Today, travel assistants will guide you through countries to the ‘not to be missed’ destinations. You will be guaranteed a bed for the night and reassured that previous visitors have enjoyed their stay with no nasty surprises. All can easily be booked in advance along with accommodation, so people often plan their route even before arriving.
Travel has become easier, safer and less stressful but, to what expense? Perhaps we have lost one of the most exciting elements of travel, ‘chance’ and with it, the sense of discovery, stepping into the unknown with unexpected encounters.
About 16 years ago, whilst travelling through Asia I had limited knowledge of what I was going to see or whether it was even possible to get from A to B. I made the most of each place I visited and was happily surprised by some lovely accommodations but completely horrified by others. The best stories always came from the bad guesthouses, the accidental journeys, the meeting of somebody new or an unknown place that felt newly discovered.
Being guided by a paper map with only place names, word of mouth and guidebook snippets was sometimes daunting but totally fulfilling. I recently read ‘We [are only] satisfied when reality matches our expectations‘ (Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow). But today, stylised pictures, videos and social media influences create a perfect hyper-reality that our experiences can never totally fulfill.
Chance is one thing that technology aims to remove from our lives. With chance, you had no definitive expectations. I remember walking down a dirt track in Laos and being absolutely gob-smacked by a gorge with a small guesthouse perched on its cusp. Would I have the same reaction travelling with today’s knowledge and expectations? Probably not…
Today I am also guided through a country with blinkers, following a dot on a screen on Google Maps, potentially passing people and places that could change my life. But maybe, it’s time to make a conscious effort to let chance back into my life because it’s chance that makes room for great experiences.