by Trisha Andres, The Telegraph, March 7, 2018
As I followed the tour guide and tucked my exhibition ticket into my travel wallet where I keep all my printed-out flight tickets and receipts, it dawned on me: I’m a baby boomer trapped in a millennial’s body.
I’ve never booked a holiday off the back of an Instagram recommendation, I have a worrying fondness for travel brochures and I take great pleasure in comparison-shopping by calling several travel agents for price quotes. If all this weren’t evidence enough, I’m also the proud owner of a travel insurance policy with worldwide coverage and have a propensity for getting lost abroad.
“How can someone with questionable sense of direction or at least an inability to use Google Maps properly be a travel editor?” one of my millennial “friends” asked me more than once as we encountered yet another fork in the road on a cycle path along the Adige in the South Tirol.
“It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey,” I tried quoting essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson. My “friend” surveyed the orchard we had stumbled into. We were the only cyclists there.
“Besides, this isn’t us getting lost. We’re having an adventure,” I said.
As the first generation (born between 1982 and 1999) to have grown up with the internet, social media and the smartphone, the prospect of getting lost is simply preposterous. And the idea of not knowing where we’re going? Heaven forbid!
According to a 2017 Expedia report on the millennial traveller, 65 per cent of respondents agreed that they try to appear in control of their lives at all times. And 56 per cent of millennials have posted a photo or video of their holiday on a social network while away. While we’re all terribly organised and well-connected, it does make me wonder: where is our sense of adventure? Where’s the romance of chance encounters? Of arriving at a destination and living off one’s wits? Indeed, I would venture to say that our generation is missing out on some of the real joys of travel. But it’s never too late to learn how to get lost, or live a little.
Here I suggest three antidotes to millennial travel…
1. Delete your social media apps
At least for the duration of your holiday. Your friends and followers may well think you’ve gone missing or have fallen off the face of the Earth but, remember, this is only temporary.
When I first attempted going app-less, I genuinely didn’t know what to do with myself for the first few hours. Soon enough, I was enjoying not being able to post my 27th picture of a dzong (fortress-monastery) on Instagram while on a trip to Bhutan with my mother. Instead, I had a meaningful conversation with her about her childhood, her future business plans and the turning points of my love life. Did we bond more? Did we become closer? Sure, to an extent. But more importantly, we were just present in the moment.
Instead of asking our driver-guide Tandin to take snaps of us at every turn, we talked to him and eventually found out he was an actor doing guiding on the side. That evening, we had dinner with Bhutan’s version of Tom Cruise. I forgot I had a phone. In fact, I even resisted the urge to take a group selfie.
2. Be spontaneous
Head to a train station, look up the railway timetable and choose a destination. Of course you can look this up on your iPhone, but where’s the fun in that? It’s all well and good to plan an itinerary but a degree of flexibility allows for lucky meetings and surprise visits.
On a trip to Rome with my family one summer, I found the city to be unbearably crowded, so I went to a train station and bought tickets to Sorrento via Naples. It’s one of my fondest family holiday memories.
3. Get lost
That’s right. Be like Baudelaire’s flâneur and wander the streets of a destination aimlessly. I’ve stumbled upon (when I didn’t intend to) a sleepy winery nestled on a black sand beach in the town of Kamari in Santorini; a funky bar hidden inside a local garage in Vila Madalena in São Paulo; a museum created by the novelist Orhan Pamuk set alongside barber shops and antique stores on the cobblestone streets of Çukurcuma in Istanbul. Yes, by all means, bring a map but remember, travelling is not always about getting from A to B. Sometimes there are detours along the way, and usually, they are the journey’s most interesting stops.