I’m Traveling to Europe This Summer. Should I Twitter From the Road?

Ask Rolf: Vagabonding traveler Rolf Potts answers your questions about travel and the world

04.09.09 | 10:09 AM ET

Rolf Potts

Dear Rolf,

I’m going to travel in Spain, France and Italy for four weeks this summer. All my friends are addicted to Twitter, and they want me to send them updates when I’m in Europe. Is this a good idea, or do you suggest other ways of keeping in touch when I travel?

—Tina, Gainesville, FL

Dear Tina,

Whenever I think of Twitter, I am reminded of a guy I knew back in college. For the sake of anonymity, let’s call him Doug.

Doug entered university in the early ’ 90s, back before most people used cell phones or email—and well before the genesis of Twitter. Doug had recently purchased a telephone answering machine, and he loved using it. Whenever he left his dorm room, Doug would change his outgoing machine message to fit his current status. “Hey, I’m off in accounting class right now,” he’d say, “but leave a message and I’ll call you back.” “I’m going out to see a movie and maybe go to a bar, but leave a message and I’ll call you back.” Whatever Doug was going to do next—eat lunch in the cafeteria, travel to Portland, study in the library—invariably made it into a freshly updated answering machine message.

Back in 1991, this degree of obsession branded Doug as kind of a doofus. Nobody really cared to know what Doug was doing every time he left his room, and his dorm-mates began to razz him about his constantly updated messages. “Hey Doug,” they’d say. “Are you going off to take a crap? Dude, you’d better change your phone message because, like, we’d really like to know about it.” Eventually, a chastened Doug changed his message to a simple, “I’m not here; please leave a message,” and that was that.

Nearly 20 years later, social-networking services like Twitter have turned us all into Doug. No tidbit from daily life, it would seem, is unworthy of a “tweet” to our friends. What a decade ago made Doug a doofus is now standard social-operating procedure. Is this a bad thing? I don’t think so—but I do think that you should quarantine Twitter to your home routine (along with other activities of the workaday mundane, like watching “Dancing With the Stars” or eating at Taco Bell).

In saying this, I don’t mean to be a technophobe; I’m just noting that travel—especially overseas travel—is a special experience that should be approached mindfully. Back home, Twitter can distract you from the doldrums of your home-life, but on the road it will only detract from all the potentially amazing experiences that come when you leave yourself open to your new surroundings. This isn’t a new challenge. In 1909, banker Pierpont Morgan traveled across Egypt in a private luxury train car—an exotic journey that was the envy of his peers. His travel companions later noted, however, that Morgan saw almost nothing of Egypt because he spent most of his time obsessing over cablegrams sent from his family and colleagues in New York. One hundred years later, the cheap ubiquity of instantaneous communication—what I’ve come to call the “electronic umbilical cord”—means that you no longer have to be a billionaire to ruin your vacation.

So my advice to you is this: Before you leave for Europe, send out a tweet explaining that you’re going to lay off Twitter for the duration of your travels. Then send out another tweet promising to write postcards to anyone who sends you a mailing address. Odds are your friends will be charmed by the postmodern novelty of receiving an actual physical piece of mail—and you will be cut loose from the electronic umbilical cord during your journey (so long as you can also lay off Facebook, email and cell phones).

Freed from the compulsive obligations of micro-communication, you’ll get to experience some of the best gifts of travel: anonymity, a genuine connection to your immediate environment, and the unique opportunity to process and ponder new experiences before you share them with others.

Has Rolf already answered your question? See the Ask Rolf archive. If not, send your questions to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


Columnist Rolf Potts is the author of Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel, and Marco Polo Didn't Go There: Stories and Revelations From One Decade as a Postmodern Travel Writer. His stories have appeared in National Geographic Traveler, the New York Times Magazine and Conde Nast Traveler, as well as in “The Best American Travel Writing.”


53 Comments for I’m Traveling to Europe This Summer. Should I Twitter From the Road?

kara williams 04.09.09 | 10:28 AM ET

Rolf - Do you blog from the road? If so, what’s the difference? Tweeting would actually be faster/easier than writing entire blog posts (so taking less time away from the “experience”).

Good point - If you’re going to be Facebooking, emailing, cell phoning, there’s no reason to dump Twitter, too.

That all said, I think back to my days backpacking through Europe in college (circa 1990) and I love that we had ZERO tech crutches!

Luanne 04.09.09 | 10:53 AM ET

I use Twitter a lot, and I love the connections it gives me. But, I agree with Rolf. I think it would distract you from actually experiencing your destination.

If you have a few minutes of down time waiting in line, it would be a perfect time to post a tweet or two about your trip. But traveling is meant to open your mind to new experiences and people. Enjoy your place and have a party to tell your friends about it later!

pam 04.09.09 | 10:56 AM ET

I’m a junkie, I love Twitter and have no sense of perspective when it comes to unplugging. Admitted up front.

What you’re missing out on is HOW to effectively use Twitter - and other tech tools - when you’re traveling. Yeah, lots of people are Doug (I like this analogy) but not everyone, some are really entertaining and can tell a 140 word story. Really. Others use Twitter as a resource—help me find the best sandwich, I have a three hour rail stop in Warsaw, any locals free to show me around, arriving in Nice in two days, need cheep digs, got recommendations?

A person should unplug from time to time, myself included, I couldn’t agree more. But dissing Twitter specifically misses that point. A person can use technology mindfully too. I’m not saying I do, I’m just saying it’s possible. And,more importantly, if a good travel experience is about connections, why not take advantage of the tools at your disposal to make connections?

Ben Colclough 04.09.09 | 11:04 AM ET

Great provocative post.  Whilst I think there is some advantage to using twitter on the road for advice and tips, it comes at a heavy price.  Travelling for me is about immersing yourself in a place and a time.  As soon as I log on to twitter, I’d be reminded of concerns from home, work etc.  A very personal trade-off I guess.  Personally I’m with Rolph, I want to switch off, immerse and discover.  Anybody interested in the debate on keeping connected when travelling should read this excellent post by Stephen Chapman over at maketravelfair - http://www.maketravelfair.co.uk/2009/03/02/going-unplugged/

Sheila Scarborough 04.09.09 | 11:22 AM ET

I’m a big Twitter fan and a big travel fan; I don’t see them as mutually exclusive. It’s all in how you use the tools, as Pam says.  That’s the key - YOU use the tool, don’t let it use YOU. 

Block off quiet time during your travel day to simply absorb, and turn off your phone/laptop during those times, to savor and be in the moment.  Rolf is right about that - we don’t spend enough time simply being.

