We’ve Changed the Way We Discover Experiences

March 6, 2017

Remember the days when you’d break out your AAA TripTik (actual paper maps!) and plot out all the places you’d go on your upcoming vacation?

I would methodically use my yellow highlighter to trace my route and circle my planned stops along the way. We’ll go to that hotel, stop here for dinner, then take the I-40 west.

It was so…structured. So planned.

So boring.

Where was the spontaneity? Where was the adventure?

I certainly wasn’t the only one planning trips this way. AAA says they were still selling 20,000 paper TripTik maps a month as recently as two years ago. Zagat guides ruled the streets, and scores of destinations sent out free travel guides to anyone who requested one.

Thankfully, times have changed.

The way many consumers today find whatever they desire at that moment in time—where to eat, where to stay, what to do—naturally results in a much more authentic experience.

I think about a recent trip to San Diego with my family. It was a rainy morning, so our daily beach excursion was out. I was scrolling through Instagram, looking for a cool coffee place to satisfy our cravings. Seeing something I liked, I drove there and discovered a fantastic little joint that we ended up visiting a couple more times during our stay.

At a different point during this same trip, a fellow Instagrammer recommended another coffee spot on a post I made soliciting recommendations. I tried it, and it ended up being another favorite that I’ll return to the next time I find myself in Pacific Beach.

This same “experience sourcing” approach has reaped rewards here at home, too, where I’ve discovered new places to visit just by digging into Instagram: a great tea shop, some hiking trails, an open-air market.

I don’t know about you, but I would much rather try something new based on what my friends or social community say rather than what the editors of a city travel guide think.

It’s this kind of shift in consumer behavior that even led Google to develop its Local Guides program, encouraging people to share their experiences with the world so that, in turn, others have better experiences because of them. Millions of people across the globe have become Local Guides, sharing hundreds of thousands of experiences with their peers.

There’s something about immersing yourself in the local culture and discovering new gems. It’s the path less traveled where lasting memories are made.

The adventure has returned.