Thirty years ago in 1978, I could not have dreamed of the trip we are planning for 2008.
Not for the obvious reasons of world politics. But because I would not have known how to begin, and even if I did know how, I wouldn't have had the tools. In fact my only option, a travel agent, would not have had the tools either.
A travel agent would have had brochures. A travel agent would have used the telephone to book us on one of a few canned tours that touched the "safe zone" edges of some of the places we are going.
Here I sit in front of my computer screen in 2008. I have the ability with a few words in a search string and the click of a mouse to find:
Our best option for airline routing and prices.
Select the seats we want based on a map of the plane with seat by seat analysis.
Train routes throughout southeastern Europe.
Trip insurance customization with comparison charts of dozens of companies.
Video of what the experience of the high mountain train ride we want to take will be like.
Video of the log rafting trip we plan to take.
Online conversations with the people who have rented apartments we are interested in.
Online conversations with the owners of the apartments we are interested in.
Auto rental selections complete with pictures of the cars and little icons telling me how many people and bags they will hold.
Advice on where and how much payola will be demanded by boarder guards and police.
Email exchanges with people living in remote towns we hope to visit who would like to meet us for dinner and give us a tour of their town - not for a price, but because they want to make friends with strangers whom they may go to visit someday.
Oh, yeah...I almost forgot...
The ability to click on an icon of the globe. Type in an address. And see not only the cottage we might be renting on the Bay of Kotor, but its proximity to the cafe where we will be enjoying breakfast every morning for a week.
By the way, according the the satelite image, that cafe has a green awning and six outdoor tables.