Is the Internet ruining your Travel Experience before you even go?

I promised to tell you about my backpacking trip through Europe. Well, the information that I shared in early July was pretty accurate, at least for those parts of the Old World that I visited. I went to see Buckingham Palace and the London Tower in England and Amsterdam in The Netherlands was truly AMAZING! This town has so much to offer for backpackers! The city is stunningly beautiful with striking architecture and romantic canals.

I went to see my relatives in Berlin (I'll be going there again in October, I believe). It’s stunning to understand the city's background when you're there. Today, Berlin has many museums and galleries so you won't get bored and the city's pretty decadent nightlife (if that's what you're looking for) will keep you up late. Then I went to Switzerland, a relatively small country, like Holland. Here, you can marvel at the country's stunning lakes and impressive Alpes mountains.

A bit of a downside was that practically everywhere I went, I already knew all about the place due to my online searches. The Internet can provide a great wealth of information to us about destinations around the globe. All you need to do is log onto any travel-oriented website to find reviews, photos, videos, guides and advice all at your fingertips. But is this preconceived knowledge ruining the excitement of travel in the 21st century? We seem to be so caught up in having a good holiday that we forget the best experiences and surprises can happen when we least expect it.

Many people I talk to speak of “the surprising delight factor”. These can best be described as unexpected events which enhance your overall holiday experience. This could be visiting a city while a festival or a movie premiere is in town or seeing a natural event such a volcano erupting or a meteor shower.

These events can really make holidays and leave you feeling like you have got real value from your trip because you saw something special that people generally do not see. I wonder if we did not plan our visits so severely or do so much research beforehand, could we encounter more “surprising delight factors”?

Well in theory yes. Most holiday destinations have many things to see and do all year round so there is a good chance of turning up and there being an event you did not predict, but going on holiday unprepared is certainly not in the mindset of most holidaymakers.

Holidaymakers generally plan their trips around what is going on at the destination or the time of the year. Our lifestyles are probably to blame because the average family will only go on one major holiday a year due to school holidays, budgets that urge them to cook meals for pennies, and time constraints, and therefore getting the one escape right is rather crucial.

I think backpackers are the most likely to encounter the “surprising delight factor” because they tend to travel on whims, change directions and be more spontaneous. They travel with a more liberal mindset and tend not to do so much planning in advance which is why it can be such a rewarding to travel. When a friend of mine was traveling the world as a backpacker he really had to do it on a budget and when he explored Japan and Australia, he encountered a traditional Japanese wedding while visiting a shrine in Tokyo, and saw baby koalas in Sydney Zoo and he felt he had experienced a “surprising delight factor” of his own.

Perhaps in the future, holidays will become redundant as our technological experiences become richer and more lifelike. Why would someone need to visit the rainforest or Niagara Falls if they could sample the sights, smells and signs online from their living room via the Internet? Virtual reality is here to stay but my personal experience is that visiting places in person gives you so much more satisfaction and interacting with people from other cultures is not possible in the same way as actually going places.

It is unclear how technology will shape travel in the future and the impact the web will ultimately have, but for now, I suggest traveling the open road and taking each experience as it comes is more satisfying and rewarding. Anyway, backpacking through Europe was an amazing experience. Let me know what you think the future holds.