Jamshed Avari | 27 September 2010
Even though we can use web conferences and instant video streaming, There's nothing quite like being there in person.
JAMSHED AVARI, deputy editor
I've travelled to a number of countries over the past few years, and while it's always been amazing to see new places and cultures, getting there is beginning to feel like a bit of a chore. Long lines, cramped plane cabins, insufficient luggage space, language barriers, onerous security checks, 10-hour-plus stopovers, lost luggage, missed connections, heavy backpacks... I'm beginning to understand why travel isn't so glamorous after all. Not that I'm complaining—the pros still far outweigh the cons—but I can't help feeling that we really need a new Concorde program and some serious research into Star Trek-style instant transporters.
I've been learning to travel smarter. A full-sized notebook only rarely makes it into the gadget bag now. A netbook or even smartphone has proven to be more than enough in most situations. Trust me, when you're walking around a massive exhibition floor and standing through press meetings for eight and nine hours at a stretch with no hope of a full night's sleep till the event is done, you want to reduce every possible gram of extra weight you’re carrying. If you have to carry heavy coats and a DSLR too, the laptop quickly becomes dispensable.
I also avoid activating roaming. Phone disconnection is a joy that I don't get to experience often enough! It's expensive and I end up listening to pointless credit card sales pitches at 4 am because callers don't know what time zone I'm in. There’s Wi-Fi pretty much everywhere now, most often free. Between email and instant messaging, no major communication gap exists. I've been tempted try the 3G and 4G networks abroad, but no major need has yet arisen.
Last month, I had the good fortune to fly Singapore Airlines. While no airline has yet made it easy to get a decent night’s sleep in an economy class seat, at least these guys have taken care of distracting you from your discomforts. The per-seat on-demand entertainment system includes hundreds of movies, TV shows, live concerts, audio CDs, and even a basic games. The choices are quite recent and cover pretty much every genre in multiple languages. Contrast that to a horrific experience a few months ago, where one flight arrived too late to catch a connection. I was bumped onto Air India. Even seated in business class, I was forced to watch a dated Bollywood movie on a single screen with the sound pumped all the way up through the cabin PA speakers. On asking the flight attendant why people couldn’t use their own headsets, she apologized saying the outlets in half the seats weren’t working!
Still, the best part of it all is of course that I get to be present at some of tech's most important events, see products as they're unveiled to the world for the first time, interview the people behind them who I'd never otherwise get the chance to meet, hear firsthand accounts of how thought processes evolve into finished products, and of course report all of this in the magazine long before I read about it on some American or European website. International conferences and trade shows give us the chance to interact directly with the world’s most important people. Most often, they're just as fascinated about hearing from us as we are from them--even tiny little observations about our local markets and territories. It’s also fun meeting other journalists from all over the world--comparing notes about the day's announcements, exchanging war stories, learning about which products work in which parts of the world, and sharing the same travel woes!