Being away from the United States is pretty fun — you get to take a break from greasy food and expensive living. However, traveling abroad might also force you to take a break on the tech you've grown to love.
If you're a student with a job (like me), you need to be connected. Daily news notifications, emails and texts are not something I'm giving up — I want to stay up to date. However, in Madrid — where I'm currently based — electricity is conserved and maintaining technology is expensive.
In my apartment at home in New York, I'm used to controlling lights, coffee makers and even chargers with just a tap of my phone. In Spanish homes, however, I've found that most people I meet don't have a clothing dryer, and gas sometimes shuts off at certain points in the night to conserve energy: they're less dependent on gadgets, and live with fewer of them.
Before moving to Madrid, I culled a number of my connected devices including smart lights and smart plugs that I knew would eat electricityiStock
Before I got to Madrid, I was told to be extra careful as I thought about what I wanted to pack, considering what devices to bring or leave at home. Now that I'm living in Spain, I don't, for example, leave anything plugged in when I go out, and I always turn the air conditioning off when I leave as well. (Which is good advice anywhere you live, honestly.) Electricity bills pile up in Madrid — quickly —and if you're constantly charging your connected devices, your monthly expenses can quickly skyrocket.
My smartphone was an obvious yes on what I wanted with me — but my smartwatch didn't get an invite to Spain. Due to the reasons listed above, I cut my smartwatch use: the wearable needs to charge and also doesn't connect as easily as my mobile phone. T-Mobile covers me in Madrid, but with a smartwatch I may have needed a phone card for extra data and minutes. While others may have a different experience, everyone should think about whether they want to waste extra (read: expensive) data on devices other than a phone.
What also didn't make it in my suitcase? My Hue lights or Wemo plug. Maybe leaving behind devices like these sound obvious if you're heading for just a week away. But I'm in Spain for the entire semester, and so I needed to do more than make a hotel room feel a bit like home — I was actually moving into a new home, even if it was just for a semester abroad.
Because of the adapters I'd need to run my smart lights and smart plugs — which are actually a bit of an investment for someone on a student budget — I decided to trim down to one adapter which meant nearly all my smart devices would have to stay in New York. (That's why none of my connected kitchen devices made it into my suitcase either.)
Not only does your mobile phone consumer data — your smartwatch can too. So that stayed behind.iStock
Besides my smartphone, honestly, none of my smart devices made the final cut to Europe. I actually recommend that if you're sold on bringing devices that connect to your smartphone, make sure they don't need Wi-Fi or data. My Canon DSLR camera is definitely my baby and I'd bring it anywhere I go — since it links with my phone via its own Wi-Fi, there's no connection problems there. Similarly, my Beats headphones comes in handy on long weekend trips or work sessions at the nearby café.
That being said, I can't wait to return to the U.S. Even though traveling is an amazing experience, I'm honestly excited to get back to my connected life. In my case that means my Starbucks app and being able to turn the lights off while I'm in bed with Netflix playing on my laptop.