For other times, it’s great to be in touch with a lively network when you’re on travel, but I would say that such on-the-go Twittering works so much better from a phone. During a recent trip to China, I spent rather too much time in search of WiFi for my laptop (I don’t have a smartphone, yet) and sometimes that was a detractor.  A quick tweet from a phone is a fun, no-hassle way to share your experiences and interact with your tweeps, but much more than that may intrude on your travel experiences.

Those boring times when you’re stuck in a grungy train station or airport? Thank god for Twitter.

I’ll agree with the postcard idea; the adventure of locating stamps and mailing something from a local post office has often been the highlight of some of my trips (Antigua, Guatemala Post Office, FTW!)

Carolina 04.09.09 | 11:25 AM ET

I got to your post via twitter, oh the irony.  I’m a newbie to twitter, and I have decided to keep my trips off twitter for the most part. I agree with most of what you wrote. I love to write and receive postcards. I love to disconnect from my daily life at home, because for me that’s the point of traveling. I liked your point about having time to “process your experiences before you share them with others”.
That said, I have to admit it takes a lot of willpower.

jamie 04.09.09 | 11:37 AM ET

I’m torn.  Live-blogging (or even tweeting) can be a major pain and a buzz-kill.  At the same time, I love reading other people’s real-time travelogues. 

I usually compromise by checking in once a day if it’s feasible, and blowing it off if it’s not.  I find being 100% unplugged a little disorienting, but it’s nice to occasionally prove I can still manage it.

Jim Benning 04.09.09 | 11:39 AM ET

Great points. I like Sheila’s admonition: “YOU use the tool, don’t let it use YOU.”

We’ve been yapping about it on Twitter @worldhum, too.
S

@thenotoriousmeg 04.09.09 | 12:11 PM ET

I’m a recent but devout Twitter fan, mostly because it allows me to keep up some sort of blog in just a few minutes at a time.  But it’s the community aspect or watercooler factor that is so fantastic, I was talking to some people last night about how it’s like passing notes all day with a group that feels intimate yet is open to the whole world.

When I travel, I tend to hit the ground running and spend all day exploring and experiencing, no matter the weather or how jet-lagged/tired/sick I might be.  Even so, there comes a time once a day or every few days when I sit down with my laptop and find free Wi-Fi connection so I can finally upload photos, look up all the odd/funny/mysterious things I’ve noticed that day and written down in a notebook, logistics I need to look up for the next day, plus maybe check my email/bank account/etc.  This is a time to check in with Twitter/Facebook without detracting from the travel experience.  There is a difference between spending all your time traveling with your nose buried in your notebook or iPhone or guidebook or whatever, and taking a few minutes to share a part of your experience with your friends at home or on their own adventure.  There are certainly Twitter users as well as bloggers who spend so much time documenting their trip I wonder when they find time to be present on it, but they would probably spend there time absorbed in something else no matter what.

On my last trip before I joined Twitter, I was without internet for awhile (with computer but not about to pay extortionate hotel WiFi rates) and found myself composing Facebook status updates in my head for the first few days.  Though I imagine that even if I’d had a fancy smart phone for keeping in touch, you wouldn’t have seen me tweeting about how amazing the Blue Mosque was or how sick I was of kebaps, at least, not in real-time. ;)

Great topic, look forward to reading more comments here and on Twitter.

Nancy D. Brown 04.09.09 | 6:15 PM ET

How do I love Twitter? Let me count the ways:
Found this post on Twitter. I love following travel writers and bloggers.
I’m a travel voyeur. I enjoy reading about others travel experiences.
I’m a visual learner. I’m excited to see fellow travelers http://www.Twitpics.com on Twitter.
I’m a social networker. How great is it that I can connect w/ someone from Switzerland
to ask for their insider tips before I visit the region?
I’m cheap. Twitter is free to anyone with an e-mail account.
Twitter’s 140 character limit keeps me focused on the key message & is quick.

I hope Tina from Gainsville, FL twitters her European adventures.

Rolf, it’s not sounding hopeful that you’ll be on Twitter anytime soon. If you change your mind about Twitter, follow me @Nancydbrown

Andrew Kitchell 04.09.09 | 6:18 PM ET

Right on Rolf,

    I was just thinking about this last night while watching a fireworks show.  Half the people around seemed to have their cell phones out and were taking pictures of the show to presumably send to friends.  I think we have all taken the need to let everyone know what we are doing a bit too far…

    When on the road, why not find your own experience and immerse yourself instead of viewing the experience as something to show off to others.

Enjoy the road!

Soultravelers3 04.09.09 | 7:05 PM ET

I think much depends on how long the trip is and who is doing the tweeting.

We just won two Lonely Planet Travel Awards and one of them was for our @soultravelers3 Twitter account for Best Microblogging ( the other for our blog). After more than a year on Twitter, I have around 10,000 followers, most are passionate and informed about travel. They have been a tremendous help and I wrote about it here:

http://www.soultravelers3.com/2009/02/twitter-travel-20.html

We are into our 3rd year of an open ended world tour as a family and Twitter has been a fantastic tool for our travel. We do spend MOST of our time unplugged, in nature, with natives and have traveled 4 continents, 29 countries and over 76,000 miles ( most of it overland) so far.The road IS our home, so of course we will have some time online.  We usually just use free wifi, so Twitter is often the quickest,easiest way to leave a fast message for many.

We go slow and immerse deeply, so there is time to connect, often in the evenings when our child sleeps & when we do some reading and writing.  Sometimes between blog posts, my readers love it that I can upload a “current time” photo on Twitpics, that excites them about a more detailed future post when I have time.

They give me all kinds of great advice and we have gained very valuable relationships, including several publishers for our upcoming books.

Now if i was on a week or two vacation, I can see the advantage of unplugging. We regularly unplug for those time frames and longer. When we are staying longer in an area, it makes sense to do some catch up online. I can also add #fb to my tweets and have it automatically go to all my friends on facebook, which is another great time saver on the road.

I think people who think Twitter is just about answering the question “What are you doing” have missed the value that is there.

Danielle Ashby 04.09.09 | 11:06 PM ET

Late next month I’ll be traveling to Saipan for 2 months to work and explore that part of the world. I do plan on blogging my experiences, but I don’t plan on using Twitter. I think the main differences between blogging and Twitter is that I can sit down, at the end of each day and reflect upon what I’ve seen and learned that day. It’s a thoughtful process and I’m able to craft a nice story with my pictures and gain a little bit of removed perspective (not all that removed, but you get it).

I do get the appeal of Twitter for practical purposes like finding a great spot or being in an unfamiliar area and wanting to know what to see and do there quickly, but as far as soaking up the experience, I don’t think Twitter is conducive to that process. I do travel with a small journal and I know actually writing things down on PAPER! WITH A PEN! is sort of retro at this point, but if there is something I absolutely want to remember at the moment, I have my paper, my pen, my camera…and if all else fails, trusty technology. My smartphone is my backup when my journal gets wet, the pen stops working, and my camera’s battery dies.

