It is apparent that discerning travelers have a pent up appetite for glorious travel adventures that go beyond the norm. They have a thirst to do something unique and a deep hunger to add meaning to their travels. We members of Homo touristicus (a.k.a. traveling man) have evolved and have entered a new generation of traveling, a Third Generation I call it Travel 3.0.
The First Generation of Homo touristicus began when travelers started moving to and fro because they had to: to conduct trade, to attend family ceremonies, as war refugees, and yes escaping earlier eras of climate change.
The Second Generation of travelers evolved as incomes began to rise. People started to travel because they could afford to. Their travels were mostly centered on fun and consumption; think Greek spas, the Grand Tours of Europe, the sight-seeing road trips of the 1960s & '70s, cruises, and Las Vegas weekends.
Talking with travelers at the show, it seems that many had become weary of, and out-grown this empty, conspicuous consumption, and evolved into travelers whom manifest themselves within what we could call today's hyper-tourism industry. Adventurer Robert Young Pelton said it best: "The more civilized a society is, the more outrageous their adventures." Indeed, many have succumbed to this approach to travel, whose stages include:
Experience Junkies who move toward the Been there, Done that, What's next? Syndrome of list travel. They gain status and a reputation among family, friends, and other would-be travelers, as they temple-hop, bar-hop, culture-hop, happening-hop, and country-hop their way around the world. They always seem to be in the right place at the right time -- from Mardis Gras to the Running of the Bulls. They show up.
Adrenaline Junkies are also found among this Second Generation genus of traveler; those who seek out testosterone-induced and sometimes wholly fabricated dangers in order to feel alive or gain street-cred among other like-minded travelers by: visiting hot zones or war-torn regions, or climbing, surfing, boarding, hiking, or running the remotest, highest, fastest, deepest, craziest destinations of the world--just add verb to superlative adjective or noun. It is all about them and their ego-gratification because where it happens is secondary.
Finally we have the Country Counters, whose lone objective is nothing more than checking off boxes on a list. Can we really call a toe-touching moment at an airport of one of the lesser Papua New Guinea islands a country you really visited? Is it really important to be the first person to visit South Sudan -- for two hours?
Obviously, human ambition always requires new frontiers, what-ifs and challenges; and by the early 21st century it occurs to me that more discerning travelers have evolved yet again with a new way of seeing the world; the Third Generation, a.k.a Travel 3.0.
Travel 3.0 can be simply summed up in three words: authentic, challenging and participatory. What does that mean?
It means that instead of being sequestered in comfortable digs at resort hotels away from the local and indigenous people you are supposedly visiting, the Travel 3.0 raison d'être is to actually get you out of your comfort zone and engage in authentic, challenging and participatory travel experiences with locals. Your traveling experience becomes all about finding the heart of a destination and having more intimate one-on-one encounters. It means aiming for a real cultural immersion. It also means attempting to feel more alive and connected with fellow human beings by meeting them. Fundamentally, Travel 3.0 is about learning and growing empathy and understanding about the world in which we live and travel.
Travel 3.0 is also radically different in that it is about allowing serendipity. It means that instead of just passively sight-seeing, travel becomes more hands-on in highly participatory site-doing experiences. It calls on travelers to make good use of their own travel savvy, situational awareness and cumulative Travel IQ, to overcome the kismet of the moment -- be they logistic challenges, language barriers or cultural differences -- while being outside their comfort zones and autopilot default assumptions transcending their own limitations (both strengths and weaknesses) in extraordinary environments. And I believe that this all occurs by meeting people and turning strangers into friends. Trusting strangers in strange lands is a good substitute motto for Travel 3.0 and maybe making friends in exotic destinations ought to be everyone's new travel metric -- instead of country counting or fueling adrenaline fixes.
My intuitive sense is that travelers attempting the Travel 3.0 attitude are unconsciously attempting to regain authenticity in the Age of Reality TV -- which we know is rather inauthentic! Call it a rebellion, a backlash maybe, but I think the essence of it is just that travelers are simply trying to get REAL.
I have personally witnessed this evolution towards the Travel 3.0 attitude over the last decade while serving as the Event Director of The Global Scavenger Hunt. We have noticed that travelers participating in our annual travel adventure seemed more alive, engaged, positive and creative -- especially when they were in what could obviously be called the flow, the zone, or what we know as that peak mental state that occurs when travelers' personal experiences are amplified. (Maybe we could call it a type of travel rapture?) It occurs with a feeling of being truly alive, running on all cylinders and being in the moment, fully connected and fulfilled. It seemed to me that the magic of travel occurs when you immerse yourself wholly and freely into highly participatory, authentic and challenging experiences. We found that our travel adventure experience has inadvertently turned into a full-contact sport, but more of the mind and soul than of the body. Hence Travel 3.0.
That age-old adage that life begins at the end of your comfort zone seems true enough, and the Travel 3.0 approach might just be the newest incarnation of Homo touristicus. As Mark Twain wisely said, "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than the ones you did do!"...so Just do it! There are NO excuses.
What say you?