Travel always reminds me of one of the great paradoxes of modern life: While technology offers the promise of greater capabilities, mobility, and freedom, these are severley restricted by the limits of batteries and the need to be close to power sources for recharging.
I’ll never forget my excitement and subsequent disappointment in 2000 when I brought my latest gee-whiz digital camera (a Canon G2) to a pilgrimage to Mount-Athos (the largest Christan monastic community in the world) in Northern Greece. I had fully charged the battery, but left the power button on. Normally, the “power save” mode would have shut it down after 5 minutes….but this time it didn’t. I was already on the ferry boat to the rugged peninsula that houses the 20 monastery-cities, when I tried to take a picture and was confronted by the dead-battery warning light. And for this I had left my Leica M film camera at home! Each incredible missed image opportunity filled me with rage at both myself and the technology.
I was again reminded of this reality this week on my three-day trip to Toronto. While the iPad claims a 9-hour battery life, that’s assuming you don’t actually use it for anything ambitious. Each evening, returning to my hotel, the first thing I had to do was alternately plug in the iPad and iPhone to make sure I had enough juice for the next day.
My favorite iPhone app is Runkeeper Pro, a program that uses GPS to track all your outdoor exercise activities. It’s an amazing app, but – with about a 40 minute battery life – any activity beyond that time point becomes untrackable. And frankly, even at my lowly fitness level, a 40 minute bike ride is pretty short! So as we say in Greek: A giftless gift.