15 things you couldn’t do 15 years ago

As 2015  comes to an end, I thought it would be an appropriate time to look back on the last 15+ years of travel. So with that in mind I’m looking back on the last 15 travel. 15 years ago I set off to Mexico to study Mayan Art and Architecture.  I had contact information for a physician given to me by a Spanish professor, and an open ended plane ticket.  I  had no idea what life had in store for me.  Here are 15 things you just could not do 15 years ago.

1.  Dial up people back home on your cell phone.

Back in 2000, if you wanted to call someone back home you had to go to the local store, purchase a phone card for so many minutes, find a pay! phone that worked, and navigate the arduous process of calling through an operator.  Now, people just break out their personal phones, and call anybody. anywhere.  Or better yet, use Google Voice, Skype, or FaceTime. These cards were available in nearly every amount, but 100 peso card didn’t translate into very many minutes.  Needless to say, calls home were a rare treat.

2.  Send [or receive] a quick e-mail confirming anything.

I got my first email account in college.  The only other people who I could send email to was friends at other colleges who also had email because no one I knew had a personal email account.  Our computer labs [that’s right, not everyone had their own computer…I didn’t until I was a senior] ran Netscape.  Chat rooms were allowed in the beginning, but then they got all sketchy and the college blocked them.   I checked my email maybe 3 times a week and hardly ever had spam.

Businesses never sent email confirming a purchase or emailed receipts instead of printing them like they do now.

3.  Check in to your flight online


Even though I’ve had a cell phone sine 2000 , air time wasn’t unlimited or cheap.  Airlines still made you physically be present to check into a flight.  You could call and check the status of your flight, but since I lived about three hours away from the primary airport, calling ahead didn’t really do much good.

4.  Withdraw funds from the ATM.

Yes, ATMs were available, but using them in foreign countries was very risky.  Machines didn’t always recognize foreign cards, and getting your card back was a royal pain.  I had a big book of travelers checks and an uncomfortable wad of cash when I landed in Mexico City in 2000.

5.  Plan a trip without using a travel agent.

You could book a plane ticket directly with the airline.  Expedia [a Microsoft brand] was an infant, and Kayak hadn’t been conceived yet.  On line searches back in the day were painfully slow [with connections over phone lines] and booking on-line was something very few people did.

6.  Book accommodation online while traveling.

You could, however, call a hotel and book accommodation [if you spoke the language].  Most of the time, I just showed up, asked around, and took what looked good.

7.  Carry an entire library of books with you without breaking your back.

It’s hard to imagine what I did before I had my Kindle.  I carried a guide book, and two books with me for reading. One so that I’d always have a book to trade, because that’s how we did things back in 2000.

8.  Carry an entire music collection in the palm of your hand.

Ipod wasn’t released until 2001…other mp3 players followed, but in 2000, if you wanted to listed to ‘your’ music, you did so on CDs.  I traveled with a portable CD player and a 24 CD wallet and burned my own playlist prior to travel.  Yeah, I was super cool.

9.  Share your photos with people who weren’t physically in front of you.

I am a huge fan of photography, but I didn’t go digital until 2007.  In 2000, I carried two cameras, one with black and white film and one with color.  I dropped off an average of 10 rolls of film a week.  It got expensive.  I archived my negatives and made photo books to send back home.

10. Update your blog.

In 2000, a blog was known as a journal, and it was mostly private.  I wrote in mine almost daily, glued pictures and ticket stubs into the book, and treated it like the historical document it was.  I still even have a few of them.

11.  Drink sketchy water without boiling it or suffering the consequences.

In Mexico, I drank bottled water and used commercial ice.  I boiled water religiously.  There was no such thing as a Steri-pen.  Today, I never leave home without it.

12.  Shop online for travel products/research products online.

Catalogues were the way to go back in 2000.

13.  Get travel advice from people you didn’t know online.

Chat rooms did exist, but your everyday person didn’t visit them.  I did get travel advice from a guy in Canada once, but it seemed a little sketchy.  I didn’t follow it.

14.  Instagram anything.

Instagram debuted in 2010.  Before that, you had to buy filters and put them on your lenses, and take pictures.  If you were good, and I wasn’t [and still aren’t] you could Photoshop in some effects. But it was nothing like the ease of instagram.

15. Google.  Anything

Google was introduced in 1998, but it certainly wasn’t the juggernaut that it is today.  In fact, I used Yahoo! for the first few years I had computer access.

Traveling in 2000 and certainly before that was not like traveling today.  It was somewhat harder, the road was the place to get up-to-date travel info, and when you were out, contact home wasn’t that easy.

Traveling now is certainly open to a wider group of people and for better or worse, it’s a lot easier to stay in contact with friends and family back home. I wonder what is in store for the next 15 years for all of us travelers.


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