If the best travel experiences happen when things don’t go according to plan, why do we plan so much?
We rely on our participants to write great stories about their #SeekExperiences abroad. Whether they're teaching, doing au pair duties, teaching English in a summer language camp or volunteering abroad ... we "seek" real stories and real experiences to pass along to anyone who might find our #SeekExperiences Blog helpful.
However, search engines like GoAbroad, GoOverseas and especially TripAdvisor really push reviews. For more years than I can imagine, I have argued that if travelers begin to make decisions based solely on a review, the opportunity for adventure declines.
When I taught English in the US, I'd take a group of students to Europe with me each summer. We would walk to the underground in Paris with our maps. And we would tell each other on the platform that "we'll see you at Notre Dame stop in 15 minutes." And I would get them all on the wrong train, going to the wrong direction, and when the doors started to close ... I jumped off.
Yes, that was the 70's. And wasn't it exciting to take risks back then? And wouldn't it be just as exciting to take risks traveling today? Without consulting Yelp, Google Maps or texting home to Mom that the teacher jumped off the train and stranded them in Paris? Yet, isn't that a GREAT story to tell when you get home (safely)? Taking the train to Notre Dame is one thing. Being put in the wrong direction on the wrong train and finding my teacher sitting on a bench waiting for me ... that's a great story when you come home.
But today, I'd get a horrible review if no downright sued. "How dare I put some risk into something already risky." We are so caught up in reviews and social media that I fear the adventure has gone out of travel. We won't even venture into a restaurant without checking Yelp or Local Eats to make sure it's OK.
Don't let your smartphone sap the spontaneity out of you. Don't let online reviews frighten you away from an adventure you know you're meant to have. Next time, come out of the subway and eat at the first pizzeria you see. Write a story about it and file it. Don't recommend it and don't condemn it. Experience it. Resist the temptation of "reviewing" the crust and the sauce and the service and if someone treated you nicely. Rather, tell us about the experience of stumbling upon this little spot no one you know ever heard of. And focus on THAT. Do THAT enough, and you'll become a) a professional traveler or b) a very happy returning visitor with interesting stories your friends and family want to hear.