Gadgets to go
their personal technological preferences; not unless you have at least a week to spare.
Google Earth: In many ways, Google Earth is just an advanced version of a venerable travellers’ addiction: pulling out a monstrously huge atlas and poring longingly over the maps within. Google Earth just delivers far more detail than we could — even just a few years back — have hoped for and all without the risk of doing your back in.
Its Street View function adds an almost voyeuristic element to the vicarious thrill. Street View is also a great research tool and, on a very practical level, allows you to start psyching up for such things as the dense brutality of Shanghai traffic. And for those who decry Google Earth as robbing travel of its few remaining mysteries, there’s always the option of not using it.
GPS: There are arguments for and against navigating by Global Positioning System, but there are times when it’s impossible to beat getting precise directions from space. Times such as when you’re in Ireland, being gleefully fed a load of cartographical red herrings by the locals. Or in Russia, clutching a map that’s been deliberately botched by the publisher just in case it falls into enemy hands. Or in a yacht drifting perilously close to Iranian territorial waters. Or lost in the outback, wandering in circles with nothing but the ever more attentive buzzards for company.
Sure it’s bound to all go wrong one day and GPS devices across the world will simultaneously begin addressing us in HAL 9000 voices but, in the meantime, proceed to your destination.
Online check-in: Online check-in is one innovation best enjoyed after you’ve actually used it (especially if you only have carry-on luggage), as you stride through the airport terminal with little more than a brief and pitying glance in the direction of the huddled masses in the serpentine check-in queues.
It’s important, however, to remember one small but often overlooked fact: holding a boarding pass in your hot little hands before you even reach the airport will not make you magically immune to missing your plane.
Water purifiers: Once upon a time it was deemed part
Private supersonic jets: When Concorde was retired in 2003, it felt like the era of supersonic flight was over for everyone but astronauts and air force military pilots. But now there’s the Aerion, a supersonic jet that will soon go on sale to private buyers keen to exercise their right to sip martinis while streaking through the big blue faster than the speed of sound.
Among its most crucial features are a pointy, Concorde-like nose, an appearance that suggests both spaceship and dart, a top cruising speed of Mach 1.6, and — crucially from the point of view of aviation law — a relatively innocuous sonic boom.
Club together with 10 million of your closest friends and you too can live the supersonic dream. Susan Kurosawa’s column returns next week.
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