Steve Jobs – a traveller’s perspective

After the sad passing of Steve Jobs, associate web editor Peter Moore ponders how the devices Apple introduced have changed the way we travel

Peter Moore
06 October 2011

A couple of years ago I was catching a train from Paddington to Bristol. I had a BritRail pass so I could just turn up and jump on a train. I’d just got myself an iPhone too, so when I arrived at Paddington Station I pulled it out and checked train departures on a new App I’d downloaded called Trains. It told me that the next train to Bristol left from Platform 8 at 10.25 am.

I was new to this whole Apps thing, so I joined the throngs gathered beneath the monitors to double check the departure time. The train was on the board, but the platform hadn’t been assigned yet. On a whim I decided to wander out to Platform 8.

The train was already there. After confirming with the cleaners that it was indeed the 10.25 to Bristol Temple Meads, I clambered on board and claimed a forward facing seat with it’s own power outlet. It was another five minutes before the hordes who had gathered under the monitor boards descended, stuffing their bags on the overhead racks and casting dirty looks at me for securing such a coveted spot.

I thought of that moment this morning when I heard the news that Steve Jobs had died. The device that he had envisaged, had pushed through, developed and changed the way I travelled. It moulded and influenced my journey in ways that I hadn’t imagined. I’m not sure that I had a better trip. But I had a different one.

Later on that same trip my iPhone got me a free place to stay on the Isle of Arran. I’d idly noted on Facebook that I was feeling green on a particularly rough ferry crossing. Almost immediately I was pinged a message from a friend in Australia. He had a nephew working at a resort on Arran and had just texted him to expect me. I got free digs in the staff quarters and went very, very close to winning my first ever pub quiz. My iPhone nearly played a part there too, but I valiantly fought off the urge to nip off to the toilets to Google the answer to a particularly tricky question. I ended up losing by one point, to a man who marked his own answers.

My iPhone proved invaluable throughout the rest of my trip around the UK. I used the map app for directions to the archives in Bristol where I was able to confirm my family’s convict past. I booked a Ryanair flight out of Glasgow Prestwick, where Elvis Presley briefly stepped on British soil and my grandfather landed as a navigator in the Second World War. And whenever I got homesick I could flick through an album of photos of my daughter I’d loaded before I’d left home.

More recently, I downloaded the Footprint Guide to Nairobi, instantly shaving 650g off the weight of my carry-on luggage. Which saved me a considerable amount of money when Ethiopian Airlines cracked down on hand luggage and my bag came in just under their draconian seven kilo limit.

Not all of Steve Jobs’ products have had a positive effect on the way I travel. While I appreciate being able to travel with most of my music collection in my pocket – calling up some obscure Ethiopian jazz track should the whim possess me – I also miss an old pre-departure ritual of trawling through LPs and CDs and making tapes of the albums and tracks I decided were essential for that particular journey. I’d always make ten tapes. It was all the space I could spare. And I’d always be sick and tired of them by the end of my journey. But each of those songs are indelibly linked to a particular time and place. You don’t get that when you have close to 10,000 songs on shuffle.

And don’t get me started about people using their iPads to take photos. It’s wrong and it’s sad and it has to stop now.

I worry too that we are becoming too dependent on our i-devices, planning and booking our journeys to the nth degree, and robbing ourselves of serendipitous discoveries and the simple joy of getting lost. That we spend far too much time staring at our 5 x 7 cm instead of looking up and soaking up the wonders of the real world around us.

The good news is that smart phones still come with an off switch. As Steve Jobs said himself in a commencement address to students at Stanford University in 2005, “Your time is limited, don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”

But I tell you what. When a smart phone gets you a seat on a train with a power point it’s worth its weight in gold.

Even though it is said same smart phone’s crappy battery that makes you need the power point in the first place.

Have the products Steve Jobs introduced changed the way you travel? Are they are boon or a curse to the modern day globetrotter? Have your say on the myWanderlust forum.

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