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The Apple Watch for Travelers (and Why I Sold Mine)

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Buyer’s remorse is rare for me. If I’m going to buy something, it has to earn its way into my life. It must improve my day-to-day flow somehow, especially with tech stuff. I have to learn everything there is to know about something before I pull the trigger.

For years, I thought the Apple Watch ticked all those boxes for me… and yet for years, I didn’t buy it.

It seemed wastefully excessive, an expensive remote control for my iPhone. Sure, it’s a watch as well, with a few other clever features. As an Apple guy, it seemed an obvious choice for a wearable, and it’d admittedly be nice not to have to take my phone out of my pocket to see who was trying to reach me.

Still, it was one more item that I’d need to pack a charger for, and did I really need it? I kept holding off.

But each year the watch got better, and I found it harder and harder to resist. The Apple Watch had evolved from a simple remote to a potentially life-saving device.

On a fine spring day earlier this year, with some money to spare, I finally caved in, justifying the purchase of a second-hand aluminum Series 3 model as an investment in my health and productivity.

Activity Tracking = Health Gamified

Apple Watch

The biggest attraction of the Apple Watch for me was activity tracking. I’m an active guy, but as a frequent traveler, it can be hard to maintain a healthy lifestyle when changing location all the time.

Regardless of where I am in the world, though, my job has me sitting in front of a computer for too many hours a day. The Apple Watch reminds me to stand up for a minute at least once an hour and lets me know if I’m having an especially inactive day.

Apple’s way of displaying your activity is via three rings: the outer ring for movement, the middle ring for exercise, and the inner ring for standing up. In much the same way as I’m addicted to Duolingo, my watch is keeping tabs on when I’ve had a good week.

Although the reward does feel a bit like getting a “good job” sticker in grade school, it helps. I like to know when I’m on a multi-day streak for movement, exercise, or standing enough throughout the day, and it motivates me to keep hitting it.

I know, the Fitbit does all this and more, but it doesn’t have some of the other features I really like.


Let’s be real. Looking at your phone while out with friends, family, or acquaintances makes you look like an asshole more interested in Twitter (or whatever) than the people around you.

That said, we’ve all been in situations where we actually do need to check our notifications for one reason or another. With the Apple Watch, you can quickly glance at your wrist when you feel a vibration.

This turns your body language from “this guy isn’t paying attention to me” (looking at cell phone) into “this guy looks like he needs to leave” (looking at watch). Hardly perfect, but a slight improvement to your like-ability as a human being.

Typing with Apple Watch on wrist

All Human Knowledge On Your Wrist

Okay, not quite, but Siri is getting better. Apple has lofty goals for Siri as a personal assistant, and it’s helpful to have quick access to basic functions and information-fetching right on your wrist.

What’s the nutritional information of an avocado? Ask Siri on your wrist. Need directions? Ask Siri on your wrist. Need to send a quick text? Tell Siri on your wrist.

It’s considerably more convenient than pulling out your phone, especially when your hands are full.

Podcasts and Music

I’ve always enjoyed listening to a good podcast, the kind where I can put my phone in my pocket and do a mindless task while taking in new ideas from people much smarter than me.

Even so, I couldn’t believe how much better the experience was when I had all my controls one convenient tap away. Sure, pause, play, and speed adjust were all there, but the best part was the volume knob.

Turn the ring one way or the other, and you’ve got tactile volume control. Since nearly all volume controls are virtual these days, Apple’s approach feels almost nostalgic. What a nice touch.

The Not-So-Great Stuff

Battery life isn’t terrible on the Apple Watch, but it could be better. It’ll easily last a full day on one charge, but not two. Occasionally I’d spend the night somewhere else and forget my charger, and when I did, the watch would run out of juice by the following afternoon. It’s still a device that needs charging every night.

There’s also the ever-present worry whenever doing anything physical. It’s easy to damage the watch by smacking it into something. I managed to put a couple of minor scratches on the screen over the course of two months by knocking it against a doorframe or a chair.

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It’s Great. So Why Did I Sell It?

Man standing with Apple watch

In case you couldn’t tell, I like the Apple Watch, and it’s only going to keep getting better in the future.

When it comes to travel, though, I don’t like how much farther it removes me from the culture and people of the places I’m in. Most people in the world aren’t as well off as the guy who can spend $500 on a glorified smartphone remote.

The larger the gap between “the haves” and the “have-nots” in any culture, the greater the chance for crime. Wearing this small, fashionable, expensive piece of tech makes me a prime target for theft in many areas I visit, especially because in the eyes of a potential thief, if you have a fancy Apple Watch, you also own a fancy iPhone.

So in the end, a few months after buying my Apple Watch, I sold it again… and I’m glad I did. Stuff doesn’t only occupy physical space, but mental space as well. I’m paranoid enough about leaving my laptop and photography gear at a new Airbnb for the first time.

After getting rid of the watch, I found that not having it anymore meant one less thing to worry about on the road. I resonate with the old saying “the more you have, the more you have to lose.” We’re psychologically programmed to weigh a loss much more heavily than a gain.

I’ve been lucky while traveling so far. The only time I’ve lost anything of value was when I had my phone stolen, and I’d like to keep it that way. The less unnecessary stuff I take with me on the road, the less chance there is of being parted with it, and the more at peace I become.

When I do finally settle down, though? You know I’m going to get that watch.

Images via Pexels (checking watch), Torsten Dettlaff (Apple Watch close up), Christin Hume (working with Apple Watch), StockSnap (man standing with Apple Watch)

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One Comment

  1. Good article. I travel a lot too, but the daily charging just is not an option. Until its at LEAST 2 full days, nope. I like sleep tracking, so that kills it. Not sure why they can’t, other smart watches have options you can do to make them last a lot longer. Prob going to go Fossil Smart Hybrid HR. Has most of what I need, look classy, and 2 weeks battery.

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