The future of travel

The future of travel

THE TERM 'roadwarrior' is widely accepted in defining workers who travel extensively but stay connected wherever they are: in their car, in a hotel bedroom, in motorway service-station or even aboard an aircraft.

Connected implies not just mobile telephone, but also on-line access with e-mail and a corporate Intranet back to the office.

The roadwarrior craves two essentials. Firstly network connectivity, typically achieved over a fixed or mobile phone line, and secondly, power to recharge the batteries in all manner of electrical accessories.

The minimum roadwarrior inventory of power-hungry laptop computer and mobile phone is increasingly extended by optional extras such as a digital camera or Personal Digital Assistant.

Much as I find the aggressive overtones of the word unappealing, I must confess to being an occasional roadwarrior, with secure access to our corporate network.

Whenever I travel on business, I pack up my laptop, mobile phone and assorted cables. For overseas trips the packing list is extended to include converters for mains plugs and phone sockets, and a BT chargecard for international access code details.

So a recent overnight stay in a London hotel should have presented little difficulty.

On the 1hr train ride from Ipswich to Liverpool Street I caught up with my e-mail.

Mobile data connections on a high-speed rail journey are at best variable, and hence I worked off-line, saving the outgoing mails for later transmission.

On arrival at the hotel I had just 30mins before the restaurant closed to recharge the laptop battery. But on returning to my room I realised to my horror that I'd failed to pack the mains adapter for my laptop!

I now faced a dilemma. Firstly should I send my e-mail? And even more challengingly, how long could I afford to spend preparing my presentation for the following day?

I was at the hotel to deliver a keynote conference speech, and while all the material was on my computer, I had yet to assemble the final presentation.

The situation could have been worse. At least I had a relatively new laptop with an additional battery installed, providing perhaps 4hrs of 'up-time'.

Spending 1hr tinkering with my e-mail on the train suddenly seemed a less than optimum use of scare resources, but I allowed myself a further 1hr 30mins of work before shutting down for the night.

Next morning I tried to borrow an adapter from the hotel business centre, to no avail. So I refrained from accessing my e-mail - a frustrating experience for the hardened roadwarrior.

I could perhaps have made an appeal to the conference delegates for an adapter, but elected to live dangerously and trust that the remaining juice would see me safely home.

I was speaking immediately after the mid-morning break, and as I was setting up my laptop on the podium, the conference-centre staff were struggling to wheel back the room dividers from the previous twin-track session.

However, one segment of the movable wall became jammed, and it was soon apparent that my talk would be delayed.

Technical hitches are part-and-parcel of a presenter's job, but this was an unexpected intervention. It was also unwelcome, in that my battery was draining fast, until I eventually succumbed and managed to find a delegate with a compatible laptop.

Next time that I take to the road, I'll be checking my roadwarrior inventory much more carefully.

And just to complete the story, almost 30 mins passed before they were able to free the segment of the dividing wall minutes after they had rearranged the furniture in order to cram all the attendees into the front-half of the room.

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