I met this nice young girl from Canada. I forget her name but I remember her enthusiasm. It was about as fresh and dewy as her skin.
She spent 30 minutes telling me about her trip through Myanmar (not Burma please). She was clearly passionate about this “unspoilt land” and gave over details about the rivers, the rural life, the unspoilt scenery and the roads that barely connected them. Travellers love a story that starts with “tourism is just starting up“ and ends with “it’s all going to change in the next year”. The tougher the roads, the easier the sell. It’s the allure of the secret land and the whispered “beach” that turns ordinary novels into bestsellers and keeps travellers shelling out dollars to buy planned itineraries into Bhutan and remote areas of Tibet.
She sounded like a young me, back in 1998, when I travelled through northern Laos. I probably mentioned there were no tarred roads or any form of public transport. She would have feigned interest but really who wants to listen to tales of an old vet when you have your own exciting battles to recount to wide-eyed cadets. So I listened to the youth’s tales, as vets are want to do, nodding at all the right places and gasping at all the right pauses and when she finished and sat back ready to advise me and revise my travel itinerary simultaneously, I asked only one question:
“How’s the WiFi?”
Clearly I was a jaded traveller chasing the stamps not the experiences. Clearly she hasn’t met the “digital nomad” community that has set up camp in Chiang Mai and Ubud. For starters.
I didn’t have to wait for the answer, I know that it takes a few years of demanding tourists to realise that Wifi, more than hot water, clean bed sheets or free toiletries is how you attract more dollars to your door.
It’s true that SE Asia, India, Nepal…et al have spoiled us with their free WiFi access in all their cafes and hotels. Most Westerners comment how they can’t even get this at home, at least not free. Walk down any street in Saigon and you wont see the restaurants for the new networks on your phone. And it’s not just the main centres. I got off a rickety bus at a hill station, 3 hrs north of Kathmandu and, as satellite technology would have it, even the street cafes had free WiFi. It’s now come to the point when I don’t expect hot water of my hotels but I do expect decent Wifi. In my room.
For you it’s like asking for water in the desert… a natural request. For them it’s like asking a desert to have water… an unnatural request
It’s not that I’m a tech brat or anything. I lost my smartphone at the beginning of my trip and haven’t replaced it yet. I’m Zen (read cheap) like that.
I’m not technically on holiday. Not completely anyway. For parts of my week, I am at my computer, working remotely. So I need WiFi like I need ATMs and internet banking to transfer funds in and out of my credit card when work gets more remote than the places I am visiting.
So if I have to be honest and re-evaluate my human needs and wants right now it would go something like this (but not necessarily in this order, or at least not every day):
Mozzie Net/spray: no health, no work
WiFi: No work, no food and water
Food and Water: no health no wealth
Bicycle: no scenery, no mental health
Yoga: no spiritual health, no sense of humour (or play)
And no sense of humour? … well who wants to live to recount that life anyway.
Musing on…a wicker chair… under a setting sun… on a colonial porch