“Because Mass Emails are for Tools,” reads the title of my former travel blog MMCMMA. Though it may be a little in-your-face, the underlying concept still rings true. During a three-month foray into Thai culture and kickboxing, I kepta short blog to keep those at home updated. Gone are the days of postcards and even the more recently developed ‘mass email’. The sights and sounds of foreign lands remain the same, but social media has forever changed the landscape of its documentation.
My friends’ aptly named ‘Two Guys and a Chevy’ blog is a perfect example of the power of social media in travel. Two self-admittedly not-so-tech-savvy guys utilized several free Google utilities to chronicle their three-month cross-continental road trip through written content, photos and a nifty Google map that tracked their location. In lieu of what would have been cumbersome postcards, phone calls and printed photographs, a simple social media platform enabled the real-time distribution of their travel information, connecting them seamlessly with family, friends and, most amazingly, strangers interested in their travels.
This idea of seamless, real-time distribution is enabled through numerous social media platforms world-wide. Whether it be in your day-to-day life or on a hike though the Himalayas, so long as you have internet access you can share that content and invite your network to share your experiences (a trend that won’t stop any time soon). On a daily basis, dozens of Facebook updates inundate my ‘live news feed’ sharing multi-media stories of friends experiencing the world abroad. Though it may be something we take for granted now or even ignore, the bottom line is that it is still incredibly remarkable. To this point, social media has acted as travel tools largely used for documentation and distribution; nevertheless, expect a tidal shift in the role it will play in the future.
Case in point: Couch Surfing. Through a robust and diverse online community, would-be travelers are able to connect with generous folks who offer lodging in return for… well, nothing. Create a profile, input your travel details and you’ll be hard-pressed to not find a person willing to host you: a complete stranger. While security perhaps is an issue, there is an overwhelming sense of trust. Users ‘pay it forward’ to continue the cycle of contribution and, as their slogan says, to ‘participate in creating a better world, one couch at a time.’
With the economy down, travel itself has become that much more of a luxury. Fret not: social media to the rescue. Foursquare is an ingenious mobile application could be described as a hybrid of Google Maps and Twitter with a little competition thrown into the mix. The application encourages exploring your local environment, prompting users to ‘check in’ at locations (by recording location via GPS) throughout the city and providing incentives to do so. Badges are awarded for those who complete certain accomplishments. Checking into 10 gallery locations will earn you the ‘Warhol badge’ or earn the ‘Superstar’ badge by accomplishing 50 ‘check-ins’ at unique venues. If travel is not an option, you can become a tourist within your own city.
We aren’t about to stop moving and exploring – it’s simply human nature. Nevertheless, social media is here to enhance the experience. After all it’s the journey, not the destination, that counts.