This month marks the 20th anniversary of my first trip to Europe. That was the first time that I needed a passport because back then you did not need one to travel to Canada or Mexico. How things have changed!
At that time I did not know much about Europe other than what I had studied in some classes in college. The trip came about because my brother had just graduated from college and wanted to go to. I was only working temporary jobs at the time and my parents suggested I go with him.
Travel planing was much different back then. Travel agents, guidebooks and a couple of friends were the only resources that we had to plan the trip. It makes me wonder how we ever traveled before the internet?
Many of the differences that I mention below applies to any travel and not just European. I chose to use Europe because it is the first trip that I really got to experience different countries and cultures from my own.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THEN AND NOW
Photography is a big part of traveling and it has changed a lot in 20 years. On my first European trip I had a small point and shoot camera and ten rolls of film. During that five week trip I took about three hundred photos. If I were to take that same trip today I would have 10,000+ photos all stored on a few memory cards. I wish I had more photos from that first trip but I probably have better memories of it because I did not spend too much time staring at the camera.
THEN – Film Camera | NOW – Digital Camera
THEN – Asking some stranger to take a photo of you
NOW – Selfie
On the first trip I had three guidebooks and that was it. Those guidebooks were a lot smaller than current books. The Rick Steves 2-22 Days in Europe book that I used is less than 300 pages and covered 5 countries and 14 cities. Modern guidebooks take 300 pages to cover a medium size city. Guidebooks still play a role in my travels but not as much as they used to. There are so many more places to get information that can not be found in guidebooks. I often think that there is too much information available now and travel was more interesting when you did not know everything about the destination.
THEN – Guidebook | NOW – Phone App
There were two ways of communicating on that first trip: telephone and mail. I think we checked in with our parents once a week to let them know we were still alive. Now if you do not update your Facebook status ten times a day they send out a search party for you.
THEN – Payphone
NOW – Skype
THEN – Postcards
NOW – Facebook status updates or Twitter or Instagram or Email….
On the first trip every country had a different currency. We brought a small amount of money from each country so we were prepared if we were unable to exchange travelers checks. We also had enough travelers checks to cover the costs for the whole trip. These were exchanged every couple of days at the American Express offices because they had the best exchange rate. Now I carry a ATM card and a couple of credit cards and never have more than a few days cash on me.
THEN – Different currency for each country
NOW – Euro’s used everywhere except Switzerland and the U.K.
THEN – Travelers Checks
NOW – ATM’s & Credit Cards
We used mostly trains and a few buses to get between countries. The trains were not that fast and when possible we used night trains to cover long distances so we did not waste time. Now there are budget airlines such as Ryanair or Easyjet that make it faster and cheaper to cover long distances. I still prefer trains but would definitely fly now for longer distance trips.
THEN – Trains
NOW – Cheap flights
If you wanted to have music to listen to the tape player was the only option. I think I only carried three or four cassettes because I did not want to take up too much room in my bag. Now I can load all of my music on my phone and have access to thousands of songs.
THEN – Walkman | NOW – iPhone
RECORDING OUR MEMORIES
I used a journal to record information from that first trip. In it is the planned and actual itinerary, daily summary of activities, daily expenses and thoughts about what I had seen and done. It is a great record of that trip and I am glad that I have it. Now instead of having a journal I have a blog. While the journal is just for me the blog is out there for the world to see.
THEN – Journal
NOW – Blog
When I think back to that first trip I remember how much simpler it was. The information we had was limited to a few guidebooks so we really did not know what to expect. Every place was a new discovery. Now I can also get more information than I can possibly use from the internet and have a decent idea of what I am going to find when I arrive.
As much as traveling has changed I still get excited going somewhere new. There is nothing like the rush that I get when I arrive in a new country. So while the tools that we use in our travels have changed a lot in twenty years travel is still about experiencing the places and the people that we find on our journeys
How has travel changed for you over time?