By SANA SIWOLOP
and David Franke are circumnavigating the world, taking
in sights as remote as the glaciers of New Zealand and
the mountains of Nepal. But don't assume that this couple
have dropped off the map.
On the contrary.
Click on the Web site
www.wired2theworld.com that Franke and Ms. Johnson
lovingly maintain, and you'll see a smorgasbord of trip
The site is
crammed with dozens of pictures, a pretrip journal, Ms.
Johnson's global recipe collection, links to almost 30
related travel sites and a spot for sending e-mail to
the travelers. The couple, who are married, are also using
the Internet to stay in touch with some two dozen family
members and friends, as well as to give advice to travelers
all their finances online, using tools like Citibank's
online banking service and the online stock trading that
is offered by Charles Schwab.
Call it dharma
bums go digital, even though they seem a far cry from
what Jack Kerouac had in mind when he described his wanderings
in search of spiritual truth in his 1958 novel "Dharma
Just a few
years ago, extended trips abroad usually meant that travelers
would disappear, surfacing occasionally only through hideously
expensive phone calls or rumpled airmail envelopes bearing
But now a new
breed of techno-nomad is taking to the road. These travelers
are fortifying themselves with things like laptops, personal
digital assistants, telephone adapter kits, digital cameras,
photo-editing software and Web-design tools. They're using
the Net not just to take care of pesky daily matters --
like paying credit card bills -- but also to trade tips
with fellow travelers on the road, scout out resources
in countries to be visited and post online travelogues.
may find the idea of tethering themselves to cyberspace
while they are taking in faraway places downright odd.
After all, much of the charm of travel is the chance to
throw off the chains of daily life. Why bother taking
in the exotic aura of, say, a camel fair in Pushkar, India,
if you're busy worrying whether your errant relatives
have turned your home into Party Central? Or whether your
former employer now lists you as "deceased"?
do, in fact, try to strike a balance when they're on the
road so their cyberspace travels do not overwhelm their
real ones. And they occasionally grumble about turning
on their computers to find 80 e-mail messages. But for
the most part, these travelers are happy to be wired,
and their enthusiasm shows in the mounds of information
they post online.
Much of that
information is decidedly homespun.
There are road-kill
counts on line, as well as detailed descriptions of scourges
like "Bali belly." And then there's the online "souvenir"
collection that Scott and Laura Kruglewicz, a "thirty-something"
Atlanta couple, are maintaining during their yearlong,
36-country odyssey at www.worldwidewanderings.com.
left home, Ms. Kruglewicz was a customer service representative
in the travel industry, while Kruglewicz was a sales and
marketing director at General Electric Capital. Now their
souvenir bin contains pictures of things like a Russian
candy bar and a mummified Egyptian cat.
technology to do the thing that's most important to us
-- share our experiences with those who weren't able to
come," the couple wrote in an e-mail message from Bangkok,
Thailand. "Let them travel vicariously through our adventures."
is also important to Almitra Von-Willcox, 51, from San
Diego, who is on a walking tour of the world.
was a single parent for 18 years, and she supported her
three children mostly by working as a cocktail waitress
and renovating and selling rundown houses. She says it
will take 14 years to complete her trip. She is traveling
with an Apple Powerbook computer, a digital camera, a
printer, a solar panel and a satellite-based navigation
system. She is also posting her trip on the Web under
the moniker of Almitra the Photo Gypsy, www.photogypsy.com.
In a recent
e-mail message from Australia, Ms. Von-Willcox wrote that
she hoped her Web site would help "more people around
the world learn the wonder and delight of the goodness
of strangers, as well as the uniqueness of other cultures."
She added, "I also hope to be an inspiration to those
who need to challenge themselves."
Mr. and Ms.
Kruglewicz are posting intriguing online interviews with
some of the people they have met on the road, and their
travels are being followed by a number of elementary school
And John Berns,
a former world traveler who is now living in Bangkok,
offers a host of technical tips, among other things, at
his Web site www.travelog.net,
which he describes as "a geek, a digital camera and a
laptop go around the world."
That may be
overly modest. Partly because Berns has received so many
inquiries about extended travel, he has turned his Web
site into an Internet publishing business for educating
travelers. He posts his own global adventures, often within
hours after they occur. Berns quit a job in Internet publishing
in 1997, when he was 35, to hit the road. Now two of his
closest companions are an I.B.M. Thinkpad 560 laptop and
a Kodak DCS-120 digital camera. He also relies on Microsoft's
Front Page software to write and edit his Web pages quickly.
To process and edit his travel photos, he tends to rely
on the Thumbsplus software from Cerious Software, although
he also uses Photoshop 4.0, by Adobe.
a dried-squid vendor has set up outside his apartment,
Berns feels "amazingly connected" to the digital world,
he wrote in a recent e-mail message.
