I know I advocate “switching off” while traveling and totally look down on people who have their heads in their laptops and in their phones instead of the sights. Who cares where your next internet fix is coming from, enjoy the break! Open a BOOK, read an ad, watch some local tv. Who cares what is going on back home? Chances are they’ll survive without you.
But times, they are a’changing. And while if I ever ask if I should bring my netbook or laptop when I travel, feel free to shoot me in the foot, when I went to Peru, I brought my phone. Last September (2010) I finally upgraded to a Blackberry (even though I have been on AT&T, iPhones do not interest me at all for their lack of buttons and my fat fingers). I like it. It keeps me connected on the weekends just enough, but not all the time. I still forget and leave it at home half the time. And I don’t care. But when I went to Peru, I turned off the phone portion and used the internet when I had access to wifi. All the hostels and hostels I stayed at (except for the last one) had password protected wifi which I used eagerly. I would check my email, clean out my box, email my family updates and check twitter at night when I had the time. I left my phone in my room during the day because I had no use for it outside the wifi range.
And I hate to say, but I am now a convert. I loved being able to email my family every day updates on what I was up (none of us had ever been to South America before) and getting nice little notes from them in reply. On the few nights I couldn’t access anything, it wasn’t a big deal and I didn’t care that much, but I liked the little contact I did have. I had gotten lazy in the US with notes and directions because of my phone and I like to think that Peru reinstalled that “be prepared” attitude back in me because I left things in my room that I normally would be able to access on my phone, but couldn’t because I didn’t have internet. I remembered the good ‘ole days.
For the most part, for quick trips (and heck, even for long ones, but that is just me) I still say ditch the laptop. And still, don’t bring anything you don’t mind getting stolen or lost. If my phone had gotten stolen or lost, I wouldn’t have cared too much. Lots of people had Blackberries in Peru (but only tourists had iPhones) and I never waved it around in public and could easily hide it in the bottom of my suitcase or purse. I would still feel too exposed with a laptop.