I left Canada in March of 2001 in the wake of the Nortel collapse and returned home to Australia. About a year later I met my future wife and now we’re happily married with four beautiful children. With children comes responsibility, expenses and consequently less travel: particularly overseas.
Today I’m flying back to the United States, returning to Houston, which I last visited in mid-2000 on a day trip from Dallas to visit the Johnson Space Center. This time I’m going to the Process Industry Conference PIC 2019 which is run by the International Society for Automation; which as an Electrical and Controls Systems Engineer, is just up my alley.
I did the sums and figured out it had been 18 years since I’d last travelled overseas, not withstanding a brief outing a few kilometres off shore into the Pacific a few years ago. What dawned on me today was how much had changed.
When I travelled as an early 20-something I relied of paper maps, the trustworthy “Lonely Planet” guide books, talking to locals, talking to fellow travellers and researching the hell out of every place I would visit and that meant lots of reading.
There were no Google Maps, no Satellite navigators, GPSs existed but they were rudimentary and flattened batteries within hours and had no road maps to speak of in them. EFTPOS was growing in popularity but you needed cash, and if you had a very early blackberry, 2G mobile coverage was terrible and there was practically no WiFi anywhere.
Today I don’t have to worry about forgetting my wallet since I have my Apple Watch and iPhone for payments. WiFi is everywhere, Smartphones are cheap and everyone has one (pretty much), and every smartphone has a free maps and navigation app built in to it. No paper maps, no cash and oh my god researching anything to go and see and do is a snap!
I realise I’m dating myself but I look back at the younger me, quite literally half my age, and shake my head at how I dealt with it all. It’s been quite a change in the world around us and one for the better I think.