Observations From Three Days Without Internet

We spent three days in Tuscany with old friends. We had a blast. The Gotham Gal batched up a bunch of blog posts and put them all up just now

The Gotham Gal used to do her travel blogging like that in "batch mode". Check out this post about our visit to Rome a few years ago. It covers four days or more in one post.

Nowadays we all travel with laptops. I even brought the iPad with us this trip. We do something and she blogs about it that same day. Like this visit to MAXXI, the new modern art museum in Rome. 

When you can share something you did right away, it is a lot easier to remember the details. And a post about a meal or a museum visit can be a lot more detailed than a post about four days in Rome.

I call that real time blogging and it is very much the way we do things these days. And in a strange twist, being without fixed Internet over the past three days limited how we could blog but also forced us to do more real time blogging. Check out my Tumblr, where I was posting photos from my blackberry. I could tweet too.

And we got seriously into Foursquare in Tuscany. My son must have checked into every store, restaurant, gelateria, and town we visited. It is so easy to do that. 

Real time blogging doesn't take any time to do. You snap a photo with your phone, if you like it, you upload it, and get back to seeing the sights and sounds of the town. You sit down to a lunch, checkin, and then open the menu and discuss the options with friends and family.

Even though it doesn't take any time to do, there are benefits of real time blogging, both for us and for those who care to follow our travels. For us, we have created an archive of the things we did and when we want to go back, we can search our archives and find them again. For those who care to follow our travels, there are tons of tips and advice on places to go and where to eat, shop, etc.

Services like Tumblr, Twitter, and Foursquare utilize the mobile phone to make real time blogging possible. It's quick and easy and you can leave a trail both for yourself and your friends and followers.

I did not really miss fixed Internet very much over the past three days and really enjoyed using the phone instead. Next time you go on a trip, try setting up a Tumblog and a Foursquare account, download the apps for your phone, and give it a try. I think you'll enjoy it as much as we did the past three days.


Comments (Archived):

  1. BobSF

    I think using the internet for anything other than mapping or reservation/dining planning and a once-daily email check while on vacation is completely nuts.

    1. fredwilson

      have you tried it my way?or you are just assuming it is nuts?

    2. David Noël

      When I traveled to LA for the first time last year in April, I didn’t have any specific plans or places I wanted to visit. It was through Twitter and Tumblr that I got the inside tips.It was like having a local guide showing me around and suggesting places to visit, except they were all online. Bonus was to actually meet some of them in real life, people I am still in contact with. New friends on the other side of the globe, if you want.

  2. Cody Brown

    You’ll never be smart enough to know if the data you’re creating in an average foursquare check-in could be valuable in the future.–I initially couldn’t stand foursquare because it seemed frivolous (and was also raiding my twitter stream) but that’s ultimately what won me over and I think will win more people over. There will be a lot more apps like it to come.

  3. Sandro

    Lifestreaming’s my favorite use of Foursquare; I did it throughout Europe adding venues in Holland, France, Spain, Hungary and Turkey and I love going back and checking out the multitude of stops and reminiscing. It’s amazing in its ability to help in remembering, re-finding, sharing itineraries with friends, et al. Names, addresses and geo really are a fantastic combo. As a matter of fact, a friend of mine is going to Istanbul and told me that he’s planning on following my Foursquare history, his quote was “I know you and your travel and food planning abilities, so I am going to just follow your food and historical sites checkins and take it from there”. Now that was an awesome intersection of life and technology…

    1. fredwilson

      foursquare ought to make following a friend’s itinerary easier

  4. Gary Arndt

    I’ve been blogging around the world now for over 3 years. I’ve been rather shocked at the places I’ve been able to find internet access. The quality of the connection in the Solomon Islands and the Marshall Islands was surprisingly good….when you could find it.

