In Praise of the Internet (and Guidebooks)

Not that the internet doesn’t get enough praise, but spare me a few moments to make my case. Last weekend, when we were back in Seattle for a friend’s wedding, we got to talking about my parents adventures in Africa in the 1970’s. They had headed there as part of a travel tour that would take them from Morocco to South Africa in the span of three months with adventures galore. As the trip began, it became clear that all was not as advertised, their tour guide had never made this trip before and a number of their reservations, such as Land Rovers, were not as certain as previously thought. After three months they were not even one-quarter of the way. It wasn’t that they got duped or anything: the tour guide was a friend of a friend and had decent intentions, he just wasn’t prepared for what he had recruited people for. Fortunately, my parents were resourceful enough to put together their own adventure from then on, and to this day this trip is a source of some of their best memories. But here is what I kept thinking listening to the stories:

How did they not know more going into it? There are lots of other lessons to glean from my parents trip, like the value of resourcefulness, the lifelong friends you make along the way, how to handle emergency situations. Many of which I’m sure will be covered much more in depth on this blog in the future as we plan, but I’m not going to focus on that now.

Instead, I’m going to quickly mention the reasons that quickly came to me … among other things, they didn’t have any internet, guidebooks weren’t as ubiquitous. The access to information was not nearly as instantaneous. The first thing I would do today if I was thinking about booking a tour would be to fully vet them online, googling and looking for online reviews, opinions and experiences. Alternatively, I would’ve dug through a guidebook from the library looking for recommendations of tours or which places I would want to go. And, in fact, that is what we have spent the better part of our preparatory time doing: research.

These mediums are not without their downsides, the internet makes misinformation just as accessible and guidebooks can help create an almost insular travel culture, but they provide an unprecedented ease and convenience to access information. So with that, I would like to offer a simple thank you to those things that make preparations for this trip much easier. I do hope (and fully believe), however, that we will have just as many opportunities to test our resourcefulness and make our own lifelong friends along the way.

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