Written by Mark Evilsizor
From his column Tech
The last 18 months have been a trying time. It makes me think of McCartney’s lyric about being stuck inside four walls forever. But as vaccinations have become available and widely embraced, we are once again gaining freedom to hit the road. As I write this, my family is preparing for a trip to the Pacific Northwest. As one who loves technology, I’m thrilled that creative people continue to develop useful ways to enhance the travel experience. Today, let's look at some ideas for how you might use technology to make your summer getaway a bit better.
Our family loves the national parks. One of the benefits of visiting them is they are far enough out of the way as to be unreachable by digital leashes (or at least far enough that we can switch phones to airplane mode and feign having no signal). But such remoteness can also make it a challenge to find a mountainside rental. A cure for this is the Google Maps app. In Google Maps, it’s possible to download a map to the phone, so even if we don’t have connection with a cell tower, the map is stored in memory and can be used with GPS to indicate where we are and provide directions to where we are going.
To do this, before your trip, search for the places you will visit. At the top of the map, tap the “hamburger” (three vertical dots) for more options, then tap “Download offline map.” A section of the map will appear. When you tap “download,” it will indicate how much storage is required (this is minimal on most phones, and maps will automatically be deleted in a year).
Speaking of a remote mountainside rental, we have found that having a whole house to ourselves enriches travel enjoyment and saves on expenses. Using AirBnB, Vrbo , or TripAdvisor, it’s now possible to rent an entire home rather than staying in a traditional hotel. We love the ability to have a relaxed breakfast while in our pajamas, smelling the pines, and enjoying nature from the deck where we’re staying. It reduces the bustle and, if you’re traveling with others, can save considerable travel costs. Beyond this, you can get great tips on things to see and do from your friendly host.
We do a lot of day hikes when we travel, and the most precious bit of gear, we have found, is water. Since our first Colorado hiking excursion when we ran out of it, we have traveled better prepared. Now, we take at least a couple of quarts of water apiece, along with a “Sawyer” filter. It’s a simple device that can turn stream water into safe, drinkable water to ensure your mouth does not turn into the Sahara Desert.
Another piece of technology we have found to be essential as we have aged is walking poles. On one trip, while ascending a hillside, we noticed several others using them on the trail. Our response was to snicker and beat our chests, celebrating our fitness and vigor. On the return downhill, I had an epiphany as my toe hit a cobblestone and my knee kissed the ground. Since then, inexpensive walking poles have helped us to maintain balance while allowing our arms to contribute to elevation gains along mountainous paths.
While we tend to turn off devices while traveling, sometimes in the evening it’s nice to share a movie, perhaps something outside the normal fare, like a western or a musical. An easy way to do this is to download one or more to your phone. If you subscribe to any streaming video service, the associated phone app typically provides the ability to do this. An additional inexpensive adapter connects the phone to any available TV. The result is video in the wilderness—no internet or DVD required.
Finally, you may find it helpful to take along a small tracking attachment to locate misplaced gear. Quarter-sized devices from Tile and Apple Air Tag can be placed in luggage or wallet, or attached to keys, a backpack, or even a pet. They use Bluetooth to locate items with your phone and can be used in reverse to find your phone if you misplace it. They cost about $25 each (less in quantity).
I am grateful for the doctors, nurses, scientists, police and fire personnel, grocery workers, and many others who have been frontline heroes during the pandemic. I’m also thankful to have the opportunity to be vaccinated, along with others in our community, so that we can once again get out of the house and be a family on the run. I hope your summer is filled with fellowship, good times, and good tech!
Mark Evilsizor has worked in Information Technology for more than 20 years. He currently serves as head of IT for the Linda Hall Library in Kansas City, Mo. Opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Pensions and Benefits USA or the Church of the Nazarene.