Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Is The Internet Ruining Our Travel Experiences Before We Even Go?

The Internet can provide a great wealth of information to us about destinations around the globe. All you need to do is log onto any travel oriented website to find reviews, photos, videos, guides and advice all at your finger tips. But is this preconceived knowledge ruining the excitement of travel in the 21st century? We seem to be so caught up in having a good holiday that we are forget the best experiences and surprises can happen when we least expect it.

Many people I talk to speak of “the surprising delight factor”. These can best be described as unexpected events which enhance your overall holiday experience. This could be visiting a city while a festival or a movie premier is in town, or seeing a natural event such a volcano erupting or a meteor shower. These events can really make holidays and leave you feeling like you have got real value from your trip because you saw something special that people generally do not see. I wonder if we did not plan our visits so severely or do so much research beforehand, could we encounter more “surprising delight factors”?

Well in theory yes. Most holiday destinations have many things to see and do all year round so there is a good chance of turning up and there being an event you did not predict, but going on holiday unprepared is certainly not in the mindset of most holiday makers. Holiday makers generally plan their trips around what is going on at the destination or the time of the year. Our lifestyles are probably to blame because the average family will only go on one major holiday a year due to school holidays, budgets and time constraints, and therefore getting the one escape right is rather crucial.

I think backpackers are the most likely to encounter the “surprising delight factor” because they tend to travel on whims, change directions and be more spontaneous. They travel with a more liberal mindset and tend not to do so much planning in advance which is why it can be such a rewarding to travel. When I was travelling the world as a backpacker I encountered a traditional Japanese wedding while visiting a shrine in Tokyo, and saw baby koalas in Sydney Zoo and felt I had experienced a “surprising delight factor” of my own.

Perhaps in the future holidays will become redundant as our technological experiences become richer and more life like. Why would someone need to visit the rainforest or Niagara Falls if they could sample the sights, smells and signs online from their living room via the Internet. It is unclear how technology will shape travel in the future and the impact the web will ultimately have, but for now I suggest travelling the open road and taking each experience as it comes. Let me know what you think the future holds.

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