Gregory Hubbs 04.10.09 | 12:57 PM ET

Good piece Rolf.

As a editor of a travel magazine and a lifelong traveler, I absolutely despise Twitter. I think it promotes a kind of adolescent navel-gazing. In my opinion, it is quite the opposite of the outward-looking thinking which would seem natural for those who wish to immerse themselves in their travels, the people, the lands, the tastes, and culture about them. I suppose there are many rationalizations, and I am not being cool to criticize this trend, but I have seen no compelling reason to use Twitter while traveling (I don’t even like to bring a laptop or to go an Internet cafe, for that matter).

In the end it is a tool that is often used as an umbilical cord all-too-often, and is a bit nerdy in nature. For viral marketing or for sharing interesting links, I suppose it is fine, but while on a trip, why not live in real time without the mediation of a gadget!

Gregory Hubbs 04.10.09 | 1:11 PM ET

Good piece Rolf.

As a editor of a travel magazine and a lifelong traveler, I absolutely despise Twitter. I think it promotes a kind of adolescent navel-gazing. In my opinion, it is quite the opposite of the outward-looking thinking which would seem natural for those who wish to immerse themselves in their travels, the people, the lands, the tastes, and culture about them. I suppose there are many rationalizations, and I am not being cool to criticize this trend, but I have seen no compelling reason to use Twitter while traveling (I don’t even like to bring a laptop or to go an Internet cafe, for that matter).

In the end it is a tool that is often used as an umbilical cord all-too-often, and is a bit nerdy in nature. For viral marketing or for sharing interesting links, I suppose it is fine, but while on a trip, why not live in real time without the mediation of a gadget!

But I respect all those who find creative ways to communicate, I just don’t find any pleasure in sharing my every though, action, movement with strangers in what seems such an alienating way. I am so often reminded of the couple walking down a New York City street each speaking on the cell phone… Technology often isolates more than it brings people together.

Kolio 04.10.09 | 4:35 PM ET

Dear Rolf,
I came across the subject of volunteering that Ian has posted to you “I am planning on departing on a round the world journey….and I was interested in volunteering throughout the journey…however I soon discovered it wasn’t free. It was actually very expensive!”

I find this concept of volunteering and paying totally unnatural. Could you please explain how is this accepted in the society. A person that wants to offer his knowledge and skills to help others is required to pay for the things he is offering. If a piano teacher volunteers to give someone piano lessons should he pay money to the student? Or, the foreign woman that volunteers cleaning the house of an old man, should she actually pay the old man too? I am from another country and I honestly do not understand that. If someone shows in your door step and offers as a volunteer to cut the grass for you, all you have to do is thank him and may be ask him of a help that you may offer in exchange, that is how we were thought at home.
Please explain.
Thank you.
Kolio

Kim@Galavanting 04.10.09 | 5:31 PM ET

I’ve gotta respectfully, but wholeheartedly disagree. Rolf, you advise against tweeting, except to use it for painstakingly collect addresses, then write postcards, then wait in line to pay for postage stamps…then mail them? All in the name of preserving time to enjoy the trip?

I’ve had some of the best travel recommendations EVER via Twitter while I’m already on the ground in a given destination. Twitter could genuinely enrich her travel experience.

When it comes to personal travel (presumably what Tina is doing), people shouldn’t be pressured to stay connected, only if it’s beneficial for them. But if travel is your job—it’s part of that job to share the journey. But unlike a pencil and paper or a laptop, it only takes me about 30 seconds—tops—to take a fun photo, post it to Twitter with my mobile device.

Kim@Galavanting 04.10.09 | 5:47 PM ET

PS: Sorry for the typos. Maybe I shouldn’t be tweeting…or writing at all.

Here’s a trip I took last week. http://www.twitpic.com/photos/kimmance

Now tell me you’re not itching to go to Italy right now :). Thanks Twitter.

Gregory Hubbs 04.10.09 | 6:14 PM ET

Nice photos Kim. I know and have lived in those areas on several occasions.

But nothing one could not blog or write about when returning home after having the time to reflect about the experience and perhaps pass these private moments along to relatives and friends (and not, in my case, for the general public, as this is just a test post on a test site):

http://transitionsabroad.ning.com/profiles/blogs/umbria-italy

When I travel, the last thing I want to do is run into fellow New Yorkers (“when in Rome, do as the Romans do”), so the whole notion of “making connections” is anathema.

And making our own discoveries in foreign lands is so much more satisfactory than having it screened by others, in my experience.

But this is clearly a matter of strong opinion. And if travel is a J O B, then I certainly can understand the need to be connected as part of the job description.

Kim@Galavanting 04.10.09 | 6:21 PM ET

Gregory, I see your point and I guess Twitter is far less about being a technology person than it is being a people person. All personal preference. Brief meetups with expats who know about all the places tourists do not—all connections made via Twitter—have been fantastic experiences for me.

Happy traveling…and be sure not to use maps, guidebooks or signage either…so as not to screw up that discovery process :).

Gregory Hubbs 04.10.09 | 6:40 PM ET

KIm,

That final sarcasm was quite unnecessary. No need to personalize.

Being connected is far different from looking at the world immediately about you, and real-time discovery is preferable to cyber-discovery in my view.

Having travelled 40+ years, I see no need for Twitter while traveling.  As you say, a personal decision.

Happy travels.

Kim@Galavanting 04.10.09 | 6:53 PM ET

Ha, sorry it’s in my nature to be pretty sarcastic at all times. But really, you’ve been pretty personally judgmental toward Twitter fans on this thread, so I thought I’d point out the irony. Discounting others’ experiences and discoveries abroad entirely for dislike of technology is pretty personal.

Having lived abroad and traveled by myself for nearly 20 years, I do enjoy Twittering while traveling. I’ve found it very valuable, or I wouldn’t do it. But to each her/his own!!

I won’t put you down for not tweeting, but I will defend the act (albeit with sometimes overly-feisty sarcasm, apologies again…). It’s an amazing way to connect globally that isn’t available by wandering around hoping for the best. And there’s nothing cyberspace about it. I’ve had spectacular food, insider experiences thanks to expats, locals and family-run businesses met on Twitter. It’s just a form of communication, plain and simple.

Signing off to spend time with the kiddos!

soultravelers3 04.10.09 | 9:39 PM ET

I probably should not enter into this again, but I find it fascinating because I really like Kim and Gregory, so thought I would add 2 more cents here because they both have valid points. Hey, I have been to Italy quite a bit too ( and even lived there for a year long ago!):

http://www.soultravelers3.com/2008/03/ahhhumbria.html.

