An overhead view of a pair of Nike sneakers set aside an iphone displaying a map on its screen
Photo by Hajer Mustafa

Roaming charges may apply

Last updated:
Millennials share their experiences travelling with the help of technology

From booking a plane ticket on your phone to communicating with locals of a different language, technology has changed the way we travel.

Travelling as a millennial is vastly different from how older generations roamed the world. In previous decades, paper maps, compasses and hitchhiking dominated in a world without Google Maps, TripAdvisor and ride-sharing apps. Today, a phone in everyone’s pocket enables people to discover so much, so easily. And if that isn’t reason enough to get out and see the world, here’s how three post-graduates are using technology for their globe-trotting adventures.

Whether you’re asking locals for restaurant recommendations to exploring unfamiliar places, Alexandra Basso, 26, believes using technology to learn what is native to the city will give you the best experiences.

After finishing a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and archeology, Basso decided to pack her bags and move to Glasgow, Scotland. She spent three years pursing a master’s degree and working with top researchers in her field. Because she was new to the city, she struggled to find good take-out spots, fun bars and local shops.

Basso also found that transportation, like in all countries, was an experience in itself. “Coming from Toronto, all systems and routes are somehow linked so you’re able to get from one end of the city to the other,” she explained. “But in Glasgow, the subway system and buses are all owned by different companies.”

She credits Google Maps for making her experience a lot less difficult. “It was such a huge help when I first moved,” she said. “It helped me get around and familiarize myself with the layout of the city.”

Social media also helped Basso experience places that people may not have known about. “The tags and geolocations on Instagram helped me find other places and hidden areas that weren’t too touristy,” she said.

Rain Fernandes’ love for food stuck with her while backpacking through Egypt, Costa Rica and parts of Europe. It was an experience the 25-year-old wanted to reward herself with after finishing five years of post-secondary education in nutrition.

Fernandes was able to get herself out of tough situations while travelling by using apps on her phone. This included Google Translate, Rome2rio—a website that lets you plan your trip at the cheapest prices—and Clear Currency, an app that helps you convert money.


“I was highly dependent on technology, especially for booking last minute hotels to accommodate sudden changes in the trip.”

-FERNANDES


During a trip to Portugal, Fernandes and her friend booked the wrong hotel 45 minutes away from their intended destination. However, Fernandes was able to use her phone to order a cab and book a hostel in the right city within minutes. “Without advancements in technology, me and my friend would have really been stuck. The area was unsafe and nobody spoke English, including the concierge at the hotel,” she said.

Fernandes believes the biggest change in travel since the digital age is how a smartphone can assist you in almost anything, anywhere and at any time. “I’m thankful for technology today. I don’t know what I would have done decades ago.” Travellers can get directions, book accommodations and find drivers with local ride-sharing apps almost instantly. “The convenience of being able to do anything with a click of a button is priceless,” she said. “It can save you time, money and energy when getting out of stressful situations.”

Taking a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity working with Canadian NGOs, Canada World Youth and Youth Challenge International, Reese Van Breda, 26, moved to Lima, Peru for a full year.
But moving to another country where he barely spoke the local language was a massive struggle for him. “Even though I was taking lessons, having the ability to hold a decent conversation was still lacking even into the end of my placement,” Van Breda said.
Google Translate assisted him enormously in understanding the language and culture of the city. “Not going to lie, my phone was my most precious item I had,” Van Breda said. “I was dependent on apps that could help me interact with the community and to ensure that I was safe going to and from work.”

However, using technology to assist him in a foreign country was one of the few reasons he ever picked up his phone. Van Breda said he finds people tend to live less in the moment and more through their smartphones.

For example, two of his close friends visited and travelled to Machu Picchu, but Van Breda became frustrated when they constantly stopped to document their surroundings. “It became annoying when my friends had to take numerous photos to get the ‘perfect’ picture for Instagram. It really took away from being in the moment, in my opinion.”

There’s so much technology out there that can help travellers, but they should also be wary of it hindering their adventures. Van Breda said it’s about living in the now and knowing when to turn off your phone.

This story was originally published in the print version of Emerge magazine.