Not long ago, mainstream travel meant finding a place that was relatively convenient — resorts that had been vetted by travel agencies, easily navigable cities with strong tourist infrastructures, and destinations that were either a direct flight or, at most, a single connection away from home. Going off-the-beaten-path was only for the most rugged, devil-may-care vagabonds who were willing to put up with grueling 40-hour bus rides, language barriers, and byzantine visa requirements.
Those days are long gone. Just take a look at Instagram or Facebook and you’ll see friends off visiting places that once felt inaccessible to the American traveler (save for the most intrepid types). This effect is thanks, by and large, to advances in technology — which is not only making travel safer but easier and more accessible, while also helping us share our adventures in new and exciting ways.
As the world gets seemingly smaller, the entire industry is seeing seismic shifts. Finding off-the-beaten-path restaurants is easier than ever and we have access to photos, travelogues, and other digital details any time we want to track down a secret waterfall or hot spring. Rather than spending most of their time just hitting up the big museums and historical sites, travelers are digging in and exploring further afield. That’s a good thing, obviously.
Here are more ways that the future of travel is combining global access with a hyper-local ethos.
Going beyond the guidebook and straight to the source
Though guidebooks are still handy — compact, chock-full of information about lodging, attractions, food and drink, and cultural ephemera — lugging around one of those puppies is not only relatively expensive (with some guidebooks clocking in at $30 or even $40), but they’re also limited in what they can offer, giving extremely limited space to smaller, less popular towns and new or otherwise unknown events and attractions.
Thanks to the internet, you can go straight to the source by looking up local blogs and even alt-weeklies or other local cultural publications in the areas you want to visit. That means access to up-to-date events calendars rather than being beholden to a short list of popular festivals and sometimes-outdated smatterings of bars and restaurants. For example, guidebooks will tell you about Portland, Oregon’s Waterfront Blues Festival, which takes place over the Fourth of July, but Willamette Week, the city’s chief alt-weekly, can fill you in on all the small shows, restaurant openings, and alternative happenings that will make your trip a little more bespoke and a little less crowded by vintage-era blues fans.
Better planning thanks to social media
Social media excels when it comes to planning trips that go beyond the typical itinerary. You can use Instagram geotags to look up a country or town you’d like to visit, find some posts you like, and dig deep into the IG feeds of local users. If you’re not sure where to start, check out some popular travel photographers on Instagram and see what location-specific geotags and hashtags they use, then start digging.