My guess is that Gregory and Rolf ( and others) that seem to have a very harsh view of Twitter, do so because they have no real experience with it, so do not understand it. Instead, they *imagine* what they think would be the down sides.

When you say “adolescent navel-gazing” or “What a decade ago made Doug a doofus is now standard social-operating procedure” , immediately it becomes very clear that you have no idea what Twitter is or why it is so popular. The people navel-gazing or being a doofus like Doug on Twitter, ARE wasting their time ( whether traveling or not).

Meanwhile, companies like Dell have made millions on Twitter and really smart people like Guy Kawasaki, Laura Finton and Chris Brogan think it’s the most valuable tool around that allows you to reach hundreds of thousands of people from around the world. Some top people on Twitter get 80% of their website traffic from Twitter. it is already a more powerful search tool than google in many ways!

I am not a nerd or geek, my goodness I am a chubby 50 something mom of an 8 year old who has not been typing that long and never owned a laptop until we took off on our world tour in 2006. We don’t own an iphone or even a ipod, nor would i know how to use them. I have never even seen a wii and we have not had a TV for decades. We bought a fancy global cell phone for our trip, but never use it and it is packed away.

I am a mostly organic vegan eating, unschooler who deeply believes in play, but also realizes that we live in exponential times and global citizens of the 21st century are digital natives and need digital training. We take thousands of disadvantaged school kids with us virtually, so I see first hand the importance of mixing travel and digital mediums. Education & media are going through a tremendous change & Twitter is part of that. Twitter has not only helped us with travel, but has also been a truly magnificent advantage through the connection to thought leaders and innovators in education.

We are VERY much into slow, green travel and deeply immerse ourselves in our travels, the people, the lands, the tastes, and culture about us. I understand and hear that legitimate fear from Gregory and Rolf and agree that travel is a “special experience that should be approached mindfully.”

My experience is that one CAN be mindful and deeply immersed AND do some Twittering ( or blogging or photographing, or filming or writing in a notebook or letter, or the many multitude of ways that travelers have put down their thoughts throughout history WHILE they travel.)

The only difference between me and Gregory and Rolf, is that I have done it, so I can speak from experience. I did not set out to be a fan of Twitter and did not even like it at first, but hoped it might help as a way to keep in touch with family when we were in areas where there was no free wifi. Over time I found out what a truly amazing tool it was and you can read about it in my post above.

We often go totally unplugged and really enjoy that, but we are always on the road, so our laptops are our connection to the world and the very important webcam calls to the grandparents and family. I don’t have much time for social media, so must put the time into what gives me the most bang for the effort.

Twitter does that! Yes, I suppose some could waste their time on Twitter ( or getting drunk and partying all night as some young ones seem to do, missing most of their journey in a stupor) BUT, a wise person could manage to use Twitter in a way that was to their advancement and to the advancement of their trip.

I don’t understand how one can “despise” something or erroneously label something as “compulsive obligations of micro-communication” without any direct experience. It seems those that are the most critical of Twitter are those who have had no or very little personal experience. An ipod doesn’t seem worth the effort to buy or learn to me, but to those who could not imagine a trip without one, I am sure their experience would tell a very different tale.

Now if you spend 6 months to a year, using Twitter well, getting informed on the benefits and trying it out on a trip, then I would like to hear that critique based on direct, personal experience. I am a big believer in experience based learning! ;)

Rolf Potts 04.13.09 | 12:54 PM ET

I appreciate the input of you Twitter-philes out there, but I’ll reiterate the essential importance of unplugging on the road.

As a case in point, I’m not sure if I should comment on the content of soultravelers3’s posts, or the fact that (within a 27-hour window) she managed to write 1200 words of commentary on my 600-word column—all while “traveling” overseas!  As they say in AA, denial is the surest sign of addiction (in this case, to the electronic umbilical cord). 

The point of my column isn’t about bashing Twitter, or whatever instantaneous-communication technology is invented next week.  It’s about the power of travel to tear you out of your home/office routine and see the world in a new way.  It’s about letting go of the micromanaged comforts/certainties/diversions of the virtual world and baring yourself to the world before your eyes. 

Why on earth would you “tweet” for advice about where to get a sandwich in Warsaw when you can ask someone on the street—or just wander around until you see a restaurant jam-packed full of hungry Poles?  Why Twitter your time away in a grungy Thai train station when you can use that down-time read a Rattawut Lapcharoensap book, or utilize your phrasebook to engage some equally-bored Thai people?  And guess what?  Spending 15 minutes waiting in line to mail postcards Xi’an will teach you more about China than three hours in an expat bar with a gaggle of Kiwis and Swedes and Pennsylvanians you met on Twitter. 

Am I saying all this to be provocative?  You bet!  But I hope you all realize that there are rewards to be had when you aren’t continually exporting your travel impressions home like so much digital porcelain and cane sugar; when you aren’t falling back on the resources of a “virtual community” when you could create a new community by unplugging your gadgets and engaging your surroundings.

On a recent trip to Washington I elected to stay at a local youth hostel because I’m a fan of the happy-go-lucky social atmosphere I’ve found in hostel lounges over the years.  Imagine my bewilderment, then, when I walked into the hostel lobby to find literally 20 people tapping away on keyboards and keypads, ignoring each other.  At a certain level, I’m sure those people were getting great travel encouragement and advice through their email or Facebook or blog or Twitter communities.  But on another level the cocoon-like silence of that jam-packed hostel lounge was more than absurd—it was kind of sad. 

I’m guessing that people will continue to find creative ways to use Twitter (and other communication technology) on the road, and that’s fine. But voluntarily unplugging from the electronic umbilical cord carries its own serendipitous rewards. 

Remember that scene in The Matrix?  I encourage you to take the Red Pill when you travel.  You might encounter a few more discomforts and uncertainties as a result, but I can assure you it’s worth the effort.

Danielle Ashby 04.13.09 | 2:00 PM ET

“Now if you spend 6 months to a year, using Twitter well, getting informed on the benefits and trying it out on a trip, then I would like to hear that critique based on direct, personal experience. I am a big believer in experience based learning! ;)”

YAY! I love a good debate. At 27, I’m on the old end, yet still able to declare myself a member of the generation that has come to be known as “born digital,” and with that I have all the characteristics that mark it (a facebook, a recently deleted MySpace, twitter, personal blog, no less than 10 active e-mail addresses for different personal and professional purposes, a personal video site so I can “live out loud,” a haughty sense of entitlement, sarcasm or as we like to say, snark, etc…), so this is coming from a place of experience and I still couldn’t agree more with Rolf.

