Did you notice that travel got easier in the past ten years? I still remember when I had to print flight tickets, hotel reservations and carry maps of multiple cities when going abroad. Now everything is on my phone in different apps like booking.com or iPhone wallet. Instead of paper maps we have google maps… regardless I still get constantly lost as I have no sense of direction and my navigation goes something like… oh Zara I have to turn right. Also the low cost airlines made a big development jump or visa requirements even cashless payments or ATM transactions. With all those positive changes there is a huge negative one… garbage.
Flights and Hotels
Organising and booking a weekend in Paris now, wouldn’t take more than one hour. Flights, approx. 100 Euro, hotel approx. 150 Euro, sights, route, navigation, entry tickets figure it out on ground as roaming in Europe got more accessible. Eleven years ago I spent like four days to plan everything, plus had to print all the reservations. Undeniably trip organisation is way easier now. If you look at the top low cost airlines like Ryanair or Wizz Air they opened more routes even in the domestic sector. Same with Air Asia. In 2008 Air Asia was flying to main destinations in South-East Asia like Thailand, Indonesia or Cambodia, now the connections have expanded and you can get to Sri Lanka, Bangladesh or Taiwan on a direct flight. I’m not talking about the comfort of the flight but about the possibility and availability. Same is with hotels. Back then I was checking out each Ibis in Paris to see which had the lowest price, now it’s enough when I go to booking.com and search for the most suitable accomodation. There are many more hotel reservation apps. I got used to booking.com and have some cool discounts after booking my accommodation over that page. Nope, nobody paid me to write that 😛 Trip planning has become very convenient and easy in the past years. Maybe I need to put in more effort now during covid times but still it doesn’t take me days like it used to.
There was a time when I was like a walking encyclopaedia for entry and visa requirements. Realise it’s easier when you have an EU passport and within the Schengen zone you don’t have border control unless restored for a very very special reason, yet there are still countries where you need an entry visa… or don’t you?
During the past ten years many countries loosened the tourist visa requirements for Polish citizens. Now instead of applying for a visa at the consulate you can get a visa on arrival to United Arab Emirates or India, to Australia it’s enough when you apply online for a visa and then border control has all necessary entry approvals in the system. The biggest relief however for Polish citizens in the past years was the announcement of visa free travel to the USA.
Geez, finally, as applying for the US visa was a nightmare. Fill in a questionnaire full with questions that didn’t make any sense. For example, have you ever been involved in child soldier trafficking… really? Or are you a member of a terrorist organisation? Huh? Even if I was, luckily I’m not, wouldn’t admit to that. Then you had to submit the form together with other documents and schedule an appointment at the consulate to answer some questions. Aim was for the clerks to figure out if you by coincidence don’t want to illegally immigrate to the US. On top of that you had to pay a fee of what, 150 USD as far as I remember. The only positive was that after all this painful process was over, my visa was valid for 10 years. But all in all, seriously USA?! Not everybody is interested in emigrating to “The Land of Free”, I only wanted to see the Statue of Liberty and other cool places like Miami. Anyhow, that wasn’t the oddest of my visa histories.
Before The United Arab Emirates allowed Polish citizens to participate in the visa free channel, I had to apply for it beforehand. The application process was very simple but pricey. I’ve paid like 120 Euros and thought that I’ll get a really cool visa sticker… yeah… no… got a miserable stamp which actually makes it the most expensive stamp in my passport. Undeniably obtaining a tourist visa or tourist entry to different countries got simpler but with that old school sentimental value disappears. It might sound crazy but when my previous passport expired I was turning the pages full with stamps and visa stickers remembering each trip.
My current passport is valid for the next two years and still has empty pages, whereas my travel desire didn’t weaken. Also many countries don’t hand out stamps anymore, like Macau, all you get is a little piece of paper with entry and validity dates. But but but… what I sometimes do at border control when leaving the Schengen Zone… I ask the officer if I can get a stamp anyway. Mostly the officer just smiles, takes out the stamp hits an empty passport page 😀
Payments and Navigation
That’s the most crucial evolution point I think. Smartphones and mobile network. It’s so easy nowadays. You land in a foreign country, get a local sim card for your smartphone, open Google Maps and the navigation is ready. Before that I got constantly lost or was asking local people for directions and as mentioned I have absolutely no sense of direction. Although the city I get mostly lost in is… surprise, surprise Warsaw. Didn’t get lost in Mumbai the first time I’ve landed there but Warsaw, I’m lost every time I visit. When I landed on Tenerife last December the first thing I did after collecting the keys for my rented car was buying a local sim card. Picked up the car, entered the hotel address and presto, no more being lost. At least until I had to take the motorway exit, which makes me confused even with sat nav 😛
When you look at cashless payments there was a huge jump as well. In most places you can pay with your credit or debit card. Banks have special offers like, no commission when taking out cash from a foreign ATM. No more traveling with hard cash bagging for good local currency exchange prices. OK the bank’s exchange rate when taking out foreign currency out of the ATM might be a bit higher but at least it’s safe. You also have multi currency accounts and cards like Revolut. You can exchange online an amount of money and with the Revolut card pay in local currency abroad or take out cash out of the local ATMs. Personally I don’t use it as usually I pay with my credit card or take cash out of the machine. I have got a cool offer from my local bank that I can do it without any commission and the exchange rate is also decent.
Hmmm… conclusion here would be, if you lose your phone during travel, you’re doomed… so don’t lose it 😛
Now, all those modern advantages make traveling easier, although there is a drawback. Crowds and garbage that comes with the crowds. It’s understandable that many people wanna travel nowadays and crowds are unavoidable. Fine but for heaven’s sake clean after yourself and don’t throw your garbage everywhere. Couple of years back I didn’t care about it that much as on the whole beach there were two plastic bags max, now you have to be very ignorant not to notice the amount of garbage on a beach.
The saddest thing is that most of the trash I see is during diving. In the Philippines for example I saw an old t-shirt that was laying on the reef but cans, straws or even shoes happen quite often, especially close to the shore. So if you are very keen to travel and explore all those wonderful places on earth please don’t throw garbage everywhere, don’t pick or touch the corals, otherwise there will be no more beautiful place to see.