Social Media Enhanced Travel

Vintage Luggage

Yesterday I spent a few hours scouring the lovely vintage stores in Portland. Fortunately we have a large number of these and often they have some high quality vintage wares. I fell in love with a vintage Crater Lake belt buckle and a gorgeous set of old blue suitcases. I am not sure how old these items are but they seemed to be well traveled and I had to have them.  As I was looking carefully at the inside of each of the suitcases,  I came across the old owner’s address label. It was a simple postal label and it made me think of how much things have changed for us when it comes to travel in the digital age of social media. It is vastly different than how our parents and grandparents experienced the world when they first traveled. It is even different from how I experienced it as a child.

Luggage Label

My parents used to take their time traveling and usually it was by road trip. Occasionally they would take a flight or two, but with five kids the road trip was the more affordable alternative. Although it probably cost them a piece of their sanity. Nothing that a two week long vacation couldn’t cure.  Since we were on the road, we would often stop in multiple cities and we would always beg to buy souvenirs.  This token of where we had been was our only proof. We would save the souvenirs to share with friends when we got home and proudly display them on the shelves in our rooms.  So many things were not as complicated or connected then. People did not have their luggage searched by x-ray machines, they didn’t have to pay extra for their baggage and if it got lost people relied on sticking a simple address label inside in hopes it was returned. And that Souvenir, you almost always brought back that souvenir. It’s so very different from how we travel with our two kids now.

Today everything is so much faster with overnight bi-coastal trips and printable boarding passes. People buy their tickets online and have them in hand before they even leave for the airport.  Check-ins on Foursquare or Gowalla have become the new souvenir or stamp on your passport. It is only a matter of time before those companies become tied to airline flight mile rewards.  I cannot remember the last time I purchased an actual souvenir. Everything is so accessible via e-commerce and hell if I want to waste precious suitcase weight on a souvenir or have to pay extra to lug it back.  I find that pictures on my iPhone are plenty good enough to serve as my memories and souvenirs.  Heck I can even share them to my friends and family while I am in route. “Hey look at me, I am on the beach in Hawaii. Sucka!”

Vintage Belt Buckle

But stumbling upon these items has made me realize how lucky that we are to have both options. True old photographs and souvenirs get lost, sold in thrift stores or get tossed out. When these ancient items show back up just touching and smelling them evoke emotions that a digital photograph, Facebook wall post, or tweet cannot. On the other hand, in the digital age all of our memories of where we have been, what we have done, and what we found there are all being documented in real time through social media and cloud computing. They will not be lost or burned in a fire or swept away in a tornado or tsunami. Our personal history stories will be passed down to future generations through our social media blueprints and will indelibly live on far beyond my ragged set of suitcases.  In the meantime,  I think I will start doing both. Instead of buying new trinkets,  I will commit myself to collecting other peoples souvenirs of the past. Forget airport souvenir stores, I will scour thrift stores in the cities that I visit to bring back recycled slices of the past to complement my personal digital history.

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