I must say I am a little sad about the way that travel planning has turned out.
Gone are the days of reading the lonely planet, booking everything through email, and turning up at your guesthouse hoping a) that they remembered you were coming and b) that the place had not burnt down.
My husband and I have fully embraced this review-just-about-everything culture.
I admit that I am guilty as charged.
This addiction to reviewing and documenting everything we do on the world wide web leaves nothing to chance on our holidays anymore.
Once travelling, we spend our time glued to our iPhones and Instagram.
A friend went to Japan recently and it felt like I went to Japan too. Every part of the trip was documented including in the dinner dates and shopping sprees. I could smell the ramen. I patted the cats in the cat café and got caught in the snowstorm. All from the safety of my desk at work.
This is not necessarily a bad thing. It left me thinking I should book my next holiday to Japan.
When I was 22, I went on a BIG South East Asian adventure for three months.
I did not have a laptop. I did not travel with a phone. I booked everything before I went from my hotmail account with my trusty lonely planet guide and what I could google.
I would email my parents weekly from an internet cafe. No skype-ing, twittering or face booking back in those days. Nothing was reviewed or over planned. Every experience was not checked in, posted or shared on Instagram with #holidays #feelingblessed #sunsetcocktails #whataloadofbullshit.
Instead, I sent postcards. Can anyone remember them?
I remember turning up at my guesthouse in Chiang Mai and was informed that it had been flooded. I walked around town to find somewhere else to sleep, met some people on the way and decided to stay where they were staying. These days the incident would have been twittered and tripadvisored with a whole lot of swearing about my holiday being ruined.
After spending six weeks living in a hut down in the southern islands I knew I had to see some culture in the week I had remaining before travelling onward. How would I explain to my parents that my afternoons had consisted of beer and banana pancakes for the last month and I had seen nothing, except the inside of the bar? I walked down the main street of Chiang Mai chatting to all the tour operators deciding what to do. With no tripadvisor, or smartphone to guide me to wisdom, I took a chance on a quiet vendor because he was nice and not as busy as the other guys. It was the best trek ever.
I am going back to South East Asia next month for the sixth time, and sadly the 22-year-old ‘no planning me’ no longer exists. Despite my attempts to not pre book and plan, I caught myself today over analysing all of the tripadvisor reviews for my destination.
But how helpful are these really to the average traveler?
I reckon they can be divided into three streams, the third one being the only stream you can actually base any of your decisions on.
1 This stream is made up by reviews from the ‘Always Disappointed’ person. This will be the one reviewer that has rated a place ‘terrible’ when everyone else has rated it ‘excellent.’. This type of reviewer will complain about no arrival drink at the $50 bungalow and the number of bugs and geckos in Thailand:“My wife has quite a distinct fear of bugs- which I admit isn’t conducive to a holiday in Thailand.” No idiot. It is not. Go somewhere where the bugs will freeze or where you don’t have to go outside and, above all, where I don’t have the risk of running into you. Oh, you also complained that the distance from the hotel to the beach is too far? Didn’t you Google it? Moron. This man or woman is a total douchebag and is happy nowhere, not even in paradise.
2 The ‘Happy with Anything’ person. The Happy with anything men and women are the ones who write the only glowing reviews of all the terribly rated hotels. They are friends with the owner. Or, they could actually BE the owner. ‘I enjoy the great water tempratore at beach I think it the best place to stay on the island.’ A sure way to tell if they are friends with the owner is by their ‘one and only’ review status.
3 The most reliable type of reviewer: The Average Joe. I put myself in this category. If the place is awesome, that is what we say. If it is awful and not what it was advertised then that is what I will write. But I know what to expect if I pay $50 or $200. I expect bugs in Thailand. I know you won’t get a welcome drink at a $50 per night bungalow. This person is reliable as they have written all types of reviews. Not just bad ones.
Anyway, I must be off now to keep ugooggalising my trip.
God forbid, I might get something wrong, my plans might change and I could end up having an actual adventure.
But whatever happens, you can bet you will be seeing it all live on Instagram.
#holidays #paradise #feelingblessed #whataloadofbullshit