Balancing Technology and Social Experiences While Traveling

A lighthouse in Dublin, on a less sunny say. (Photo by Robert Young)

A lighthouse in Dublin, on a less sunny say. (Photo by Robert Young)

On my run this morning I went out along the bay to one of Dublin’s lighthouses. It was a beautiful, sunny day—the type you wouldn’t normally associate with this city during this time of year. On my way back I came across a mother and her three young children. One—sippy bottle in-hand—threw out her arms and demanded, “wot’s the pahs-w’d!?” “Pretty please?” I panted, and the gates opened. Experiences like these only serve to remind me just how similar we all are even across the pond, generations and cultures.

I’m writing this as I ramp up for the Spring semester. This semester marks the end of our 6th tour season and 3rd year of my student tour business, Weekend Student Adventures. We’ve busted onto the scene thanks to our unique approach to student travel.

My mission to share with fellow students and backpackers exactly how to pursue the rich travel experiences that make wanderlusting so rewarding. From couch-surfing in the central Josefov district of Prague to making flight adjustments on the go as a new opportunity opens up for me in London, I live and run my business out of my backpack. The amazing thing however, is that it’s possible!

This new style of travel is referred to as “flashpacking”.

My dad likes to share stories of writing daily postcards home so that his parents could monitor his whereabouts. I don’t remember the last time I filled out a postcard. Rather, I’m video-skyping with my friends in Japan and London, my girlfriend in Ohio, my sister in Washington DC and my mother back in Seattle. Technology has transformed the backpacking culture such that friends are kept updated to the minute of what their traveling buddies are doing half way around the world. Hostel reservations are never done via phone or fax anymore but by email or direct booking. Trip research, planning and mapping are done digitally. This new style of travel is referred to as “flashpacking”.

While technology has endlessly benefited those traveling today, it also has the potential to take away from the social experiences one stumbles upon while adventuring. I’ve been in hostels that rent out iPads, and then rather than conversing, everyone in the common room is zoned in on their device instead of meeting and talking to the people sitting next to them.

It is a constant challenge and a personal mission of mine to break travelers out of their comfort zone and force them to extend themselves. Rather than insulating oneself from the amazing opportunities, we must immerse ourselves in these capitals of European culture, be it Barcelona, Rome, London, Paris or wherever. In my talks I challenge students to pick something to do before letting themselves get back on the plane to go home in 4 months. Travelers and study-abroadees alike must plug into the vibrant scenes that are specific to their own personal interests.

They say New York never sleeps. Well, neither do European cities. No matter what your passion, interest or pursuit is, you will find the same opportunities to chase them down here in your new home city. And never forget, nightlife is as much of a part of the city’s living culture as any museum or walking tour out there. The trick is to find where the locals go. And if you ever find yourself in Prague, London, Amsterdam, Paris, Venice, Rome, Barcelona or Dublin, drop me a line and we’ll go exploring together.

Happy travels people!

Andy Steves

About Andy Steves

After 20 years of traveling with his dad, travel writer Rick Steves, exploring Europe independently and studying abroad during college, Andy is now pursuing his passion by helping students learn more about foreign cultures. His company, Weekend Student Adventures, allows students to dive into a culture, scrape their knees a bit, and make lifelong memories while visiting the most popular destination in Europe. Visit to learn more about his weekend student adventures!