What Happened to the Wonder of Travel?

What happened to the wonder of travel?  Technology killed it.  Gone are the days when you had to visit a place to actually see it.  Thanks to smartphones you can know virtually anything about a place within minutes.  Sure there are certain things you can only learn in person but some of the biggest surprises are ruined the moment you hit enter on a Google search.  We’ve forgone discovery and adventure for immediate virtual gratification.

Technology has robbed us of true exploration under the guise of trip planning.  It’s wonderful to have unlimited guide information but our desires to plan the best trips have led to an abuse of power.  We make list after list of places to see only to be disappointed at the end of the day if we didn’t see them all.  We often focus on cramming in as many recommended activities as possible instead of enjoying what’s right in front of us.  I wonder if pre-internet travelers were happier – how could you regret not seeing what you didn’t know existed?  Imagine a place you’d only ever heard of by word of mouth, a place you’d never seen except maybe in a drawing.  What a wonderful place that must be.

Today we live in a world much larger than the generations before us.  We know the names of obscure islands and what their inhabitants look like.  We know exactly how long it will take to travel from A to B and we know the addresses of every restaurant, museum, and monument.  We know the best spots to take photographs and what time of year we should visit.  We know everything we need to know about virtually every destination and as a result, our larger than ever world has transformed into the same handful of internet search results.

We put a lot of trust into the opinions of others when it comes to travel.  We plan to visit other people’s favorite food spots and hiking trails and rarely stray elsewhere for fear of missing out.  Discovering great places used to be one of the greatest thrills of travel and now it’s done for us.  If anything this wealth of information more frequently leads to regret than true enjoyment.  Even if you manage to have the perfect trip, there are so many other destinations out there that seem bigger and better it’s impossible to truly be content.  So it is with lots of things in life these days.

So what do we do?  How do we restore the wonder of travel when technology has robbed us of it?  I’m not sure to be honest.  I quite enjoy blogging and am guilty of researching places at great depth before traveling so I’m not about to say let’s quit this whole internet thing and pitch our devices overboard.  But maybe, just maybe, there’s an ideal balance of data and discovery we have yet to master.

The world’s been around a lot longer than the Web and maybe that’s the joke – what we know now won’t apply in a few thousand years after the next ice age or two.  Our desire to catalogue everything as it is today fails to properly celebrate what things used to be like or what they’ll be like in the future.  Maybe that’s the wonder left in travel, the little nugget of mystery that’s missing from our day to day. Now our job is to put down our damn phones and take a minute to appreciate it.

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