  5. whitneymcn

    I’ve got 2+ years of tweets and pictures that went from my phone to Tumblr, and I love the archive that results, both of travel and the everyday stuff: I know that two years ago today I was back in the office after a trip to California and having this kind of day: “Valid reasons to punch a sysadmin: when he says ‘yeah, I had a bad feeling about that from the start, but…you know…’.”Turns out that the mix of the distilled moments from Twitter plus those low-quality pictures of the kids, myself, or the randomly entertaining stuff I came across are more evocative of that history than almost anything else I can come up with.

  6. Pablo Estrada

    Glad you are having a good time, Fred. I was in Tuscany last September, near the border with Liguria, and it was fabulous.Was it a hassle to get set up with a mobile internet connection there, or are you simply roaming? In many European countries, it is quite easy to buy prepaid mobile data, but I’m not sure how it works in Italy. Roaming is probably the easiest, and by far most expensive.

    1. fredwilson

      i have this crazy t-mobile blackberry planbut i am getting my kids prepaid mobile data while they are over here

  7. rich caccappolo

    One thing I noticed: the international bandwidth charges on the iphone, blackberry, etc., can get really expensive. I found myself looking for available wi-fi everywhere I went. It became a real factor in deciding where to get a cup of coffee or eat a meal.

    1. fredwilson

      yup, particularly if you have an iphonei have this great t-mobile plan where i get unlimited data roaming internationally on my blackberryi think it’s a mistake but last trip i took the google phone and the blackberry and used them about equallymy google phone racked up $1500 in data roaming chargesand my blackberry racked up $0i left the google phone at home this trip

      1. rich caccappolo

        yes – I brought my blackberry and my iphone and prepaid for 50MB for each through AT&T (I don’t think they have a plan as great as the t-mobile plan you mention). 50MB is nothing for the iphone – eaten up in 3 days. The blackberry was still under after 10 days. This drove me to use features on the blackberry even thought they are not as good as those on the iphone, e.g., I used the google map, foursquare app, twitterberry, mlb shortcut, stock quotes through wsj mobile reader, etc. – and especially, email – all on the blackberry to avoid overage charges incurred via the iphone. Blackberry should play up their bandwidth efficiency for international travelers…a marketing message

      2. RichardF

        That’s a great data plan – wish I could find something like that for Europe. I’m travelling for the next few weeks and have had to ensure that I know there is wifi within a reasonable driving distance otherwise I’ll rack up some big data charges. Southern Europe is not great for wifi. At least in the UK I know I’ll find wifi at Starbucks or Macdonalds!

        1. Fernando Gutierrez

          I’m not sure about the UK, but in Spain I have a similar plan for my Blackberry from Movistar. I pay 40€/month and I get unlimited data roaming worldwide. I know there is a cheaper plan if you plan to be in Europe. Maybe you should check with O2 as it is also part of Movistar group.This is single most important reason I keep using a BB. I live in Spain but spend about 20% of my time in the US, so being able to use it always is huge. I haven’t found anything similar for iPhone or Android phones.

          1. RichardF

            Hey Fernando, there must be sore heads in Espana this morning!O2 have just brought in a capped 50mb for £40 and 200mb for £120. So at least I know I’m not going to run up a massive bill but I do find extortionate roaming charges in Europe a real frustration. Single market, what single market!

          2. Fernando Gutierrez

            Yes, it’s being amazing! There was a party everywhere yesterday night… and they haven’t finished yet!Too bad O2 only sells capped plans… I agree that roaming charges within Europe are way too high, especially for data. I met a guy who tried to set up a trans-european data mvno but found so much opposition that he had to forget about it.

  8. LIAD

    for the interaction you wanted to have with the internet over the past few days – photo uploading, checkins, tweets, light blogging – a mobile phone and 3g(?) connection sufficed. however if you wanted to have a deeper or fuller interaction and were limited to using a mobile device and non-fixed connection – i think you would have been terribly frustrated.”Not wanting something is as good as having it” – that’s the real reason I think you didn’t miss fixed internet

  9. Scott Carleton

    First benefit I realized of Foursquare was the ability to look back in my history and remember different nights/trips etc. Especially the ones that normally would get lost in the ether.I was amazed at how some venues are treating real time blogging such as Foursquare. I was recently in Ft. Worth Texas at a restaurant called The Reata. A woman (who I later learned was the GM), came up to me with her iphone displaying my picture. “Is this you?” At the affirmative, she offered a free desert. My friends and family at the table, who had never heard of Foursquare, were astounded.

