Traveling to the Future

21 May 2008|tommy

I recently returned from an extended series of work-related trips throughout the US and Europe. During my travels I was struck by how common it’s becoming for individuals to carry permanent bottles with them for water – a few years ago it was Nalgene bottles, and now I’m seeing tons of Sigg bottles throughout the US.

Then, a few weeks back during a trip to Washington, D.C. I was eating lunch in Whole Foods (trying to eat healthy while travelling…) and I noticed that the small eating area provided a choice of biodegradable eating utensils or chopsticks. I realized that traveling with chopsticks might not be a bad idea – non-disposable ones aren’t too hard to find. See here and here (H-T: Treehugger).

But more than being “green” or good for the environment (less trash, sustainably made, etc.), I wonder how much of the idea of traveling with permanent chopsticks (or a water bottle) is about us being nomads – we carry our personal things on our backs for easy and quick access. These things necessarily reflect our personality (see Sigg’s “My Sigg” bottle designer) and they provide avenues for communicating a consistent identity regardless of where we find ourselves.

I travel a lot for work, and I’ve found that over the years I’ve created a small kit of items I carry with me – a pair of slippers, a travel alarm clock, a corkscrew, a water bottle, and a small picture of my wife. All these items (both tools and amenities) help connect me, in some way, to who I am. And they tie me to my “home” existence. I may feel nomadic on the road, but I know that I have at least a few tools in my hotel (or wherever I’m laying my head) that make me feel comfortable and connected. Now maybe I’ll add a set of chopsticks to that kit. Similar to the pack I carry when I camp, these are minimalistic facsimiles of the tools to which I’m accustomed when I’m home.

And all this got me daydreaming about what travel might look like in the future. I envision us traveling with small kits – maybe like a soldier’s mess kit? – that help us leave very few items of permanent trash in our wakes. These items are customized for us – either functionally or stylistically – and consistently reflect our identity no matter where we are. I envision single tools that do multiple things – a small digital picture frame that rotates family pictures but then turns into an alarm clock. Personal dishware that could flatten into a solar-powered charger for a laptop or cell phone. A jacket or sweater with hidden snaps to fold into a comfortable travel pillow…

Or maybe I’ve just been traveling too much and have spent too much time with the Sky Mall catalog. Regardless, it goes to show that ideas for innovation can come from anywhere – and work best when anchored in an understanding of our experiences!

What about folks out there? Does anyone have other suggestions for inclusion in a travel kit?

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