24 In Travel/ Travel Talk

Is Wandering Dead?

The other day someone sent me this article: “In Praise of Wandering ‘Over There'” by Fuzz Hogan.  It’s essentially all about how travelers, with so much technology, aren’t really “wandering” any more.  He says that with the help of Google Maps and Yelp travelers are ensuring they don’t have “an unexpected experience.”  When travelers can ask what restaurant to eat at, what place to go or what hotel to stay in travelers are experiencing “the familiar, free of surprises, free of mystery and free of accidents.”  Hogan seems to think that by using these resources we’re missing out on the great parts of travel…. Is he right?

After reading this article I thought back to my past few trips and how much or little I really used my iPhone, and what I used it for the most.  Not being a ‘Yelp-er’ I didn’t use it at all, but I did rely pretty heavily on Google Maps to get me from place to place. Looking back I thought did that take away from my trip?

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Zach using Google Maps to get us around Montreal

I think that Hogan does have a point.  I think if you get too set into a schedule with a list of every museum to visit, every restaurant to eat at, etc. that it is, as Hogan calls it, “two steps removed from a cruise“.  I think it’s very important to just get lost in a new city, to drive and pull off at things you see along the way, stay in that cute hotel, talk to locals, eat at that hole-in-the-wall restaurant.  Set your way of life on your trip apart from the way you live at home.  Try new things!  Eat new foods!

Stagecoach 66

The hotel my dad and I found on a tiny drive on Route 66 by using our eyes, not smartphones!

I don’t think that it’s necessary to not take any advice, though.  There are many things that I would have never seen if it weren’t for travel-bloggers who share things they’ve found or friends who had the “world’s best pizza” or that tiny museum or site that a fellow-traveler told me about in passing.

Picnik collage2

The Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella recommended by a fellow-blogger

Another thing to consider is where you are.  There are places that you can wander easily, and places that you don’t really wander through.  For instance, wandering in NYC, Florence or Paris are easy to wander in because they’re vast and there are a million things to see all across the city.  However, other cities, like Chicago, aren’t cities that you really get that wandering spirit in.

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I think I will keep asking for some advice and using Google Maps to get around, but I still think it’s unbelievably important to turn off your smartphone, close your guidebook and open your eyes!  Like Hogan says, “Getting over your instinct to structure your time leads to so much more fun. Accept that two of three times will be strikes, but if the third time is a hit, then it was worth going up to bat. The wonders of the world await your accidental arrival.

What do you guys think?  Is wandering dead?  How do you decide where to go on your trips?  

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24 Comments

  • Reply
    Ben
    October 1, 2013 at 1:17 am

    I have to agree. I’m guilty of over-planning most trips, but often the most memorable moments have come when we wandered off our intended path, normally by accident, and discovered something unexpected. We don’t use Google Maps whilst travelling, but normally print a few maps off of the key areas beforehand. Then so long as we stay on our near those maps, we just wander down the streets that look the most interesting in the general direction of our destination. I think most of the time it strikes a good balance.

    • Reply
      ashleypaige4
      October 1, 2013 at 10:36 am

      Ben, I agree that it’s usually just a balance of both. I think in the world we live in now you can’t just be blind to all of these methods of help and advice. I also agree that the things you remember are the things you find by accident, and I think that a lot of the thrill of it is “discovering something”. It’s something that you found and weren’t told about. I love it! Thanks for reading and commenting!

      • Reply
        Ben
        October 1, 2013 at 2:38 pm

        Absolutely, I couldn’t agree more. My pleasure, thanks for such a great post!

  • Reply
    Meghan
    October 3, 2013 at 11:45 pm

    Balance is really important because you don’t want to be lost in Idaho at 10pm if you can help it (ahem) but just traveling, wandering, experiencing, and being have been the best things about my trip, even better than many of the destinations. Like you said, using technology for some things is great, but relying on it for every decision you make just makes your travels an extension of normal, over-scheduled life. At the same time though, if you only have limited time off from school or vacation time (and that’s pretty much everybody), it completely makes sense to try and optimize your experiences. In any case, it’s a very interesting debate!

