Last Friday, my wife and I packed up our car and drove 9.5 hours south from Prague, Czech Republic through Austria and Slovenia to a small coastal town in Croatian on the Adriatic sea. We used the Waze app on my Android phone for guidance all the way there. We stayed in an Airbnb that I found online. On the way to Croatia, we stopped outside Saltzburg, Austria for lunch. Just outside of Ljubliana, Slovenia, we topped up on diesel and had a drink and a short break.
On Saturday, we drove 90 minutes to Trieste, Italy. Except for a small problem where I put the wrong address into the Waze app, we drove to the Miramare castle parking lot through the narrow Italian streets in my big (by Italian standards) SUV. Afterward, we looked for a shopping center in Trieste where we could buy some wine and gifts for family and friends back in Prague. I found one on Google and we were there 15 minutes later.
On Sunday, we went to the Roman coliseum in Pula, Croatia. Pula is about 90 minutes away in the opposite direction from Trieste. It seemed to be a popular tourist location even on a major holiday. Parking was a bit rough but not unbearable. In truth, understanding how to use the parking meter was the only time where we had much of a problem concerning language on the entire trip.
I am blessed and privileged to fluently speak the language that is the lingua franca of much of the world today. Yet for all of my adventures on this short vacation, I can say if I didn’t speak English, but still had a relatively good understanding of technology, the difficulty level of this trip would not have been substantially greater. This is a great wonder of modern life. In previous decades or centuries, journeys like this would be rare and would require much more bravery. This was true even 50 years ago with a car.
This freedom to travel far and wide is made possible by technological innovation. I used an app on my smartphone to provide reliable verbal directions to a small village that I had never heard of before. I used a website on my computer to find an apartment for rent which I paid for online. I used a search engine on my phone to get a conversion rate on my money. I used ATMs from banks I never heard of to get Euros and Croatian Kuna that were programmed in 4 to 5 different languages. These are all things that have never been possible in the past.
We live in amazing times. If we ever lost all of this, it would be a tragedy and because of that, I don’t want to take it for granted. We can’t assume that this progress will still be here tomorrow or next year. It can be taken away. We can regress.