In the technological world that we live in these days, deciding how wired in you want to remain while on a RTW trip is a big decision to make. Many people take these types of trips to get away from the daily grind of work, which usually includes being constantly connected. While it’s easy to just say, “Leave it all at home,” it’s a fact that technology can help make our trip better and easier in so many ways, so it’s really not that simple.
iPod’s And Portable Music Players
If you are already a committed iPod user, then bringing an iPod with you probably isn’t even a question you are asking yourself. If you are one of the few people without a portable music player and think your RTW trip might be a good excuse to finally jump on board the bandwagon, it might be, but ask yourself a few questions before you leap.
Let’s face it, for some of us recorded music is a huge part of not only our daily entertainment but also part of the way we keep our sanity. But for other people recorded music is something to play at a party or when the cable TV has gone out. If you are in the former group, an iPod will be extremely valuable on a RTW trip. If you are closer to the latter group, there isn’t much reason to think an instant conversion will take place on your way to the airport.
Bringing expensive gadgets on a trip like this is generally a bad idea, but an iPod can be as essential as a camera for some of us, and some of the downsides aren’t as down as they were just a short time ago. The first few generations of iPods were quite thick and not really well-suited to carrying in a front pocket, but the newer ones have taken care of that.
Some people argue that an iPod puts up a barrier between you and the people, sights, and sounds you are there for in the first place. Yes, listening to music while strolling along the Champs Elysees is probably taking it too far, but your trip will consist of much more than that. Whether you realize it now or not, there will be dozens, and probably hundreds, of hours waiting for flights, riding on trains, buses, and planes, and just hours you’ll want to relax alone to recharge your own mental batteries. If you use music to help calm and entertain yourself, you’ll be glad you have a music player with you. And if you aren’t a big music fan, there are thousands of podcasts to download, which makes it nice to keep up with things like news and other entertainment you may be missing out on. Travel podcasts can get you excited for that next destination you are heading to.
Security is definitely an issue, but particularly with the newer and smaller ones it is realistic to carry them with you just about everywhere. You can’t let your guard down so you have to prepare yourself to be very cautious. If you are listening to it in a crowded hostel dorm room you can’t assume that stuffing it inside a sock in your backpack will guarantee it will be there when you look for it next time. And if you are going swimming or otherwise getting wet you’ll want to leave it behind somewhere, but as long as you are careful this shouldn’t become a major issue.
The other advantage to bringing an iPod with you is it can also be used for data back-up in addition to being an audio/video player. You can keep computer documents and travel photos saved alongside music and video files.
Cameras – DSLR vs. Point and Shoot
With the advent of good, relatively inexpensive professional style DSLR cameras, it’s tempting to want to join the throngs of wannabe professional photographers. While DSLR cameras are nice to have and produce amazing shots, it’s imperative to actually know how to use one to make it worth the money, space, weight, and risk of bringing it around the world with you. If you don’t know how to get off the automatic functions, then bringing a decent point and shoot will probably be more than enough for you.
While we’re on the subject, point and shoots in this day and age are pretty damn impressive. You can get plenty of quality shots with a point and shoot, and they are so small and light that it’s hardly an added weight or space thing. If you plan on blogging (for more than just your family and friends) or really enjoy photography, then by all means, bring a DSLR. Just keep in mind that things like tripods and extra lenses and batteries all add up, in cost, weight, space, and risk. Really ponder how necessary it is. While they are much more affordable these days, they are still a target for theft, and losing one or having one stolen just flat out sucks.
Security is an issue that you’ll need to stay conscious of regardless of what type of camera you decide to bring, just as with an iPod. These little cameras can be a great temptation to drunken or unscrupulous travelers, as well as local thieves and pickpockets. With cameras in particular it’s not unheard for thieves on a motorbike to literally grab them out of your hand as you walk along the street, so it’s important to keep this in mind and keep them out of sight when not in use. And unless you are a real pro, you might also consider bringing a $200 camera with you and leaving your $500+ camera at home, just in case.
Considering Video Cameras
With digital video cameras getting so much smaller and cheaper lately this isn’t as easy as it used to be, but we are still going to try to talk most of you out of bringing a video camera. Of course, if you are a would-be director or cinematographer and you really enjoy editing videos and posting them on Youtube and whatnot, this is your chance of a lifetime to take awesome footage. But if you are on the fence about this it’s probably best to leave the thing at home.
They are more expensive than still cameras and the batteries go pretty quickly as well so you end up spending a lot of time recharging. And since the data files are so much larger it’s a big project to offload and store your footage as you go. But the main reasons why video cameras aren’t ideal companions on RTW trips are less obvious.
