To blog, or not to blog?

That is the question. Whether 'tis nobler to keep the folks back home in the loop. Or not. Rowenna Davis reports

Picture the scene. You're deep in the South African veldt, surveying the wild and unfamiliar scrubland that stretches out before you. Heat and buzzing insects throb in the air as you try to figure out your path. Suddenly your phone bleeps.

"Hi, darling," a text message flashes. "There's a small village about 10 minutes east – I think it's got a McDonald's: isn't it time for lunch?"

Communication like this sounds surreal, but it's already taking place. This summer, 19-year-old gapper Harry Wilder became famous when his uncle slipped him a two inch-thick, credit card-sized, Traakit device that could locate his position around the world by GPS.

In June, the inaugural Gap Year Safety Conference (see News in Brief, right) called for all of the 250,000 British gappers expected to go abroad this year to be equipped with sat-nav systems. With Traakits available to rent for just £50 a month, Big Brother can move over – Big Mother and Father are taking charge.

GPS tracking is just one of the ways in which technology is revolutionising the gap-year experience. Take Emilie O'Mahony. Sick of university and bored of bar work, the headstrong 21-year-old based just outside Croydon decided to take a year out in Australia. From the other side of the planet, she plans to shop online, bank online and change her university course through UCAS online.

When she goes trekking in the bush, she plans to live-blog the experience, publishing photos and videos in real time. The laptop she's taking with her is connected through Wi-Fi to her Mum's home computer, allowing her family to trace her co-ordinates whenever she logs on.

"If I didn't have internet out there, I'd probably think twice about going," says O'Mahony. "My Mum knows I'm a survival person, but it's a huge reassurance for her to know I'm going away with so much technology.

"She's not trying to keep tabs on me – I'm the first one in our family to go off and see the world, and she's really proud of that; she just wants me to know I'm an email away if I need anything."

But doesn't all this communication malarkey sort of defeat the point of "adventurous travel"? Perhaps it's easy to say that when you've not been on one of the one-in-three gap years that, according to Gap Year Safety – which organised this year's conference – gets cut short in some kind of disaster. Still, isn't it a bit, like, cheating?

"I'm still going across to the other side of the world," O'Mahony says. "My family are still in England in the rain, whilst I'm living it up in the sun and having all these new experiences abroad. I just plan to remind them of that constantly!"

But there are some more practical issues raised by all this technology. For a start, where do you draw the line between "bloggable" and "unbloggable"? If you get the runs in the middle of the bush, do you publish that kind of thing?

"Probably not as a video, but I might write about it," says O'Mahony.

Also, there is the question of whether anyone cares about all of these Tweets, Facebook updates and live-blogging extravaganzas, or whether it is just adding to the unread clutter on the web that tells us sweet FA about the country in hand. Surely, time would be better spent engaging with the place itself?

But 21-year-old trainee teacher Cassie Vandepeer, with six hours before her flight to Tanzania, told me how her blog about teaching in an African school will make an excellent resource for her students in Somerset. "Other teachers have already said they want to know how the education system works there, and hopefully [my blog] will bring Africa to life for the kids in the classroom," she says.

New media also gives those donating to gap-year trips a chance to see how their money is being spent. Those funding less-righteous gappers than Vandepeer may appreciate being able to check whether a mission to "facilitate local water supplies" really is about solving drought, or about downing developing-world-priced drinks in foreign bars.

Used well, technology can be empowering and enlightening. But used excessively, it could risk taking the "gap" out of gap year altogether.

So if you ever find your phone flashing in the South African veldt, think carefully about whether you want to answer – you can always switch it off.

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
scotland decidesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmSo what makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Maths Teacher

£90 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Science Teacher (mater...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for an ...

English Teacher (Bristol and South Gloucestershire)

Negotiable: Randstad Education Bristol: English teachers for day to day cover,...

Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week