I always like to think about how travel has changed over the years. Traveling before the internet and traveling after. Traveling before smartphones, and traveling after, Traveling before 9/11, and traveling after.
Each person could mark many moments in time as things were different and appreciative to have known travel “before.”
Let’s look at a few things that have changed in the last 30 years with travel or living abroad.
Books vs. the Internet
Remember the days when you would get your Lonely Planet book or South American Handbook? It was so exciting to research and the maps and conversion charts in the back were so helpful! The book was always in your hand, and lugging it around never seemed to be an issue. You could pick up different ones along the way as other travelers would leave theirs behind when they headed home. But trying to find the latest edition was like finding gold!
Nowadays, the internet can give you the answers, maps, and charts you are looking for in a few seconds. Research still takes time, but you can lessen the load on the road without having to bring any books!
Maps vs. Google Maps
You can tell if someone has had experience with physical maps if they know how to fold them. Ask a younger person to put a map back, and you never know what you may get!
Google Maps and Waze are great apps that can give you real-time directions and, better yet, the time it takes depending on the mode of travel, such as car, taxi, bus, or walking. It makes such a difference when you know ahead of time that there is a traffic jam for whatever reason so that you can take another route!
Trip Advisor Reviews and Recommendations vs. Word-of-Mouth or Books
Figuring out where to go used to be mostly by word-of-mouth. You had a neighbor or the neighbor’s cousin who traveled to a particular country, which spiked your interest.
But now, you can just go to Trip Advisor or look online for recommendations to get some good ideas. Also, what we didn’t have years ago were the reviews. Knowing that a hotel is not usually clean or right next to a busy highway would have helped ahead of time. It is also essential to give accurate reviews when doing so these days. The bar has been set higher for travelers’ expectations.
Travel Agent vs. Online Booking
The good ‘ole days of having to be loyal to your favorite travel agent who got you the best prices possible! And then slowly realizing that having one wasn’t necessary…
Websites like Expedia or Kayak are great for competitive pricing while seeing options across the board.
Buying with Miles
Back in the day, I knew someone who put all their kids’ educations on their credit card, and we thought that was just ingenious. This was when credit cards were just starting with rewards and miles. Nowadays, it is one of the smartest things you can calculate regarding which credit card you get and what you spend on it. Free travel on miles just feels so…freeing!
You don’t want to think of the worst-case scenarios and have fear come into play when planning your trip. But you also have to be smart when it comes to your safety. Or, you could be laying on an examination table in the Emergency Room with doctors saying your appendix needs to come out, but without any insurance, they won’t do it. Or when you get a piece of coral in your finger without realizing it, and a scary staff infection starts. You need to keep visiting doctors until you get the correct diagnosis.
Anything can happen on a trip. Years ago, having insurance for travel and medical emergencies was very expensive. Those costly options are also available nowadays, but paying monthly for insurance catered to your needs is available. It is not so terrifying now, and usually, there is excellent customer service.
Budget flights but pay for luggage
When living abroad, I used to travel with two 70lb suitcases that were included with the ticket. Yes, I traveled with so much as I needed many things that I could not find abroad in those days. Now things are different and you can get most items in many places.
But, the other day, when I booked a flight and wanted to think about taking a second and third bag, the second bag was $60, while the third was going to be $200. $260 added to the flight doesn’t make it feel like a good deal anymore!
My life changed with TSA Global Entry. Getting through security quickly in a different line, and when coming back to the States and using face recognition to breeze through immigration, makes me understand all the curious glances I get from exhausted travelers who wait hours in lines!
Security and X-ray Scans
We didn’t have x-ray machines years ago and the security was a little more lax. Then 9/11 happened and things changed. Before this, usually friendly conversations were what happened at immigration and customs. Nowadays, there is more clearance that you need to go through.
Before a long flight years ago, the great question was, What will I bring to do? This would be a book, a walkman, a notebook, or a pillow.
Today while most flights have in-flight entertainment, you can watch movies or shows or listen to music. And that is only if you don’t want to use your device for some Netflix or other downloaded movies or podcasts. It takes a bit of planning but you can get lots of work done if that is what you are interested in to take advantage of the time!
More Food Before vs. Snacks and Drinks Now
Airplane food has usually gotten a bad rap, but there was the effort to feed you. Whether that was a choice of 2 during meals, snacks, and drink service.
Recently flying internationally, I got a bag of pretzels and a small bottle of water. I wasn’t hungry but I did think about how times have changed!
Lost luggage can be a pain, but having smart luggage (which is usually hard-shelled luggage with Electronic Locks, GPS tracking, and device charging) can give you a sense of ease. Even an Airtag, which can track where your luggage is, can give you a sigh of relief. Many airplanes send text messages when your luggage is on the plane.
Years ago, if your luggage was lost, it was hours on the telephone and always the possibility of not seeing it again. While that can still be the case, having some sort of control of knowing where it is makes a huge difference.
Hostel or Hotel vs. Airbnb
When I flew to Latin America, landed, and went to my hostel years ago, it happened to be a family’s house with extra rooms for travelers. My timing was not the best; when I entered the living room, the father was lying in a coffin and would be there for days.
