In a world where travel is made widely accessible, what were once unique, magical experiences are now being increasingly commoditised.
Amidst the clutter of ubiquitous tour itineraries, how does one seek out authentic experiences? And what does it mean to travel right?
Where has the magic of travel experiences gone?
While the advent of new technologies may have made travel accessible to the masses, it has also taken away some of its allure.
Travel experiences are increasingly being commoditised – how many times have you been part of a long, snaking queue of tourists, each attempting to capture the most Instagram-worthy angle of an oft-photographed landmark?
Each vacationer tries to cram 10 attractions into a four-day itinerary or races against the clock to see widely-known attractions – yet never makes time for authentic, local experiences that are unique to a destination.
That’s not to say that crafting an authentic travel experience for yourself is impossible – but it certainly takes work, and could wind up being a research project in itself.
After all, you’ll be sieving through endless tour operators and itineraries, each promising to deliver an unordinary travel experience – one that offers all of the “best”, “must-sees” and “must-eats” that a place has to offer.
Emerging out of a world of frenetic, cluttered travel experiences is the art of ‘slow travel’ where less is more.
This could mean taking time to unwind and relax, to slowly savour an attraction rather than zoom off on a sightseeing spree, to sit down with strangers for a chat or immerse yourself in the local community.
It’s how you uncover the essence and magic of travel – which lies in taking in the everyday wonders around you, and getting a feel for experiences and interactions you don’t typically get in your everyday life.
Let’s take the example of holiday-making in Paris. While dining out in an upscale Parisian restaurant is an incredible experience, a different kind of fine dining – one that’s held in a 19th century apartment just a skip away from the Champs-Elysées – can be just as memorable. It’s a dinner party, so you’ll be welcomed by your host into her circle of friends, and join in a feast prepared by a local who’s been brought up cooking French classics.
The same goes for Rome. While most of the tourists are busy rushing to “top-rated restaurants” they’ve seen in their tourist guides so they can tick off one more item on their “must-do lists”, you can sit down with home-chef Alessandro and enjoy his truly Roman feast overlooking the Vatican City.
At other times when in Singapore, the very best of a city’s cuisine are found in its vibrant street food and hawker stall scene. While impossible queues are the norm at popular stalls – some of which are actually Michelin-rated – a specially curated hawker food tour takes care of the hassle of queueing. Thanks to hosts who stand in line on your behalf, all that you’ll experience of the tour are delectable dishes enjoyed in the company of fellow foodies.
And while food may be the main draw here, it’s other elements coming into play that makes the whole experience unforgettable – like newfound friendships forged over shared meals, getting a local’s insights into traditions you’ve never heard about and taking the time to be in a single place to bask in the warmth and intimacy of deep conversations and heartfelt interactions.
The slow travel, as the world calls it, where people prefer magical experiences over commoditised tourist clichés.