It had been a few years since my last Contiki tour, and even my last Contiki tour wasn’t a traditional Contiki tour, it was in Egypt. But the biggest change I have noticed in Contiki since my last traditional tour was the emergence of Netbooks.
On previous tours there might be one or two people with a laptop. On my September tour of England and Scotland there were at least 5-10 people with laptops or netbooks. Now, this might sound anti-social and in some ways it was. But, the hotels on our tour typically either charged for internet anywhere in the hotel, or offered free wifi in only the lounge area of the hotel. There was no hiding in your room with your computer surfing the internet.
Instead there were Netbook Parties. Everyone would meet in the lounge area with their laptops and netbooks and “friend” each other on facebook, check email, check bank accounts, etc. I found most people shared their computers when they were done so others could do the same. I quickly started calling them Netbook Parties.
This was way better then in the past when you would show up at a hotel that had 1 or 2 computers and everyone would be fighting to use them (that might be a little dramatic), or you’re spending time in a cool city in an internet cafe, so you can update friends and family on your trip. This way people could do their own thing, I found they were less fixated on the computer like they would have been if their were only 1 or 2 computers and limited time. This means that while people might be checking email and facebook they were interacting with other humans in the room.
The internet is here and is a valuable tool for most people. I think the emergence of netbooks and wifi are allowing people to be more mobile (hello internet banking!), less tied down, and at times it can have a limited impact on their interaction with other people around them. Just don’t spill your drink on your netbook.