It’s not that I don’t get or use these things to the fullest benefit. Computers and the fabulous things people have come up with in conjunction, have ALWAYS been a part of my life and will always be a part of it. And I know I may be unusual (at least, to others of my digital generation) but I DO NOT enjoy being accessible 24/7. Whether you choose to approach it this way or not, always being plugged in, opens the gateway to always being available. There is always pressure to respond to a Facebook message, an e-mail, a tweet, a comment on your blog and I frankly don’t want to have to deal with that crap. Whether this pressure is self inflicted or not, I can’t say. But what I can testify to (for lack of a better word) is that now that we can get e-mail through our phones, twitter anywhere, blog from timbuktu, the responsibilities of home are always with you and always require a certain amount of attention. People expect you to get back to them b/c they know you can. There’s no safety in being away anymore. The demand is the same, if not higher when you stay plugged in.

It’s just me now, no husband and kids yet, so when I go, I don’t want to have to be responsible for anyone but myself, but I am still expected to be “on call” all the time b/c everyone knows I can be. That sucks! And it’s the way people my age think now. There is no, “getting away” when you’re only a tweet apart.

I was one of those young travelers with a backpack and a thirst for nothing but beer a few years ago and if I had encountered the Hostel that Rolf recently stayed in, it would have been a total bummer. In the not too distant past (2003) I only stayed in 1 hostel out of 10 in Europe that had an internet computer lab. And you only found a few people there for a couple of minutes to e-mail their parents or friends back home letting them know they were still alive and having a blast. Then it was back to the lounge to join the conversation or out into the city to go explore.

As I’ve grown and matured (a little) the way I travel has changed, but the reasons why haven’t. I want to get away. I want to visit places that other people haven’t had the good fortune to visit, I want to immerse myself in a different culture, I want to eat good food and drink good wine and dance in the streets in foreign lands. I want to see, I don’t necessarily want to be seen. And personally, it is such a relief to unplug!

Kim@Galavanting 04.13.09 | 2:38 PM ET

Hee hee, yes, none of us have ever unplugged while traveling before, or mingled with locals, or used a phrasebook. In fact, we’re all mindless zombies for liking twitter. Look down your nose and try to shame us if you like, but you clearly just misunderstand that particular method of communication. It’s about people, not cyberspace. And 80% of the people I’ve connected with on Twitter (before) going to a destination are *locals* or unique and authentic family-owned businesses or guesthouses. Not Pennsylvanians.

But it seems there’s more than one way to travel authentically. I also meet just as many locals or expats while traveling through analog serendipity. Using technology beyond an out-dated, for-profit guidebook, and genuinely experiencing a local community is not an either/or situation.

But again, personal preference. And the article nor comment string seem to have swayed anyone from their original preference to be for, or against Twitter. To each his/her own.

Melanie 04.13.09 | 3:22 PM ET

I love to twitter while I travel as people are always asking me about my travels and I love to share them…If they follow my tweets or my blog posts then many fee like they are along for the ride. I usually do my updates when I am standing in line for something or waiting around for something as it happens. I find it a way to make time on my holidays that would normally be boring or wasteful - more productive.

I guess it is to each their own. I plan to tweet on my upcoming trip to Vegas this weekend as I have had people actually ask me to - So I really don’t mind

To each their own - I don’t judge people who like to unplug…so I would hope that people won’t judge me that I like to stay plugged in….

to each their own.

Happy Hotelier 04.13.09 | 3:39 PM ET

Rolf,
I tend to disagree with you. Probably you have neither seen the #twitchhiker’s experiment traveling half the world in 30 days by twitter, nor Benji Laredo’s experiment in visiting Paris by twitter.
As consolation: There is another frequent traveler who strongly agrees with you.
e-mail or DM me and I’ll give you the respective URLS:-)
Cheers!

Greg Rodgers 04.13.09 | 3:47 PM ET

Have to agree with Rolf, what’s the point in traveling 10K miles from home if your mind is still connected by a fiber cable to home?

I burned up 8 years as an engineer working for IBM, I’ve got about a dozen websites, Twitter, and am a member of FAR too many social sites to keep up with…..but despite being more plugged in than Neo on a bad day, every minute spent in a magical new place sitting in front of a screen seems like I am cheating myself.

Maybe its my Taoist side coming out, but I try to keep my mind in the present, otherwise it dilutes the experience and I miss things that should have been absorbed. No, Twitter isn’t the devil, but it won’t replace chatting up locals or other travelers.

Don’t forget, Rolf is doing his JOB as a travel writer being controversial and opinionated, it generates buzz and discussion which is good for WorldHum - that’s why we are writers not journalists. :)

Christina (FandangoChica) 04.13.09 | 5:30 PM ET

Wow….I must say I’m a little perplexed at not only the original question, but also the ongoing debate.  I found this article through Twitter.  I’m not much on advice columns on any topic, I guess, but it would never occur to me to actually write in to someone who I don’t know and ask them if they think I should tweet or not.  Seriously? I can make that decision for myself….and would probably make and change it several times depending on how my trip was going.  I agree with Kim (I follow you on twitter…and you are fantastically, sarcastically hilarious! ;) I’d travel - and tweet next to you! - any day!) that it’s a personal preference.  And for me personally, I would prefer to make the decision as I go along.  I would have looooved to have a Twitter-ready cell phone with me on my last trip as I helped shoot a wedding in Cancun!  For entertainment value if nothing else.  I was on someone else’s schedule the whole trip and a little extra entertainment/connection would have been great.  On the other hand…when I hit the beach, or the ruins and sculpture garden with my camera, I would have happily ignored twitter until I was done taking in the surroundings. 

I think both extremes would be kind of ridiculous: live-tweeting EVERY single detail versus a total Twitter ban.  I understand the desire to get away from technology and just enjoy where you are, but I wholeheartedly believe that there are those of us who can tweet-and-travel and still experience just as much (or more) from a place.  My focus would be different and probably narrower while I travel, but it would still be nice to connect, whether it’s with those back home, or with locals/expats.  Even aside from connecting and finding new things/people, it’s nice sometimes to be able to connect with home.  It’s not the fiber-optic cable, it’s the feeling of knowing that person you care about is thinking of you when they read your update.  When I was in Venezuela during the huge flood in 1999 (a hotel I stayed at was washed away to sea less than 10 hours after I left it-500,000+ homeless and 30,000+ killed), it would have been great to connect quickly with others back home, first of all to let them know I was okay, and then to avoid coming home and realizing almost NO ONE knew that it had happened.

I agree with those who have said that Twitter can be used in productive ways as well as for silly navel-gazing, and those who don’t see the positive should really take a look at all the awesome things that are happening through Twitter (follow @jjsnyc for a prime example of productive Twitter usage!). 
I am in NO WAY tied to it as an umbilical cord, but if there are people who think I’m “nerdy” just because I enjoy being able to use it as a tool, well, then I’m fine with that.  They can go back to whatever they were doing, and I’ll keep tweeting about my fashion/rock star photo shoots - maybe even while I’m traveling to my next destination wedding!