    • Reply
      PaigeBrown
      November 4, 2013 at 8:58 pm

      Meghan! I somehow missed your comment! I bet it was hard to find anywhere to stay in Idaho that late 😉 I absolutely love that you’ve taken the time to make travel a priority! You’re right about wanting to optimize that time- especially when it’s limited. Thanks for chiming in on the debate! I hope you’re doing well on the road!

  • Reply
    Jeff | Planet Bell
    October 7, 2013 at 2:58 am

    I certainly did a lot more wandering when I was younger, when I was a new traveler. I almost never looked at guidebooks for places to eat and just sort of happened upon places, asked locals or other travelers. I can’t say that those experiences were any more or less rich than now.

    Now I read more about places, look at hotels and restaurants in advance. I probably get better value for accommodations that way. Maybe I’ll throw away the guidebook tomorrow and just wander off to see what I find.

    • Reply
      ashleypaige4
      October 14, 2013 at 9:15 pm

      I still look at the guidebooks, but I think it’s good to not go in blindly because even though I love wandering and have found amazing things- I’ve also wandered and done nothing for half a day.

      Did you ditch the book for the day?

      • Reply
        Jeff | Planet Bell
        October 15, 2013 at 3:43 am

        Two days ago I accidentally left my Greece Lonely Planet on the ferry. So I’ve been going without it and I don’t know where to get a new one. I feel naked. It is a brave and exciting world.

  • Reply
    Dawn
    October 15, 2013 at 3:49 pm

    I somewhat agree, but I don’t think that it’s necessarily always a bad thing. Also, because of the reliance on technology, it seems like a lot of places (hotels, airport info desks, etc) aren’t filling in that role the way they used to. I remember ages ago chatting up a hotel desk clerk (on a lazy afternoon with no other guests waiting for service) about the coolest things to do nearby, the best place to go for a bite to eat… it became as much about getting the information as it was about talking to someone; having a conversation. I learned about her life, her passions, her struggles in that short conversation – I don’t get any of that from Yelp. I wasn’t looking for the best-rated restaurant.. but where did SHE go on her dinner break… BUT… then recently I was traveling and I was a wee bit stuck, so went up to a hotel desk clerk with a similar question…. She struggled through the answer, and then pointed to the rack of travel brochures in the lobby, suggesting I could contact places online for more information.
    It might just have been an example of bad service, but I think with information so easily accessible, one of the other problems is forgetting that personal connection while traveling.

    For me… I look at a few websites, maybe read a book, make some notes… and then in an ideal world I like to just GO. I never would have found an amazing garden in Hawaii if we hadn’t made the last-second choice to take a side road instead of the highway. (And I’ve returned back again because it was so lovely) But, I also made a point to get to the volcano that every guide book mentions… and I’m glad I experienced both…

    • Reply
      PaigeBrown
      October 20, 2013 at 10:22 pm

      I completely agree with the personal connection problem- not even with only traveling- just in society in general.
      I’m the same way. I think that there is a good balance to make. The idea of just going is romantic, but also there’s so much to see that you can miss out on without doing a little bit of research. Thanks for reading and a great insight!

  • Reply
    TravelingByTaste
    October 20, 2013 at 8:23 pm

    I was just having a conversation about this yesterday! The full experience of travel is getting a bit lost, finding restaurants you’ve never heard of, and having unplanned conversations with locals. Some planning is necessary, but yeah…put down your phone and live a little 🙂

    • Reply
      PaigeBrown
      October 20, 2013 at 10:40 pm

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting! I don’t think I could have said it better- put the phone down and live a little! I think it’s an especially strange question for travel bloggers- we want to share and want others to read and enjoy, but it’s also so great to just ‘wander’. It’s a really interesting topic, I think, and something you can’t ‘solve’. Thanks for the comment!

