Armed with smartphones and GPS, millennial travellers are conquering the world. How can we make room for wonder and discovery in the Internet age?
“Much of the pleasure gained from travelling is actually derived from the anticipation, and our desire for escape and new sights prior to the trip itself.”
There was a phase in my teens where I obsessed over everything Paris. I filled my bedroom wall with pictures of the Eiffel tower, Champs-Élysées and the Arc de Triomphe. Even devouring French films like Amélie and Moulin Rouge!.
When I actually made it to the City of Light, I was disappointed. While I dreamt of kissing my prince charming atop the Eiffel tower, in reality, it was really just a metal structure against pale, grey skies. The stairways and elevators were perpetually crammed with hordes of tourists. Upon descent, aggressive street sellers hawked their imitation Eiffel tower keychains and hounded me down cobbled streets.
Turns out, the power of imagination was more fulfilling than the actual visit. As modern philosopher Alain de Botton wrote in The Art of Travel, much of the pleasure gained from travelling is actually derived from the anticipation, and our desire for escape and new sights prior to the trip itself.
“With so many resources at our fingertips, we are tempted to plan a trip down to every meticulous detail.”
In the Internet age, millennials are fortunate to be a well-travelled bunch. But does quantity and frequency translate into quality travel experiences? With so much information and distraction, how can we travel more mindfully?
With smartphones, the ability to discover faraway places without even leaving our seat is thrilling and empowering. A lot of excitement comes from planning the trip: researching, making itineraries and getting recommendations. With a simple tap, we can find pictures of the top attractions to visit in London, and even discover off the beaten track night markets in Bangkok. Location tags, blogs and Instagram have efficiently fed us with #wanderlust images. It is near impossible to travel to somewhere new without first seeing them online.
With so many resources at our fingertips, we are tempted to plan a trip down to every meticulous detail. Once, a friend made an itinerary with a schedule of what to do every hour. Another time, I was startled when a group of friends planned a trip to Thailand with PowerPoint slides, as if preparing for a business presentation!
In all honesty, too much preparation takes away the wonder of travel. While it is understandable how some of us may feel more secure with research about a foreign place, travelling is also about stepping out of our comfort zones and immersing in a new culture.
When we open our hearts and venture into a foreign place, travel rewards us with priceless adventures and new ways of experiencing life. After all, discovering quaint little gems, eating at street stalls with locals and making new friends are precious memories an itinerary can never provide.
Images by rawpixel.com, Benny Jackson and Aziz Acharki on Unsplash