    1. fredwilson

      we need more moments like that

    2. Tereza

      My friend just had a scary situation where she was traveling on business, checked into her hotel (including Foursquare). Some weirdo in the lobby sees her, matches her name, and starts calling her room repeatedly with nasty sexual/violent overtures. She had to change rooms in the middle of the night, and use a pseudonym. Not surprisingly she was really shaken up.I just changed my Foursquare settings to no longer show up on the public feed (to be seen by friends, or a proprietor are fine). And note to self — will never, ever ‘check in’ to a hotel.I hate to have to think that way but I guess it’s reality.Even has me wondering if Foursquare may want to have a default prompt sent to females during a nighttime check-in, especially a hotel, to opt-out of the public feed for that check-in (rather than change the 24-hour default setting, as I now have).

    3. JLM

      The original Reata is located in Alpine, TX and used to be a big Texas secret. Alpine is on one side of a mountain ridge from Marfa where Giant was filmed. The Reata was the big ranch in that movie w/ Rock Hudson, Liz Taylor and James Dean. Marfa had lots of German prisoners in WWII.Little known fact!

  10. Geoff

    Except maybe in Switzerland where they insist on £7.50 per mb and no open wifi’s so you have to pick your hotels carefully 🙂

    1. fredwilson

      that’s where i am headed nextso i’ll see if i can find a better way

  11. Lauren Sperber

    Yes! When I went to Ireland last year I tweeted pictures of my trip constantly. I got my parents to join Twitter to follow along–my mom said that checking Twitter during my trip was like getting a bunch of little postcards from me every day.And when I got home and sat down to edit and annotate the photos I took on my regular camera, my tweets reminded me of the name of every lake, field, and dirt road I’d photographed in rural Mayo County.I’m in Cambridge right now, foursquaring + tweeting + flickring up my archive as we go.

  12. Caryn Rose

    I am looking to do the same on an upcoming trip, but have set up Posterous to capture things as they make their way to Twitter and Flickr. Tumblr doesn’t ‘click’ with me as much as I have tried (and keep trying). You are right about how much easier it is to remember details. I consciously use Twitter to ‘take notes’ on things I want to remember later (or enter them into Evernote if it’s something I still want to think about).

  13. Brad Dickason

    I’m helping a good friend setup a blog for being ‘off the grid’ for a while. There are a number of issues that pop up like VERY expensive data rates and lack of connectivity when in rural areas.Unfortunately the best solution we’ve found is to write posts as text docs then try to find someone local with an internet connection to paste them into WordPress/Tumblr.Anything else (for 2-3 months at a time) just becomes way too expensive/complicated!

  14. Noah Bloom

    While these services like Foursquare and Tumblr are simplifying, liberating, and innovating for documenting travel, international ROAMING downright SUCKS. Until we can do something about the ugly stranglehold carriers still have over our travelling selves, global connectivity is something we techies should all be EMBARRASSED about.

    1. fredwilson

      yupalthough wifi is increasingly available

  15. Aviah Laor

    Sounds like a great trip.1. It’s 2010. Sending photos and blog posts in real time to multiple services, from everywhere, to appear on the web on the spot, is listed under a “without internet” post :)2. Interesting to see that the generic platforms are more useful than a “vertical”, more dedicated service.

    1. ShanaC

      People like doing stuff their own way- getting too detailed means being bogged down in those details.

