In reading and understanding this post the first thing that should become clear is the fact that I am awful at technology; I find it hard/almost impossible to read books online, I’m the type of person who has trouble linking a computer to a TV and even navigating certain features of Microsoft Word can be baffling. When it comes to social media I rarely post on Facebook, am Semi-active on Instagram and have neither twitter nor snapchat. My greatest joy is getting the photos from my disposable camera developed (something which here in Shanghai I’m having issues with) and were I not mildly dispraxic I’d favor writing a physical travel journal over the one I have on my Ipad.
So where does this technological aversion spring from? Firstly as a product of old-fashioned parents I always learnt to trust things on paper, the tangible things I could feel. Secondly in terms of travelling I have recently come to recognize the warping effect that seeing a million shots of the location you are to visit, before you arrive, can hold. In discussing this issue Edward Said’s Orientalism springs to mind. Especially here in Asia but in fact all over the world we have spent time allowing our minds to become saturated with images that are another persons idealization of a place, or represent what how ‘the wider world’ characterizes one location as supposed to another. For London its picturesque parks, quaint cobbled streets and the majestic red of telephone boxes and beefeaters. Here in China it ranges from beautiful women in traditional cheongsam dress, the Peking Opera (here Farewell my Concubine springs to mind!!!) rice hats and rice terraces and perhaps a couple of Chairman Mao’s. In my first and second posts I expressed my shock at the conflict present between ‘My (idealized) China’ and the China in Shanghai I saw before me; it was ‘Western’, it did not correspond with my mental imagery, yet it was real. The more time I’ve spent in Shanghai the more I’ve come to appreciate it – the sprawling metropolis is just as valuable in understanding (and being shocked by Chinese culture) as the rice fields of Guilin. Of course there have been moments when I’ve ventured outside the city and reveled in the way in which I’ve been confronted with scenery, which corresponds, perfectly with my warped preconceptions, but China is more than that. In all places you travel, one needs to fight that mental stigma, the exoticization, to ultimately capture a location and make it your own not what others have told you it should be.
Having said this there is nothing I love more than online travel research. I am going to Indonesia for Spring break and I have spent hours cooing over gorgeous photos, cheap hostels and pink beaches. The world wide web has revolutionized travel. Equally photography and its advances serves for the perfect form of documentation. I have a GoPro which I have not yet used but could not be more excited about utilizing. My iPhoto has over 14,000 pictures (which admittedly desperately need organizing) and 90% of these are conservation archives of previous trips (the remaining 10% I’m ashamed to admit are selfies)
Ultimately despite my aversion to technology and its logistical ills, my experiences of travel would not be the same without it. Whilst I wish I could use this post to enlighten about new, hip-technologically savvy ways to revolutionize your escapades all I can give as advice is the reminder that I constantly give myself; to use technology without it using you.