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We’re a long way from the days of expeditions to discover and conquer exotic parts of the world untouched by [European] human hands. We’re a long way from the days of the rich upper-classes being able to hire their own procession of carriages to transport them to faraway lands to learn from other cultures and report back their findings. Similarly, we’re a long way from the days of soulless package holidays to the closest, most Anglicised place that can offer sun, sea and beach chairs.
We may not yet realise it, but we might just be experiencing the best era for travel right now. Not convinced? Here are the reasons we believe it is:
Cheap flights and accommodation
First, we saw national flagship airlines promising excellent quality of service being masterfully overtaken by cheap airlines offering no-frills flights. Now, we see the successful no-frills airlines having to push themselves to offer cheaper and cheaper flights to survive against their budget counterparts. In the same vein, comparison sites such as Booking.com and competition from AirBnB have led to hotels, hostels and apartments fighting to improve quality of their accommodation (or at least their photography) and driving down their prices. Bad for brands, great for travellers.
Once frowned upon as unsafe or perhaps improper, solo travel – especially female – is well and truly experiencing a hey-day. According to a Booking.com survey, female travellers now account for 63% of solo travellers worldwide. The more people travel solo, the more others sat at home believe that they can travel solo too. In fact, we might even go as far as saying it can be easier to travel alone than in a couple or group, because other solo travellers are waaaay more likely to strike up a conversation with someone else on their own, and you’re never in anyone’s pocket for too long. Plus, there’s no compromise on doing exactly what you want to do, and at your own pace.
Global recession recovery
While the scars remain, and some countries still struggle to recover from the global recession of 2008, the majority of the world has been able to move on from the economic hardship of that time. As industries continue to rebuild and develop, and the tech community creates start-ups on the daily, for many people this means a ripple effect in job opportunities and disposable income (provided you can find reasonable rent…). More disposable income means… More potential to travel! This inevitably won’t last forever though, and there are always whispers of a future recession or the property market bubble popping – both very real worries.
The travel world’s not over-saturated just yet
Although it may sometimes seem like places are completely overwhelmed by tourism, look a little harder and there are still authentic cultural experiences to be had – let’s not forget that Costa de Sol and Panama City once had an abundance of historical culture before they became an English ghetto and American playground respectively. There’s still time to get in and enjoy Santorini and Bali before they fully morph into little more than a humid collection of Instagram spots.
The family can wait
No longer does Western society place immense pressure on young people to find a partner and have children straight after a hasty marriage so as not to get left on the shelf. The average age for people to have their first child continues to rise; the latest available stats for the UK and USA both found that the average woman waits until she is 28 to have her first baby. For first-time fathers, the age is even higher. No children means more time chasing your own pursuits, and more disposable income to do so. And while travelling with kids long-term IS entirely possible, they certainly make it harder.
Travel apps and websites
There’s no denying it; travel is big business. And in this booming age of technology, it’s a market that many companies decide to focus upon. Having maps; blogs & vlogs; digital banking; safety apps; transport, accommodation & tour reservation apps; price comparisons; translators; high quality cameras and editing apps on top of the ability to keep in constant contact with friends and family – all on a single mobile device – has transformed the way we travel, even compared to just 5 years ago. Whether or not you choose to use this technology on a daily basis, it’s always good to know that help is out there in times of emergency. It’s this advancement in technology which is also equipping more and more people to be able to travel full time, working from the road as digital nomads (us included!).
Small world, big ambition
This is twofold. Not only do airlines and accommodation companies continue to broaden their own horizons with new reasonably-priced flight routes and decent beds, but we ourselves have broader travel horizons. Constant exposure to social media showing all the incredible places in the world, and influencers telling you where and how it is possible for a young person to explore the globe, has meant that our appetite for travel and view of what is within our reach have grown and grown. Couple this with more disposable income and fewer people having kids in their twenties, and it’s now quite normal to consider flying 11 hours from London for a 5 day break in Thailand, or even further.
Countries moving towards isolationism
Not only do we need to compare the current travel era to the past, but also look to see how it may change in the future. We see a general political trend in Europe and the USA of using isolationist rhetoric, with some countries moving towards it now or in the future (thanks, Brexit.). If this trend continues, future travellers may find it harder to move around. Countries may choose to self-sustain rather than rely on teaching their citizens the global language of English and pushing them into the global economy. This could greatly affect the ease of tourism for visitors who do not speak the incumbent language. For some, that’s enough to put them off travelling entirely.