Travel Blog Slow Travel and Deep Sonder


The Age of Travel Blog, Slow Travel and Deep Sonder

7 Jan , 2016  

There are one billion search results if you type “travel blog” in Google today, Jan 5, 2016. This number is likely to increase in the future, especially with the emerging wanderlust “epidemic” among the Millenials. Seeing that number, you can’t help but wondering if the epidemic is real. And it’s growing.

As such, this is a phenomena worth looking further.

Why do We Travel?

Travelling is exciting.  It’s not just the experience of the travel itself that is tempting. Even the idea of travelling is mouth-watering. Seeing new places or revisiting your favorite ones. Meeting new interesting people. Experiencing different cultures. And, learning or finding something meaningful along the way.

It’s romantic and philosophical. It’s irresistible.

People don’t need reason to travel. Travel is like love. You don’t need a reason for it. I think that’s why people travel. Of course there’s always a secondary reason such as boring job or bad breakup or whatever, but given our nature, if every person has all the means (read: time and money) they’re most likely going to travel without delaying even for a second when the first chance arrives. There’s no doubt about it.

The Art of Travelling

Imagine a time in the pre-internet era (but not so long ago). The only info you could get about a tropical hideaway was just from a torn-up travel magazine at your dentist’s waiting room. A number was written there on the corner of the page, you could hardly read it. It was a hotel number, and that was all you needed.

Nowadays, here’s the typical scenario: First, you read all the travel blogs with devotion. You followed every subject on every blog post and news related to the place you’re about to visit with fervor. You set up Google Alert on certain keywords so that you didn’t miss anything. You became an expert on that place in no time you even knew certain simple phrases. And finally, the day came: the day you embarked on your amazing journey. You’d been saving your money like Mr. Scrooge for some time and you’ve scratched out each passing day in the calendar leading to the day almost faithfully.Your itineraries were set. Everything was stored inside your smartphone. All the paperwork was done. Antibiotics shots were shot, and you’re good to go. Away.


Hippie Trail

Hippie trail in the 60s & 70s. Take a look at the cities. Some of them aren’t as visit-able now for hippies or no hippies.

Travel blog is a luxury the hippies couldn’t afford (none existed at that time). For those who followed the Hippie trail at the least. It’s the overland route the hippies of the 60s and 70s took from major cities in Europe to reach India or Thailand. Some of the hippies reached Bali too. They introduced surfing culture to Indonesia, brought rock n roll music and–being hippies–lots of weeds. My father used to tell me stories about his youth, his meetings with those hippies back in the day and of course about the weeds… But this is another story for another time.

Several centuries before, some wealthy, young British aristocrats set a journey across Europe in search for art, culture and the roots of western civilization. Having too much money and too much time, those brats turned a simple journey across Europe into extravagant trips, which later would be known as the Grand Tour. In those trips, they commissioned art such as paintings and threw crazy parties everywhere they went. In time, the Grand Tour would became common rite of passage for European royals and aristocrats. Much like the modern days’ gap year, spring break and schoolies week, only much longer and more aristocratic.

17th Century Brat

A 17th Century rich brat. No selfie?

If the prospect of travelling without having any prior info (mainly from all those travel blogs) makes you cringe, then, admit it, you’re a hipster not Alexandra David-Néel, who, in 1924, visited Tibet despite its prohibition for foreigners.

Some Personal Notes

I personally enjoy the slow travel. Especially in terms of choosing the transportation mode. Bus over plane, on foot rather than using vehicle: any means that’s more likely make the experiences seep in deeper.

I believe that those who really want to delve into the soul of the place they’re visiting need to set their eyes from behind the window of public transportation. It’s a front row seat to an urban theater! Take a seat, see outside the window and let the drama unravel before your eyes. It will drift yourself deep in sonder; every face that you see: those street peddlers, kids walking to school, two lovers riding under the rain on motorbike, old couple holding hands crossing down the street, they all live their life as vividly as you do yours, full of their own thoughts, dreams and problems.

At least that’s one reason why I like making trips on a bus. It makes you wonder. “What kind of people living in that white house or that house with the bright red roofs?” It makes you think… and definitely helps you to create a connection, a sense of belonging if you like, to the place.

Trivia: Night bus is a weapon of mass destruction mass transport of choice for many Indonesians.  Speaking of which, there’s one legendary bus armada that serves the route from East to Central Java called Sumber Kencono (Javanese. literally means: Source of Gold). It’s legendary for the time they need to take the trip (shorter than anyone else) and also for the recklessness of its drivers. Over the years of operating, they’ve made people pray more than a televangelist ever has. Given the frequent accidents and the number of casualties over the years, why they’re still operating, I really have no idea. The fare is cheap, but you need to have humongous amount of balls to be a passenger of this daredevils. If you don’t, steer clear.

I believe only a traveller slash blogger equipped with a sense of belonging who can create a wonderful travel blog. Although the informational pieces are important too (tips, top 10 lists or whatever) it’s the narratives that matter the most. You can’t entice someone to visit a place (or to travel for that matter) by giving a list of what to prepare without telling them what they will see. You have to tell the story too…about the place and your experience, as the talented and beautiful Jodi Ettenberg points out in her travel blog.

Jodi Ettenberg | Travel Blogger

Jodi Ettenberg in a random event explaining the importance of storytelling elements in a travel blog

In a sense, post-tourism is a kind of slow travel too. Not in terms of transportation mode maybe, but clearly in terms of duration. Squeezing too many “must see” places all at once during your trip is not going to cut it anymore. This is especially true when the paradigm shift of working in the mobile era becomes complete (in which people don’t need to be sedentary “just” to work). By then you’ll have the time. When time is all you’ve got,  all you have to worry about is money. And there’s a lot of ways to make money while travelling. With digital nomads on the rise, that shift is more like a matter of time than anything else.

If, what I said in the post about post-tourism is right, that travel will help creating a better world, those billions of travel blogs will definitely become its main propaganda machine, providing arrays of clear, unbiased visions toward other countries and cultures. They will become a bridge that narrows down the stereotypical gap between different cultures, connecting people like Nokia once did in the process. Travel will transcend its industrial status. People will no longer be a slave to their nationality and travellers will become citizens without borders.

Utopian? Let’s see.

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