Random Travel Tips – Part 2 – Thorn Tree, Uber, and Kindle

Ideas and Issues

Montreal          We are continuing to double down on travel tips.

Let’s start with Lonely Planet.  For a current generation this used to be the go-to place to get a sense of what’s possible and what’s affordable in a new country.  It’s still valuable, but rarely as current as a traveler needs it to be in the internet age.  By the time a country publication is updated, it’s already out of date.  The antidote for that problem used to be Lonely Planet’s website offering at thorn tree. Recently, fellow travelers have reported that the site is also losing value as well.  Like any bulletin board and inquiry site, thorn tree depends on crowdsourcing for its content.  When travelers use it less, there are less queries, and of course fewer helpful tips and responses.  On even popular destinations like Mexico, some of the postings that are most current are now years’ old.  So, don’t throw away your Lonely Planet travel books, but match that with a check on thorn tree to reconfirm the information from hotel and café closings to museum times and pricing to whatever, and then double check with a Google search.  Seems too complicated doesn’t it?  That’s why people are going around Lonely Planet and similar publication pages and directly to Google or whatever your search engine.  Ok, Google.

How about transportation?  There are still some great bargains like the $10 bus from Trudeau airport into the city of Montreal or the train into Chicago and Toronto, and there are still disappointments like the late train opening times in Portland for example.  Uber sucks, but it is unavoidable and invaluable in places like Mexico City.  In Kenya, people recommended Taxify.  We ended up on a 2 ½ hour jornada de morte with a Taxify driver who was really a bank clerk who was both afraid to go to Korogocho and took us through downtown and one jam after another.  In Uganda, Taxify isn’t taxis but motorcycles, that are not called motos as they are in many countries, but are called bodabodas in Uganda.  Matatus in Kenya are just called taxis in Uganda.  Almost everywhere in Latin America, Africa, and India, three-wheeled buggies are the transportation of choice whenever you are off the main streets.  I find them strangely safe, because their top speeds are so low, meaning they are also slow.  Makes sense to find out who is running these routes before you, though at this point, I wing it, and just do whatever the locals do and ask for the prices before jumping in.

Since we’re on the interface between the US and the rest of the world, and Amazon is also trying to run the world to our objection, I still can’t imagine traveling without a Kindle.  They are indestructible compared to any of the iPad deals, and they don’t make it hard on you if you forget your password or randomly change it, like Apple does.  Apple is one of the only things that makes me like Amazon a bit.  Anyway, I used to travel with several books, until I found my first adapter for Kindle.  I’m on my fourth.  Some were stolen or lost.  Some died.  Some they replaced, but in each case, I recovered all of my books, highlights, and notes, because they were on the cloud, and did so instantaneously.  That’s hard to beat.  Plus, if you underline your books, tell the truth, you never open them again in most cases, but highlight on Kindle allows you to copy and paste all of your notes into a searchable file on your personal computer.  I must have 500 or 600 books on my Kindle, since the crummy offerings of onboard movies gives me lots of time to read my 100 plus books per year.  My highlights file word count is over 300,000, but if I’m looking for a book or a note, it’s an easy search.  I think Kindle and its Amazon overlord have now made my books more searchable on the cloud as well, but either way it’s hard to beat for constant travel, the memory life is outstanding, the price is within reason, and the weight is insignificant.

Just saying.