Living with Technology / Don't let gadgets screen out best part of road trips
Traveling in cars on family vacations has been a long tradition for many people.
Whether it's a 30-minute ride or a two-week driving vacation, sitting in a car for a long period of time has been the subject of books, movies, jokes and generally pain for everyone involved.
For parents, long road trips consist of trying to keep the children happy. This is typically done through food and games.
The games have typically been along the lines of: Find a sign with the letter "A," now the letter"`B,'"now the letter "C."
Or, find a car with a license plate from a state we haven't seen yet.
With the advent of portable technologies, long trips have changed -- at least for my family.
We've always had radios in the car. But when you start adding things like iPhones, Nintendo DS, Sony PSPs and other items, kids start to actually like having a few hours of game time.
Having access to the Internet opens up entire new opportunities for people, including streaming television shows and movies from products like Netflix.
With a cornucopia of portable devices and essentially unlimited Internet connectivity, we've found that our children are quite happy when we go for long car rides.
Each of our children can use their own device to use whatever online services they are interested in.
For some, this might be Facebook and to even post a picture of where we are and the friends aren't. For some, this could be playing Minecraft with a friend somewhere else in the world. One can also call others on Skype.
I like it for the GPS and maps on my phone that route me wherever I need to go, redirect me when I miss a turnoff, and with real-time traffic information, can re-route me when the first course provided becomes less efficient.
Having all of this electronic gadgetry and entertainment on a long trip can be very attractive.
What I miss about all of this is that we no longer teach each other how to read maps. If we happen to be outside of mobile phone service, these features we rely on are simply not available.
And I also find that when people are looking at screens, they're not looking outside the car.
One of the reasons for going on trips is to see things. And not just on a glowing screen. If one is going to the Grand Canyon, one should see the Grand Canyon, not pictures of the Grand Canyon.
Even getting to and from these destinations there are amazing things outside of the car windows, whether it be beautiful roads, a majestic vista or even an orchard.
So while we don't hear much "Are we there yet?" from our children, there is a time when we turn off the electronic gadgets and look at the highest definition image available -- seeing the world with our eyes.
Mark Mathias is a Westport resident and has worked in information technology for more than 30 years. His "Living With Technology" appears every other Friday. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org