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Where Has the Fun of Traveling Gone?

Traveling is exciting. Traveling is a unique experience. Travel means broadening your horizon and lets you grow more mature. Really? Forget about it! Once upon a time, maybe, traveling was an exciting, unique experience. Today, traveling is an absolutely boring, ordinary and everyday activity, following pre-defined rules and routines.

The journey begins with the booking of flights. The variety of available airlines is great, the prices vary according to season and provider, but also by day of week and time of day. It is worth comparing. Does the airline of your choice offer vegan, lactose-free or kosher meals? Are there any free alcoholic drinks on board? How much legroom is there in row seven? How is the service at the check-in counter, what are the uniforms of the stewardesses? How many aviation incidents are linked to the specific airline?

It is the internet’s fault.

You will find answers to all these questions on the internet. It is nothing more than hard luck having to wait for 8 hours in your plane on the airfield without being able to leave your seats due to security reasons. And never mind how snow and ice regularly hinder travelers and let airports close down in the wintertime. The unexpected is still different. The internet and its wide range of information have not only made travel easier, they also took away the fun.

The hotel booked in Brussels, London, Paris, or Sydney via smartphone is pretty much as expected, and as photographed, rated and commented on by thousands of previous visitors; the square outside the hotel looks familiar at first glance, because you have already seen it a million times, brought into your living room via webcam live stream. In real, the Eiffel Tower looks just like on the numerous Google photos, smaller perhaps, and a bit less glamorous; the Taj Mahal can be visited on a virtual tour – and those who get there via internet can actually see more than visitors on site, as closed and restricted areas are shown as well. Churches and museums of small villages represent themselves on the internet, if not by virtual tours then at least by offering 360 degree views. Is it still necessary to actually travel?

The experience of the alien gets flattened.

The described phenomenon is what sociologists call selectively standardized perception, and travelers are exposed to it since the beginning of mass tourism at the latest. It involves the risk to flatten the experience of the alien. The internet and the infinite variety of information it offers, strengthens its impact. Selectively standardized perception means that the perception of the tourist is determined by his expectations. In other words, you only see what you want to see – or what you think you need to see to underpin a certain assumption – which leaves no space for genuine, unbiased experience.

What remains of the trip? Photos that show the same motives as those already seen a thousand times. Reviews that always follow the same pattern, evocative of the criticism of the previous speaker: Good accommodation, but noisy environment; hotel in a bad state but very central. Your advice to friends, as on how the destination ought to be handled. Nice, but blurred memories of being away from home. The pleasure to be back.

Travel is routine. Travel is everyday life.

Should we leave our smartphones behind the next time we travel?

About the Author

Anna loves travel, photography, and writing. All at once, everyday. She collects entrance cards, plane tickets, and old atlases and has been searching for the perfect globe for some years. Follow Anna on Facebook or Twitter!

12 Comments

  1. Great article and in general I completely agree with your sentiments.

    Yet I can’t help but feel that this effect is only possible on less than 10 percent of the worlds possibilities. Granted, 95 percent of ‘travellers’ (I’ve read your other article too!) only visit this minority and so the effect is probably more pronounced due to this.

    However, I still believe that there remains the 90 percent of an unpopularised, unreviewed and perhaps even unphotographed world out there to explore and be surprised by.

    I’m not the prophet – I visit the 10 percent myself. And you’re right, some sights (the Eiffel Tower springs to mind) are so heavily covered by the media and others that when you finally arrive yourself you find it uninspiring and nothing really too special. But there have been other sights in the 10 percent where a photo simply will not suffice in describing the beauty of itself and it literally has to be seen to be believed.

    I think there is still lot’s of value in visiting a place in the real world, even after having visited it numerous times in the virtual world.

    • Thanks Christopher πŸ™‚

      I totally agree with you that there are places out there that one cannot experience without seeing them in real – although I’d say it’s less than 90 percent.

      And even landmarks that are as heavily covered as the Eiffel Tower for example are, of course, worth a visit: When I was in Paris last summer, I was completely disappointed because the tower looks much less spectacular than in all those pictures…

    • Thank you πŸ™‚ I just read your post on how you gave your iPhone away and I thought, well, this is kind of a reaction to what I described. (I couldn’t do that, though, I am too much in love with my phone – but I do switch it off sometimes.)

  2. wow beautifully said ! I do carry a phone but without data connection πŸ˜€ I always carry a road atlas and do some exploring on my own than listening to some silly app which tells me to take a turn every second i want to stop and enjoy something beautiful.

  3. Honestly I never bring a smartphone with me when traveling. Regarding modern technologies I’m just as old-school as my partner. Good luck with a smartphone in the African outback anyway. πŸ™‚ People say they’re traveling. They’re not travelers though but tourists. Have you seen “the sheltering sky”? Great movie. Right at the beginning they explain the difference between the two. A tourist goes to places and knows he’s going back home. A traveler on the other hand might stay to live at a place.

    • True, thats a crucial point. There are a lot of people who think they are travelers while in reality they are tourists. I guess this distinction might be worth another post – I’ve been thinking about something like that for a while. Will take up your idea if you don’t mind πŸ˜‰ Don’t know the movie though, but I’ll try to get my hands on it. Thanks for the tip!

  4. Actually, there is still more to it all … or at least I believe it to be; people, people you encounter in your travels, smells, sounds, colors … I believe it is all about being open to it, embrace it, immerse yourself into it. And never, ever let the routine take over adventure!

    • True. Meeting other people is probably one of the most rewarding things in travel – that is if you allow yourself the time to get to know them instead of running with the tourist crowd…

  5. oh…. I know what you mean. And I guess you are describing the ‘tick the box’ tourists but nevertheless I think that I would prefer people get off their bums and see the Eiffel Tower than sit around their homes watching tv all day. I think that what google maps can’t show you is the atmosphere that you are surrounded by when you travel – seeing the grandness of a monument, the charm of a small street or the performance of a street busker is still something that can only be experienced in person… or through blogs πŸ™‚ (yes the sarcasm is intentional!)

    • hehe, yeah, that’s true. you’ll never catch the atmosphere of a place if you haven’t been there. and of course, this is kind of exaggerated. still, from time to time I am sure it would be better not to know too much about a place before you go there, because it kinda makes it impossible to enjoy the atmosphere unbiasedly.

Your thoughts are welcome!