So it started around the same time last year when Jason and I talked about going on a long-distance biking trip to San Diego. We didn’t follow through–I think we expected not to.
But one year on, Jonghwa and I hatched plans for the same trip over Thai food. I think we had just come out of a seminar feeling enthusiastic, and ready to take on the world. I believe Jonghwa had asked the speaker about what inspired him, and the speaker(can’t remember his name) replied saying that life was a constant inspiration for him. So it came about that we were going to be biking to San Diego. We were to leave Thursday, on Thanksgiving. Bit later on how it transpired.
I thought we should document the project in unique, fun ways. Documentation is an effort to make permanent that which we anticipate to be spectacular and short-lived. Making a physical record of something temporary is immensely attractive–it’s like art in that sense. Not only because memories fade over time, but because there’s so much information and potential inspiration that we encounter in our travels…I think it can be useful to thoroughly document and then to later to come back to distill some answers..or kernels of whatever it is you discover.
I have always been fascinated with what you learn when/via traveling. I’m specifically talking about travel outside one’s habitual life paths… when the speed at which you are hurtling through space and time increases, you become more sensitive to changes around you, and therefore are able to observe better. There’re plenty of travel writers, painters, video artists, but as I found out recently, there’s even traveling programmers and game developers! (actually only one game developer, and am not sure about the programmer…I can’t locate his url as of now.)
I’m going to try to list out a few travel documentation methods that I have been thinking about. Please post if you have any ideas.
Video: Spy Cameras are a good idea. They are small and can capture unique perspectives.
Photographs: Photosynth(iPhone app that stitches photos together in real-time) to take panoramic photos to give a sense of space.
GPS: Track yourself at crucial junctures or breaks in you travel using any number of mobie apps…we used My Trip Journal.
Collecting Stuff: Jonghwa collected clams only to eat them later at home.
Rhythm: Since travel occurs over time…documenting at intervals rather than constantly might be a solution to data management. But recording everything all the time has it’s own merits. Often, however, taking photographs or video can get in the way of the experience, so automating the documentation process can be useful.
We went all the way to Normandie beach from downtown LA by the end of day on Thanksgiving. Around 40-50 miles. Our bodies struggled to keep going. Biking next to the PCH on the beach was a pleasant experience. For the next iteration I think we are going to drive down to the beach and bike to SD along the coast.
Some Food for Thought: Knowing simply that we will be back to our routine by the end of the traveling period I think can inhibit the experience. The best kind of travel might be the kind that doesn’t bring you back to your previous life-style. You should accept that it can change your life completely as you embark…
So after writing the above last week, I have been thinking of traveling as a way of life…like it is for a nomad, and about the importance of documenting. I think traveling, or being nomadic by itself is perhaps only a means to an end, because you can be extremely rigid in your ways even when traveling around the globe. It’s how the paths in life change from day to day, that you come to realize what is habitual is crucial. Technology can help us to see/think outside our everyday rituals(behavioral habits.)
We often tend to avoid all tech when we go camping, or go into nature. It doesn’t have to be the case, probably shouldn’t. Steven K. Roberts pioneered the tech nomadic ways in the the 80s and 90s with his unique recumbent bikes. Recumbent bikes allow you to ride while reclining on a chair-like seat, allowing you to ride for much longer periods of time. While recumbent bikes existed long before Steven Roberts, he brought computing to them, and thereby most modern amenities(such as computer, air cooler, telephone, internet connection, solar panels, batteries, cooler, etc.) He talks extensively about his is Winnebiko II and the SUN Microsystems sponsered BEHEMOTH in his blog here.
According to Roberts, his bike allowed his neighborhood to expand beyond the confines of his stationary home to the entire country, and along with it his potential friends-pool.
Since Steven Robert’s initial efforts in the 80’s there have been a number of people inspired by the high-tech nomadic culture that refer to themselves as technomads(Roberts coined the term.) transforming RVs, and boats in to traveling, tech gadgets. Sean Bonner talks about relegating our stuffs to storages in the desert and traveling extended periods of time in his TED talk. He sites Steven Roberts as one his inspirations. Here’s a link to the Technomads website archive.
I think today’s mobile phones are underutilized for the type computing power they can provide for traveling. They don’t push-notify us enough. Mobile phones can be quite valuable even when not in use. Because we carry mobiles everywhere, they share in our daily habits….time we used them to track/document our lives. Imagine a screensaver that displays your GPS route so far in the day superimposed over a map. You’ll also be able to bring up maps from previous days, look at your movement-statistics over the last one year, look at friends’ movement stats etc. I’ll post again with a more detailed version of the concept.