Unreasonable Stance: Why travel when you can just Google?

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ugly-american-thumb.jpgWelcome to the Unreasonable Stance, where our own Devin takes the minority opinion on a tech matter and defends it with convenient data, spun numbers, fanboyism, and insults until he proves, without a doubt, that those that disagree with him are filthy mouth-breathers.
Back in the day, it used to be that you grew up on the prairie, ignorant of anything beyond your direct line of sight. Books were the only method of seeing other countries, and they were, of course, limited and outdated. Serious travel was impossible or impractical; even if you had the money necessary, which was unlikely, you had to budget at least a few months for train travel to anywhere remote, or a year for intercontinental trips by sea. As time wore on commercial air travel became more and more accessible – and in the mid-20th century it became viable for a person of modest means to go world traveling to see all the things they’d read about in books. One would think things would continue in this manner – travel getting easier, cheaper, and more worthwhile, but in fact it’s just the reverse. The advent of the internet and the increasing richness of content has practically obsoleted real travel, and at this point it’s probably more worth it to do a thorough Googling of the place you’re thinking of going instead of, well, going there at all.

Think about it, now, before trashing the idea. We’ve gotten to the point where you can type a single word into a search engine – say, “Thailand,” and get back so much content that you could spend days straight just looking and learning. You’ve got home videos, travel journals, hundreds upon hundreds of Flickr sets, and so on. The only thing you’re not doing is actually breathing the Thai air, and I doubt you’re missing much. Think of all the costs and inconveniences of travel, especially to the more exotic places. You’ve got to get shots, your airfare is off the chart, and often the more interesting a place, the more likely it is you’ll be robbed, scammed, or kidnapped.

Of course, the benefit of going there is that you will actually be there. But ask yourself why you want to be there? You want to see the sights, to hear the people, to taste the food. But we live in a world of both technological marvels and international urban communities. Put on a pith helmet, go down to your local Eritrean cuisine place, and flip open that laptop. What with Wikipedia, National Geographic, Flickr, YouTube, and everything else, you’ll learn more about the culture and see more of the sights over dinner than you would on a two-week tour. Ask the manager to tell you about life in Africa. You’ll be doing more than 90% of travelers anyway. Think of the average tourist’s : fly to the airport, take an AC-cooled cab to the air-conditioned hotel room, then go on an air-conditioned tour and take the same pictures as everyone else, eat some dumbed-down local food, then spend the evening with a bunch of other tourists, reading Stephen King by the pool.

The point is that we hardly leave our homes when we travel now anyway. So why bother doing it? You’re not going to discover and excavate a new temple. You’re not going to carry on a steamy affair with a local princess and move on to save the world, a la Final Fantasy. But you are going to set yourself back a thousand clams and cause yourself a lot of stress. You will face Montezuma (or the Maharaja’s) revenge, and you may even be disappointed with your destination. Why bother? From your desk or a cafe you can see everything worthwhile, and do it on your terms.

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