Mason, Salli Slaughter and their two young daughters took
off on a yearlong, 18-country "sabbatical" in late 1996,
they also wanted to stay wired.
On the road,
the family used a Macintosh laptop, a Web site and an
Internet service provider to receive more than 100 e-mail
messages a week and get information from people in countries
that they were about to visit, like Greece and Egypt.
Even though Mason and Ms. Slaughter home-schooled their
daughters, Samantha and Cassidy, while they were away,
they used the Net to communicate with their daughters'
teachers back home and teachers elsewhere, like a Bulgarian
math professor they met in Japan. She helped Samantha,
who was 14 when she left home, with her precalculus homework
over the Internet.
family used the computer daily.
And the family's
photo-packed adventure is still online at www.worldhop.com.
such decidedly personal notes as Samantha's guide to Asian
toilets and Mason's experience teaching the hokey-pokey
The Net even
helped the family return home. After they got to England,
near the end of their trip, they hunted for job leads
by sending e-mail messages to everyone they knew. One
of the messages landed Mason -- who turned 50 while he
was on the road -- a public relations job in Portland,
Ore., where he and the family now live.
For the Mason-Slaughter
family, the pros of staying connected on the road definitely
outweighed the cons. When the family left home, Mason
and Ms. Slaughter had just quit their jobs and given up
their leased house. Two weeks into the trip, the family's
pet wolf died back in Anchorage, leaving them feeling
"We were totally
adrift," Ms. Slaughter said recently. "So the Internet
became a real place -- it wasn't just cyber anymore."
going digital on an extended highway abroad isn't always
easy, as Ms. Johnson and Franke have found.
out on her travels last fall, Ms. Johnson, a former seafood
chef, spent two years preparing for the trip that she
and Franke, a former bilingual primary school teacher,
would take. Their gear includes a Toshiba Libretto laptop
that weighs 1.87 pounds; a Ricoh digital camera and a
telephone hook-up kit that includes numerous adapter plugs,
adapter jacks, a telephone line tester and an acoustic
they are paying roughly $28 a month for both an Internet
service provider and a service called iPass, which provides
them with dial-up software and international-access phone
numbers. Because iPass relies on local phone numbers,
wherever possible, for access to the Internet, Ms. Johnson
and Franke are using it to cut down on their connection
But those charges
are adding up. Ms. Johnson and Franke currently pay between
$4 to $12 an hour for Internet access alone, which runs
$20 to $40 a month. And then there are the costs of simply
dialing up the Internet.
couple are staying mostly in hotels, even local phone
calls tend to be extremely expensive. And when local numbers
have not worked, Ms. Johnson and Franke have had to gain
access to the Internet through long-distance calls.
have also had to turn to cybercafes. That has usually
been the case when iPass has failed them, or when they
have been unable to afford a room with a phone or when
the quality of the phone lines has simply been too poor.
They estimate that they spend $15 to $30 a week for computer-generated
phone calls and cybercafes.
on Internet cafes can create its own set of headaches.
and Lauren Slater took off on a journey in late 1996 that
eventually took them to more than a dozen countries, they
soon discovered that cybercafes tended to sprout up and
disappear with alarming frequency.
to the Internet from the cafes varied enormously in price;
a cafe in La Paz, Bolivia, charged the Slaters 50 cents
an hour, while a cafe in Chile charged them $8 an hour.
Before he went on the road, Slater quit a job as a planning
director for Boston's transit system, while Ms. Slater
was an education services manager for a software company.
Now the couple
call Vermont their home, although their global adventures
are still posted online at the www.madriver.com/users/rtw2vt
a former long-term traveler who is now home in Chicago,
spent weeks in India before he finally found a cybercafe
that had working equipment. He also discovered that many
cafes he visited would deliberately overestimate the amount
of time he spent online, often tacking on the time he
had to spend simply waiting to be connected. Clearly,
money is useful to the digital dharma bum, and several
sites post sponsorship information. Some of the travelers
have managed to attract sponsors, although many appear
to be flying solo. Ms. Von-Willcox said she had not approached
anyone for money yet; the companies listed as sponsors,
she said, have contributed "stuff."
now wouldn't dream of circling the globe without being
wired. The Slaters, for example, relied on the Net to
stay in contact with friends and family members, and Slater
also turned to it to keep up with the Boston Patriots.
connections have helped travelers in unexpected ways.
He cut short his round-the-world trip in Singapore last
winter, when it was discovered that his wife and traveling
companion, Sybil, had breast cancer.
they came home, they received in the mail a video about
breast cancer that had been sent by an Internet user who
had visited the couple's Web site at www.travel-library.com/rtw/donath.
the video is helping his wife cope with her disease. Before
the recent explosion in the number of personal Web sites
-- including those written by travelers like himself --
receiving such support "would have been unimaginable,"
he wrote in a recent e-mail message.