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Bombard me with those WI-FI waves! Let them hit me like Zues’ invisible thunderbolts. Shower me with unlimited data! Dip me in content and feed me to the hipsters! May I never suffer the excruciating disconnection of internetlessness again!
These wishes are fairly simple if you find yourself rooted in one place, preferably in a first-world(ish) country where super fast Ultra High Frequency waves would make you dizzy every second of the day if you could see them whizz around. My guess is that it would be somewhat similar to an interesting acid trip..
But what if you find yourself living a nomadic lifestyle? Moving around often, never staying in one place long enough to actually remember the Wi-Fi password. Oh wait, I’ve done that. A six month adventure across the more-often-than-not rural South American continent, discovering six different countries, travelling solely over land, has revealed that I can survive with very little food, even less comfort and the never ending dilemma of being thirsty and needing to pee at the same time.
What was most surprising very early on in the trip is the shift my hierarchy of needs made. Abe Maslow would not be very proud. My pyramid definitely took on the shape of an early Transformer by not looking like a pyramid at all. With self-actualisation as the main aim of the game at the outset, I soon discovered that the need for internet access trumps EVERYTHING while on an adventure that requires constant planning. Planning that is damn near impossible without a reliable connection to the universal knowledge available on the internet. I’m still perplexed by the planning abilities of those travellers years before who never had the gift of the web. To the probable utter embarrassment of my university psychology professors, my needs while travelling like a hippie are as follows – 1. Bathroom (Rule nr1 of travelling – pee when you can even if you don’t really want to), 2- Wi-Fi password (best would be to get this while running for the loo. Those extra minutes of browsing on the pot could mean the difference between awesome tickets to see Cristo Redentor in Rio de Janeiro without cloud cover and having to lie about seeing the grand statue behind a thick layer of candy-floss clouds.) 3 – A shower would be nice. Bonus points if the water is hot. 4 – Sustenance is a requirement to stay alive. Although what I previously considered sustenance changed dramatically as I now deemed a piece of white bread smeared with sweet, sticky caramel goodness enough to fuel my system until the next lucky encounter with food. (All over the continent people are obsessed with “Dulce de Leche”, a caramel treat-like delicacy made from milk and sugar. You can find almost anything Dulce de Leche flavoured, even toothpaste.) 5. Again reliable Wi-Fi. I soon found out that finding the Wi-Fi router in any establishment and re-setting the thing myself does get frowned upon. And finally 6 – The semi-safety and relative comfort of a bed that a thousand other travellers have rested their weary bones on was always welcomed.
The best, most reliable access to the digital world of the internet when in most of South America is most definitely restaurants. I would find myself sitting at the most bizarre little eateries, sometimes outside on the curb, just to connect and leave my mark on the web for the day. This gave ample opportunity to try exotic new foods. Waiters would bring along free food, figuring out I am there for really one reason only. Tempting me with treats in the hope that I’d order more. It generally worked. The best was an “anticucho” made from cow heart (you’re thinking gross right..? It’s surprisingly tasty), with an added exotic jungle fruit platter, and I didn’t even order the fruit platter. (Rule nr 2 of travelling – Never decline free anything!)
Priorities can shift dramatically when you are surviving on a mission to experience the wonders of as many undiscovered places as possible. Undiscovered by me that is. Always on the move, a travelling nomad princess, the need to be connected to my digital world almost hitting the heights of an addict’s craving. After a particularly difficult two weeks in rural Brazil without hot water, without access to the internet and daily hard physical labour freeing little lemon trees from choking jungle vines my partner asked a most difficult question. “If you could have hot water OR Wi-Fi right now, which would you choose?” My answer jumped from my mouth without much contemplation or hesitation, “Wi-Fi of course!”
I suppose my reply shouldn’t have been a surprise. We are in the digital era of almost obnoxious connection after all. Next step – internal brain modem please!