Can anyone remember a time when the mobile phone did not exist? It wasn’t really that long ago. I can recall using a payphone down the street to call friends while I was on holiday at the seaside in South Africa. These days finding a payphone is rare, and a mobile phone is on everyone’s checklist before they leave home. As my husband always says: “Keys! Wallet! Phone!” while patting all his pockets.
Let’s face it. Nowadays, we can’t live without the internet. And when you can combine phone and internet into one snappy little package, you are all set to go, and “oh the places you’ll go!” (Dr Seuss knew what he was talking about), a smart phone can really make your travelling experience even better. I’ll be the first to admit it’s sometimes nice to switch off, but inevitably I find myself wishing that I had my phone with me, when I need to access a map, or am searching for a restaurant, and no one can deny how great it is to while away time in a queue to a museum or on the metro with an online game.
But if we are going to be traipsing around the wilds of the world with a fancy pants phone, we also need to be a little streetwise. Having some insurance goes a long way. Even after arriving from South Africa, where I proudly believed the dark continent gave me a bit of an edge on guarding myself and my stuff, I soon came to realise that every city has it’s own set of rules, and Barcelona, unfortunately has a more “oscuro” side, which can take even the most wary by surprise!
So a word to the wise. By all means bring your phone, ipad, cameras; each will add to your travelling experience in this fantastic city. But beware! Don’t leave your valuables lying around, and be especially vigilant on the metro. Keep your stuff in a front pocket, or hold onto your bag at all times during the ride (especially if that nice old lady is asking you directions.) If you are going to use your phone on the metro, and almost everyone does, keep a hold on to it while getting on or off, in the crush of rushing people you are not going to feel the slight tickle of a pickpocket as he fishes it out of your pocket. It’s just a second before all your connectivity disappears and you will be wishing for that old payphone!
Don’t leave your stuff unattended on the beach or lying on a table while enjoying an afternoon cervesa. And keep valuables under wraps while out late at night. Even though Barcelona is one of the places I have seen the most pickpocketing, it’s not all doom and gloom, this sort of thing can easily be avoided, if you keep your wits about you and you can enjoy exploring this new city, with the help of your trusty phone.
Now it’s a simple touch of a button to send a photo of yourself in Park Guell to your friends, you can access a list of bars, find out what’s hot and what’s not. Can’t find a restaurant that’s suitable for vegetarians, well, since your phone hasn’t been nicked, you can happily google the closest spot. Now you can read your ipad on the beach, knowing that your friends will watch your bag while you go for a dip, and you can browse my blog, with your patatas bravas in Plaza del Sol. Best of all you can play your favourite games like FoxyBingo while waiting in the notoriously long queue outside the Picasso Museum, and feel that much safer because A. you have insurance, and B. your phone is in your hand, and when it isn’t it’s in your bag, which is attached to you. RIGHT?
It’s great to have all this information at your fingertips in a foreign city, and you can easily access more info on how to stay safe and make the most of your trip by using your gadgets. Plus being able to access online games in airports on a long layover is a godsend. So even though I fondly remember holidays where no-one could get hold of me, and getting lost was an adventure. I also remember my parents contacting embassies to track me down in Mozambique when they got the dates for my return wrong (stressful!), and eating at dreadful restaurants because I had no access to the internet to find a reputable one.
Perhaps this is no new news to you, but if I can improve someone’s holiday with a few less tears, then I will be a happy camper.