Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Has the Internet Destroyed the Pleasure of Travel?

Paul Theroux in Dark Star Safari states

“But photography spoiling the visual pleasure of places is nothing compared to the way the internet and our age of information have destroyed the pleasure of discovery in travel.”

But is this really so? Being able to look at a place, a view or a landmark before travelling surely helps build the anticipation?

Before our recent trip to Finland, I checked the Ruka Webcams daily for amount of snow falling/ melting and the feeling I had when I saw that red and white stripy tower that I had viewed so much on the web cams I believe it was all that more exciting having seen the transformation from a snow-less autumn to mid winter darkness to the current blue skies and sunshine.

Also, is an image or a description on the Internet ever going to give that same feeling as when you are there in the flesh? The answer is no, as it’s not only sight but all the other senses that come into play, the sounds and smells, the warmth of the sun or the bitter chill of the wind.

And if we move onto traveller reviews and descriptions of places, yes sites like TripAdvisor may make us more careful when booking if there are constantly bad reviews, so some of the ‘adventure’ may have been taken out of travel for those who read and believe, but so many reviews are subjective and often a 1 star “Worst holiday of my life” review is followed by a 5 star “Absolutely magical- couldn’t have been better.” How can one persons experience ever be the same as the next persons? To me a great holiday is a tent in a field spending my time walking, cycling and climbing while many people I know find the thought of that a nightmare and for them beer and bars in Tenerife or a 5 star hotel in Dubai, doing nothing but ordering cocktails by the pool is perfection.

I have tried to think of the negative aspects of the Internet and travel.

There are some areas of the world that were once remote and seldom visited which have now turned into tourist hotspots full of tacky souvenirs. Is the Internet responsible for this? In some ways yes, now when we see a beautiful place we pick up our smartphone, take a photo and send it to hundreds of people through social media, email and review sites. But years ago this was still happening- ok at a slower pace as you’d get home, have your film developed, show it to you friends who’d then discuss it with theirs and maybe someone would write a book about it encouraging  travellers and tourists to visit.

Take Provence in the south of France, once a quiet, sleepy region of the South of France, with hot summers and cheap property. Long before the Internet boom, Provence had been turned into a British/ American/ Parisian summer holiday home, with tennis courts slowly outnumbering grape vines (according to Peter Mayle, A Year in Provence)

But the plus side, in some places, is the great benefit tourism has on an area. The Khumbu region of Nepal now receives thousands of trekkers and climbers each year and numbers are growing. Whilst there is the argument that the region has ‘lost its soul’ it has also benefited from schools and hospitals. Of course this has been happening since the time of Hillary and Tensing, so long before the Internet, but with information easily accessible on the Internet about these projects awareness and donations are enabling them to build and grow.

So the question goes out to you, has the Internet destroyed the pleasure of travel? I’m looking forward to receiving your thoughts!

No comments:

Post a Comment