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Surviving the Wild, Wild Wilderness: Must-Have Apps for a Travelling Geek

Mobile & Apps

Apparently, geeks also travel.

It may seem crazy for geeks like us to travel not just in the surreal places of our imagination, the gloomy dungeons of our PC games and the bustling communities of our online games but from one physical place to another. And no, from one place to another does not mean from one house to another to prepare for LAN parties, but rather from one country to another. Travelling geeks! Yay!

Anyway, before travelling, I’m pretty sure you already have the necessary stuff to bring with you as you leave behind your sedentary lifestyle and prepare to undertake the greatest adventure of your life (insert full-toothed grin here). So, being a geek, I assume that while leaving behind your beloved PC and your LAN-mates, you just can’t force yourself to leave behind your smartphone as it has become intimately intertwined with your being. A cell phone, an internet device, a camera, a music player…yeah, your smartphone has all that covered.

That said, you wouldn’t want to travel unprepared. So before travelling, remember to have these useful applications on your Android smartphone.

Google Apps (Maps, Now and Translate)

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A staple of Android phones, Google Maps is an indispensable application especially for people who like adventure and travel a lot. There are updated features such as Street View, where you can actually see the place you’re looking for from a first person point of view and not just from a satellite, Places where you can see famous landmarks, and finally, Routes where you can see the roads you have to take to get from one place to another. That is a handy feature especially if you’re using a rental car to get around; it saves on gas too!

Google Now is a very nice Android feature that is only available on Jelly Bean phones and iOS devices (eat your hearts out, older Android version users). Basically, it is your virtual personal assistant that creepily knows so much stuff about you that it knows (most of the time) what exactly you’re looking for. It is intertwined with Google Search and the results of your queries are based on your previous searches. There has been quite an outcry on privacy concerns but then, people still use Google Now due to its effectiveness.

There are special cards that come up when you search for something like traffic or weather. It can also advise you where to go when searching for a hotel nearby. Relevant news that the search engine has determined that you often read is made available at your fingertips. Also, you can find valuable local information (currency, traditions and places of interest) by using the search function.

Although it is not a requirement, it is a form of politeness to know at least a few words of the local language. A little “Bonjour, gracias or Ni hao” will certainly leave a nice impression on some locals in a city you’re visiting and they will be more likely to assist you. Although it provides a really illogical translation of sentences and is more useful for words, Google Translate is still a necessity if you’re travelling to some foreign land and you have no idea what to say to buy what or what to say to a taxi driver.

The catch is, well, internet connection. These Google apps rely on cloud data to provide the necessary information that you’re asking for. Offline, they’re pretty much useless.

Currency/Metric Converter

A converter is always handy to keep track of your available cash. There might be numerous ATMs in your country of choice, but admit it, you have no idea where they are or how they work in the country you’re visiting. Also, in some places, cash is cash; credit cards are not accepted or there are no ATMs to be found.

You’ll be amazed how cheap food and other items are in other countries compared to your home country (in my case, good ‘ol USA). Try converting the local currency into its equivalent dollars and you’ll probably find meals for less than a dollar, hotel rooms for as low as $20 a night and all other items that would normally set you back quite a sum. However, some countries have a higher cost of living than what you’re used to at home, so expect stuff to be a little more expensive.

Be careful, though, of tourist rates. There are some vendors who will charge you astronomical rates only because you look like a tourist. “But, but I am just a normal geek on my first out-of-the-country…” sadly, that won’t work. You’re white (no racism intended) or you just look particularly clueless. Besides looking sharp, be sure to know the local rates for the most basic things like fare, food, etc to avoid being short-changed or cheated.

Also, you might want to have a metric converter on your phone; most countries use the international version so your pounds and ounces just won’t do. Or if you’re terribly good at math, you can just memorize the conversion table and do the computations in your brain.

WordPress (any blogging app)

This is crucial to people who like to share experiences on the go on their blogs and also for people who are more expressive on the internet. It is also useful for quick uploads of important posts or interesting pictures.

WordPress for Android, though quite buggy and crashes on some phones, is a great app for blogging. There is a new version available, so I guess they’ve fixed the stability issues addressed by users. It is very handy as there are spur-of-the-moment great ideas for posts and you just have to share them because you’ll most likely forget or lose interest after a particularly tiring day of getting around.

Calorie Counter/S Health (any health app)

This is probably only applicable to geeks who are health buffs. The Samsung Galaxy S4’s S Health app is very useful because it measures the calories of the food you’re eating simply by taking a picture of it (though on exotic food, data might be a little off) and you can also track how many of those calories you’ve eaten are burned with the accompanying Exercise Mate and Walk Mate. The latter sets a number of the steps you have to take daily based on your weight.

Although I doubt you’ll want a calorie counter when indulging in the culinary specialties of a particular place (rich sauces, carbs, carbs and more carbs, not to mention the meat) it is hard not to try national delicacies, however oily or calorie-full they are, even if you’re on a diet.

It’s Travel Time!

That’s it; you’re ready to go. Be sure to practice all safety precautions. You wouldn’t want to return home penniless, sick or worse, in a casket. A dose of common sense is also handy. Never be too chummy with strangers and always be vigilant.

Explore, enjoy the experience, meet new people and try new things. That’s the beauty of travelling; everything just gets charged to experience, experience that will forever be etched in your memory, however pleasant or unpleasant it is.

I do hope with all my heart that it will be the former. Enjoy.

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