Last week in Portugal I took a brilliant trip up the Douro Valley with a select group of other travel bloggers. I have no idea how it happened but I seemed to be in a tour with some of the big names in the travel blogging world. Nomadic Matt was there. So was Solo Traveller, Adventurous Kate , Legal Nomads and Uncornered Market*.
And then there was us, my Englishman and I.
Our merry band was ably led by the gorgeous Portugeuse guide, Maggie (short for Marguerita who was neither a drink nor a pizza!) and together we explored the Douro valley which produces Porto’s world-famous Port. As we climbed up through the hills on winding roads overlooking the Douro Rio we were treated to the most spectacular views.
And even stopped to buy grapes from this old woman at a roadside stall. I have to tell you those grapes were so good. They literally exploded in my mouth, releasing the most incredibly sweet yet tangy flavour. They bore no resemblance at all to the waterlogged grapes we find in our local supermarket here in the UK, and gave us a preview of what the Douro Valley wine held in store for us.
We stopped at the sophisticated Douro Palace, a boutique hotel and spa, designed to incorporate the original 18th Century Quinta within its modern architectural lines. Somehow it works brilliantly – traditional ceramic azulejos tiles contrasting with spherical lights and long white airy hallways.
Personally, I could see myself lying by the pool with this as my view, eating food as good as this and drinking wine..
As we continued on up the Douro valley to Regúa and then onto the gorgeous Pacheca I noticed that the majority of our merry gang appeared to be constantly online. I’ll confess it bugged me a little at first. Were they really experiencing it, or was it a case of ‘oh look another pretty view’ and back to Angry Birds or Itunes?
Where do you draw the line between experiencing the trip and reporting on it?
If you’re ‘live blogging’, photographing, blogging, tweeting and facebook sharing as you experience things are you really experiencing it, or is it a facsimile experience?
More than that…when does the ability to have almost constant contact with the ‘outside world’ via our social connections and internet dilute the real-life experience we’re having. If you’re tweeting from the Gobi Desert or the jungles of Sumatra doesn’t that somehow denigrate the true isolation of the experience? When we draw the camera frame around our view what are we missing out?
And more importantly…when do we pull the plug on the internet?
Or are we so addicted to constant contact that we simply can’t pull the plug?
I pondered this for the rest of the day as we enjoyed luscious port wine tastings and a memorable meal at Quinta da Pacheca, but by the time we arrived at our base hotel in Lamego late at night I was myself desparate to scoop up all my pics from the day and share them in a blog post and on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram and every other social media network I could find.
But there was a problem.
Limited internet access in our room.
It shouldn’t have mattered, right? I should have just brushed it off as a minor inconvenience. After all I was here to experience it fully, even if that meant tricky internet.
But did I?
Hell no! In the end I became like everyone else and did what I needed to do to find an internet signal.
Which was in my case to sit in a towel, with my laptop next to the bidet on the cold floor of the bathroom.
That’s the glamour of travel blogging!
As I hooked myself up to my internet IV I realised that I got it. I was so passionate about what I was seeing, I wanted to share it RIGHT THEN with those who read this blog and follow on the various social media networks, and I would do (almost) anything to make that happen – even chancing a dose of piles in later life, from the cold, hard bathroom floor of a small hotel in remote Lamego in Northern Portugal.
Is there anything more amusing than a complete arse about face change of opinion? Do you find it hard to unhook yourself from the Internet?
*By the way, if you don’t read these amazing travel bloggers I suggest you head on over and have a squiz. They are all so very different and yet all so very readable!
Disclaimer – We travelled to Northern Portugal as guests of the O! Porto! Tourism board. All opinions are my own.