All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace

Count Down ’til Take-Off: 4 days!

I wanted to thank the machines today. Mainly because I couldn’t live without them and also because I want to get on their good side before the eventual AI uprising.

But seriously, how amazing is technology? How incredible is it that I can stay in touch with people from all around the world, to see their faces and hear them speak to me? How awesome is it that I can see that Dan Deacon is playing in Hamburg next week on Twitter, and that I can, within the space of an hour, book every train ride and hotel room that I need to get to the festival? How fantastic is it that I can write this, outside in the complete darkness, drinking Famous Grouse and wrapped in a small blanket (pictured)? Thanks, Macbook, you alright.

Photo on 15-08-2015 at 6.03 pm

I grew up in a household where technology was never a huge thing, but still a definite presence. My parents didn’t catch on to the wave until fairly late (our first family computer was one of those colourful iMacs on which I played Kids Pix and something called “Bugdom”). My first game console was a Gameboy Advance. I never had a N64 (which everyone tells me is a terrible thing for a child. Frankly, I think things like Polio are “terrible things” for a child, but that’s not exactly my point at the moment).

My dad was always fairly tech savvy, but maybe focused more on the analog (as the times demanded). My mum, though, is definitely not the most confident computer user (I shouldn’t admit that… Skynet will come for her first now!).

But I’ve always been fascinated by and drawn to the machines. I’ve worked with them, like pretty much everyone in my overly-privileged, Aussie generation, throughout my schooling, personal and work life. Until I left my job officially yesterday, I’d wake up, watch a video on Youtube over breakfast, go to work and write for six hours, then come home and go right back to my own notebook. My whole world is shaped, bound and guided by the holy screen. All hail the Intel Processor! Glory to the Retina!

Without computers, my exchange (and basically anyone’s trip overseas, ever) would never have happened. Without computers I wouldn’t still be able to talk with my friends in Sydney, Spain, Latvia, the UK and where ever the hell the other ones are in Eastern Europe. Of course, there’s always snail mail but, let’s be honest, who sends post anymore?

But it’s also a scary world, innit? Viruses, spyware, identity theft, physical theft are all fears to plague the tech-laden traveler. How do I keep my laptop safe? Do I bring my iPad? My iPod? What phone do I need to bring to connect to foreign, heathen 3G bands?

I’ve been tossing up lately about whether to bring my big laptop over with me, or just stick to my iPad? And, honestly, I still don’t quite now where I’m at with that decision.

For the average traveler, an iPad (or even nothing at all) would be the best way to go. You don’t want to be lugging around a 3kg notebook everywhere you go. But for an exchange student, I really don’t see a way around it. The average student is used to computers, they are nourished by their artificial light and sensual keys. To be away from the wonders of the laptop for five months or more is too much to bear for the average student.

So I’ll sleep on it for a few more days, but it looks like this beastie is coming with me. Of course, I’ll be worried about theft all-the-live-long day, as any sensible, paranoid citizen would, but I think a few locks, chains and anti-theft pieces of software will ease the fear to a reasonable amount.

Of course, I’d love to hear from other travelers or students on the subject! Please, let me know what you think! Should an exchange student bring along a laptop, a tablet, or simply stick to their trusty smartphone?

Honestly, these days, with your new-fangeled Googly Drives and Boxdroppers, you probably could survive five months on a smartphone… if you don’t drop it in the toilet at a music festival or on your face at bedtime. But I’m a creature of comfort, so I think I need the whole shebang with me… just in case.

Tools of the Trade – What I’ll be using to live, work and study

– Air BnB, Uber and Tinder… for reasons
– ISIC. I’ve been told this $30 International Student Card is worth it in the long run… But we’ll see of course! I’ll report back sometime in the future
– The 8mp camera on my new, mid-range smartphone for casual selfies and lame tourist shots (I’m not going anywhere near Italy though, so don’t expect Leaning Tower photos)
– Deutsche Bahn Navigator for, well, you know, navigating Deutschland by train.
– Google Maps (already marked with points of interest)
– What’s App, for getting in touch
– Skype, for chatting in airports and making sure my worrying parents know that I am alive
– Book apps and comic readers, already filled up with Conan the Barbarian, Judge Dredd, Tank Girl and other good stuff
– Pages/Microsoft office/Evernote, for work on the move. Absolutely essential, I have found over the years as an arts critic. I’ve written more than one review on the bus ride home
– A portable hard drive and a whole bunch of USBs

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