Ask anyone who has traveled for a long time and they will tell you some crazy experiences, both good and bad. Luckily now there is more support to get out of uncomfortable or unsafe situations. If you need help from Airbnb, their support is there to resolve your problem. You can still find great hotels and hostels as standards have risen.
Since there were no smartphones when I traveled, Social Media was not a thing. We took pictures with a camera that you had to develop the photos when you arrived home. Before anyone had selfies, though, I did have a camera which I could rotate the lens ahead of me on back on myself, so technically, I was taking selfies!
Posting less can help traveling in real time. That goes for whether you are traveling or not!
Uber vs. Taxis
I know travelers who were charged over $100 to go about 5 miles, and since they didn’t know any better, the taxi drivers could continue this practice. But taxis are better these days, especially if you call for one instead of getting one off the street, for safety. Uber is in many countries, although at times illegal. Once another hit my Uber driver’s car, so he said if we didn’t think we could convince the police that we were cousins with him, he asked that we start running so he would not have problems. Whatever kind of transportation you use, use caution.
Many people had to rely on high school language classes from years ago. Nowadays, with translation apps, you can communicate a lot easier when in bind. The best practice is to study the language actively. Here are some tips.
Facetime or Video Chat vs. Snail Mail
Being connected to family, friends, or your audience has never been easier, and they can live vicariously through you within moments. Years ago, if I wrote a letter to my family, it arrived three weeks later; by then, it was old news.
But due to this lack of contact, you have to fend for yourself. Otherwise, if you get stung by a bee and call your mother to ask what to do, it just seems different for some reason, although valid!
Whatsapp or SMS vs. International phone calls
Finding a place to call home years ago was an effort. Sometimes at the hostel or hotel, you could have a space to talk but it was expensive so you were not doing this on a daily schedule.
Today with Whatsapp or other messaging apps, or Facetime, etc., you can video chat whenever and wherever, and usually free with the internet.
Also, there are some plans with phone carriers that you can call and receive free texts while abroad, which is not considered roaming charges. There are so many options!
Travelers’ checks vs. credit cards and ATMs, Mobile Payment of Apple Pay or Google Pay
Calculating how much money you were taking to take enough travelers’ checks was the secure way to travel with cash, and also without knowing it at the time, a fantastic way to budget!
These days with online banking, the use of credit cards, less need for cash, the ability to pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay, etc., and paying for many things ahead of time, you need to travel with money has changed so much. Just make sure you let your bank and credit card companies know you are traveling abroad ahead of time so you won’t have any problems with charges being denied.
Traveling with Young Kids
Traveling the world with your children and even homeschooling them along the way is extremely valuable. Children can pick up languages easily, and their experiences will give them a worldly perception at a young age. It was done years ago, too, but to a lesser extent due to educational reasons or costs.
Now with the internet, finding child-freely places and educational trips is something to take advantage of! Cultural exchanges are great to look into.
Traveling with Pets
As pets are like children for many and do so much good for man humans, traveling with them is logical. As a whole movement, this possibility did not even exist years ago. There was so much paperwork and cost if you found a dog while living abroad and wanted to bring it back to the States.
But being able to take your pet with you wherever you go can ease the stress of travel.
More Accessible to Products and Sometimes Even Amazon and eBay
So as I mentioned above, there is no need for 70lb suitcases when living abroad. Amazon or eBay products are sometimes accessible where you travel, or there are services of people who can bring you products when they travel. And another excellent new service is individual post office boxes for courier services where you can have your Amazon products shipped there and then have a courier send them to you abroad. But after many years of traveling, you just become a minimalist!
Safety has changed over the years. Especially if you travel alone. Recently, wherever you travel there crime seems to be on the rise.
Over 30 years ago, when I traveled, a serial killer targeted backpackers in one country I arrived in. Seeing so many pictures of travelers who had gone missing in different hostels and hotels was eye-opening. I lost my sense of invincibility as I suddenly realized I should be more cautious.
Then living abroad in a different country and there was an exodus of foreigners after a heinous home invasion, it felt like times were starting to change. Nowadays, I can see the feeling of insecurity was less long ago because these crimes were not as frequent as they are today. The innocence and tranquility of many places are gone, but I treasure what it was to live in these places long ago!
With that being said, having street smarts, being cautious while not being naive, and doing research ahead of time are tools to keep you safe in present times.
How to Work
Work Now vs. Work Then
If you wanted to work as your traveled or lived abroad years ago, it was either in tourism or teaching English, or a job you already had planned before you left your country.
The life of remote working and digital nomads has drastically changed that scenario, and the accessibility to work while traveling has been put on a silver platter in front of you. It feels as if the reasons not to travel have been stripped away, and if you ever contemplated the idea of travel internationally, there are fewer excuses on why not to!
travel will continue to evolve
So as we reflect on how travel has changed over the years, we will give you your own stories to compare to whenever you start. It is a lot less challenging to travel now. And as travel can do so much for your personal growth, it is a great time to take advantage of it all!