We work with online and mobile services every day, so it is easy to lose perspective on what “civilians” really do with such services. There is no better reality test for the progress of technology in our society than going on summer vacation.
This year, my wife and I joined a group of friends in the Fingerlakes in western New York state — a fairly rural location. We really don’t have much desire to be plugged in on vacation. But online and mobile services have become so helpful, that at this point, it would be an unnecessary and arbitrary handicap to try to do without them.
Our trip began at the Wi-Fi-enabled Buffalo Airport. On the Thruway, we quickly noted that we were driving by Batavia (the home of Howard Owens’ hyperlocal site, The Batavian). We were well-served on The Thruway, in any case. NY State Thruway signs featured Wi-Fi, alongside Mobile, Tim Hortons and other services.
Over the next several days, we didn’t really need to overtly plug in very much. But without thinking about it, we were heavily plugged in. Most notably, a friend extended his stay in the area for two additional weeks, made possible by the Wi-Fi at a Starbucks a few miles up the lake. Several people, apparently, were camping out there doing the same thing, although his Skype conference calls were pushing it a little.
And then there were the little things. The Pontoon boat ride up Canandaigua Lake, for instance, wasn’t especially plugged in. But when we needed to figure out whether we’d be on time for our lunch reservation at the Inn, out came the iPhones and BlackBerrys. Google Maps had us about ¾ of the way up the lake, about 30 minutes from our destination.
The Rochester Symphony Orchestra’s Red White and Boom patriotic concert at the CMAC theater wasn’t necessarily a high-tech affair, either. But we couldn’t help but notice Ticketmaster’s entreaty on the ticket to download its app for up-to-date info on the entire CMAC concert series.
The wineries and craft breweries in the area are certainly a major attraction as well. At the Heron Hill Winery, we were invited to check in to Foursquare. Many more places asked us to friend them on Facebook.
At Yellowstone last year, I noticed something interesting: very few iPhones. Not the case this year in the Fingerlakes. In fact, I saw a number of smartphones, including some carried by older ladies. The demographic barriers are clearly falling.
Every year, people who know me know that I talk a lot about going off the grid. I make a conscious effort to do so. You won’t find me bringing a laptop or iPad with me on most trips. But I don’t think I will talk about it that way anymore. Unless I want to hurt my vacation experience, I’ll stay plugged in, thank you.