This is what I (and a few other travel bloggers) miss most about travelling… bring back the good ol’ days of no phones & laptops, that’s what we want!
I fear I’m going to sound like a grumpy old man (at the tender age of 33) but I miss the good ol’ days of travelling.
You know the ones where you’d check into a grubby hostel, dump your backpack in your 8-bed dorm room and then head straight to the bar to meet other travellers and swap stories.
All of a sudden it’s 2am and you’re blaring out Wonderwall at a local bar chatting shit to a guy you’ve only just met. “If you ever come to the UK you’re staying with me – we were meant to party together!” Best mates forever. The next morning you never hear from them again…
You know, that kinda travelling. That’s what I miss.
The times they are a changin’
I’ve just got back from travelling around Thailand for a couple of weeks with my fiancé Chloe and oh how things have changed.
It’s crazy to think but I first went to Thailand in 2006. I was 20 and I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. It was very basic, raw, rough round the edges. I loved every second of it.
Then, we were paying £1.50 for a simple bungalow right on the beach. You know the ones with a thread-bare mattress and mosquito netting with holes in it.
This time around I was paying £50 a night, and every place I stayed in had AC and a swimming pool. Did I need it? No, but I wanted it.
I’m not saying one’s better than the other, just different. Very very different.
I guess at this point I should say some sort of bullshit about maturing, about how I’ve changed as a traveller, how my wants and desires are different, but I’m not going to.
But it did make me think, in a relatively short amount of time, how much travelling has changed over the past decade.
Hello laptops & phones, goodbye conversation & meeting people
I went on my big round the world trip in 2009 and 2010. Even then, 10 years ago, I was just on the cusp of the way travel was changing.
No one had a laptop or a tablet. Most people didn’t even travel with a phone. It was just you, your backpack and Southeast Asia on a Shoestring.
When I went on my second big trip in 2014, everything had changed. Hostel vibes were all of a sudden switched from playing cards with strangers to Candy Crush on your phone. Everyone seemed in a big group or on a packaged tour.
Fast forward another 5 years to day and it’s completely different again. Candy Crush has been swapped with Tinder. People are FaceTiming their mums from the top of Machu Picchu.
That wonder of truly being in the moment has become more and more diluted over years to the point as soon as you discover something wondrous, you want to share it immediately online with everyone around the world.
As I said, it seems strange that the way we travel can change so quickly.
The thing is, I know I’m not other only one who misses the good ol’ days of travelling. So, in this pensive mood I thought I’d turn to my other blogger friends to see what they miss about travelling.
From arriving somewhere new and not having anything booked to missing that true sense of adventure, here’s what they had to say.
Oh, and I would love to know what you think too so make sure you let me know in the comments at the bottom!
That feeling of travelling somewhere truly special – Hayley Stainton, Life as a Butterfly
I miss feeling like I have travelled to somewhere ‘special’. You know, that kind of special where you come home and tell all of your friends and they are genuinely intrigued, they don’t say “yes I saw that shared on Facebook last week”. You show them your photos and they say “wow, how amazing”, instead of “that’s cool – did you see x, y or z on Instagram take that same photo last week? And theirs was better…”
I miss finding the hidden little gems. The quaint coffee shop filled with locals, the restaurant that does the BEST steaks or the underground dance club that the other tourists don’t know about yet. Seriously, can you imagine if the movie ‘The Beach’ was filmed in 2019? It would be filled with Instatourists instead of drug dealers, it would have a whole page feature in the Thailand Lonely Planet and it would definitely be included in a few of those ‘places to go before you die’ lists that you see floating around the internet.
I love travel in 2019. I loved travel 15 years ago. Travel has changed for the good in many ways (think price comparison sites, budget airlines, high speed rail), but there are some things that I miss from those earlier travel days. What is tourism in 2019? It is many wonderful things, but it’s not the same as it used to be…
Missing that sense of adventure – Lexi Lister, Adventures of an Aquaholic
I miss the true essence of adventure, not this watered down version we pass off as such with the convenience of modern technology.
Adventure by very definition is “an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks.” Who truly gets to experience that anymore with Google constantly at our fingertips? Before technology became what it is today, I was extremely lucky to have traveled on a ship that circumnavigated the globe with 1,000 college students.
There was an instance where a group of friends and I were dropped off in Hong Kong and split up for various day trips. We all agreed to meet up at a hostel across the border in China that night, before continuing onwards to Shanghai as a group.
None of us had any way of contacting one another, Google Maps, translator apps, or any way of knowing if the others would find their way. I miss having those kinds of stories.
Arriving somewhere new & not having a hotel booked – Or Amir, My Path in the World
Being able to travel and know that you already have a place to stay is incredible. Not only does it save you a lot of time, but you know you’ve picked the best accommodation for you; the best location; best price; best amenities. Due to the high demand for certain destinations or during high-season, booking your hotel in advance has also become a must.
However, even with all the advantages, I have to say I genuinely miss just getting to a city or a town without having my hotel already booked. There’s something fun and magical about wandering around, looking for the right place for you without the privilege of using an app.
It also helps you step outside your comfort zone and gives you the feeling of real travel life. Sometimes you won’t find the cheapest place to stay, but you might get to know kind hosts that will become your friends or stay at a hotel that will serve you the best dinner you will ever have. All I know is that memorable moments are usually the least planned ones.
