Robin Amster | March 31, 2016 12:00 PM ET
The Perils of Keeping in Touch While Traveling
The digital age has given new meaning to the words “keep in touch.”
I have colleagues and friends whose first thought when they know they will be traveling—anywhere really but especially abroad—is “how will the Wi-Fi be?” And that goes for vacations just as much as it does for work trips.
This is not all bad—or all good. Let’s start with the good stuff.
In professional situations, keeping in touch is very often a necessity. The now taken for granted, but still amazing, capability of sitting in a hotel room clear across the globe and communicating with your boss and/or co-workers back home makes life a lot easier than it used to be.
We can get our jobs done, or at least get a leg up on getting things done, before we return. We can also keep pace with all the email which, if left unattended for even a few days, grows at an alarmingly stress-inducing rate.
On the personal front, when far from home, keeping in touch with family—and friends too—can be a good thing. It’s nice to know that everything is just fine at home with kids or spouses or significant others or even pets.
Actually, especially with pets. People, you know who you are. I can remember press trips in some far-off places where everyone scrambled to get in touch with “home,” not to check on husband or wife, girlfriend or boyfriend, but on Fido or Fluffy.
At any rate, knowing all is well with everyone—man or beast—is comforting. We can then relax and focus on having a great time or getting the work done or both.
And now it’s time to take another look at all of the above for a potentially bad thing about all this connectedness. That’s when we want to, expect to, and are anxious to, do all of the above, and the Wi-Fi and connections at our destination are sorely unsatisfactory or inconsistent or worst of all, just about non-existent.
In fact, it’s worse than never thinking that that kind of keeping in touch was possible in the first place. The frustration level of not being able to connect can go viral. It almost makes one long for a return to landlines, typewriters and mail.
There’s also the view that keeping in touch is not the point of travel—principally leisure travel.
Wasn’t the whole idea to get away from it all, relax, recharge and experience something different from our everyday lives? Doesn’t being preoccupied—even a little—with connecting distract and possibly disturb?
Maybe, but it also may be too late for that.
It looks like we’ve all adjusted to this new world of 24/7 keeping in touch. And truth be told, for most of us this has risen to the level of an addiction to our devices.
I say most of us. So here are the signs of a digital addiction, according to me:
• The very first thing you do when you get into your hotel or resort is check the Wi-Fi on your phone and log on to your laptop in your room.
• You feel frustrated and morose if you have difficulty doing the above.
• You check your phone or other device an absurd number of times if you’re on vacation or an unneccesary number of times if you’re traveling for work.
• The, again, very first thing you do when your plane lands—both going and coming—is haul out your phone and connect.
There is, as yet, no twelve-step program for digital addiction. We’ll all just have to forge ahead and keep in touch on this issue.
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