My Smartphone: An Unexpected Travel Companion
I thought I was traveling to Israel for the summer alone. I didn’t coordinate the trip with any friends and I have no family here. However, after a week of transportation, navigation, communication, and much more, it was apparent that I was far from alone – I had my smartphone.
Public transportation is a struggle for me even when everyone speaks English, so my first few commutes to work at StartApp were less than pleasant. Not only did I have to make sure to board the right bus- I also had to make sure I was even at the correct stop. Given that there are five or six bus stops scattered outside my dorm at Tel Aviv University, the correct departure location is not as easy to find as one may think. M
y program’s madrichim, or counselors, told us upon arrival to campus to download Moovit, a public transportation app that locals use to track the busses and trains. Moovit provides real time updates of all of the public bus routes in Tel Aviv, including their ETA to the bus stop, and how long the trip will take in total. Moovit also sends live notifications to your smartphone when it is time to get off the bus and tells you how long the walk will take to the next stop.
Gett Taxi was another first day download. Gett works similarly to Uber: You can call a taxi to your current location, enter an address and pay with a synced credit card. Gett is unique in that it offers a cash payment option, and you can choose to use the meter or agree on a fixed price.
Additionally, WhatsApp is an absolute gem to have on your home screen when traveling abroad. WhatsApp allows me to communicate with family and friends in real time like iMessage, but doesn’t require Wifi connection. WhatsApp’s messages are encrypted for privacy, and the features make photo, video, and voice memo sharing effortless. Group messaging is also easy with the group feature and you can reply to specific messages just by sliding the text you want to reply to. My account is also connected to my American cell phone number so friends and family back home can reach me easily.
The benefits of technology have only become more apparent to me in the last several weeks. It’s almost as if these few apps and others have insight into exactly what I need as a user. Downloading an app is more than a tap and a fingerprint scan. It’s an agreement; a trusted relationship between the user and the app creator. The enrichment I gain from using these apps lasts long after I’ve closed out of them.
If the inconveniences one would encounter without a phone seem insignificant, try it. My iPhone is definitely the most personal object I have ever and will ever own and interact with so often. Forgetting my phone at home for even one day during my adventure in Israel would be doing myself an injustice.
The apps I mentioned have only heightened my traveling experience so far. Usually I would emphasize the importance of disconnecting and being present for experiences abroad, but each moment with my smartphone is truly more fulfilling than a moment without it.