We visited the Andaman Islands in June this year and it was almost like stepping back in time. Have you ever wondered what it was like to travel before the Internet opened the floodgates of information?
I mean, how did they find out what restaurants to eat at?
How did Vegans survive without the Happy cow app?
How did they decide what beaches to visit?
How did people find out about travel warnings, or about news from their hometown?
How often did people write home?
(I know how useless I am at sending postcards, I literally have a pile sitting in my backpack that are already written and stamped and god knows when I will actually send them).
Travel before the Internet was a different experience, one that definitely posed a different set of difficulties and challenges to how we travel now. We had an extremely rare opportunity to experience a world without Internet when we visited the Andaman Islands recently.
Although part of India, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are actually located 1370km from India, and only 150km from Indonesia. The archipelago is made up of 570 islands, some of which are home to some of the world’s last untouched tribal people. They are one of the few idyllic places on earth that have escaped wide scale development and the mass tourism industry.
We had been dreaming about these islands since I saw the images of Rajan the elephant swimming in crystal clear waters, and since Shabir found out about the amazing fishing opportunities. Now, the elephants are long gone from the islands, but the white sand, turquoise waters, diving, fishing AND surfing all remain.
So we finally booked our flights from the Indian main land, sent a few messages to our loved ones telling them where we would be disappearing to, scheduled some blog posts (I couldn’t leave you all without ANY contact!), and set off for the airport. The flight from Kolkata to the main hub of the Andaman Islands, Port Blair, took just 2.5 hours. From Port Blair you have two options for travel to Havelock Island, the main Tourist Island of the Andaman’s. The Government ferry takes 2.5 hours (397 rupees) and the Private ferry takes 1.5 hours (900 rupees).
Armed with just our Lonely Planet book, we set out to explore Havelock Island on our scooter (300 rupees a day). We set out blindly on our first day aiming to complete a little Island reconnaissance of our own accord. We found it was extremely difficult to get lost, as there are really only two main roads running North-South and East-West. With each having a few offshoots most of which become dead ends either at beaches or in the jungle.
Sadly I have to admit that we totally did feel the absence of a connection to the wider world. The map in the LP is somewhat lacking, and simple things like figuring out a plan for the day becomes a challenge with so little available information. We were itching to Google questions like:
“Is there a waterfall?” “Are there jungle hikes?” “Are there really crocodiles!?”.
Although we had researched, we had not thought far enough ahead to write anything down. Of course more questions popped into our heads hourly.
It became obvious pretty quickly that the only thing to do before Google was to simply ask a real live person what they recommended.
I know, right?! How radical!
I am so happy we were cut off from information in this way, as it really helped us stick to the pledge I made here. A pledge to be more open during this half of our India trip. Interacting with locals is a sure way to learn about the destination and hopefully see it with locals’ eyes. I was excited by the idea.
Although we did end up finding that sometimes, on clear days, you could access the Internet. I made a point of trying to avoid this. How often would we be able to exist in such a carefree way. I mean really interacting with actual people and each other without the distractions of f blinking mobile phone apps? (Sorry friends and family!)
Unfortunately Sha had a little more difficulty letting go of old habits. I often scolded him for sitting on his phone looking at photos or trying to connect to an Internet connection that just. Wasn’t. There.
In Sha’s defense, he had been waiting on a work related email. And our fabulous drone, which is his pride and joy, needed some upgraded software that was only available online.
So, did we survive the Andaman Islands without Internet?
We had a great time, we didn’t get lost, we didn’t go hungry. And best of all we had some great conversations with local Andaman people and other travellers alike.
YOU CAN TRAVEL WITHOUT INTERNET!
Are you Internet addicts like we seem to be? Where have you travelled where there is no Internet? Tell us in the comments below!