My friends were scheduled to land at 06:35, but their flight was running about 20 minutes early. Not a problem though - my bus was due to arrive early and I was at the airport just a bit after 06:25.
As I was coming up the escalator to the terminal I got a text to say that one of my friends was through passport control and he was waiting for our other two to finish up and come through.
A few minutes later we all met up headed down onto the London underground and hopped onto the Piccadilly line for the 66 minute trip to King’s Cross St Pancras station. We then took the 9 minute walk South East to our Hostel, were we left our bag before catching the 91 bus to Russell Square to hop onto the next tour bus.
After a day touring London by bus, train and walking, we visited the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane to watch Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. We then caught the Piccadilly line once again, getting off at Russell Square, catching a night bus and stopping in at a 24 hour Tesco’s to grab some breakfast for the following morning.
A full 18 hours in London without a minute wasted, without one second being lost.
The most incredible part of this journey? It’s the first time I’ve ever navigated London. And I knew exactly where I was going at every minute of the day…and night. I knew which train to ride, which bus to catch, how long each journey would take, what time each Tesco’s was open and everything in between.
How? Well, that’s simple - technology! I had been able to book my bus trip to the airport, our formal bus tour around London, our London Eye ride and tickets to the theatre from my couch in South Africa. I got flight updates for my friend’s flight on my smart phone, and chatted to them via the WiFi network within London Heathrow airport, and used location services and 3G to find where the nearest 24 hour Tesco’s was.
What’s more, we were able to spend the day taking stunning panoramic photos of some of the great sights around London, and the following morning I could post updates onto my blog so that friends and family back home could see where we had been and what we had done/seen.
And that’s just London - we then went on to visit 8 more countries and I had the whole lot captured and online before our plane touched down back in South Africa.
So, what technology made this possible?
Devices and stuff
My iPhone was always in my pocket. Is does everything from camera to navigator to alarm clock (very important) and internet connection. This is probably the most important device of all! Now, it obviously doesn’t have to be an iPhone specifically…but just a smartphone.
The iPad was great from a blogging point of view because it’s easy to type on, great to edit photos on, and serves as a great web browser. All of this can be done on the iPhone, but it’s just easier on a tablet. Likewise, any tablet will work with the right apps - I’m just familiar with the iPad.
Unfortunately, WiFi doesn’t roam free in Europe, as I had hoped. I found the WiFi in hotels and restaurants to be really frustrating, at best. So a 3G sim card was a great help. Not only could I connect to the net from almost anywhere, I could also call home when a friend’s purse was lifted and we needed to cancel her credit cards and get more money transferred to us. Very useful.
I used the WordPress app on my iPhone to capture the moment and locations as things happened, just to make sure I didn’t miss a thing. This was all uploaded to my blog for later editing on my iPad.
After the initial crazy day in London, a large part of our tour was spent on a bus, driving around Europe. I used this time to flesh out my blog posts using the ByWord app on my iPad. ByWord allowed focussed writing by allowing me to write in Markdown, rather than more complex HTML and other scary acronyms. It was then a matter of copy, paste and publish! Whoop whoop - new blog post online!
What is a travel blog without photos? It’s just a blog. And a boring one. So I needed photos!
I snapped all the pics on my iPhone 5. It’s small and easy to carry, but has a pretty decent camera for such a tiny device - win win! But what about amazing 3D like panos? And the incredible lighting?!
Photosynth is an incredible app that allows you to take amazing panoramic pics. And you can move the camera both up and down as well as left and right. You can basically take a picture of your entire surroundings in a single picture! I don’t know how else to describe it - just check it out.
The screen on my iPhone is a little small, so I used the neat little Photo Sync app to get my pics from my iPhone onto my iPad, all ready for editing.
Photo editing! I don’t think there’s really much more to say about this - if you want to edit photos, this is the software you need. Just get it. Travelling or not.
Wait, how did you know we need to head south east?! And how do you know which way south east is?!
HopStop is AMAZING! Especially around the bigger metropolitans like London. Stick in where you wanna be, and HopStop tells you which way to walk, which busses to take and which trains to catch. It’s awesome!
The Google is amazing. And Google Maps is awesome. Great for finding yourself and finding your destination. But Google Maps has on problem - you need to be online!
Maps With Me Lite
This is basically a map app. It just downloads maps. But that’s the key bit there - downloads! That means you don’t need an internet connection to get a map of where you are. That is super helpful, especially if when there’s no 3G coverage.
Well, that’s basically the end of that story. I spent 3 weeks visiting 9 European countries, photographing and blogging my way through the whole trip. It was a great way to share the special moments with home while they were still fresh, and it gives me something great to go back and visit. And it was all made possible with the tech that I’ve mentioned above. So do something exciting, and go explore…your app store ;)