I got hold of two interesting posts today that seem to tell a larger story.
The first was from Freakonomics. Stephen Dubner got Arthur Frommer, travel magnet, to sit down and answer some reader questions. Two stood out:
Q: What is the biggest mistake people make when traveling?
A: They fail to prepare themselves by delving deeply into the history and culture of the destination in advance of arriving. They wander as utter novices, unable to understand the sights and institutions brought to their attention. And all the lectured commentaries of their tour guide simply add to the confusion. Advance reading — a few nights at the library — is the key to a successful trip.
Q:What are your thoughts on Xavier De Maistre’s Voyage Autour de ma Chambre, in which the French writer urged that before we jet off to see the world, we should apply the same curiosity and attentiveness to our immediate surroundings? Do you think our obsession with travel blinds us to local pleasures?
A: I’ve always found that the best travelers are the very same people who are intensely interested in the history and culture of their own home city.
My takeaway is that innate curiosity prepares one to be a good traveler. Time and curiosity prepares one (in Frommer’s words) to expand oneself.
The second post came from PSFK where Jeff Squires wrote up a piece on a new form of travel:
Urban Dare is a new competition that takes teams of two and sends them out into the city to complete various challenges in what is essentially a modern scavenger hunt. Part photo hunt, part trivia, part dares, teams solve clues to reach checkpoints where they must complete challenges and document it with a digital camera before receiving a ‘passport stamp’ and moving onto the next checkpoint. To solve the clues and get around town, competitors are encouraged to utilize any wireless technology they have at their disposal – this includes calling a buddy with Wikipedia and Google maps already open and expecting their call. Typically, the races last between 3 and 4 hours and teams cover around 6 miles. Transportation is limited to walking, running, and public transportation – no bikes, cars, or taxis.
As I’m sure Jeff knows, Urban Dare is part of a larger trend in travel: the urban scavenger hunt.
Cloud 9 offers a similar hunt. Ultimate Quest has started a scavenger program in L.A. Scaventures builds them out as chances for corporates to build team moral. Singles clubs like this one in Chicago are starting their own. Even brands have taken up the cause, including Nike (great site) and Subaru (corny site).
In my opinion, Frommer has it right – we need time and preparation to enjoy travel – but the catch is most people who can afford trips to foreign lands lack time. There in lies the demand for a type of travel where people can learn about a place – sometimes on the run – in way that is familiar. It’s fast, often based on technology, always based on gaming, with an outcome of personal expansion.