Business travel has been a part of my career since 1996 and personal travel a major part of our lifestyle for the past decade, and of course much has changed over the past 30 years.
The air experience changes are quite obvious:
- More airline seats but fewer flights
- More choices of low-fare airlines
- More web resources to plan, purchase and track flights, lodging and ground transportation
- More airports with many more services
- More in-flight entertainment options
- More security concerns and processes
- And many others
Lodging has also changed:
- Traditional hotels have enhanced their brand and offer a variety of lodging options
- AirBnB and other web-based housing opportunities have increased
- House exchanges and couch surfing are more popular
- Web resources document travel experiences and recommendations
I could continue with rail travel, cruises and food changes but I think we all agree that traveling takes on whole new meanings today compared to 30 years ago.
This brings me to the point I really want to make that in spite of these changes (you can argue if they are good or bad) from my preferences and experiences we still have multiple opportunities to engage people as we visit places.
As I look back on our many travel experiences, I remember the people we came into contact with, their stories, their joys and their recommendations for enhancing our travel activities. Of course, the places we visit are exciting, informative, educational and memorable and provide the context for our interactions but are complementary to conversations we have with others.
The other day we travelled from London to Stonehenge on a tour bus, it was a two-hour drive each way and a two-hour visit to this prehistoric monument. On the way to Stonehenge, the bus was very quiet without any interactions among us tourists, however on the return trip my wife and I sat next to a young couple from Virginia celebrating their sixth wedding anniversary. We spent the entire two-hour drive back to London in conversation about our lives, work, family, and aspirations. Since we had been in London longer, they asked for recommendations on things to do and we suggested a half-day free London walking tour (which we enjoyed a few days earlier) while they shared with us their excitement to be able to spend a full day in Paris.
Earlier this year, I blogged about our experiences in Lima, Peru telling four stories of our interactions with individuals and families and what we learn from them. I titled the blog Conversations That Matter suggesting that while we all have unique travel and life experiences there is common ground created through genuine conversations.
Last year we developed a friendship, through a free tour company in Tokyo, with a guide who shared with us her views in the city and when we returned with our family last July she spent a day with us. While we enjoyed our time with her, our grandchildren thought it great to have a new friend in a distant city. Thus, another demonstration of the balance of places and people.
Several years ago as we planned to visit Prague, I asked our friend, who teaches in an international school, if it was possible for some of his students to spend a day with us taking us through the city so we could understand it from their experiences. We had the fortune of spending the day with four seventh graders (along with their teacher) learning about the history and reality of the city through their eyes.
As you can see when we travel we look forward to learning about historic places, understanding current realities and determining implications for our lives. Achieving these outcomes, for us, comes from a focus on both the places we visit and the people we interact with. Our travel experiences are greatly enhanced through our interactions with others and while the places are extraordinary, we find the people are also exciting, enjoyable and informative.