The journey of a thousand miles is easier than ever.
While often listed in the company of other hobbies such as swimming or playing an instrument, travel is so much more. It’s an experience – the total immersion of oneself into an unfamiliar environment, defined by a lack of routine and rules, and an escape from the responsibilities of home. It provides opportunities for self-realization, for the development of one’s character and for personal growth – and thanks to the modern day, all of this is easier than ever.
Perhaps nothing in the last 100 years has changed more quickly than international travel. Formerly the purview of science fiction, we went from being unable to fly at all, to fourteen-hour trips from Sydney to Los Angeles. Entirely new cultures and worlds opened to all, all within the span of less of than a century. The rest of the world has caught up as well – smartphones and apps have become ubiquitous, providing functions that are now essential to modern society. Travel is no exception, as everything from booking your trip, to checking in at the airport, to organizing activities, can all be done from your phone.
Take my own trip for example - I’ve been travelling in Indonesia now for a month and half, with almost the entirety of my booking done online. I checked into my flight through my airline’s app, booked my first hotel on my mobile, ordered an app-based transportation at the airport, and organized my kos through WhatsApp and a friend. Weekend trips and hostel stays in Yogyakarta are all done through phone calls and texting. Hotels and travel websites must now consider a mobile site a necessity, lest they miss out on the 42% of travel that is booked via smartphone. Smartphones on-loan are quickly becoming a norm, especially in upmarket hotels in major urban centers – hotels from Asia to Europe are all picking up on the trend.
Accessibility and knowledge are at an all-time high. Almost regardless of where you are, TripAdvisor is sure to have a page dedicated to it, describing things to do, places to visit and food to eat. When you’re in an unfamiliar city and disconnected from home, sometimes it’s all you can rely on. According to SocialMediaToday more than 140 million U.S. adults will research their trips online this year, with global sales expected to reach $198 billion USD. Itinerary apps are also quickly growing in popularity, combining multiple schedules with weather updates to ensure that you don’t waste a moment of your vacation. Budgeting apps can also help you keep track of the money you spend on vacation, a helpful function for those who like to travel with a tighter wallet.
But it’s not all positives. The apps encourage an almost incessant planning – there are always things to do, and places that you must see according to the review sites. The ease of doing it all makes it difficult to find time to properly unwind, to decide fully that there’s nothing more that needs to be done before time runs out. Infinite blogs and pages and sites forcing decisions in a finite amount of time can certainly fill your days as much as waste them.
It’s not only on the major review sites that people do their planning – social media plays an enormous role. Formerly the role of the travel agent or brochure, Instagram and Facebook are now the main platforms on which accommodation and experiences advertise. Ensuring that your photos are perfect and captions enticing has become crucial to the success of any travel franchise and has led to many of them employing social media influencers to promote their brands. Some have even committed to ensuring that every guest gets the opportunity for the perfect insta, as the photos of friends and family gallivanting through picturesque landscapes can inspire impulse travel purchases from even the most miserly of individuals.
Ultimately, there’s no doubt that the ease of travelling has increased dramatically in recent years. Travel is no stranger to the smartphone revolution, and those in the business are quickly catching up. But I think it is worth noting that while the options increase, so do the decisions, and striking a balance between the two can elevate a good holiday to a great one.