Tina - my advice would be to tell your friends you’ll tweet if/when you can, then go have a super fabulous time, enjoy everything that you won’t get to see back home, and if there’s something you really can’t wait another minute to share with your friends back home, then TWEET!

soultravelers3 04.13.09 | 5:36 PM ET

“all while “traveling” overseas!” YES, indeed!

Funny, how your lack of experience in this area, makes it still too hard for you to see anything, except what you want to see.Yes, I’m a gabby one & have the time at night to indulge myself in conversation (  friends I care about having a spirited exchange inspired the second comment ) but trust me, I was ALSO immersing PLENTY in my village in Spain in that big 27 hour window.

I felt it was an important point to address and did it late at night while my child slept, so I was not missing any travel experiences. ( Again, I write this right before bed, a few moments out of my idyllic day).

I am not on a weeks vacation, but live a global LIFESTYLE and I stated in both posts that we are often unplugged for weeks at a time when moving. Is it not logical,  when in an area for a longer time, to be online more (usually at night as we are past the “go out and party” age) ?? We have a TV, so I could zone out on “Lost” or something like that I suppose, as many do, but we never watch it as I would rather read, collaborate and connect online.

We are into our 3rd year of an open ended world tour, do you really think we should NEVER be online? 

Nonsense! That would be a big disappointment to the over 2.5 million people who have watched our Youtube videos, our readers who can’t wait for our next post,  the thousands of disadvantaged school kids that we take with us, or all those who say we have inspired them and changed their lives! I’m not getting rich on this, I do it for passion and out of deep caring and am totally encouraged by the heartwarming responses we get from people that follow us.

If you really believe being online at all is so bad, why are YOU online? If it is not good for travel, then it is not good for life, so why not get entirely offline? Or is this even really Rolf ? ( Some on Twitter say that someone else writes Rolf’s online column). I was such a fan of your book, but this has given me a very different perspective on your thinking process and flexibility. Is there really only ONE way to do things?

Does it mean nothing that some of the smartest, most respected travel writers see the value like @elliottdotorg and @marilyn_res from National Geographic or @wendyperrin from Conde Nast Traveler? Or is this all about starting a controversy to get better incoming google search attention?

As this is our 3rd winter in this small village, we are deeply immersed in this community as you can see by my latest pictures on Twitpics of Easter in our beautiful white village ( our 3rd in Andalusia):

http://bit.ly/VbF8m

My daughter goes to the local school, we immerse with these people every day and knew everybody in their Semana Santa processions. The kids that stay overnight at our home or sit next to her school or go to birthday parties together, the lady at the paper store, the woman from the market, the principal, the farmer below us,the mom’s I gab with when taking my child to school, etc etc.We even participate in many of the festivals as locals!  My daughter has been doing flamenco with all the local girls since she was 5 ( and is now 8) and has done 1st, 2nd & 3rd grade here!

We speak the language and know the customs. It doesn’t get much deeper immersed than we are! My goodness the whole village knows we are back within an hour of our arrival!! The same days I wrote those comments, I was going to the market and stores, talking to locals, taking my kid to the park, taking walks, gardening and enjoying the spring here.

Not very many travelers know Spain like we do. It is only one of the 29 countries that we have immersed in so far, but it’s the only one where we stay in a home and go to school. We almost never stay at hostels or hotels even as we move, so we are ALWAYS connecting to locals. You are right, it is not your average “traveling” experience, but it works for us!

How in the world,  can you make the experience of sharing that with others who want to know into a “lesser” experience ?

Lavinia Spalding 04.13.09 | 6:21 PM ET

Rolf,

Excellent article! I agree with you but suspect that most traveling twitterphiles might struggle with going cold turkey. I propose an everything-in-moderation approach. If you must travel-twitter, limit your tweet to one per day, written at the end of the night: the highlight, for example, the #1 tip, or the weirdest sight. That way your experience won’t be taken over by technology.

“The main point to keep in mind when you’re traveling is that it’s your trip. You planned it and packed for it, chances are you paid for it, and now you’re on it. If you had wanted to hang out with the people back home, you’d be with them instead. If you’d wanted a vacation in cyberspace, you could have stayed home and surfed the web instead of mustering the courage to surf giant ocean waves in Tahiti or Sri Lanka. But you didn’t—you chose to be here, in this corner of the world at this particular moment. What will you do with the moment? Give it away to other people? ... You never know how long it might be before the opportunity to travel comes again—circumstances change. So instead of spending your holiday keeping everyone else up to date on your adventures, turn off your blackberry, walk past the cybercafé, unplug, and be here for yourself.”

From Writing Away: A Creative Guide to Awakening the Journal-Writing Traveler by Lavinia Spalding

Danielle Ashby 04.13.09 | 6:23 PM ET

I don’t think the point of this was to vilify technology or to vilify someone’s preference not to engage in technology. As people have said, it’s just a personal preference that can’t be explained as easily as we are all trying to here. Why don’t I like mushrooms? I dunno, I just don’t. Sure I try them every couple of months b/c people look at me funny when I tell them that, but I always have the same reaction (disgust).

There are people who will identify with all forms of travel. I personally don’t like feeling the obligations from back home and that means being unplugged for the majority of the time, but I get how addicting it can become to tweet how amazing the skyline view of Paris is from the top of the Eiffel Tower. And how satisfying the responses to that tweet can be. I understand how exciting it can be to tweet that you are eating in a restaurant in Costa Rica and have 5 people show up to raise a glass with you. I get how informative and important twitter can be when you are arrested in Egypt and tweet in a quick and effective way that you need help.
http://www.cnn.com/2008/TECH/04/25/twitter.buck/

While this…“That would be a big disappointment to the over 2.5 million people who have watched our Youtube videos, our readers who can’t wait for our next post,  the thousands of disadvantaged school kids that we take with us, or all those who say we have inspired them and changed their lives! I’m not getting rich on this, I do it for passion and out of deep caring and am totally encouraged by the heartwarming responses we get from people that follow us…” would make me feel an overwhelming sense of obligation as well as keep me tied to technology, I get how people would love the followers, the feedback, the encouragement.

The defenses seem to be up a little (as well as the snark and the TYPING IN CAPITOL LETTERS*) with regards to this post (on both sides) and I can’t figure out why. Is twitter a useful, informative and fun tool? Definitely. Is it going to be the make or break element in a trip you are taking? Absolutely not (I hope). The bottom line for me is that we all love to travel and we should be able to agree on that. How everyone travels is, of course, up to them. My preferred way may not be yours, and vice versa, but no one way is better than the other.