  • Reply
    Are We There Yet?
    October 22, 2013 at 10:02 am

    I completely agree with you! I can honestly say that my favorite trips or experiences traveling were when I just wandered around and stumbled into a coffee shop, store, or restaurant. I think the experience of finding new things on your own just makes it better, the food, products or whatever don’t even have to be exceptional, it’s just knowing that you found a little gem on your own that makes it all the better! Opening your eyes and shutting off your phone and accessories makes for not only better traveling experiences, but better life experiences. Great post!

    • Reply
      PaigeBrown
      October 30, 2013 at 7:09 pm

      I agree that it’s all about finding your own little gem and having better experiences! Thanks for commenting and adding to the conversation!

  • Reply
    carlygug
    October 24, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    I loved this article. I’m a big wanderer and have never traveled with a smart phone. Partially because I’m always on a budget and never activate my roaming plan, but mostly because I don’t want to know where I am. I want to ask people on the street where to go and what to do. I like to read guide books (Rough Guide is probably my favorite) before I travel and get an understanding of the neighborhoods and what they’re known for. But I hate “looking for something.” I find pleasure in the unknown and in follow my travel instinct … or the scent of bacon.

    • Reply
      PaigeBrown
      October 30, 2013 at 7:47 pm

      I know what you mean about the roaming plan- it’s outrageously expensive, and I’m also a budget traveler. I do love the feeling of wandering and it is a good reason to talk to the locals. I’m a travel guide reader as well, but I usually leave them at home and take notes. The unknown is a really great thing… as is bacon 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    ShaneWozEre
    October 27, 2013 at 6:20 pm

    Wandering isn’t necessarily ignoring the internet as much as taking the opportunities to go somewhere differentness when they arrive. Two years ago I got invited to LA for a Disneyland Penthouse Party from someone I really didn’t know that well on Twitter. I wasn’t sure but said “Fuckit, what have I to lose – the worst case scenario is that I end up getting kicked out and that, in and of itself, is a story.” I flew from Ireland to LA and had a great (and completely strange) week. This wouldn’t have happened without technology but wandering is a mindset and an adventurous spirit and knowing when to trust your iPhone and knowing when to turn it off and follow the smell of excitement.

    • Reply
      PaigeBrown
      October 30, 2013 at 8:23 pm

      I think you’re right that it’s a combination, and I definitely use technology before traveling, but I think when you get places some people are SO reliant on technology that they spend more time staring at a screen than they do looking at what’s around them. I also agree that spontaneity is key! Thanks for commenting!

      • Reply
        ShaneWozEre
        October 31, 2013 at 10:50 pm

        Absolutely. Thanks for being interesting enough to provoke comment.

  • Reply
    On Life Without a Travel Guide Book | Planet Bell
    January 20, 2014 at 6:07 am

    […] listed in guidebooks. A few days before losing my guidebook, I myself had read a blog post entitled Is Wandering Dead? that asked if we are relying too heavily on books and the internet and not discovering on our own. […]

  • Reply
    Jono Cusack
    January 20, 2014 at 11:55 am

    I like the idea of wandering and getting lost. But to be honest I’ve done it so many times and there are so few rare and hidden gems. It’s 2014 now, everyone knows what’s on every street corner and it’s written down on every single page of a guide book or a post on a page.

    • Reply
      PaigeBrown
      January 31, 2014 at 5:44 pm

      I see what you mean about other people knowing about it, but just because other people know about it doesn’t mean it’s in the guidebook because you can’t put everything in there. Plus, even if someone knows about it, it’s still more fun finding it on your own. I “find” things all the time when I’m traveling that I’m sure hundreds or thousands of people have seen, but it’s new and original to me in that moment and I just stumbled upon it, and that’s what I, personally, love about wandering! Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • Reply
    Is the ‘Wander’ gone from ‘Wanderlust’ | adventuringwithlucy
    January 21, 2014 at 11:36 am

    […] blog (I mean does it really matter how I found it -ok get to the point). It asks the question “Is Wandering Dead”  which got me thinking. I love to pull off on random roads, go down side streets, try new […]

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