Google from the Road

A photo of my Harley and I taken by my friend Katie.
I recently returned to the United States after spending a month overseas. The primary purpose of my trip was to work on a technical project with part of my distributed team at Google.  While the bulk of my team lives and works in California, I also collaborate closely with Googlers who are based predominantly in our Hyderabad, India office.

Following the conclusion of my stay in India, I decided to do some personal traveling before making my way back across the Atlantic. Over a span of 11 days I was fortunate enough to visit Dubai, London, Dublin, Berlin, and Paris. It was my first time visiting many of those places and I used technology (Google powered technology specifically) to ensure that my trip went according to plan and was without major incident. Below I'll try to include an inclusive list of every product I used and the major benefits they provided me while abroad.

So of course I used Gmail while I was traveling (and really in most every facet of my life). While staying in India I used Gmail's built in phone to make free phone-calls back home to my parents. Even from across the world the sound quality was crisp and the time-lag was minimal. I also enjoyed the fact that, because my Gmail is now intrinsically linked with Google Search, querying for 'my flights' on displayed a summary of all the flight confirmation emails I had received.

Google Calendar:
Prior to my departure, I entered every flight name and its duration into Google Calendar. Google was smart enough to provide automatic alerts notifying me it was time to leave for the airport based on local traffic information (when available).

Google Drive:
Also prior to my departure, I entered all relevant flight, hostel, and other travel information into a single Google Document. I made the document available offline, which meant that even when I didn't have internet access I could still open it on my phone, tablet, or laptop. While I also had a physical hard-copy of this document I carried with me, it was extremely convenient to simply pull out my phone and access critical information as if I were still connected to the internet.

Google Now:
For those unfamiliar with the product, Google Now is the new default search application included with Android Jelly-Bean and above. In addition to displaying my calendar and flight information in realtime, Google Now also provided suggestions for sightseeing, restaurants, and other locations dependent on my geolocation data. Google Now did a great job aggregating information from across multiple Google services and made them easily accessible while I was on the go.

In addition to posting pictures from my trip, I used Google+ to do a hangout with my Mom, Dad, and Brother while I was overseas. I connected to each Hangout from India, my brother from California, and my parents from New York. Despite the physical distance between us, it felt like we were all in the same room. The experience was terrific and even worked well when I had a poor internet connection.

(via my Galaxy Nexus & Nexus 7 devices)
I brought along two Android devices on my trip. The first was my phone, a Samsung Galaxy Nexus. The second was my tablet, a Nexus 7. For most major european cities, TripAdvisor publishes a series of 'City Guide' applications that provide walking tours and general information about local attractions. These applications really came in handy when I didn't have internet access.

Google Maps:
The single most helpful Google product I used on my trip was Google Maps. Before leaving, I created personal maps for each city I planned on visiting. Each personalized map included a number of locations where I marked restaurants, landmarks, and attractions that were important to me specifically. After creating as series of personalized maps, I was then able to download offline versions to both my phone and tablet so that I could access directions even without reliable internet access.

Each product worked well on its own merit, but together they really enhanced my overall travel experience. Even as little as a year ago, most Google products lived in something of their own silo and didn't work well in unison. That in mind, it was terrific to see how far we have come as a company with regard to fostering a 'one-google' experience where all of products just 'work' as a user expects they should.

In the coming weeks I'll be writing more regarding my experiences in each city I visited.

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A photo of my Harley and I taken by my friend Katie.