The Post That Never was (and Then Was)

A significant part of the trip I’m now on was buying a vehicle (van!) which me and my wife could call home for 3 months. In this task we were helped very greatly by some Australian friends who were nice enough to leave their van behind for us to purchase when they went home, and, a Californian friend who was able to store it for us in the interval. Owing to their kindness, both myself and my wife felt we should do something to show our gratitude for our friends’ hard work and effort on our behalf.

Of course, we had said our thanks in person, but another way to demonstrate gratitude would be to make a more public acknowledgement of the support we received vi our social media portals. I decided that my Facebook wall would be a good place to do this as a familiar audience (i.e friends and family) use this platform. The post would also let friends and family know that me and my wife were away enjoying our honeymoon.

An integral part of making this post would be taking a nice photograph of me, Kumi and the van with some nice scenery in the background. The first one came out like this:

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The photo is us holding the van’s title just after getting it transferred into our name at the DMV. It’s a good photo although, the selfie angle seemed to focus a little too much on us rather than the scene as a whole (i.e. the van, and our trip in America) and I decided to try again.

For the second shot I realised that we’d probably need somebody else to take the photo in order to fit the girth of the van and some background in. Thus, we needed to find somewhere picturesque but also with some people around to hit the shutter for us. It took 2 days for a suitable place to present itself but driving down the highway I spied a scenic vista point with a few cars scattered around and decided to pull over. We asked a passerby to take a shot of us in front of the view, and then one with us and the van. This here:

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Unfortunately, these second shots weren’t quite right either. Kumi and I were a little shadowed, and the scenery, compared to the rest of what we had been driving through, seemed lacklustre. At this point we had been in the van several days and hadn’t yet communicated to our friends that we were enjoying the trip and that everything was going good*. It was then crucial to get something up and out about that. We would have to try again, and this time, not trust a stranger to deliver the shot I imagined. Just down the way a rest area with a nice view presented itself. We pulled over, propped up my camera on my backpack and took a shot together with the van and mountains in the background.

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There was no phone signal at this place, but, after reviewing the photo and deciding it was ok, it was promptly uploaded to my Facebook wall once we entered the next town. Putting the shot up was fairly significant in terms of my Facebook avatar as I don’t post publicaly very regularly, and doing so usually indicates some kind of milestone. While there was some commentary from friends relating to the post, the area in which we stayed that night had no connection and I did not respond. The next day we got up with the mission to drive into LA (I was full of trepidation about the traffic!) and another day passed without response. From then were staying with friends who took us out and around LA and Facebook seemed a far and distant concern. I still haven’t replied to those comments wishing us well and feel somewhat guilty about this, yet, at the same time, I think it is important to soak up experiences in a new place. Usually I try and reply to people’s comments on my social media portals and I wonder if it is rude to take leave of this kind of socialising (especially casual communication with friends) while on the road?

* It was worth noting here that I had exchanged several hurried Facebook messages with one of the previous owners a few days earlier as we were changing the registration and I hadn’t yet updated him of the result..

 

Connected in California 

Connected in California

How have I been connecting to the Internet in California?
Our (me and my wife’s) Japanese phone company has a reciprocal deal with the American company Sprint. We get unlimited calls and data whenever their network is available. Coverage, on the whole, is pretty good. While somewhat patchy in the north of the state, Southern California has near constant connection. While in the north we had to find cafes or hotels with wifi in order to do our internet business, in the south, the everpresent connection allows us to use high speed (4G) Internet throughout the day. We can have conversations and monitor responses, but may be less likely to sit and take time out for net use. With constant connection, I’d say that I spend less time writing about my travel experiences overall as my stories are narrated quickly while I’m on the go and doing other things meaning that I don’t often go into detail or explain events at length. 

Soon, we will enter Mexico so our connectivity will change (no more Sprint) . Let’s see how it goes…

Portals for Narrativising Travel

Tumblr – tokyoboydesu

A cartoon blog with captions written in Japanese. This image blog aims to serve as a portal both for language learning and to reflect on my experiences as somebody newly moved to Japan. The childish cartoon style employed here reflects the somewhat simplified, or naïve, perspective of foreigners who are unable to speak and read Japanese well, and the trials they have filling out forms, understanding signs, operating appliances or reading product labels during daily life in Japan. At times, this blog’s lense on cultural difference is applied to other countries as the author travels (such as this trip). While primary a cartoon diary, I do at times post photos, video and self-made art works on this blog.

Instagram – kantoryraifu  

A newly created image blogging platform. Using the linking functionality which Instagram has I am able to post my tokyoboydesu images here first (with Instagram linking them straight over to my Tumblr). This doubles my audience with no extra work. The worldwide Instagram and Tumblr communities are a similar size, however, the Instagram community in Japan is more active than the Tumblr thus giving me more traction with my core audience. It is worth noting here that my Instagram and Tumblr accounts will not be exactly the same: Tumblr will have more art focus, and Instagram more personal image focus.

WordPress – Destination Unknown

This is a blog made specifically to reflect on my experiences recording travel using digital devices. It has the purpose of examining how, when, where and why I use devices to record travel (and which devices I use!) and how this usage is integrated within my journey. This blog will use a semi daily posting rhythm in order to recount salient experiences relating to the narrativisation of travel during my journey and connect these experiences with academic theory.

Vimeo: Exotic Spice Produksi

This portal is used to share short (1-20 min) videos. Usually these videos have a travel focus, and, indeed, an archive of lively moments from my recent trips can be found here. Some of the videos are polished productions (with titles, soundtrack etc) made using video editing software while others are video files uploaded straight from my SD card. On this trip I intend to use this portal to upload videos which complement the content in my blog (Tumblr/Instagram) posts.