  16. paramendra

    The Gotham Gal is a much better travel blogger than you are anyways, but hey, it’s all in the family still. 🙂

  17. Jean-Francois Noel

    What I find cumbersome with what you do is use 3. different services. I prefer to do all the updates on one service with pics if needed and always the location. Twitter is going there and you can already do this with Buzz, wouldn’t it be more convenient?

    1. David Noël

      There was a discussion in the comments on a post here on AVCland once about one-size-fits-all services vs. the need of separate social graphs. In the end, it comes down to your personal preference about which information you want to share with whom.Personally, I prefer the separated approach.Cool name, by the way.

      1. Jean-François Noël

        I don’t see it as multiple social graphs problem. Currently no service has a good separation between social graphs so we use different services to workaround the problem. Also using a service for picture that is different from the check in service is not really helping, I end up sharing my pictures with the wrong gang and my check ins with another wrong gang. What I really wanted to do is share some check ins with a limited set of persons and some others with the public in general.Finally using different services from my phone is cumbersome. I will end up posting a pictures while in a restaurant, but forget to check in or write a small review of the meal. The check in should have been automatic while I was posting the picture (always include location) and the review should be trivial to add later as a note on the check in.P.S.: La même chose pour votre nom.

        1. David Noël

          I’m sure there will be (or already is) a service powered by the 4sq API to post a picture and at the same time check in. Like Twitpic for 4sq + optional push to Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.

          1. fredwilson

            they need to build this natively into foursquareas twitter needs to build it natively into twitter

          2. Fernando Gutierrez

            The easiest way I know to autopost to several services is Posterous. You just send and email and it goes to all the services you have configured (Twitter, Flickr, Youtube, blogging services, Facebook and few more… not Foursquare though) and to your Posterous. You can also select in which services you want it published on a one-by-one basis changing the email address.

          3. Casey Cheshire

            Quick note related to that type of feature- the RunKeeper app allows you to take a photo during a run (bike, etc) and it tags the location in the path of your activity that it’s tracking for all to see.

          4. David Noël

            I want this in the Nike+ app. Then again, I can’t imagine making nice photos while running.

          5. Casey Cheshire

            You’d be surprised- I’ve come across a few amazing sunsets as well as a close encounter with a fox. 🙂

  18. ShanaC

    1) This post + some of the Gotham Gal’s (especially about your son’s Josh’s uses of Foursquare) points to a lot of alternative uses of Foursquare. I think I have mentioned this before- my friend uses it as a diary for places that he goes that he likes, so that he remembers them for later. it’s an idea you bring up, and so do others here. Apparently the key is a flexible medium that allows us to riff a little bit- which is I guess how the original scrapbooking idea got popular in the first place.2) Like every experience there is a learning curve to doing anything real time. (or semi-real time) I’m barely figuring out what the purpose for me is for a tumblog. Archiving content is important, so is making a space yours. Then there is also the sharing of the space. Bit messy, but also great. I sort of understand why sharing photos and music is really popular through tumblr- it’s mementos of daily life. I also sort of wish that what I wad doing was closer to scrapbooking, and that I could regularly change the css. These are the digital mementos to my life- they aren’t supposed to intrude, they are supposed to capture what I love., and present them the way I want them to.3) nthing on roaming charges. Not only that, there is no worldwide standard for what kind of phone to use (europe is GSM, and I think good chunks of Asia, korea in particular, favors CDMA) Bringing everyone in line would resolve that issue so so much.4) Who won the poolside card game- you or your son? (It’s a great picture of the two you playing cards, on the Gotham Gal’s blog)

  19. Tereza

    I do wish that on the Tumblr iPhone app you could post a text entry along with a photo or graphic. I really like to do them together.It seems when you post a Photo all you can add is a “description”, not a full post. Or if you do a post, you can’t add a picture to it. So as far as I can tell, something like what Gotham Gal writes (which I love) — photos and words alternating in a single narrative, but authored on my iPhone — can’t do it on Tumblr.Perhaps it is possible, or can be rigged to do it, but if so, it is not clear to me as a user.Would looooove to see that change. I swear I would post 10x more than I do.

