This medium was a tougher one for me to answer, as I did not get the chance to study abroad. I have been to Europe two times and each time I used my iPad to stay connected. I had an international cell phone, but that was just for staying in contact with my parents, so my connection to back home was very limited.
The first time I had to think of being connected while in another country came in France when I was visiting my third European country in ten day. I opened my email offering me memorabilia from LeBron James’ first NBA championship and a perfect game (27 outs in a row) pitched by Matt Cain of the Giants. Through this experience, I can look at the first question and go two different ways. First off, I was incredibly upset that the first perfect game ever thrown by the SF Giants came while I had no connection, and this only made me miss baseball and home even more. Missing out on seeing my beloved basketball player (LeBron) win his elusive first NBA title also made me miss the sports culture in the U.S. that I was such a big fan of. This reconnection back home ruined the way that I was able to see France and Paris and really did curtail my experience a little bit. However, on the flip side, I noticed that the first ten days that I was not connected, I was much more enamored in the Italian and Spanish cultures. By not having a smartphone or Wifi, it was easier for me to forget about the important events back home and allowed me to only focus on the country I was in.
I believe that technology can hinder and enhance traveling at the same time. When my family and I went to France the second time, we avoided Paris and stayed in the countryside. This was a good idea and all, until we realized that the roads were very small and full of confusing signs. We were out late at a restaurant and got lost on the back roads, at which point our GPS shut down because of the limited service and we were absolutely stranded. Looking back, it was funny, but at the time, being surrounded by cornfields and driving in circles until 3 am was incredibly frustrating. We had relied on the GPS and not paid attention to the signs, which was a huge mistake later on. This was the way that technology hindered our trip and slightly ruined our experience in a foreign country.
A way that technology enhanced my experience traveling these European countries was my iPad with my music. We did a lot of driving and sight seeing, which meant numerous hours in a small car for Europeans, not us large and in charge Americans. Having music that made me happy really helped me take in the scenery and actually look forward to our long driving trips. I even listened to some songs in Spanish (albeit, by Mexican musicians) while traveling in Spain and this also helped enhance my experience, as I was able to brush up on my Spanglish. Overall, I know that technology has good and bad aspects to it when in a foreign country and I will make sure to keep that in mind when I go back this summer.