Facebook:

My personal facebook page and oldest active portal. It houses a bank of friends, some photos and is used as a communications platform for text messages (an less formal alternative to email) and increasingly, voice calls (through the Messenger app). While my name is real (though not my governmental name), not all of the personal information shared on this page is filled out faithfully. I have yet to adopt the top cover image which would make my page more pretty and my profile pic has been static for several years. Facebook is a functional travel tool and I check this daily in order to receive and send communications and stay up to date with the lives of my friends via Newsfeed (somewhat guiltily). One salient point here is that public information sharing is very limited in comparison to the amount of communication I do using  private messages. Thus my narrativising of travel on this platform is largely for a known, and, usually, specific, audience (in contrast to the other platforms mentioned above).

Platform Age Friends/followers Following Posts
Tumblr 18 months 170 64 341
Instagram 2 weeks 1 0 8
WordPress 3 weeks 0 0 3
Vimeo 6 years N/A 5 51
Facebook 9 years 774 774 14*

* Wall posts in the last two years

Tools for Narrativsing Travel

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This is the array of devices I have brought with me to record experiences during my trip (arranged on Beijing transit hotel carpet).

TYPE DEVICES USE
Chargers 1) Laptop, phone & camera chargers

2) Rechargable battery

3) Two power adapters

1) Charge from a socket.

2) Charge my phone when a power socket is unavailable.

3) Connect Australian devices to USA sockets.

Memory 4) 5x USB flash drive (PC)

5) 4x SD card (PC, camera)

4, 5) Transport data between devices.
Recorders/Editors 6) PC

7) Camera

8) Phone

6) Write electronic text and publish to the Internet. Save files. Edit photos and video.

7) Record digital image and video.

8) Record text, photos and video. Publish to the Internet. Save files. Edit photos and video.

Facilitators 9) Head torch

10) Headphones

9) Type in low light.

10) Listen to a video’s audio track during editing.

Protectors 11) PC case

12) Camera bag

11) Protect my PC from impacts. Store USB memory sticks.

12) Protect my camera from impact. Store SD cards.

Some features:

Backups: Some small items such as USBs, earphones, power adapters have a spare in case one gets lost.

Fragile: Devices are generally housed together in a bag as I think of these as fragile and want to be able to keep track of them. However, my phone is almost always in my pocket and my laptop (and sometimes charger) frequently accompanies me i.e. on planes, to a cafe etc.

Accessories: The main Recording/Editing devices have a series of accessories which support it’s functioning.

A salient part of travel packing: By weight I’d estimate these devices occupy 1/5 to 1/6 of my total baggage (3-4kg).

Everyday use: Unlike other items like clothes which might spend a lot of time sitting unused in my bag, most of these items tend to be in use or a daily or semi daily cycle (more like a tooth brush!).

Beginning Blogging

“Start a blog, share your thoughts with friends and fans”

“Start publishing in seconds. Instantly create the personal or professional blog of your dreams to share your ideas on the web.”      

Reflecting on starting my WordPress blog. It’s quite an easy process and doesn’t take more than 30 minutes before you’re up and running. Indeed, the speed with which you can create a page and start sharing your thoughts is emphasised in WordPress rhetoric that accompanies the steps. The idea of a large potential audience is also emphasised: friends, fans and the general web are all mentioned The first page showing a crowded concert scene positions the blogger-to-be as an artist, someone who is capable of entertaining multitude unknown fans. This idea of writing out into the world that accompanies Internet writing is reflected in the title of my blog: Destination Unknown. What eyes will see my blog posts, what context will it be seen in, when will it be seen? Unless you choose password protection, one can only guess.

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Getting moving

Packing

Today is the last day at home before we leave. My wife and I are going on a 3 month van trip through California and Mexico, ostensibly for our honeymoon, but also because you only live once. The vehicle comes from a friend who did the same trip last year and was kind enough to lend it to us. We’re looking forward to getting over there and setting it up to be our home on wheels. So today we are somewhat hurriedly collecting and packing (our departure date pushed forward so we can spend a couple of days in Tokyo before we leave) everything we think we might need in that time. Amongst the clothes and personal items (anything necessary for comfortable living in the van we figure we can buy over there – America king of consumer culture after all) comes a slew of chargers, adapters and spare batteries. Necessary items for today’s digitally connected, always on-call workers. Kumi will be answering emails, I’ll be doing proofreading, we’ll need to check in every couple of days (at a minimum) to keep up appearances and maintain our professional reputations. And the tangle of black and white cables (and one yellow adapter) are an essential part of doing which.

Technological Problems

Leading up to the trip I thought I thought it would be wise to purchase a new, through rather inexpensive, 2 in 1 tablet pc to travel with. Though only about $400 US dollars in stores (rather cheap for something that I would inevitably spend thousands, or, potentially, tens of thousands, of hours using) I took the foolhardy route and purchased a second hand model of craiglist for a little less than half the price. A couple of days before we’re ready to go and I’m setting it up with the necessary programs, a fatal system error occurs and I’m stuck with an interminable loading screen every time I try and boot up. There’s nothing a google search or customer service can do. 2 days out and I’ve got a dead pc.

Planning your narrative

I would have liked to have made a more detailed post about my dead pc and how it set me back. But coming to time to start writing I realised that it was packed up in its box awaiting our return, and, I didn’t have any pictures of it. Without a pic or two online writing can only get so far and I am left thinking of the necessity of planning your online narratives ahead of time so that you can arrange pics, video, and any other multimedia extras to make it colourful and attractive and not just a block of text. If you don’t get any pictures of your writing subject, you either have to google search something similar or forget about it. Owing to the popularity of micro and image blogging platforms like Twitter, Instagram, Vine, Snapchat, Tumblr, people want colour, pop and brevity. I don’t think an extended block of black and white text is going to get you very far these days.

That said, no picture here.