my chair.
The app walked me through any additional extras that I might want, such as a window seat, express boarding, baggage, etc., and within minutes I had paid for my flight.
I got an email very shortly after that which told me I could now check in.
I went to the app, checked in online and had the electronic boarding pass on my iPhone ready to go straight to my flight.
No printing, no fuss, no additional charge, no time wasted.
Two apps down and I was already 1,400 miles into my journey.
3. WiFi Map
Once I left my base in the UK I would be reliant on 4G until I hit a free WiFi spot.
While 4G is great, it isn’t always reliable and usually comes with a cost attached.
This cost can get enormous once you’ve left your home country.
Within Europe, cafes and bars are wising up to the fact that their clients will often consider connectivity before deciding where to stop, so there are lots of places now offering free WiFi.
If you need to log in to work out your next move then knowing the nearest WiFi spot is priceless.
There are several WiFi-finding apps to choose from, but WifiMap.io is my favorite, as it provides the passwords too, so you don’t have to worry about asking for them and not being understood.
This app will also provide a link to any details regarding the establishment, so you can make sure you’ll be sitting somewhere pleasant while you get on with any necessary admin.
4. Google Maps
Now this one seems obvious, but I’m really not convinced that everyone uses it to its full potential.
I have a very loose itinerary on this vacation so that I can be flexible and go where the wind takes me.
Google Maps has made this very possible in numerous ways.
On one occasion, while in Malaga, Spain, it became necessary for me to move on to a new destination sooner than expected.
I had a vague idea of my ultimate destination and zooming in and out of the map made it possible for me to check out all of the options for towns and cities that I may have wanted to visit on the way.
Upon deciding that I would either head to Seville or Granada I simply typed Granada into the app and then hit the blue button in the bottom right in order to get directions.
On the next page it starts with driving directions along with a handy estimated duration, but I don’t intend to be driving very much on this journey.
However, if you look just above the map there are choices for driving, cycling, walking and public transport.
Click on the public transport button and Google Maps will have found you options for buses, trains, trams and underground services.
Each leg of the trip is clearly marked, and you can choose either a start time or an arrival time and you can opt not to show any of the options if you want to avoid buses or the underground, for example.
This service even shows you exactly where the stops are, what the codes are for the bus stops (if there is one) and the timetable for the service you are considering.
If you want to buy a ticket ahead of time there is often a link to the transport provider’s website.
Now I have only used this in Europe, but so far it has not let me down once.
It is also possible to find useful places by asking the app.
Post offices, banks, supermarkets, cinemas, cafes and most places that you may want to visit are already programmed in.
Just type in what you want and you will be shown where the nearest ones are along with details of their websites and services.
On top of these incredibly helpful and practical uses the app has also helped me out with sightseeing.
When I went to Sevilla I knew that there were one or two places that I absolutely had to see.
Both Star Wars and Game of Thrones (I’m a big fan) were filmed at the Real Alcazar Palace and the Plaza de Espana and I wasn’t going to leave before I had walked in the footsteps of some of my heroes.
I didn’t need the addresses of these landmarks; I just started typing in the names of the places and there they were in my drop-down list, so I clicked on them and I had walking directions all the way to my destination.
Priceless! In fact, priceless is the right word because once you’ve had your route mapped out with the little blue dots it is possible to turn off your connection and save that precious 4G access, as Google Maps will continue to tell you where you are on the map without connecting to the internet.
Obviously you can’t amend your route without logging back in, but you can get to your destination.
This is without question the most useful tool in your box, so don’t leave home without it.
This may get a few raised eyebrows — how on Earth can a place for sharing photographs make travel any easier?
When we consider traveling, we often take into account the practical considerations such as where we’re going to stay, how much it will cost and how we’re going to get there, but we often overlook the more emotional difficulties we might encounter.
After a difficult few days in a place I wasn’t enjoying I had fled to the nearest establishment that provided free WiFi in order to plan my next move.
Once I had settled myself into the beachfront cafe with a rare, but absolutely necessary, beer and free WiFi, I decided it was time to feel connected to some much-missed family and friends.
There is more criticism of these sorts of platforms than any other type of internet use; however, when used correctly they work exactly as they were originally intended.
They keep people separated by distance and circumstance, yet still connected.
I took some lovely shots of my spot on the beach, uploaded them with an explanation that things had gone awry but were back on track now and posted my story.
As I sat working out where I was going next I was able to see likes and comments come pouring in.
You know when you have a bad day and you need to offload?
Well, when you’re on a one-woman nomadic trip to who knows where, that can be tricky.
I think that the thought of being separated in this way can put people off the idea of travel, but I can confirm that there in that cafe I offloaded.
I chatted with friends who were online there and then fielded messages from people who were aware of my situation and were pleased I was out of it, and received a few ‘atta girls’ on Instagram from well-intentioned strangers.
Within an hour I felt infinitely better and ready for the next adventure.
It’s not an obvious one, but in an article about technology making travel easy, social media has to be very high on the list.
The language barrier can be incredibly daunting and, while English is a second language in much of Europe, it is always appreciated when you are seen to be making an effort by the locals.
iTranslate is a fantastic tool to have at your disposal.
There are hundreds of languages to choose from and you can easily switch between writing in English and getting a translation or writing in the word or phrase that you don’t understand and having it translated for you.
It also has an option to hear the word so that you can be sure of getting your pronunciation just right.
This handy little app also has a way to get around the worry of being stuck somewhere without a signal because you can download a language pack if you know that you will be in the same country for a while.
The more you use a language in the real world the more it sinks in, so you will definitely be learning a new skill while also making your travels that much easier.
At this early stage of my adventure, it is already clear to see how technology is helping me to achieve my mission to travel the world.
I’m also able to do it with very few resources and still enjoy every step of the journey.
I’m not suggesting that everyone needs to be as extreme in their approach to travel as I have been, but I hope that I have demonstrated how being adventurous doesn’t require bravery as much as it does free WiFi connections!
A very welcome development for the modern day Phileas Fogg.
Happy traveling, everyone!
P.S. What is your favorite travel app?