As a child the name held the same mystery to me as Shangri-La and Timbuktu. Kathmandu was a faraway exotic land that people only visited in the movies. Kathmandu held a mystique that only a place of true adventurers dared to travel to.
In today’s world, Kathmandu seems not so far away.
As we sit in a trendy coffee shop checking our email, talking to friends on Skype and enjoying a refreshing iced cappuccino, I can’t help but wonder if travel holds the same mystique that it held when we first started traveling.
Does it change peoples lives like it changed ours during that first trip to Thailand over 10 Years ago?
Once upon a time, travel was about cutting ourselves off from the rest of the world. We weren’t busy updating our facebook profile or texting friends when we saw something extraordinary. We didn’t even have an email account!
We would immerse ourselves in a culture for weeks at a time without contacting people from home. Our poor families didn’t know if we were alive or well. They had to wait for us to find an international phone and give them a call in the middle of the night.
We would spend weeks with our own thoughts and experiences, building up an arsenal of photos and journal entries only to keep most of them to ourselves upon our return home.
We were the mystery to our friends and families. Our travels now held the mystique that I looked for as a child.
It was difficult to explain to people what we had witnessed overseas. We would come home changed and renewed and nobody understood how we were feeling. We didn't have a way of telling people our feelings while we were gone and once we returned home it was too hard to explain. The feelings had passed and it was merely a memory.
Things have changed rapidly.
Over the years we have watched technology evolve. From that first trip to Guam in the early 90's when I walked to the USO to find and international phone booth to the next to Japan when international long distance calling cards were introduced. We could actually call home from a payphone. How cool was that? Then Internet cafés popped up and MSN messenger allowed us to have the odd conversation with someone back home if they happened to be online.
Now during our travels we never feel disconnected from home. We write our blog daily giving people a detailed account of what we feel and experience and they know exactly what we are going through. We check our email regularly, we watch new releases that are sold by bootleggers on the street on our computer, we read the news online and we use our cell phone to call our parents. We don't have to give them an update when we get home, because we talked to them on Skype every week or so during our travels.
The world is shrinking.
We used to feel a giant change in ourselves when we returned from a travel. Now we wonder, can people really have a giant life change from the simple act of traveling anymore?
Do new travelers come home from their first trip abroad seeing the world with new eyes? Do they have that profound feeling that life will never be the same again? Do they want to continue traveling forever like we do
Is Travel Still Magical to young travelers?
We wonder about the people that have just started traveling. For us every experience was new and foreign. We had never heard of half of the sites and places that we visited over a decade ago. There weren't blogs and websites to inform us about an amazing world heritage site or an ornate temple. We heard of places from other travelers or from our guide book that we just bought a few weeks before our trip.
We hadn't heard of Tanah Lot, We never would have dreamed that a shocking festival like Thaipusam even existed, and Bagan? Where the heck was Bagan? We didn't know the first thing about the tribes of Borneo or headhunters except for what we saw on Gilligan's Island.
We felt like explorers going out to places that nobody else had gone. Our friends didn't go to these foreign lands. We were adventurers. We were doing something unique and different.
The world has become more accessible today. People are more informed, flights are cheaper, travel is easier and more comfortable and remote destinations aren't so remote. Anyone can hop a flight to anywhere and find themselves an Internet Café or Wifi hook up. Tour groups take people up to Everest Base Camp or through the silk route on a bicycle. Anyone can do anything and stay in touch with their friends and families anytime.
It is wonderful that the world of travel has opened and become accessible to the average human being but we want to pose a question. Does travel have the same mystique that it once held? Are people still surprised by destinations and experiences around the world. Is there a mystery to a place and are new travelers changed by travel? Does their first trip abroad bring wonder and awe to their life like it did for us during our first flight overseas.
Looking at the people staring at their computer screens here at OR2K in Kathmandu, I am not seeing a lot of wonder or curiosity showing up on these young faces. But then again, maybe they are finding their own magic in travel. Maybe the appeal of travel today is to share the experience with everyone. We have adapted and we enjoy sharing our travels with the world.
What is so different from what we are doing from what a twenty something college student is doing on their facebook page?