The ten things that have (thankfully) disappeared from travel


Two decades ago, Kodak was still king, and you wouldn't dream of heading off on holiday without rolls of film in your baggage. It was a totally different way to capture and preserve your memories from the digital imaging system we now all use. Film required care, and it repaid diligence. Today your phone or camera does it all for you – exposure, focus, processing your images in an instant to produce masterworks that would once have required a darkroom wizard to achieve the same result. Film was also expensive. The beautiful Fuji Velvia slide film I used to shoot cost 50 cents per image by the time it was processed. Now you can blast away for as long as your camera or phone battery and storage capacity hold out, and it doesn't cost a cent.

Departure cards

pointers social club Passenger cards / Departure - arrival cards

Remember those? Leaving Australia and getting a card to fill in after check-in and before the immigration desk? And having to hunt for a pen, or wait until the baffled person ahead of you filling out theirs finished with one of the few tethered pens? In Australia Outgoing Passenger Cards got the chop in mid-2017. Once SmartGates were installed at Australia's international airports to scan the passports of departing passengers, the requirement to hand in an OPC became a formality. Nowadays, the government knows way more about your movements than the information that was previously obtained from your OPC. Today it's just a simple passport scan, a photo match and you're on your way.

Traveller's cheques

Until the almost-universal coming of ATMs, this was the primary way to access local currency overseas. You fronted up to a bank, went to the overseas desk, scribbled your mark on the countersignature panel under the watchful eye of the clerk and took your cash. It could be a painstaking process, especially in those countries where bureaucracy works at a glacial pace. India, here's looking at you. The last time I changed a traveller's cheque was seven years ago in Almora, in the shadow of India's Himalayas, where it took over 30 minutes to get my cash. On the other hand, they do offer security. On another occasion when my traveller's cheques were stolen – India strikes again – I had them replaced in about two days.

Non-digitised music

SONY Walkman 1979 The original Walkman portable cassette player, released July 1, 1979. photo: Sony .

Time was when a Sony Walkman was the height of cool, and we toted Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston around the globe with us, in the form of cassette tapes. It was a musical revolution, the first time we could create our own soundscape without lugging a huge device around, delivered through miniaturised headphones. Despite the downsides – tapes cost as much as vinyl, they broke and if you left the cassette in the sun at the beach they warped and you might as well toss them – the Walkman was the first time you could take your music with you when you travelled. By today's standards it was incredibly durable technology, the go-to personal stereo player until a challenger appeared in the form of the Apple iPod.

Departure tax

Years ago you would front up to an office within the airport terminal where an official would attach a stamp to your boarding pass and charge you $20 or so, just for the pleasure of departing from wherever you happened to be. It was one last irksome hit, on top of whatever GST or luxury taxes you might have paid while in the country. The departure tax hasn't gone, it simply hides within the heap, one of a number of miscellaneous fees that appear under the heading "taxes and charges" when you buy your airline ticket, and which you will never be able to unravel.

Paper maps

Not quite gone perhaps, but given the convenience of map systems you can download to your smartphone or tablet, pinpointing your location to within a few metres and showing you the quickest route to get to wherever you want to go with turn-by-turn directions, the folding map has had its day. Another problem - some people cannot re-fold maps as they are designed to be folded and this can become a source of friction with those who like their maps neat and tidy.


So, so yesterday, although a few stalwarts still tote them around, me included. While the very best provide useful background, and help you sort the must-sees from the don't-bothers, much of the coverage of where to stay and where to eat is woefully out of date since most guidebooks are written at least 18 months before they see the light of day. If you want up-to-date information on the coolest hotels and street-food hotspots or specialist information to feed your love of train journeys or historic battlefields the internet is a much better source. Guidebooks are bulky, and they take up room in your luggage that could be better devoted to life-enhancing souvenirs.


Baggage without wheels


Photo: Getty Images

Wheelless cases are practically unseen on the baggage carousels these days but there truly was a time when suitcases did not glide effortlessly through airport terminals and along railway stations. Instead we bent our backs and shoulders to the task and lug our luggage, all without the benefit of wheels. Were we perhaps more robust then, or did we just make do with less because the thought of dragging a 20 kilo suitcase through the world looks like a chapter out of the Labours of Hercules. Today the two wheeled case has morphed into the four wheeler, and praise be.


In polite society it was once expected that a traveller would send postcards to the folks back home. It required time spent choosing the right card, a compressed but thoughtful message that balanced insight and self-deprecating humour, all the more piquant since it was designed for a tiny audience. Today it's a selfie in a bar or a plate featuring the tostada you're just about to eat in Oaxaca, posted to social media simultaneously to a multitude of friends, to which they have only to hit the "like" button to signal their affection.

Inflight movie projection screens

Once there were no seat-back screens. After take-off, the air hostess, as they were back then, would march through the cabin, request everyone to close their window shades, which we did without a thought of protest, pull down a projection screen at the front of the cabin and all onboard would sit back and enjoy a rollicking comedy or a family-friendly road movie. It was democracy in action. Everyone watched the same movie, chortled at the same time and all got up together and queued for the toilet when the credits rolled.

See also: Ten things you need to know before your first trip overseas

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