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Take a tech trek (and e-mail when you get there)
By Dafna Lewy-Yanowitz (newspaper journalist) - 17 Sep, 1999

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Gregg Butensky and Evelyn Wang decided to take a trip that would be fully documented on a website, but to leave their computer at home. "There are places where the idea of sitting down and pulling out a laptop is simply unthinkable," says Evelyn. "It wouldn't be appropriate to the culture or to the people we meet, and besides that, both of us have a tendency toward Internet addiction, so that if we had a computer we would waste valuable traveling hours instead of going out and experiencing the real thing."

The two have a website called "madnomad," which is one of the most attractive sites on the web. They update it frequently from Internet cafes all around the world. This week they were in Israel. They had a hard time finding a suitable cafe in Haifa, although the previous week in Ramallah, they found five, and two days after we met, they sent me an email from a cybercafe in Gaza.

Wang, 29, and Butensky, 37, are both high-tech professionals who have worked at Internet firms in San Francisco. After three years at various companies, they decided it was time to up and leave the rat race for a year or more, and work through their savings as slowly as possible. In other words, they stay at cheap hostels, sometimes on the roofs of buildings, eat at greasy spoons and spend a lot of time touring on foot. Even at this level, their expenses will amount to about $12,000 each.

"We love to travel, and we're addicted to technology," says Butensky. "We've kept journals and taken a lot of photographs on every vacation we've taken, and the web seemed like an ideal way to further develop this tradition. The idea of not taking a computer came about when we planned the trip and found that we were concentrating mostly on non-Western regions of the world. We weren't sure you could hook up to the Internet from everywhere, but we decided to gamble, and see for ourselves the extent to which the net has spread around the world. This necessitated our designing a very professional site that would require a minimum of maintenance."

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The two have been on the road for four months now, and have wandered throughout Africa, sending e-mail from Senegal, transmitting photographs from Mauritania and coordinating complicated touring routes with the help of correspondents in Madrid, Barcelona and San Francisco. Now, after having crossed Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority, they plan to move on to Syria and maybe Iran. Cybercafes have provided their most interesting meetings, they say. In Jordan, for example, they met an Iraqi family who had escaped their homeland, and who were trying - via the Internet - to find a country willing to take them in. "Everywhere you go, Internet cafes are shooting up all over," Butensky says. "The prices are okay, but it siphons off a great deal of our budget. Recently, we've been taking advantage of our skills, and offering to do development work on the Net for these cafes, in exchange for free surfing hours.




  O'Jerusalem: a play in six acts
  Living with Terror
  Beholding Jerusalem
Take a tech trek (and e-mail when you get there)

  New York
    New York City
  West Africa
    The Gambia
Middle East
    Palestinian Territories
    Eastern Anatolia
    Central Anatolia
    Pushkar Fair
    Madhya Pradesh
    Uttar Pradesh
    West Bengal
    Sikkim & the NE
    (Rep. of China - Taiwan)
  USA - San Francisco, CA

"Tourists don't know where they've been, travelers don't know where they're going."
-- Paul Theroux
  © 1999/2000 ~ All TOTcars impounded.