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Bottle on the beach

Once upon a time….communication was slow

by Emiel Van Den Boomen

Once upon a time, e-mail was not your typical way of communication.

When me and my wife started traveling seriously, it was not always easy to make contact with people back home (I’m talking 199s here). We needed to call from phone booths and for e-mail we had only one choice: internet cafés.

When we finally found one of those gloomy internet cafés in Peru, India, Japan or Vietnam we shared screens full of adventurous stories with our loved ones back home. We banged the keyboards of dusty, second-hand personal computers, trying not to bother about the sticky keys that were like glue on our typing fingers. We just wanted to share our stories before the connection would be lost again!

Writing on the (wooden) wall
Fellow travelers who you would like to ask for advice where not to be found on Facebook or Twitter. You had to visit popular hostels offering the service of an old wooden board on the wall where travelers left hand-written notes: suggestions of places to visit, hotels to stay or even sometimes the request to join transportation.

Social travel, off-line.

Call it the Romantic Travel Age or just call it inconvenient and pre-historical.

Slow communication

Slow communication

When this bottle washed ashore on the island of Koh Chang in Thailand I started mesmerizing. Just look at the shells that grew on this bottle, it must have driven in the ocean for months or even maybe a year! You know I am a sentimental idiot, so when I found this bottle I searched for a message: a piece of paper with a handwritten note, a map of long-forgotten islands or any other desperate call for contact.

Slow communication

I love to find these kinds of unexpected surprises. The bottle reminded me of my own intentions for our summer trip: to travel slowly through Thailand and to be seriously disconnected most of the times. I have to admit that wasn’t always easy with free WIFI everywhere (!)

There is something appealing to slow communication. A message in a bottle that reaches others months after its sending. When I was lying on the beach of this tropical island in Thailand, far away from commitments back home, I felt a kind of longing for the Slow Age.

How about you? Do you try your utmost to be connected online to share your stories and to keep updated? Or are you someone who tends to be disconnected and just waiting for some kind of message to wash ashore?

Slow communication

Bottle on the beach

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Ayngelina October 5, 2012 - 17:34

It was slow but also expensive. In 1999 I lived in the Philippines and my family spent 50 cents a minute to talk to me. There are ups and downs to both sides.

Emiel van den Boomen October 6, 2012 - 12:36

You are so right Ayngelina. I remember the time in Japan when I wanted to call home and had to buy a telephone card of Euro 10. I could call for a couple of minutes…and I called once a week. It was expensive, but when you look back on it also a bit romantic I guess…

Justin Mussler September 25, 2012 - 12:19

I think you really have to get away to stay slow (especially as a blogger). I know not having a phone really helps me. I was missing everything when i had my phone. If I had my wish, I travel by bottle – that would really slow things down!

Emiel van den Boomen September 26, 2012 - 08:45

True Justin. I’m seriously having a hard time keeping up with all the Facebook groups and all the other online updates and I do let most of it just pass by. My slow approach makes me identify the gems within all the updates…and respond to those.

vibeke September 25, 2012 - 08:27

So true! Your posts always make me think, and I love that:)

Emiel van den Boomen September 26, 2012 - 08:51

Thanks Vibeke, that’s a wonderful compliment! Are your currently traveling?

Used York City September 24, 2012 - 23:14

Before the age of the internet, I loved nothing more than sitting down and writing and mailing a letter snail mail style. I think that’s why I now enjoy the art of travel blogging so much:-) Even with the internet, I still make time to sit at a cafe when I travel and pen out postcards with travel stories to people back home…it just has an authentic feel to it that can’t be found banging on the keyboard.

Emiel van den Boomen September 26, 2012 - 08:53

Oh yes, those good ole postcards, truly an authentic feeling. During the travel in Asia we did take time to sit down and write, although we ‘forgot’ about the postcards. Have to do that again next time!


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