On a recent trip to San Francisco, I felt the call of duty, as a travel journalist, to try out a new travel app. There are so many these days from apps for booking airfare and accommodations, flight status checkers, interactive guides, and the list goes on. So, on this trip, I chose a city guide that would help me navigate while on the ground.
And this app did its job. But it also caused some seriously undesired consequences.
In defense of the app, it helped me find my favorite restaurant on the trip (Canteen, detailed in this post). Â And I admit, I did like knowing in-depth information about where I was at all times. But I also became dependant on the app, and I referenced it way too often. In bed at the hotel, in every restaurant, on the Golden Gate Bridge and even on Alcatraz I was searching the app for what next to do. Talk about missing the point!
Here’s the thing. The app, Lonely Planet’s guide to San Francisco, has so much interesting information about every neighborhood that, quite naturally, my curiosity and love of instant gratification got the best of me.
We go on trips to viscerally explore the world, to unwind, to disconnect, and plug in to something new -but not this time. With my new found app-addiction, my smart phone was always in hand. This made it way too convenient to check my work emails and to text. And beyond that, I missed that truly exciting experience I get when I am soaking in a new place and following my instincts.
Lonely Planet did a really great job providing well-organized, practical advice, context, activities to engage in, and good places to eat. The app can even help you get off the beaten path. The only fault I encountered is that there is so much detailed information, I found it hard to digest all of it before the trip. But knowing I would have the app with me, I planned to reference it along the way. That was my downfall.
The app has one particularly engaging feature that immediately became my go-to activity. With it you can locate yourself on a map and it will highlight everything around you Lonely Planet finds noteworthy. Restaurants and bakeries, vintage stores, museums and nightclubs, that I had no idea existed, were suddenly mapped out around me. And I compulsively used this feature even after I told myself to stop.
To be honest, I rarely, in my travels, use guidebooks on the ground. But a travel guide-app seemed innocuous, especially because the app was weightless in my purse. Unfortunately, it caused me to break my number one rule as a traveler. And I became a guidebook (or guide-app)-dependant-tourist closed off and inhibited from actually exploring the world around me.
My advice to you and to my future self: Keep the above in mind. If you must get one of these apps, maybe designate days when you vow not to use it. And know, you app at your own risk!