Greetings from Faro in the heart of the Portuguese Algarve.
We just spent a week in Lisbon and Porto. Now we’re touring the southwest corner of the country before we drive across the border Portugal shares with Spain. We’ll be heading on to Seville and Malaga next.
I’m sitting on the balcony outside the rooftop restaurant at the Faro Hotel and thumb typing this post on my iPhone. I have lots of travel technology so I do have my laptop in the trunk of our rental car but I had a thought I wanted to share and I didn’t want to lose the moment.
Two days ago we were wandering around Lisbon and looking for a place for lunch. None of the places my friends had recommended were nearby so I turned to my travel technology. I opened Trip Advisor on my iPhone and paged through the reviews until I found the Taberna Da Rua Das Flores. I hit the directions button and we followed the dotted line right to the restaurant (which was terrific, by the way).
I pulled the phone out of my pocket again to text my friends who were back at the hotel and even used the amazing Google Translate app to translate the parts of the menu I couldn’t figure out.
I had flight information for the Ryan Air shuttle to Faro in my phone and when we arrived here and picked up the rental car I used Waze to figure out the quickest route to the old town. Because I was rushed before we left home I hadn’t done any research. But I do have my travel technology with me. So a quick web surf led us to the Rococo Igreja do Carmo and the Capela dos Ossos. Its chapel was constructed with 1,245 human skulls and other bones donated by the monks who had been buried in the nearby cemetery. Their motto? “What you are, we were. What we are, you’ll be.”
“What you are, we were.
What we are, you’ll be.”
Next a web-based travel blog led me to the Ria Fomosa rooftop restaurant where I’m punching out this post. I’ll have to let you know how the codfish risotto and fig, almond, and ice cream cake are.
I even used the What’s App to track down a friend of a friend in Guimarães and plan drinks and dinner when we got there.
But here’s my question… does our travel technology make our trips better than the less-informed way we used to get about? As we’ve gained all this access and convenience, have we lost something more valuable?
I remember driving through the Chianti region of Tuscany looking for addresses that we could never find (pre-travel technology, of course). We were always lost. But we were lost in Tuscany.
I recall staring dumbfounded at a street of restaurants in a strange city and trying to figure out where to eat. Of course, I’d try to make eye-contact with friendly-faced diners hoping they’d give me the secret thumbs-up sign but mostly I’d just wind up looking like a stalker. Sometimes we’d find a good meal – sometimes we wouldn’t.
I remember trying to order off menus written in languages I didn’t speak and then wondering why the waiter couldn’t understand my request for “delicately poached tractor pieces with metal shavings and petroleum sauce.”
I don’t mean to sound like a Luddite and I certainly don’t want to over-romanticize the dark days of wandering around without a clue and without a way of finding one. And I know that my question is the perfect definition of a first world problem. But I’m interested in hearing what you think and what you’ve gained and lost thanks to today’s travel technology and yesterday’s lack of the same. Besides my own curiosity, I think your answers will be important for us to better understand the travel brands we build for companies and destinations around the world and how we can make them resonate even more with their customers.
Please scroll to the bottom of the page to post your thoughts on travel technology. And if you’ve got a good place to recommend for lunch in Malaga I’d like to hear that too.