What would you not leave home without for your international vacation? I’ve been traveling with my family in Europe for the last couple of weeks (hence no blogs, sorry, coming back soon!) and noticing how different traveling is from a few years ago. I travel internationally a couple of times a year, but generally for a week or less and intentionally without my phone or email/ internet access. This is the first time I’ve traveled for more than a few weeks since 2002, the last time my family took a trip over here, and the first time I’ve done it with an activated phone. I’ve been noticing some of the differences and I’d say it is generally a huge improvement…

1. My calendar is (was) truth. Ok, this isn’t necessarily related to traveling per se, but I’ll start off with a story to set the stage. I have been traveling for work and fun quite a bit the last couple months, between two and four flights a week. I always make my own travel arrangements and enter them right into my time zone controlled calendar as soon as I receive the confirmations. So you can imagine my surprise when I got a call the night before my flight was supposed to leave and found out that it was actually departing in 75 minutes. I guess I had changed the ticket a few months ago to layover in Dallas for a day and hadn’t told my calendar. Oops. After determining it would cost $2K to change the ticket, I decided instead to do a mad packing job and standby on the next flight an hour later. I made it with most everything, reminding myself that if I had my passport, credit cards and internet access, pretty much everything else could be worked out remotely. The calendar is on probation now and I’m in therapy for learning to trust it so much… we’ll see what happens with that when I get back.

2. My phone is freedom. With nine people traveling together who have different interests and an inability to make quick group decisions, I find myself wandering off quite frequently. I have to say that I’m much less concerned about doing this in a foreign country when I know that I can turn on my phone and text/ call someone if I get in trouble or use my iPhone maps to find the site I’m seeking. I’m also loving having text activated because I stay away from my email, knowing that everyone back home will text me with anything urgent. Text in particular has been extremely useful in coordinating with family over here and with people back home.

3. Email has turned into the (negative) symbol of the work treadmill. My family has actually spent very little time on email for how much time we usually do and could have spent on it. Whenever we do find access, we spend more time harrassing each other about getting sucked into email than actually doing it. My dad was just commenting while cleaning up his email next to me how much time he spends (implying wastes) staying tuned into various conversations and happenings while on the job. My realization was this morning when my cousin found a wifi spot from her computer on our boat. I got 10 minutes on it and whipped out a couple of long emails. our captain stood across from me, shocked to see the woman he’d seen only sleep, eat, hike, eat shop and sleep for the last 7 days turn into this really fast typing super focused work woman he didn’t recognize. I laughed and turned the computer over to someone else…

4. Facebook integrates travel into life. The last time I traveled extensively, I wrote one of those long journals (in four parts) for all my close friends and family. You are probably groaning, but I promise I was told by multiple people that mine was actually funny. This time, though, there’s no need. If there’s something worth noting, I make a comment or snap a picture and post it on Facebook. No need to get together for a big picture viewing and debrief afterwards, I’m just right there with everyone else and they are here with me, making comments on pictures and saying hello. And those who aren’t interested don’t have to read my long, boring travel journal!!

5. The cloud is security. Not only was I much more confident about racing off to the airport unprepared because I knew everything was in email, all of us planned to keep all our travel arrangements on various sites before the trip. I used MobileMe, my brother Google Docs, others just attached documents in email. What is interesting to me, and what actually prompted me to write this blog, is that everyone in my family is way more concerned about getting our pictures uploaded to our favorite picture site than we are about getting a “back up CD” like many internet cafes sell. I’m one of those people who cherishes my pictures so much that if I got held up, I’d tell them they could have everything if they’d just give me my memory card. But now we just want to get to an internet cafe so that we can get them out on the cloud… where they are safe! Safer there than with us, the logic goes…

Well, I’m back to my vacation. More blog posts soon, but for now I’m going to get back to the relaxing.