Swapping books & discovering new music – Bella, Passport & Pixels
When you travel today you never have to worry about getting bored. You carry the world in your smartphone: the entire internet, endless movies, TV shows, books and music to keep you entertained until the end of time. But when I first went travelling, all the way back in 1998 when dinosaurs roamed the earth, we obviously didn’t have any of that.
I’d choose a couple of books to take with me, and when I’d finished them I’d swap them at a hostel book exchange – which lead to me discovering great reads I’d never have chosen for myself. I’d carry a folder with 12 CDs in it to play on my Sony discman (Google it if you’re too young to remember those!) – and by the end of 6 months travelling I knew the words to every song and the order in which they came. No one ever listens to an album the way the artist intended it to be heard any more, do they
I’d buy dodgy pirate DVDs from a random guy on the beach and then watch them in the hostel TV room with a bunch of randoms – a great way to make friends while you get annoyed with the shadowy figures walking across the screen in the cinema where the copy was illicitly recorded.
On long bus journeys I’d have to look out of the window as the landscape rolled by, and when the bus or car broke down (as it invariably did) I’d be forced to make conversation with my fellow travellers or run around taking photos – arguably a much better way to pass the time than having my nose buried in Twitter or Instagram as I tend to do these days!
Learning the basics of a new language – Angela Corrias, Chasing the Unexpected
One of the things I miss the most about travelling “the old way” is learning a new language, or at least some basics, to be able to communicate with locals. True, I can still do it, but I confess, smartphones made me lazy. With all the available apps with dictionaries, glossaries, ready phrases, I know I can easily find the word I’m looking for, so I don’t make the effort to memorise them.
I spent a year in China, Shanghai, in 2010 and I remember how hard it was at the beginning when I didn’t know a single word of Chinese. But I also remember how everything changed the minute I started studying the language. I was very far from mastering Mandarin, obviously, but I started to feel more confident and at the same time Chinese people immediately showed how much they appreciated that I was actually making the effort of studying their language.
Back then I didn’t have any language app on my phone, only a little paper dictionary for the emergencies. But this is how I managed to memorise words, sentences and all the Chinese characters I needed to get by in the streets, public transport, markets and shopping malls, offices. Apps might make things easier, but I think this way we don’t really establish a connection with the locals of the country we are visiting, and that’s one of the best parts of travelling.
Being in the moment and savouring it – Arti, My Yatra Diary
I started travelling young, as a small kid, tagging along with my parents who were (and are!) great explorers themselves. Travel in those times meant living purely in the moment, regaling ourselves in the simple and uncomplicated joys of life, filled up with unbridled moments, a lot of these experienced just on the journey itself without any thought of the final destination.
I remember we had a simple Kodak reel camera and that too was reserved exclusively to mark the ‘special occasions’ during the journey. For most of the part though, we were on our own, soaking in every little detail, naturally (without any digital invasion) and then chiseling those details into something beautiful on the canvas of our hearts – among these details were the food we ate, the spaces we occupied, the sights we saw and the people we met – we reveled in everything and yet never for once made any attempt to interpret any of them as one of our instagrammablesubjects.
Every breath was a fresh discovery; every sight presented a chance for a unique exploration and, every moment an impermanent home. Travel and life was fascinating indeed.
Signing hotel guest books and reading other people’s tips – Nadine Maffre, Le Long Weekend
There was a time, that doesn’t seem that long ago, where online reviews didn’t exist, and accommodation bookings were made over the phone. A remnant from this time, that seems to have disappeared along with so many other personal touches, is the hotel guest book. Granted, these didn’t contain objective reviews, but they were full of traveller’s stories and it’s a small part of travel that I miss.
Flicking through the worn-in pages, squinting to read scrawled handwriting, and reading through comments left by passers-through was a beautiful way to feel a part of a little community. It was also a great place to learn of local tidbits – where people would share their discoveries in the area – such as amazing hikes, or where to find the best beer in town.
And when travelling to the other side of the world, it would always give you a little thrill to find a past visitor hailing from your own hometown.
When blogging was a lot simpler & easier – Chris Backe, Becoming A Digital Nomad
I started travel blogging before I even left the US (the earliest post dates from December 2007, though I didn’t leave for South Korea to start teaching English until March 2008 – thanks visa issues!). Those early posts were pretty crappy, to be honest. At the time, I was just writing for friends and family back in the US, almost like a public diary. It really never occurred to me that blogging could become a revenue-generating, life-changing sort of thing, and 2008 me wasn’t aware of anyone doing that.
Anyway, I just wrote about what I felt like. Not worried about SEO, creating the perfect Pinterest image, or anything like that. I didn’t identify myself as a travel blogger when going to places, and really just tried to blend in as a normal tourist.
The thing is I do miss the simpler days of traveling… but at the same time, my smartphone gives me agency to be understood (via translation tools), know where I’m going (via maps), and to look things up when needed.
I guess for me there’s a sense of nostalgic loss at what travelling used to represent for me. And as all these other points prove, I know I’m not the only one.
But as one form of travel ends another begins, and travelling today is still incredible, it’s just different, sharable.
Or who knows, maybe I am turning into a grumpy old man…
I would love to know what you miss about travelling though? Share them with everyone and let me know in the comments below!
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