After spending so many months planning this trip to Croatia and Italy, it might surprise you that I have been undecided on whether or not to stay ‘tethered’ to the outside world while I’m on the road. At first I thought that it might be great to take a break from technology – no phone, no laptop, just good old fashioned maps and books to keep me company and get me where I’m going. For awhile that seemed like a great idea. I’m on my laptop for about 15 hours a day, and most of that time the phone is to my ear or the TV is on in the background. I check my email every 20 minutes or so throughout the day, haunt Facebook like a professional stalker, and can’t go to sleep unless I’ve played at least three rounds of TripleTown on my cell phone before calling it a night. I thought I should probably take a break before it becomes a full-fledged internet addiction. On second thought, maybe it’s too late…
But then I started to tell people I was going on vacation. “Oh cool,” they’d say, “where to?” I’d tell them about heading to Croatia for a wedding with friends, then a solo journey through Italy, and back to Croatia to meet up for more girl time. To the last person, everyone I’ve told has given me some kind of shocked expression when I mentioned ‘solo.’ I have no qualms about being on my own, but the largely confused response made me start to worry. True, I’ve gone backpacking alone before, and had a great time. However, I was threatened at knife point by a schizophrenic during that trip. I had no one to call, and no way to call, and I was in the situation in part because I didn’t have the right information at my fingertips, and got stuck in Paris NORD during the wee hours of the morning. Add that to the fact that my experiences with men in Italy last time around were generally creepy (they’re just so much more forward over there than I was trained to deal with at 22), and I began to think that perhaps some electronic safeguards weren’t such a bad thing, after all.
Plus, there’s the fact that I’m enjoying blogging, and have found that I really love reading other peoples’ blogs when they post timely photos and info during travel. It just feels right to share my vacation with you guys, so that’s what I’m going to do.
I spent a few weeks researching international cell phones, since that was the first and most important bit of tech equipment on my list. I discovered that as long as your regular cell phone is unlocked, you can buy an international SIM card for relatively cheap and avoid roaming fees overseas. That seemed like the best option, but in the end I decided not to unlock my phone and potentially void my warranty. Instead, I bought the cheapest cell phone and plan available through Telestial.com. At $19 and with great reviews (even on Amazon), it’s a difficult deal to beat. I liked that the phone was basically disposable, so if it gets lost or stolen, I won’t be as pissed as I would be to lose my G2X. It arrived yesterday, and is literally the length of my middle finger – tiny and adorable, like a cute little James Bond phone. No bells or whistles, just a phone, European charger, sim card, and instructions. I can add more minutes at any point online or through customer service, and even better, I get a US and GB phone number, and it’s free for people to call me on the GB #! This is great, so my friends can get in contact with me to meet up when I’m on my way back to Croatia from Italy.
The next bit of technology to consider was access to the internet and reading material. I’ve decided to go light on this. My iPad is coming with me, but I don’t have a 3G service set up, and won’t be setting it up. Instead, I’m going to rely on WiFi connections to get onto the internet, which I’ve heard shouldn’t be hard in Italy, though it might be difficult in Croatia. We’ll see. The one thing that I was concerned about getting was a reliable power adapter for the iPad. I checked for the official Apple World Travel Adapter Kit, and it’s $40! Like most of Apple’s prices, I just found that to be a bit of an insult, especially when I didn’t need all of the different plug attachments – only one. After a little bit of digging around online, I was excited to find that Amazon makes an EU Power Adapter to fit a USB cord. It’s made to work with the Kindle, but reviewers say it also works with iPad 2. At only $15, and with a higher customer review rating than the Apple set, I decided to take my chances. Considering that both the iPad and the adapter can handle the higher voltage, the biggest problem is probably going to be that it takes longer for the adapter to charge the iPad than an Apple adapter might. I’ll let you know.
After figuring out how I’m going to keep juicing my tablet, the next step was to figure out how to get photos from my camera straight onto the iPad without a hassle. I had read that it was possible now, and that there were several card readers on the market made specifically for this purpose, but once again I was annoyed at the price. The Apple iPad Camera Connection Kit sells at $30, while a well-received knock off, the Newgen 5-in-1 Card Reader for iPad, sells for $3. Since the reviews are about 50/50 between people who say they love it and people who say they have trouble getting it to work, I figured I’d take the chance to save that money. I hope it does work, though – it will be awesome to get to take photos with my good camera and then upload them into a blog post that day. Guess we’ll see if my penny-pinching was worth it once I’m on the road next week!