March 20th, 2006

Adapting to a New Environment

Posted by natdavauer in Around the World

Traveling has never been so easy. Like a miniature Best Buy with everything short of the appliance section (four lb. washing machines coming soon I’m sure), our backpacks stay relatively light while containing everything a techophile needs for a round the world journey.

Capture those sunrises on the Great wall, fishermen in Siberia and night markets in Hong Kong: mini-DV camcorder. Shave head and rearrange facial hair depending on mood/climate: shaver/clipper combo. Call and text friends with sim card purchased in current country (and accidently leave it in London): mobile phone. Photograph everything in sight and then some (ok, not light but I packed fewer pairs of underwear ok?): digital cameras etc. Listen to tens of thousands of your favorite songs and books while being painfully hip at the same time: Apple iPod. Book flights, check email, make international phone calls for free, watch bootleg DVD’s and write this post: ultra-thin laptop computer.

Great, but all of this equipment makes you feel less like Indiana Jones and more like Jack Ryan working for National Geographic. You begin to notice these things stuffed into every corner of your bag… adapters. Like stowaway rodents, when you arrive in a new room after having been on a train, plane or bus, they emerge from bags and plug themselves into every available outlet. Nothing is left unplugged. Prongs are adapted, wires are supported, devices are attached and little red and green lights are illuminated. An army of AC/DC DV HD LED troopers are charged for tomorrow’s battle.

These adapters, these black, clunky and shapeless anchors are the ugly little secret of this sleek silver army. They are the Achilles’ Heel. Lose one of these creatures and it’s mate is done for. Like a billion dollar space station without it’s miserable Russian cosmonaut, it crashes to Earth, a high price paperweight.

We did just this in Moscow. The biggest adapter of them all: the laptop adapter. It was left plugged in in the lobby of the Marriot. This fact was not realized until we were half way through Siberia. Such is always the case though. You never forget the thousand dollar piece of technology that comes with it’s own hundred dollar carrying case, but you always forget the adapter that slides around knotting itself up at the bottom of a bag somewhere. We watched Family Guy and Lost on the train as our god of communication and entertainment slowly ebbed life and became dead weight.

What we faced was a challenge akin to building a railway connecting two sides of a continent via one of the coldest places on Earth: finding a power adapter for a specific Dell laptop in Siberia. Needless to say, Irkutsk does not have a Dell store and neither does the whole of Mongolia. A few thousand miles, some time zones and a couple countries later we find an adapter in Beijing. Still, this took a couple days of searching and some harsh bargaining to acquire.

Just when the army is at full strength and ready to charge (pun intended), BAM! PFC DV camcorder’s charger gets hit with some freak powersurge and is down for the count, little light all cold and dark. This happens in rural China so the camera is piled on the rest of the non-tech clothes and carried around like a ridiculous bracelet that is neither cool nor comfortable. Luckily, we were on the way to Hong Kong where power adapters thrive and multiply by the millions. Price, while not in the millions, thrives as well making the search for an affordable adapter just as difficult as it was in Siberia. Finally, the Mad Max of power adapting solders together some sort of Robocop device that is half Pekinese dog and half adapter. The camcorder is back in action as long as the battery is “never charged more than two hours” as Max says. Or was it “never less than two hours?” Uh oh.

I got an email today from a friend who is traveling in Norway recalling the woes of hunting for an adapter in Oslo. I can just see these fancy devices travelling all over the world dead and lifeless in search of power. 110V, 220V or either one if you have one of those adapters that do both. If you don’t, well then you need an adapter to convert to the proper power for that adapter. And it doesn’t even stop there. If you have the adapter to charge your device and you have the device to change the power to your adapter, you might not have the correct prong shape to fit in the slot so guess what? You need a prong adapter. If the device is the knight and the adapter his squire, then the prong adapter is the guy who changes his bedpan. But guess what? If you loose the bed pan guy then the whole thing still goes to s#!* anyway.

One Response to ' Adapting to a New Environment '

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  1. Chuck Lawton said,
    on April 22nd, 2006 at 5:01 pm

    As that friend who was traveling in Norway, I can definatly sympathize with this post. I had my laptop, camera, iPod, & razer, all vying for that sweet sweet Scandinavin AC through one adapter.

    See, did bring one with us. But it’s designed for Germany. And in Germany, the wall plates mount flush to the wall, so the square adapter could plug right in. But in Norway, they have these round plugs that the *same* style plugs go in to. But the square adapter prevented the prongs from reaching the recessed receptical! Bogus!

    So I laughed when you wrote that you needed an adapter for your adapter. Cause that’s what we looked for first, and ended up buying a new one.

    Traveling with electronics is a double-edged sword that way. Having my laptop and camera allowed me to take 1100 pictures over 10 days. Try that with film (and storing all those canisters somewhere!) And let’s not forget the awesome power of sending out daily e-mails so you are not stuck telling the same stories over and over and over again upon your return.

    But I agree that traveling with the extra weight does *weigh* the trip and experience down a bit. (puns intended.)

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