  20. Venkat

    There are definitely costs too, and we in our 2.0 bubble should be aware of them.As it happens, my wife and I also went to Italy for a week about 2 months ago. We did bring a netbook and Touch for emergency Internet use, but otherwise, I chose to be truly off the grid. The only digital device I was using was a (non international) Kindle.The true cost of being always connected is not this “Real time blogging doesn’t take any time to do. You snap a photo with your phone, if you like it, you upload it, and get back to seeing the sights and sounds of the town. You sit down to a lunch, checkin, and then open the menu and discuss the options with friends and family.”The true cost is in this classic Bored with the Internet xkcd comic.Similarly “When you can share something you did right away, it is a lot easier to remember the details.” is true, but there is a cost side, based on hour our memory works and how it reconstructs memories into coherent narratives as data moves from sensory to short-term to long-term memory, is rehearsed and edited by reflection, gradual associations with other memories etc. You are not writing the same story with fresher details and greater accuracy. You are writing a different story. And by choosing to write that story in that moment, your brain will store long-term memories differently simply because you externalized the memory early. My memories of trips where I did real-time externalization vs. writing months later, vs. never-wrote-down-at-all are all different.The cost of never-off-the-grid behavior is that even a momentary switch to another track breaks the in-the-moment “I am fully present here” experience in ways that we are not aware of. Half or maybe all of you is “there.” Your momentary Foursquare check-in means you’ve decided to keep your social brain in its existing social network rather than look around and potentially connect with the people around you.I am not saying this is good or bad. I am just saying the true costs have little to do with time proportions and switching costs in your attention TDMA or “freshness/accuracy of memories,” but in your subjective situation awareness and where you “are” psychologically, and the workings of long-term memory.I have no patience for Luddites who think of true dropping-off-the-grid as something philosophically ennobling, but they ARE responding to a real perception that we are potentially under-estimating the value of a very rich and complex way of experiencing the world.There may be ways to use technology itself to solve this problem (i.e. replace “off the grid” with a “be on a vacation grid” as a vision), but I’ll speculate on that somewhere/some time else.

    1. fredwilson

      hmmvery interesting comment venkat

  21. Charlie Fishman

    If I ever get a trip into Tuscany, I’m leaving everything except the camera, and if I need to write, I’ll bring a journal. No phones, no laptops. G-d I want a trip to Tuscany + free of the net 😉

  22. Fred T

    That’s the beauty that I like with Foursquare. They do have fields wherein you can either leave a tip about the place or a keyword that you can come back to for future blog expounding. I would say the other location-based apps like MyTown and Yelp have that as well. You enter a phrase, then you might just recall the fresh experience right off the fly.

  23. Maurice

    Ahh, I thought this was going to be a post about how you were without the Internet– the whole fixed line + wireless– for 3 days. I’m thinking a lot about how I want to live in the real world a little bit more like I did in the old days.

  24. JamesF

    I tried to go without internet, and I was about to pull my hair out from constantly thinking about what was going to go wrong. Unless it’s a vacation where I can prepare for being out.

  25. Casey Cheshire

    Where’d you stay? Tuscany is an excellent escape!

    1. fredwilson

      Near chiuisi (sp??)

      1. Casey Cheshire

        Ah! Very cool. I was a few minutes north of there in Castiglion Fiorentino. My wife and I navigated sans-GPS for that trip which made it quite an adventure. Our directions to the villa included phrases like: “after you’ve passed the church and gone over the second little bridge…” and “…when you see two tall pine trees, take your next right.”Next time you’re in the area I highly recommend eating at Trattoria La Grotta in the hilltop town of Cortona. 🙂

        1. fredwilson

          We were in cortona but did not have that recommendation sadly

  26. Home Decor

    Hey from Las vegas i agree with you on that ….. i tweet this and here one more like you post thank

  27. fredwilson

    I love the beach in september. My kids school schedule makes that impossible for us. But soon (another four years) I will make it a tradition