Technology & Travel in 2014

Preface: I finally got an app to resize our photos before uploading to the blog.  As of Kaia’s entry yesterday, they will load much faster now if you click on them (they look much better large).  The earlier photos were full resolution .. so no doubt were a bit cumbersome to load.

Speaking of technology …

I recall my 1st big international travel experience – to Sierra Leone, West Africa, in 1994.  I lived in the capital city Freetown.  I would write “aerograms” home – the writing page folds and becomes its own envelope.  Then I’d trapse all the way downtown to buy a stamp and mail it.  Once a week I’d go the head office of the NGO I worked/volunteered for to see if any incoming mail awaited.  Pretty exciting to get mail.  If I wanted to make a phone call back to Canada, I’d take a taxi across town to downtown, then another taxi, then walk about a km to the international communication center.  I’d give the receptionist the number and name of the country I want d to call, then when it was my turn she’d motion me into a booth then about 5 minutes later I’d pick up the receiver to talk with home.  And sometimes, nobody was home, or call couldn’t go through, so that 90 minute outing for nothing.  I’d call home once every two weeks or so.
Fast forward to 2014.   In the time it took me to type the paragraph above, 4 emails arrived.  Before I started typing, Jake was skyping with his class back in Peterborough (Kaia has done that twice with her class already).

Jake skyping with his class this morning

We now have a google voice phone number where we can make free calls anywhere in the world, and receive calls from anyone who dials our US google voice number (805 850-3711), as long as we have WiFi (which he have had every night without exception since arriving in Costa Rica).
We have Costa Rica SIM cards in the tablet and Kaia’s Nexus 4 phone, so can make local calls and access mobile data for VERY cheap.  Mobile/cell coverage is phenomenal in Costa Rica – there have been only a handful of times we’ve been out of range.
No need to lug travel or reading books anymore.  Yesterday I purchased/downloaded lonely planet’s “South America on a shoestring” for all travel details from Amazon (OK … that’s ironic) – and it works on both the tablet and Kaia’s phone.  And as I type this entry, Kaia is reading “Divergent” which was purchased/downloaded last night.
When in remote Drake Bay last week, I purchased our tickets from Panama City to Quito Ecuador online (we didn’t buy this leg with the others back in August because we originally were going to try to go overland, and around the Darian Gap at the Panama/Columbia border by water).
We use the google map and GPS feature of the tablet all the time – to plan our journey, to calculate distances, to direct taxis in the capital city, and to check our progress on long bus rides.

Have a peek at the photo below to see what we’re carrying with us tech-wise.

our tech “kit” for the the trip

As you may know, I’m making a series of videos around different themes of sustainability.  Much of the tech relates to this.  We’re carrying:

– A Nexus 7 tablet as our “computer”
– a foldout bluetooth keyboard
– a fairly high-end video camera that does stills too, with extra battery
– a high-end mic for the camera borrowed from friend George (you can hear every sound in the forest!)
– a fantastic (but largish) LED light fixture that fixes on the video cam for doing night shooting (that’s how I got most of the night hike photos)
-a GoPro video camera for action and photos on bikes, ziplines, surfboard and underwater
– a bag of GoPro accessories so camera can be fixed to bike, helmet, head, chest and end of tripod
– standard Panasonic point and shoot when we need to be less obtrusive
– our older Canon point and shoot for backup.
– a SD and microSD card reader that connects to the tablet
– small and medium sized tripods
– two USB battery packs that can be used to charge any of our devices
– a hand-held GPS (wasn’t sure how well the tablet GPS would work down here)
– 3 “pellican” waterproof/shatterproof cases of different sizes for the most vulnerable of our equipment
– a very nifty external hard disk backup system that grabs stuff from all our digital devices
– a secondary hard disk that the main ones backs up to … so we have everything in two places …and in two places in our packs
– about a dozen cables of different sorts to charge and transfer data for all of the above

In past trips, I’ve never carried more than one, or sometimes two little cameras.  No phones, tablets, video cams.  So this is a big step up for me.  I literally spent about a week in early August trying to figure this all out and make the various purchases.  Is it all worth it, you might ask?  The video work represents a big commitment in terms of time, packing size/weight and money.  And I’m always thinking about security – not wanting to flash things around, and thinking strategically where things get packed.  But we are committed to the video project.  We ultimately want to share our discoveries of sustainable living as widely as possible, so in that sense it is an integral part of this journey.  And I planned with size & weight in mind for all equipment.  As for the ability to communicate almost effortlessly by email, phone, skype, kik (that’s what Kaia & Jake use) – we really do like to stay in touch with family & friends on such a long journey.  Important for the kids, too, to have their own conduits to friends.  But no doubt all of this tech stuff does put a filter on how we interact in the moment.  And you “see” less when you’re thinking of home.  I do envy Yvonne a bit, insofar as she leaves 95% of the tech/photo/video stuff with me and sees without lens in front.  But I signed up for it 🙂

Having said that, I can’t imagine planning day to day in terms of transportation, accommodation and even destinations without an internet connection! (though we all made out just fine years ago, without, I know)

Just in case any of you are thinking that “wow .. Cam is quite the tech wiz ..”, then think again.  We didn’t own a cell phone as a family until Kaia got one in April for her Legislative Page stint in Toronto.  I’d never been on a tablet until we got this one in June.  The mastermind behind all this is my university friend Jeremy who lives in Seattle (you might recall that we stayed with them for a week at the start of this journey).  Jeremy as been a tech nerd/wiz since high school, had a career at Microsoft, and now runs his own software company.  I don’t think there are too many tech gadgets in the world that Jeremy has not read about or does not understand.  Heck, he owns half of them!  He coached me in my purchases, then spent literally about 3 full days in Seattle helping me to get everything working.  We must have ironed out at least a dozen glitches in getting things to “talk” to each other – to transfer photos, videos and files.  And how to talk world-wide for free. He was always one step ahead of me in anticipating our challenges of video and communications work with just a tablet, so was finding apps, devices and cables all over the place that work like a charm, and ultimately figured out how to back all our data up.  Even last night I skyped with Jeremy  – I couldn’t get the purchase of the travel guide to go through at Google Play store.  So within a few seconds, Jeremy figured out I could install a Kindle app and buy the book through Amazon.  bingo!

troubleshooting with Jeremy at his place in Seattle

Moving the photos from various cameras to tablet for upload to blog is a bit time consuming, but now possible.  If you enjoy them, say thanks to Jeremy.  That’s what I’ve done many many times these past weeks!

P.S.   If any of you (or your kids!) want to communicate directly with Kaia or Jake, then get the “Kik” app – it works on android or apple (likely on any PC or Mac too, for that matter), and needs only wifi (You don’t need a mobile account).  Jake is jakedasnake002  and Kaia is meeper22

2 thoughts on “Technology & Travel in 2014”

  1. Did you consider “cloud” storage instead of external drives. You wouldn’t have to tote them around or worry about dropping, getting wet, etc…


    1. Tony,
      Thanks for that thought. I did consider cloud, but video files are many and very large. I have about 60 gig so far, with b roll etc so upload on lowish speed wifi I think is unrealistic. ??


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