Friday, December 27, 2013

Existential Quest for WiFi Coming to a Close for Travelers? Warning to Hostels...

The desire to have WiFi as much as possible when I travel has largely defined my travel experience for the last six to eight years. Some people don't understand this, and I've even been ridiculed for it in print (“If he has to have WiFi, then why doesn't he just stay home?”). It seems pretty simple to me: if you can have three dimensions, then why settle for two? If you can have four, then why settle for three?

WiFi definitely adds another dimension to travel, the ability to interact and make multiple adjustments while traveling. Traveling is no longer a matter of dead reckoning: setting your itinerary, then proceeding by the plan. There's a word for that—touring. Traveling is different. Traveling is better than all that. Traveling is more than the sipping of Mai Tai's on the beach or the veranda. Traveling is interaction with your environment, and for that you need Internet (or a local squeeze). WiFi works with either smart-phones or laptops, of course. I'm not sure what a local squeeze works with.

The reason I originally started staying in hostels was for cheap easy access to WiFi. The rest is history, with six hostel guides finished, and several more on the way. Now I don't know how many people go to hostels for that reason, but it's increasingly becoming unnecessary. WiFi is quickly becoming an international standard in the world's backpacker nations, whether there are any backpackers or not.

Almost every inn in Thailand now has it—free—and as good or better than at least one 'hip' boutique hotel in Bangkok that has it for smart-phones, but not laptops (true, but I have no idea how that works). That includes $5 rooms with WiFi in the room, though some have it only in the lobby. You don't have to be a genius to figure out it's easier to put a router on each floor than a TV in every room. This is good news for travelers, but a note of caution for hostels: if WiFi's your main strategy, then you're in trouble.

Of course a good hostel is much more than that, and the social atmosphere is paramount. Since interaction with locals is difficult, then interaction with other travelers is the next best option. You can meet friends, make friends and get happy at the drop of a hat, knowing that anyone at a hostel probably has a lot in common with you. I like that. Mix me a Molotov.

P.S. There's another difference between travelers and tourist, also: tourists gain weight while traveling; travelers lose it. Travel safely.

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