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This kind of travel, I've realized, used to be simpler. You had an airline ticket in hand, and arrangements printed on a piece of paper. These had been made far in advance via phone, fax or mail. Because of the time-lag implicit in arrangements for hotels, transportation etc., people went to great pains to honour them. They did not expect to be able to get a hold of you while you were traveling. They didn't expect you to turn on your 3G phone the second your plane touched down (and long before you got the official okay from flight attendants) to check your texts, email and phone messages. They didn't figure on calling you en route. If a change in arrangements occurred, they covered it for you or sent someone else to. Your journey was unlikely to see you falling into the kind of vacuum created when high tech lays you low. Being off the grid actually came with specific entry and exit coordinates that were understood by everyone and built into all actions and services. The expectation of constant availability has changed this equation for the worse.

You wouldn't, for instance, arrive at an airport in a very foreign country and have to boot up your computer to find out if the visa you paid for 9.5 years ago was still valid. Because that information, you vaguely recall, is buried in an email somewhere. An email that you will never find during the half-hour you're in line to buy a new one. This, plus the delay at immigration when their machines find your passport invalid, and they want to know why it was issued for only one year (a digital snafu later corrected but never believed), plus the delay at customs because you're carrying too many personal items that are now technically classed as "computers" (when you're only allowed one), plus the delay when your ski bag doesn't appear because of a tag-scanning error, will make your exit into the airport an hour later than expected so that no hotel transfer is waiting to lift you the two hours into the mountains. Ah, you think, I have a phone number to call in this eventuality-in an email somewhere. While searching for this you pull out your trusty international phone to smoothly and smugly solve the problem only to find the battery has been killed by a combination of having to show your e-ticket code-stamp 1,000 times and a live, blue-toothing, power-sucking keyboard buried in the same bag. Your friend's phone is live but he doesn't have the requisite roaming. So you can't call anyone. There's always the pay-phone route but... just try finding one these days. Anywhere. You're marooned and momentarily stunned: there is not, as you would expect/hope/assume, a technological fix to this dilemma.

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