In a recent commentary on the BBC, the oft-discussed issue of adventure travel in the age of technology was once again brought into the spotlight. The premise of the article is that in an age of smartphones, Wi-Fi, Skype, and 3G networks, can a trip really be considered “adventure travel” if you never lose the ability to leave the familiar behind?
Sure, rafting the Zambezi River or trekking across Patagonia will always physically be adventurous, but if you pull out along the side of the river to briefly check your email or Tweet about the last rapid, you have to wonder, has the inability to disconnect retarded the personal growth such trips are meant to foster?
Furthermore, with the advent of digital nomading, v-logging, podcasts, GPS transmitters, and SPOT satellite messengers, has true exploratory adventure travel lost its edge by removing the danger element of venturing into hidden corners of the map where nobody knows where you are?
The article mentions the famous saga of Shackleton, and while I am sure that if Shackleton had a satellite phone he surely would have used it, you have to wonder if the era of truly epic journeys is in its ultimate twilight.
As someone who has witnessed technology creep its way into developing parts of the globe, I have to say that I am inclined to agree with the stance taken by the BBC. Encountering a sheepherder on an island in Lake Titicaca isn’t quite the same when the sheepherder is busy chattering away on her cell phone. Likewise, there is a certain luster lost when trekking the Annapurna region of Nepal and asking a Sherpa if I could maybe check my email on his iPhone.
Granted, these advances in technology have made the world easier for sheepherders and Sherpas alike, but the question is nonetheless raised that with an ever shrinking, flattening world, could we one day run out of places to simply disappear for a while?