*which I am guilty of :)

Darren Cronian 04.13.09 | 6:55 PM ET

I sort of agree with Rolf.

If you have a big network of friends on Twitter you can get some great advice and tips which helps you get the best out of the destination. I know it helped me when I was in Berlin and wanted to find out where the tourist attractions were.

But.

Tweeting on my travels did distract me, and I do not think I got the most out Berlin because I spent a lot of time tweeting, sending pics, answering questions, asking questions, recording live video. So this is why I think when you travelling you should of course use your network to ask questions, but limit its use.

I also think there’s a security aspect as well that we need to bear in mind.  Wandering around with a mobile phone in your hand, tweeting to your friends is not a good idea in some destinations too.

Sean Keener 04.13.09 | 7:09 PM ET

Great debate and I hate to say it, it’s funny to watch folks get all hot and bothered on this one. 

@Kimmance - on twitter - you say you have lost respect for Rolf cuz he is pompous in the comments
@Soultravelers3 - RT the above comment by Kimmance
Rolf - kinda inciting them

I think this is a superb article/post.  Many times, the masses (me included) get caught up in how great something new widget/product/mode of communication.  Twitter definitely is the “it” thing now.  I think it’s neat that Rolf is one of very few well known people in Travel - to say, hey - there is another side to all this twitter madness.  You don’t have to use it on a trip.

For the folks that are mad…take a few deep breathes, go back to your way of doing things (it’s a free country!) - and it’ll be all good in a few days.  Rolf won’t seem like such a bad guy and maybe you’ll try his suggestion, maybe you won’t.

It’s alllllll goood mate,

Sean

Kim@Galavanting 04.13.09 | 7:22 PM ET

Good points Sean, and I think this post has become a forum (likely to the pleasure of WorldHum). And, um, aren’t you traveling…what are you doing on Twitter?? :)

I always had a good view of Rolf, but to see him to make generalizations belittling specific people who have just as much or more travel experience as he does, was pretty disappointing. There’s more than one way to do things. And as you say, it’s a free country, er, countries. Well, some of them are at least.

I’m not mad though, so no worries there. Just an interesting topic of discussion—I can get my snark on even when I’m not mad ;).

Happy traveling, looking forward to more videos Sean.

Grant Currie 04.13.09 | 8:12 PM ET

Great Article Rolf

It got me thinking about disconnecting when traveling and how the internet changes the way we communicate with those back at home.  I used to be a letter and postcard person, Not very often I admit and that slackness used to drive my Mum and Dad wild. I bet they wish I had email and twitter back then.

I think that one of the biggest fears that travellers (especially new travellers face) is one of loneliness. I guess that twitter helps aliviate the fear factor by being connected to what you know
Like all things in life, Twitter is probably about balance and moderation. Its great to communicate with others but don’t let it affect your interation with the locals where your travelling.

Cheers
Grant

Andy 04.14.09 | 6:27 AM ET

” and they want me to send them updates when I’m in Europe. “

They need to get a life.

Katie, Tripbase 04.14.09 | 9:53 AM ET

Couldn’t agree with you more, Rolf, having a break from Twitter whilst traveling sounds like excellent advice.

Love the Doug anecdote. All twitterholics take note - take action before you turn into Doug the Doofus!!

Karen E. 04.15.09 | 2:08 AM ET

“I was such a fan of your book, but this has given me a very different perspective on your thinking process and flexibility. Is there really only ONE way to do things? Does it mean nothing that some of the smartest, most respected travel writers see the value like @elliottdotorg and @marilyn_res from National Geographic or @wendyperrin from Conde Nast Traveler? Or is this all about starting a controversy to get better incoming google search attention?”

Wow, soultraveler, i think thou doth protest too much. Getting defensive when one’s opinion differs from one’s own is usually a sign of some sort of insecurity, or just plain pigheadedness.

Not to mention that the slam on Rolf was out of line. To imply that Chris Elliott and Wendy Perrin are more “right” because they are bigger “stars” of the travel world is mean-spirited and misses the point - there is no right and wrong. He’s not advocating that there is one way to do things. He is simply giving his opinion. Deal with it. And if you really think that Rolf created this debate purely for search engine optimization - wow, are you cynical.

Obviously if you depend on electronic technology to earn a living on the road or are just a super-social person and prefer to be plugged in when you travel, by all means do it. Soultraveler, you sound like an expat, which is a whole other matter. Rolf’s comments were aimed at the person who goes abroad infrequently, presumably in the hope of experiencing a foreign culture and perhaps learning a thing or two about his or her own. It’s hard to get the perspective necessary to do that if you stay connected via the electronic umbilical cord and never get out out of your comfort zone, I believe the question said “I’m going to Europe this summer…etc.” What if the person had said “I’m going to India this summer, should I bring my Corn Flakes in case I get homesick for American food?” The answer would be a resounding NO. Not a perfect analogy, but you get the point.

The most pertinent image in Rolf’s follow-up reply is of dozens of wired-up travelers ignoring each other in a Washington DC hostel. I personally see far too much of this when I travel. Funny how we are so desperate to be connected with everyone except the person sitting right next to us in the bus, plane or cafe.

The way this comment thread descended into a nasty bout of accusations and counter-accusations is a case in point of what’s wrong with becoming too immersed in the wired world - it breeds rudeness and seems to incite people to say things they’d never dare say face to face. One of the things you can learn by putting your gadgets aside is the disappearing art of face-to-face conversation, which requires tact, diplomacy, graciousness and an ability to listen.  Call me a Luddite - that’s OK with me.

OK, stepping off my soapbox now.

Julia Ross 04.15.09 | 12:02 PM ET

thanks Karen E., especially for those last two grafs. a voice of reason.

Gary 04.15.09 | 12:13 PM ET

Rolf,

Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.

I’m typing this in a hostel in Tel Aviv all the while I’m talking to other people…who are also on their computers. It isn’t a big deal.

I don’t split my life into travel and non-travel. You can have experiences on the road or at home. Likewise, I try to live my life the same while traveling, even if that means opening up the laptop and getting some work done.

Shannon (@cajun_mama) 04.15.09 | 12:21 PM ET

Hi Rolf -

Great to see you are still travel writing and hosteling it after all these years.

We all are entitled to our opinions and you have started a heated debate that is much needed. I do use Twitter for various reasons and it has been benificial for me, but I can see where it isn’t for everyone.

1. The Twitpic application allows me to post a pic from my phone, along with notes, such as place, website, etc. I use this instead of a notebook and have the added value of hopefully not losing my notes.

