As goes my battery, so goes me…

Here’s a screen shot of my Moto G mobile phone at this hour. I draw your attention to two items: first, the battery (the tiny icon in the top left next to the time) is at about 50% and, second, I have 39 megabytes left of the 250 MB that were included in my 99 NOK Netcom 14 day plan:

Screen shot of Moto G phone showing battery and MB remaining on data plan.

Something I’ve noticed on recent travels, where I’ve relied on my phone more than ever before to direct me, is that as my battery life dwindles (and, in this case, as my amount of available data dwindles), a background level of travel stress increases in reverse proportion: it feels a bit like I’m Batman locked in a Plexiglas box the oxygen of which is slowly being withdrawn by Penguin.

As I mentioned in 2013 when we returned from a trip to Japan, Google Maps is now an indispensable part of our travel kit: it’s how we navigate public transit and, on this trip, with a minivan ferrying my family around, it’s how we navigate the confusing highways and byways of major cities. On this trip we’re staying in an Airbnb out in the suburbs, perched high in a confusing rabbit warren of streets overlooking Oslo Fjord, and so getting anywhere without getting hopelessly lost has required Google Maps’ calming voice at my side – “In 300m, at the roundabout, take the 3rd exit…”

But what if the battery goes dead! What if I use up all my data! How will I know which exit at the roundabout to take?

How will I call Catherine to arrange a post-art-gallery rendevous?

How will I take pictures?

How will HQ text me when the server needs help?

The aforementioned minivan has been a help on this trip in this regard – not only can it ferry 7 people, but it can charge my phone too. But even with that, out and about in the city, as the sun sets and the battery dips below  30%, I get a feeling in the pit of my stomach.

Presumably this is an interregnum issue only: batteries will eventually last forever. Or at least until the end of the day. And mobile data will be free and ubiquitous (the young folks wouldn’t believe me if I tried to explain how we used to be billed by the minute for the Internet).

But for the time being, as useful and indispensable as phones have become for travel, they also add a dose of their own stress to the mix.

Perhaps I should carry a backup sextant.


Tim's picture
Tim on October 15, 2015 - 21:26 Permalink

Portable battery packs are great for this. I have a Jackery 5600 mah one that I use for longer bike rides when I'm using GPS to track my route. You can get them for $20 - $30 and they're small enough to throw into a side pouch of a backpack. The USB port allows you to charge cameras, iPads, phones, etc. It's nice to have even if it's just to cut down the stress of decreasing battery life. :)