Nearly all the newer digital cameras can record short videos these days anyway. For most people this will be plenty since it automatically keeps you from rolling for large chunks of time that will bore people. And they work well enough that if you want to record a short clip of you and some friends you meet on the road saying hello, and then post it to Youtube, you’ll be covered.
You’ve got quite a few options here and this is getting easier all the time. If you’ve got a fast connection on a public computer you can upload your photos to an online photo-sharing site, like Flickr, and if you have your own computer with you, it makes it easier as you can do it while sleeping if your hostel or hotel has a WiFi connection. But if you’ve got a ton of photos or the file sizes are large this can take a bit of time.
If you want to keep them with you there are a few other options. Most internet cafes all over the world do a brisk business burning CDs and now DVDs full of photos for travelers passing through. You can get hundreds of photos on one CD and obviously a lot more than that on DVDs. It’s usually quite inexpensive so you might consider getting a duplicate of each disc to store in a different place or even mail home. If you find an internet cafe with CD burners enabled (not too difficult), you can burn your own discs. Some people bring re-writable CDs so they can keep adding more photos to each disc until they are full.
Another option that is even easier is bringing a small portable hard drive along with you. These are getting smaller and cheaper every month and many of them are made specifically for this purpose. Some of the more expensive models even have a preview screen on the hard drive so you can sort easily. Make sure you have the right adapters before you leave. USB adapters and memory card readers are quite cheap, but you don’t want to have to hunt one down on a beach somewhere (though large cities anywhere in the world make finding something you need pretty easy).
There are portable drives with many gigabites of memory (and some with screens) specifically made for photo storage on the road, but you could also bring a keychain flash drive or something similar as well. For around $20 you can buy a 2 GB keychain drive where you can backup your entire photo collection on the road. And by the time you read this they will probably be cheaper and have greater capacity. And if you are thinking about buying a portable hard drive for this purpose you might also consider buying an iPod (or similar device) instead. These obviously cost more than a similar size hard drive, but not that much more, and now you’ve got an iPod too! Making a backup of your backup is always a good idea as well. Losing or having your photos stolen is devastating for any traveler.
iPod Speakers, eReaders, And Other Items
Generally you’ll want to bring as few things with you as you can get away with. If you decide you want or need something after being on the road for a while, it’s usually pretty easy to get almost anything without paying much more than you would have at home, and sometimes even less. But if you decided to bring your portable iPod speakers with you from the beginning it’s pretty tough to get rid of them once you realize it was a bad idea.
Speaking of iPod speakers, for music lovers out there, the thought of not being able to listen to music in your room or around the pool or when hanging out is simply unbearable. iPod speakers are great for this, and they do come in tiny little sizes. If you plan on bringing a laptop, it’s probably unnecessary to bring the speakers as your computer can double as a music player. Plus if you really regret your decision, it won’t be hard to find some speakers while on the road.
If you are a voracious reader who can easily go through a few books a week, purchasing an eReader like a Kindle and loading it up with books can save you both money and space in your bag. Along your journey you’ll have lots of downtime, waiting for delayed planes and sitting on broken down buses. You don’t want to let yourself get so lost in your books that you ignore the world around you, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a good novel every once in a while. If you do choose to bring an e-reader just be sure to keep it secure when you aren’t using it. It’s also important to keep in mind that the charge on an eReader might not last on some of the more epic bus and train journeys, so having a backup might be a good idea.
Though we have covered a lot of the tech stuff you need to think of in this FAQ, there is still more to consider. We are a wired world these days, the options are seemingly endless for staying in touch and plugged in, and the decision on how wired in you want to be needs to be made by each individual person. Next up we’ll discuss whether or not to bring a laptop or cell phone on your RTW trip.
Cameras, iPods, And Other Gadgets Checklist
- If you are a music lover, bring you iPod-don’t even contemplate it
- If not, research and think about pros and cons of buying/bringing one
- Look into things like podcasts that are a great, entertaining time-killer
- If you are really into photography, bring a DSLR
- Be picky about things like lenses and tripods, and make an informed decision on what to bring
- Bring a point and shoot regardless-they can be found for cheap, and they are small and light
- Don’t bring a video camera unless you are a professional
- Open an account on Flickr (or a similar site) to store your photos online
- Invest in an external hard drive for another photo back-up option
- Weigh pros and cons for bringing iPod speakers
- Weigh pros and cons for bringing an eReader