Dave's Travel Journal

A vacation is what you take when you can't take what you've been taking. - Earl Wilson

Writing your travel journal

The About tab on the blog says: "The only thing better than traveling and learning about other cultures is writing and taking pictures of them." It's true.

When you come back from your journey, can you remember what you saw, did, and said? More importantly, can you remember the stories you heard from the local people you met? You can if you journal the journey.

Journal the Journey

It's not hard. You don't need to (or want to) write down every detail. For example, you don't need to write down what you had for breakfast . . . unless, of course, you ate goat brains or something similarly unusual. No, you want to record the unique stories and interesting people you met. You can do that with a notepad and pen. (More about that in an upcoming blog post.)  But after making brief notes you'll want to expound on them when you get back to the hotel. But how? Did you bring your terabyte notebook with heavy battery, power brick and cord? Do you want to lug that thing around, find a plug for the power hungry glutton, and bring the converter for the country you're visiting? Really? You want to carry all that stuff with you? On your back? On the plane? Down the street? Up the stairs? I don't.

You could use an iPhone instead. But recording the adventure on that postage stamp screen makes me cross-eyed and thumb tied. I tried it. I left my computer at home once. In fact, I bought a bluetooth keyboard for it. I figured the iPhone would be the perfect "travel computer" . . . NOT. One night, while on a business trip, I left the Apple Bluetooth keyboard on. It didn't have an automatic shutoff. The next morning the iPhone was dead. Rats. Now what am I going to do? I plugged it in and waited for it to charge while I took two aspirin for the knot between my shoulders from bending over the postage-size device the night before. I decided, no, an iPhone even with an external keyboard, isn't going to work for me.

NEO Alphasmart

Then I bought a NEO Alphasmart. It weighs a pound and a half, is made of bullet proof plastic (I exaggerate, but it's pretty indestructible), and it has "instant on." No booting, no waiting, no updating.  Push ON and go.  It turns itself off after five minutes. When I get home, I plug it into my Mac through a USB and press Send. What could be simpler?

But the best part is the battery life. On just three AA batteries it lasts 700 hours. That means that if you typed continously, without stopping to eat, sleep, or go to work, you could type for . . . 291 days. I think it's been years since I changed the batteries and I just checked them. I've used half the battery power.

Here's the thing, I can type on the NEO on a long flight to or from China (that's 15 hours) and never have to fight the notebook gluttons for the outlets at the airport terminal.

"Yeah, go ahead buddy. Help yourself to the outlets. I see the desperation in your eyes. Can't finish your eBook on your power-hungry iPad? Is that your problem? I hate that for you."

On the airplane, the keyboard sits flat in my lap. The guy in front of me can lay back as far as his chair will allow. No problem. I keep typing. But he couldn't type if he wanted to. Remember? His notebook and iPad are out of power. What else could he do but nap?

He should have bought simpler gadgets. And he would have, had he read the blog. Poor guy.

It's true what they say:  Knowledge is power.

(Disclaimer: I haven't received any royalties or income from Alphasmart. I just comment on what works for me. Your mileage may vary.)

There has been an alarming increase in the number of things I know nothing about. - Anon


Simple gadgets

Gadgets. I love 'em. But I want simple gadgets. Ones that work. Is that too much to ask?

And I want gadgets that always work. I want gadgets that don't complain, don't need upgrades, and don't make noise . . . unless I ask them to.

Especially when I travel, I don't want to carry around a broken or "dead" gizmo. Nor do I want to carry wires or cords or converters or plugs. I just want to keep things light, simple, streamlined, and clean.

In my last post I mentioned the online white noise "gadget." It's the ultimate in traveling light.

A lot of travelers swear by their iPhones. Yeah, they're cool. I guess. They'd be really cool if I didn't have to upgrade them OR their apps, nor have to answer the incessant Apple Agreement every three days. Come on Apple! Are you listening? Make an agreement, have me sign it, and leave me alone. Ah, but I digress.

I only buy SIMPLE gadgets. Ones that don't require a babysitter. Like my . . .

Nightstand clock

I bought this small alarm clock in 2009 at Walmart for just ten bucks. I put three AA batteries in it and have never given it a second thought. It sits quietly on my nightstand. It doesn't make noise (unless I set the alarm). It doesn't blink or glare at me at night. In lights up only when I press the top button. During the day the black numbers show clearly on a grey-green background. At night the numbers show against a light blue background. All the controls for setting the time, alarm, and night light are on the device itself. Unheard of for sure.  To set any of the controls use the buttons.  No menu spelunking necessary. No manual needed.

Yeah, I know, I could use my iPhone. It's got an alarm, a timer, and even a countdown. And I do use it when traveling. But the nightstand clock is elegant in it's simplicity. It doesn't make me think. And it always works. Doesn't need plugs or wires.  No upgrades. What could be simpler?

Simple, elegant, streamlined and clean, those are my gadget requirements.

Don't make me think!

Stay tuned: Tomorrow another simple gadget for writing your travel journal.

Expecting to get somewhere without effort is like getting on an elevator without pressing a button. -dave terry


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