We haven’t flown a trike for over a month and a half and we have yet to fly our new trike in the air (it needs some minor modifications before it’s airworthy). This isn’t to say that we aren’t making headway -- we are -- it’s to point out that the journey hasn’t been one of instant gratification. I am overjoyed that this is my experience.
Adventure is a concept under threat. In a recent Stuff article, writer Michelle Duff asserts that the most memorable experiences in travel are those experienced spontaneously, then goes on to wonder if travel apps like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and their kin are sucking them away. I’ll come back to this.
Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock is a book that recently fell back into my hands. It’s an endlessly fascinating book about the emerging super-industrial world and our imminent collision with it. Published in 1970, some of Tofflers’ predictions about the future are so accurate that they’re unsettling. Here’s a quote that jolted me a few days ago:
“As rising affluence and transience ruthlessly undercut the old urge to possess, consumers begin to collect experiences as consciously and passionately as they once collected things...The packaged experiences offered in the future will reach far beyond the imagination of the average consumer...”
Back to Ms. Duff’s article, published yesterday: “Research by the World Travel and Tourism Council concedes that nowadays, only the most intrepid traveller would "dare to journey blind" without using the reviews, rating and recommendation sites at their fingertips.
Instead, they suggest a future in which the "safe surprise" reigns supreme. "Discovery is managed, experiences vetted and true adventure marginalised. Instead of surprise and chance, travellers are increasingly seeking vetted spontaneity." ”
Destinia.com has released an app for Google Glass that allows you to explore nearby hotels using augmented reality, then guiding you to the hotel by micromanaging each turn. If visually cutting yourself off from the world isn't the beginning of the death of spontaneity, I don’t know what is.
I’m often accused of being naive and romantic when I speak about spontaneity, but there is a sacredness in entering moments untethered.There is a looseness when I leave my phone at home or just wander. What I discover and who I meet seems more authentic than if I’d planned my urban adventure by the hour and plugged in my headphones before I walked out the door.
I bemoan a future in which adventure tourism is the norm, where your trip is contrived by a concierge, your experiences collected digitally, and the common rooms of hostels filled with clicking laptops and an absence of conversation. Maybe that’s why I feel frustration whenever I see a tourist photograph a painting: it’s as if they’re trying to collect the experience, rather than simply experiencing it. It’s the latter that matters.
I am beyond grateful for the hardships of this adventure -- that we’re risking everything for it and involving ourselves in every aspect of it. I’m ashamed to admit that we even once considered taking our trip with “guides” (who would’ve flown with each of us in in separate trikes). A diluted process produces a diluted outcome.
I’ve learned more about myself during this adventure (in the air or otherwise) than at any other point in my life. It wouldn’t have nearly the same effect, were it a packaged experience or a safe surprise. A true adventure cannot be collected, played safe, or repeated. We wouldn’t be here otherwise. I hope that Toffler’s prediction will be reversed in the future.