When we drove from Winnipeg to Phoenix last week it was the second time we were making that particular journey. In 1989 we made the same trek with our two young sons when we moved to Arizona for a year to teach at a mission school on the Hopi Indian Reservation. Thinking back to that trip two decades ago I am amazed at how technology has altered highway travel.
Twenty years ago we bought a thick Road Atlas and used it’s pages to plot our route every morning. Now we have a GPS. We simply enter our daily destination and follow the directions provided by the GPS voice and screen. We don’t listen to the radio to verify road conditions, or consult various maps to determine which route is the shortest, or carefully check road signs to avoid tollbooths. The GPS figures that all out for us.
We used to wonder if we should stop at a gas station or at a restaurant because who knew where the next one would be. Now our GPS tells us what restaurants and gas stations are in each town or city along our route and exactly how to get there.
Twenty years ago we had a limited budget because our teaching job in Arizona was a voluntary one. We would often stop at several motels to find out which one had the cheapest rates before we decided where to stay for night. We’d go in to check if the rooms were clean and big enough for our family. Now when we stop for lunch Dave takes his I-pad into the restaurant, goes online, and surfs several websites that offer good hotels at bargain prices. He finds the best deal, checks out pictures of the rooms online, and books our hotel for the coming night.
Music was still on cassette tapes in 1990. Our boys both had Walkmans and listened to their tapes through earphones. Dave and I had carefully selected our favorite tapes to take along since we wouldn’t have had room in the car for our whole collection. Now we plug our I-Pod into our Honda’s power outlet and our entire music library is at our fingertips. Ten years ago I read aloud to the boys as we traveled. Now Dave and I listen to audio books on CD’s we have bought, or taken out of the library.
I used to fill a large travel bag with books whenever we left on a road trip. I love to read and since my husband Dave does all the driving I can devour lots of novels on a lengthy journey. Now I only take my Kindle. Since we are going to Arizona I searched online for books set in that state and downloaded quite a number on my electronic reader. I also bought a half -dozen best sellers I’ve wanted to read. If I run out of books I can just download more when we stop for night or in a restaurant for a meal, since most hotels and eating establishments have complimentary wifi.
In 1990 I had a journal where I penned pages of notes about our experiences each day. Now I plug into the wireless service at our hotel and update my daily online blog instead.
I was already working for the newspaper The Carillon in 1990 and on our journey down to Arizona I had to write my weekly column out in long hand and mail it in ahead of time since the postal system wasn’t always reliable. Now I can write my column in the car on my lap top and e-mail it to my editor at any wifi hotspot. He’ll have it seconds later.
Technology has transformed travel.