Traveling the world is a piece of cake these days. Thanks to the smartphone we have maps, translation apps, travel tips, banks, and tickets available at our fingertips. However, if you go back 30 years, traveling was much more difficult.
Today, buying plane, train, or bus tickets is as easy as “open the app, click the button.” But 30 years ago, you had to pick up a landline phone to call a travel agent who knew the secret backdoor to airlines and hotels. Or you could go to the airport to buy tickets at the counter. You paid whatever price the travel agent gave you. There was no price shopping and there were no deals that popped into your inbox. Wait, you didn’t have an inbox.
When you got to wherever you were going, there was no Uber app to summon a driver. Nope, you had to either figure out the public transportation system with a paper map and drag around all your luggage or blow your entire budget on a cab. the other option was to rent a car. If you didn’t get tips from friends, or know someone local, getting from the airport to your hotel and back was an entire ordeal. Today, if you get lost in a city, you can simply whip out Google Maps and the GPS will tell you where you are and where to go.
Thirty years ago, Airbnb didn’t exist. Neither did Kayak.com and Hotels.com. You didn’t have the luxury of picking out a place to stay that was both cheap and near the city center. Nope, you had to call your travel agent to get a combo flight-hotel deal (hopefully) or call the hotel itself and book it over the phone. There were no nice picture previews either, so if there were any surprises, they were revealed when you arrived.
Today, you don’t need to bother with learning phrases in another language when you travel. Is it polite to do so? Yes. But is it necessary? No. Most people speak English and even if they don’t, you can have a conversation just by whipping out Google Translate. Thirty years ago, if you didn’t speak the language… well, good luck to you and your dictionary. You either stuck to the touristy places or got lost a lot.
Got a credit card? Debit card? You can swipe these things in almost every country nowadays. No so if you were traveling 30 years ago. You had to pre-purchase traveler’s checks before you left or you’d end up paying exorbitant fees and ridiculous exchange rates at the airport. Cash was king and bumping into a pickpocket meant disaster.
Cell Phone? What Cell Phone?
Cell phone carriers today like T-Mobile, AT&T, and Google Fi let you travel the world without much of a glitch in your service. Before roaming service, you had to buy a SIM card or a local cell phone. And before cell phones, phone cards, payphones, hotel phones and collect calls were your best friends. People carried around a little book with important phone numbers. And if it was a really important number, you memorized it.
Traveling Was More Interesting
Thanks to global trade and the internet, going to another country is a relatively pleasant experience if you survive the guy in the middle seat. It’s easy to look at social media pictures or read about your destination on the internet. And when you get there, people are already familiar with American culture thanks to TV shows like Friends and South Park.
Traveling is safer in 2020, but it’s also more predictable and way less interesting. Some might even liken traveling today to a nice stroll through a museum instead of a true experience.