“They have Internet in Europe?” my friend in the US joked via Facebook Messenger, as I checked into Foursquare from the Athens airport.
Yes Virginia, they do have Internet in Europe, or Greece specifically. In my case I had to buy an expensive worldwide data plan for my iPhone before I left the US, and then watch it like a hawk so I don’t go over my allotted 340 MB of data. $99 to stay connected.
Upon arrival to my brother’s house in Athens, I was told that I couldn’t call Greek cellphones from our landline, as they were too expensive.
My brother’s advice was to buy a dumbphone for 15 € ($21), and then use a 10 € credit to make calls to cells. Another 25 € ($36) to stay connected. One call to my friend’s cell to confirm our travel plans later and that credit was gone.
So until I plunk down another 10 € ($14) to stay connected I’m basically stuck with an iPhone in default airplane mode as my only way of communicating to the outside world. And as I desperately downward swipe my Twitter feed and frantically try to reload Instagrams from the beach, only to meet with the taunting Failed message over and over again, the dumb phone sits unused in my purse. It has a game on it I think.
Mark Zuckerberg said once that he knew that Facebook was successful when his friends told him that they had seen it open in European Internet cafes while traveling. While a lot has changed since then, the gnawing impulse to check Facebook or whatever your social media drug of choice while you’re purportedly trying to escape has only grown stronger.
For many of us with #firstworldproblems, ubiquitous Internet has become a utility, like electricity. Thus it seems odd to visit a household without a wi-fi connection, it’s almost like saying um, “We don’t have lights, and you’re just going to have to make due without them.”
But, as anyone who has traveled is aware, not everyone lives in the #firstworld. And thus I have spent a good part of my remote Greek island vacation chasing connectivity, using my iPhone as some sort of Internet divining rod, and meeting obstacles at every turn. CONNECTING. CONNECTING. NOT CONNECTED.
A Greek WIND USB data stick? Incompatible with OS X Lion (Really). Something called “Free Internet” that pops up as I drink my morning coffee in the town square? Turns out it’s not so free and not so Internet.
Finally yesterday night I saw some guy at a café working on his laptop at a bar and rushed over in hopes that I had come across some wi-fi hotspring. “How do you have Internet?” I asked him in Greek. “I brought my own.”
Because of this tenuous connection to the outside world I have missed out on all the details of Steve Jobs resigning as CEO of Apple and have no idea about Hurricane Irene. Someone apparently leaked a Greek Wikileak, and I’m too afraid of going over my data plan to load it. Oh and what’s up with Twitter Recent Images?
An iPhone in Greece costs 650 € ($ 936), and a Cosmote unlimited data plan another 50 € ($ 72) a month. The average salary in this time of widespread economic crisis is 1000 € ($ 1441) but still enough people own pricey smartphones that Foursquare is over-populated with obscure Greek venues. My Greek friend also has a similar dumbphone to my newly purchased one, for when she goes over her iPhone data allotment.
“So,” you say, “Get offline and enjoy your vacation you dork.” Sure, but nowadays if a trip isn’t posted to Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, does it make a sound?
Thus I have started to be jealous of anyone with more online connectivity rations than I, mobile or otherwise. Yesterday as one of my traveling companions fingered her phone under the table I whispered, “Instagram or Twitter?” “Neither,” she said, satisfied. “Neither?!” I said incredulously. “Yeah, I’m on Foursquare, trying to figure out what the name of this taverna is so I can check in.”
Right. I am typing this from a hotel room with no Internet connection, and plan on walking downstairs to something called “Internet Point Prive” in order to post it to TechCrunch. “Internet Point Prive” actually sounds like you should be getting bottle service or champagne with your Internet. It sure costs enough.