11, 1995 09:35
After quietly observing me mucking about on a notebook computer
in the Sawasdee House, the editor of Expressions, an English-language
magazine published in Bangkok, asked if I wouldn't write an article about
my experiences traveling with a computer. The following text is the result.
23:22 Saswadee House; Bangkok-Thailand :: 8 MAY 95
Odd things happen to those fiddling with odd things in public
places. Try this: while budget traveling through SE Asia, carry a notebook
computer rather than that mundane paper journal you usually jot the day's
events into. There is nothing unusual about someone writing in a diary
but sitting in a remote rural food-stall tapping at a keyboard will gather
a crowd. What happens between the writer and this crowd depends on the
individual behind the keyboard but certainly conversation will develop
and without too much difficulty these can turn into new friendships or
even business contacts. In fact, the activity most unlikely to happen
during these situations is writing.
18:02 Sawasdee House; Bangkok-Thailand :: 9 MAY 95
If this novelty should wear thin, join the virtually inclined
in cyberspace. That is, get an Internet mail address, a modem for the
computer and then post all your journal entries as electronic mail to
hip friends and family on the Internet. When everything goes right email
can be cheaper than post-cards, more informative too and no one has to
decipher the minute handwriting employed by those trying to fit novels
on a 4X5 card. When they figured out post-cards weren't forthcoming, my
parents and sisters climbed aboard the Information Superhighway band-wagon.
Now Mom not only gets to hear from her son regularly, she can respond.
(I hadn't thought about that possibility.)
Long-term travelers arrange to receive mail from friends and
family at home by telling these people where they'll be at certain times.
These travelers have what's called an itinerary. I hate itineraries. I
often make up my mind where I'm going the day before I go there. No itinerary,
no planned mail sites.
10:19 Sawasdee House; Bangkok-Thailand :: 10 MAY 95
Before email, communication home was one-way and carried the
postal system's multi-week time lag-if it ever did arrive. And the only
budget travelers making overseas long-distance calls carry Dad's AT&T
phone card. But plugged in to the global network I can practically carry
on a conversation, often for the price of a local call. After just five
months of travel my email journal had generated 80 single-spaced type-written
pages of material. The total cost for all email transmitted and received
over this period came to slightly over $200 in Canadian funds. That may
seem excessive for a bunch of electronic letters, however I'm fairly prolific.
While receiving about 150 pieces of mail during that period, I transmitted
well over 200. My email journal accounted for 55 postings, each of these
distributed to a growing list that now includes 35 addresses. That's alot
What I appreciate most is the immediacy possible with email.
For instance, while traveling through Australia, a friend back home in
Vancouver initiated a discussion contrasting two feminist writers, Naomi
Wolf and bell hooks. Debate raged over a three-week
period while I visited Perth, Sydney and Brisbane and moved on to Kuala
Lumpur, Malaysia. We generated a dozen rather lengthy messages and of
these, five were posted within a 48-hour period. Don't even think about
trying this with stamps and envelopes.
11:07 Hello Restaurant, Thanon Khao Sahn; Bangkok-Thailand
:: 10 MAY 95
The word 'connected' carries a couple different meanings for
members of the email community. The more mundane meaning refers to the
physical telecommunications connection between computers providing the
link over which email is transmitted. Boring-at least when everything
works right. The subtler, more interesting meaning applies the connection
inter-personally. The phrase 'getting connected' as much implies joining
a community as it refers to a successful link between computer and global
Twice during this trip hardware problems disconnected me from
the community, from friends and family, for a few weeks. What a miserable
experience of isolation. What was going on over there? I missed sharing
my experiences and receiving responses. Like the yuppie whose answering
machine goes bust, I wondered that I ever survived without this technology
before. A favourite Chinese proverb reads, 'A bosom friend afar brings
distant lands near.' This is true only when the friend is connected.
Patrick. -- Responses Sought --
Poste restante (at almost any post office) is the best
way of getting mail.