2. Twitter is one of the many ways to engage in Social Media. Like blogging or other applications for use, it is meant to be social. In my eyes, it is no different than connecting with others of similar interests, such as the Travelwriters.com BBS or any professional organization. Social being the operative word here. It has led to real life meetings and business relationships.

3. Twitter is also a great marketing tool, if you have a book to sell, a blog you want people to read, or a story to share. It also works great to pass things along to friends, such as a job lead.

4. I really enjoy the feedback I get when I post a pic while I’m traveling. I use the moments to engage in discussion with people around me and they are amazed that while we all may be in S. America (or wherever our travels have us at the moment) that there is someone else at that exact moment on the other side of the world enjoying that particular moment or picture with us.

I digress here, as the topic is more about travel and being unplugged….Rolf, all of us here commenting, including you,  are correct. We all should do what is best for each of us personally, but to remember to take those moments during our travels to inhale the essence of the destination.

Great discussion.

wanderlost 04.15.09 | 12:52 PM ET

Just caught this over at BootsnAll in response to this whole discussion. IMHO, it’s a much more constructive position on this conversation. Jessica says to each his/her own.  Here here!!

http://www.bootsnall.com/articles/09-04/use-twitter-travel-or-not-use-it-really-question.html

Reese 04.16.09 | 1:19 PM ET

Obviously you should! It can be like an Indiana Jones online diary

Matt Stabile 04.16.09 | 4:09 PM ET

I agree with Rolf that one of the best parts about traveling is the opportunity to “process and ponder new experiences before you share them with others” and to enjoy the anonymity that comes with being away from your normal world. And if I walked into a hostel lobby to find everyone typing away, ignoring each other, I’d probably have the same urge to, as Rolf suggests, tell everyone to “take the Red Pill” when traveling and leave technology behind.

But at the same time, during my recent trip, without the internet I wouldn’t have been able to find the best hostel to book after I had to leave mine, or I wouldn’t have been able to connect with the Dubliners that I did on Facebook who were able to show me some of their favorite insider spots around town. I would’ve had to shell out a fistful of Euro instead of crashing at someone’s place via couchsurfing when I went to Cork. Finally, I wouldn’t have been able to fit in at least a little time doing one of the things that I love most in this world, traveling or at home, which is working on my web site.

Like everything in life, there’s a happy medium, and technology while traveling is no different. Like alcohol, your dog, or your obsession with 80’s music, just make sure you control it and not the other way around, otherwise you’re looking at a pretty miserable experience with too much Depeche Mode rattling around in your head.

(excerpt from my post at http://www.TheExpeditioner.com)

Corbin 04.18.09 | 1:58 PM ET

I’ve never been too keen on the idea of letting people know who, what, and where I’m doing, whatever it is I’m doing. Perhaps I’m selfish, but I just don’t see the facination in knowning what people ate for dinnner, what type of utensils they used, or how broke they are now that they used up the last of their food.

I like what Rolf has to say about putting down the devices and just experiencing life for what it is. Hiding behind a screen, flaunting where you are, seems sort of elementary. I’m semi-hypocritical in the sense that I keep a travel blog, but I’ve never changed my status on facebook to “So wasted in Byron Bay!!!!” or “Chillin in Germany B!tches!” or “Mexico baby!” - A) It seems N00bish and b) it makes me want to hit you, perhaps out of envy, but also because you had the time to put that post up when you could have been Surfing in Byron, Eating Sausage in Germany, or Drinkin some taquila in Mexico. Whats the point of it all.

I like what Tim Ferris from 4HWW says about just leaving reality when you’re gone. Disconnect from what connects us from what others perceive as the “Real World” - Its tough to discover who you really are when you’ve gotta come up with your next post on Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, etc.

I’ll travel-a-la-amish anyday over that lifestyle thankyou.

pirano 04.23.09 | 8:26 AM ET

I don’t have or particularly want a twitter account, and Facebook has gotten old very quickly. I prefer to jot notes/observations in notebooks, and eventually post bits and pieces to my sometimes-blog.

That being said, for better or worse, social networking has become an important part of the “travel experience” for many. When I come across a situation similar to one Rolf noted in his follow-up post—20 people in a room typing away while ignoring each other—I simply follow their lead and ignore them, and go somewhere else where people aren’t ignoring each other. There are still, thankfully, plenty of those kinds of places.

Me 04.28.09 | 3:10 PM ET

What is twitter….........
I am quite young like most people here but do not understand the urge to make myself visable for all, guess it has to do with profiling yourself as the most interesting person, a friend worth having.

Kelby Carr 04.29.09 | 1:22 PM ET

Sorry, but I do have to disagree here. Twitter has taken what we can do to a whole new level. Instead of a story later where key details might be forgotten, my followers can experience my travels WITH me. I have used updates, twitpics and Qik streaming videos while traveling. I will even create a special hashtag for it. It hasn’t been disruptive at all and is a lot of fun. In fact, I find now that I do not feel like blogging as I travel because it takes so much more time and I have to do it in the hotel room. By the time I’m done for the night, I want to be done and relax.

Kelby Carr 04.29.09 | 1:24 PM ET

Oh, sorry one more point I would like to add. I saw someone tweeting that she had an awful time at Disney World. Her child got hospitalized and missed most of the trip, and they encountered issues getting an extension of their passes. So I had a WDW contact, sent her a text message since it was late at night and I didn’t feel comfortable calling. She was able to step in and intervene. The old way, she and her child would have had a horrible experience and maybe would have written about it much later, and far too late for anything to be done. Having real-time reporting is something that has many benefits.

And, of course, it doesn’t remotely stop anyone from writing something more and in-depth later in addition.

Tim L. 05.07.09 | 11:05 PM ET

The fact that all these twitter addicts have to defend their habit so adamantly says it all. When I get to the point where I have to send an e-mail or log on to twitter to find out where to go eat while in a foreign city, please shoot me.

Scott 05.22.09 | 2:09 AM ET

I would like Twitter more (and Facebook statuses for that matter) if people would actually send Tweets that provided some useful information.  I understand that not all tweets are meant to educate me personally, but I find myself ignoring the tweets and statuses or more and more people because they continually send messages when they are bored.  Those types of messages rarely have import to me.  I have not personally seen Twitter used the way others have benefited from it.  This has turned me off to it.  It’s not that it’s a bad tool, but my personal experience has been less than ideal so far.

I also enjoy switching from a digital to analog life (for lack of a better way to say it) when I travel because the travel period is supposed to be a different experience, not just culturally, but in my daily habits.  I use computers every day, so to not use them is part of the travel experience.

I do have to agree with Rolf about walking into a hostel lounge and seeing everyone behind a laptop.  I too have felt a little let down by it.  There’s a lot of social networking going on, but not between people who are sitting right next to each other.

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