Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Web Secret 590: Before the Internet

When my 25 year old son travels abroad to a place he has never been to, he does so with minimum advanced preparation.

For example, he visited Portugal with little more than a plane ticket and the address of an Airbnb studio he had rented.

He is completely confident that he does not need cash (because cash is passé), a guidebook (I'll figure it out), or a map (I got this.)

He is certain that everyone accepts plastic, the locals will point him in the direction of the most interesting sights, and there will be Internet everywhere so Google Maps.

The last time I traveled with that level of insouciance was in 1972. I motored to Santa Fe from Washington DC with no knowledge whatsoever - except that it was located somewhere in New Mexico.

Of course gaining any knowledge of Santa Fe would have been arduous at the time. I would have had to look up AAA in a phone book, and called them to request a map of New Mexico, which they would have had to send in the mail.

To learn anything about Santa Fe as a tourist destination would have required going to a bookstore, and poring through the travel section to find a relevant guidebook.

If I wanted some in depth knowledge of the history of Santa Fe, I would have had to visit a library, sifted through a card catalogue, and navigated the Dewey Decimal System to find the book I wanted to look at.

All of this would have had to happen at least a month in advance of my trip.

I arrived in Santa Fe a blank slate, as ignorant as Dorothy when she landed in Oz.

I fell in love immediately and enduringly. For no reason that I can recall.

I took no photographs, did not write a diary entry. I vaguely remember horseback riding in the badlands and staying at La Fonda. Maybe I bought a piece of turquoise jewelry - I surely spent no more than $10.

And for a long time now, I have never again traveled with that level of innocence. I plan every vacation with the thoroughness of a military operation. Before I set foot in a new location, I know the weather, I've googled Earth the location of the hotel, I know what to see and what to buy. I have reserved a table at the best restaurants. I have purchased the clothing and gear I need for maximal enjoyment. As much as possible, I leave nothing to chance.

Come to think of it, there is nothing I do in life without first researching it on the Web.

I don't buy anything without reading a review.

I don't go to a provider of any kind without researching their background.

I need to know everything, all the time. Instantly.

Soon it will be almost impossible to remember the mechanics of every day existence before the Internet.

Soon, if not already, most of the people on planet Earth will have never experienced life without the Internet.

I don't know what that means for us.

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