travels with/out internet

I travelled in South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand back in the dark ages before the internet. I remember my brother told me before I left, that in the future, I could use any computer anywhere in the world to talk to him. Back then I thought, but why would I want to?

self, at 21, on Fraser Island, Queensland, Oz

Things have happened since then, and I am very happy with the technology, to the degree that it takes up large amount of my time, contains my work, and hope for a job in the inner, deeper levels of information and data handling and meaning.

Mount Bromo, Java, Indonesia

Today, we travel as flashpackers. Last time in Australia, in 2005, I remember it annoyed me that I had piles of cables, electronics, discs and data in my backpack. I am getting used to it. A couple of years back, I went to Damascus, and my professor wanted me to go to the souq, find a carpet-seller, and show him the (uploaded) photo he took of him a few years before. I stared at the prof in disbelief: did he think I would bring my widescreen macbook along on my holiday!?

Anyway. I remembered back to my jaunt through South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand back way yonder. Not able to read the papers or understand the news on telly, I only got glimpses of what went on in the world when I came to a large city and could buy a Newsweek. If I bothered. Or found a crumpled copy in some dusty mountain village in Sumatra. Grand and gruesome happenings in the world passed me by.

I dawdled, wandered, splashed, spluttered, lollygagged and pottered around, unaware of riots in Europe, unaware of riots down the road. I had several poste restante, and got news from Indonesia via my family. Four weeks later.

So now, we pack the internet. And in so doing, we pack our history, connections, friends and habits. And habits is the clue here. I was, back then, cut off. And in being cut off, I was forced to take part in what went on around me. At times it was tiring, at times the cultures and the demands on me was more than I liked, as a female Scandinavian travelling alone. I imagine that if I had internet back then, my 21 year-old self would be online whingeing about the locals, the annoying invasion of my personal space, the incomprehensible customs and reactions.
As it were, there was no Net, and slowly I learned to understand why things happened, learned to avoid it, live with it or enjoy it.

This is dangerous ground for me: I do not want to glorify the “good old days”. On the other hand, you could say that if I had had internet, I would have been able to connect with locals before I left; I could have googled incomprehensible cultural differences. I would have learned from that, with my fact-hungry, analytical left brain.

At one point, I became, relatively, “an old hand”. I saw people fresh of their planes, who blundered into and stamped over local customs and sensibilities. It made me cringe. Sometimes I could not explain why, other than “you don’t do that”. Right-brain stuff.

There are loss-and-gain, obviously. But the feeling of isolation; of being basically cut off (and yet part of a society) for months.. I wouldn’t mind that again. But it is not possible.

You cannot step twice into the same river.


selling goodies, Bukittingi, Sumatra, Indonesia

(the images are all scans from my slides from back then)