SAN CRISTOBAL de las CASAS, Mexico- The plump Mexican tech guy threw his arms up into the air upon seeing me walk into his shop:
Your computer is dead.
The tech guy thus officially delivered the news that I had already known prior to bringing my Asus Eee PC into his computer repair shop for a diagnostics test the day before. Now I could formally pronounce my trusted steed prematurely dead, it had only lasted eight months.
“Your hard drive is good,” the tech guy explained the results of his diagnostics test, “your memory works, there is nothing wrong with Windows, it must be the motherboard.”
He was giving me the I have no idea what is wrong with your computer but it ain’t this, this, or that type of spiel that tech guys often give. He determined that my motherboard was fried as a default position to everything else in the laptop functioning properly:
What else could it be?
I knew my poor dog of war was cooked before I took it around to all of the computer shops in San Cristobal to be checked out.
Background to the story
I was typing one day two weeks ago — as I was prone to doing for around 8 hours a day back then — when the words stop appearing on the computer screen. My fingers keep spinning out words, I was still talking to myself in writer-speak, but nothing was coming up on the screen before me. My wheels slowly ground to a halt as I realized what had happened: my Asus Eee PC refused to continue working, it had had enough of 60 to 70 hour weeks I had been putting it through since I bought it new eight months ago.
It was almost poetic.
I was staring a dead computer in the face, no action that I would enter into the keyboard would have any effect on the screen. I turned the computer off — the only thing I could do at that point — and turned it right back on again. Windows would not boot, nothing that I pressed into the keyboard would register: the computer was dead.
For a week I tinkered with bringing the computer around to all of the tech shops in San Cristobal, I tried new memory chips, I tried just about everything. After interviewing and getting the initial impressions of a half dozen computer repair shops in the city I left my once trusty Asus overnight with a tech guy to run a full diagnostics test.
The result, as I have written above, was that I may as well just go out and buy a new computer, because replacing an Asus Eee PC motherboard would cost just about the same as buying a new computer.
Long term readers will know that this could potentially be the second Eee PC motherboard to malfunction or physically break on me this year.
The hunt for a new computer is on
I opted not to go for the repair. I feared that I would wrinkle up into a prune if I laid down $250 for a new motherboard just to have it prove to not be the problem. There is only one good computer repair tech out of every hundred in the profession, and it is difficult to know when you have found the good one. In point, the conclusions of most computer repair techs cannot be taken with any sense of absolutism.
I went searching for a new computer.
It is a general rule in travel that if you intend to by electronics out of the USA, Western Europe, or East Asia you are going to pay double or triple the retail value. Many countries still levy very high and, in these times of free trade, archaic import tariffs on electronics, so buying a computer in Latin America is going to cost vastly more than buying the same computer in the USA.
I was hit hard in the face by this rule of global economics as I went searching for another netbook around southern Mexico. Computers that would sell in my country for under $300 were netting prices of over $600. Shit.
Do I return to the USA just to buy a computer or do I shell out for one in Mexico at two times the price?
I thought about this question as I hunted for a new laptop. We are planning on returning to the USA at some point in the near future — why not just do it now, get a new computer at the cheapest price, then travel on to some other part of the world, and wave goodbye to Mexico?
Because I am not ready to leave Mexico yet.
I continued searching for a laptop at a good price, I began looking at Acers.
What would you be doing if you were not working on VagabondJourney.com all the time?
My friend and long term reader, Motorcycle Bob, asked the above question of me some months ago. I began answering it by thinking of all the things I use to when traveling, then I stopped:
What I use to do when traveling has little bearing on what I would do now.
In point, this website has become so intertwined in my modus operandi of traveling and living that I clearly had no idea what I would be doing if I stopped publication.
But I was giving a great insight into another way of living when the computer kicked the bucket two weeks ago. I can now answer Bob’s question.
The day after the computer went into the can I woke up for the first time in three years without anything to do. I laid in bed, feeling somewhat frieghtened. Every day for virtually 1,000 days in a row I have had the same thing to do each morning: wake up, run to the computer, set up, and publish. The joy of this morning ritual wore itself so deep in me that I did not know what to do with myself without it.
I truly love my work. It has been said that a craftsman’s work over the years will eventually become worn into his face, his hands, his soul. I fear that this has happened to me, I hope I don’t begin looking like a computer guy. Work is a big part of the cycle of living. What somebody does defines who they are, the basic thinking, interacting, and physical moving processes that a person does for work will eventually begin to show in all aspects of their lives.
I think, act, and socialize differently from so many years of having my mind wrapped in the rounds of writing and publishing than I did before I began. My inertia came to a halt suddenly, I did not know what to do.
I laid in bed. I spent one long depressed day watching TV, drinking coffee, feeling listless.
The next day I came back to life. I woke up and played with my daughter, went for strolls around the city holding my wife’s hand, the pressure of work and publishing was gone, I relaxed: I had nothing to do.
I hung out with friends, drank a lot of beer, strangely got into TV sitcoms, I walked all day long in the mountains, I had fun with my family. I discovered a different sort of life that I had not known in many years, I discovered again what it feels like to be a tourist in pursuit of one thing: a good time.
It was not too bad.
This went on for two weeks.
A new pattern emerged: I began enjoying having no work to do; travel, suddenly, became a lot of fun again. I slacked off on getting a new computer, I invented excuses to not go to the store to buy one, I enjoyed being free from my tether. I was enjoying the little moments that make up a day, a life.
I was on vacation.
But this patterned began to wear on me, I started feeling loose and fat in the head, lump like, under-stimulated. I thought of taking on a different sort of project, learning a different type of work, but I knew damn well that I would become just as obsessive about anything I do. If I worked leather, I would do so 10 hours a day; if I smithed silver, I would do it all day long, seven days a week; if I baked and sold cookies in the street, I would do it by the thousand.
Travel is an expedient process of learning about yourself, travel strips you away from your surroundings and shows you the dynamic parts of your character cleanly. I have traveled enough to know my character:
I am an all or nothing type of guy — if I set out to travel, I travel the entire world perpetually for decades; if I get a tattoo, I tattoo my entire body — if I do something, I do it fully, completely, obsessively.
A website publishing obsession is just as good as any other, I figure.
I bought a new computer.
What would I be doing if not for Vagabond Journey?
Probably something else for 10 hours a day, 7 days a week. I have always been this way.
I am back to publishing daily, I am back to work, in the saddle, at the grindstone. Thank you to everyone who helped and offered advice to get me through this brick wall. It is much appreciated. I am back.
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Related articles: Asus Eee PC Breaks Again | One week, two laptops broken | Original Asus not good for traveling webmaster – How Eee PC #1 broke | Use care when removing computer cord – How Eee PC #2 broke
What has been your experiences with using Asus computers? What do you do when your electronics break on the road?