I just learned something today. Well I knew it already but I now found out there is a word for travellers like me: I am a ‘social traveller’. It means I do not plan my trips or holidays by stepping into a travel agents’ shop, but I mainly use internet, social media and social networks before travelling. There seems to be some confusion on the real meaning of ‘social traveller’ since there is this Belgian Guy who calls himself the Social Traveller since 2010 while travelling around the world, and he does not search his information online, instead he connects and talks to people on- or off- line to get tips and travel information.
Most other writers and sites however, now define a Social Traveller as anyone who uses the internet and mainly social media to research and plan a trip. I find the first definition more ‘Social’ in a way, since it only relies on real human contact, but I probably fit the second definition better.
I think I have always been a ‘Social Traveller’, except for this one time I used a travel agent to just book my flight, I never travelled using a travel agent. We used to depend heavily on the travellers’ bible: the LP (Lonely Planet) in the dark ages before the mobile phone or internet, but for the rest we planned everything ourselves, often just looking for a place to stay or eat upon arriving somewhere, by just walking around and using our gut feeling on deciding which small hotel or guest house looked most inviting for the money we could spend. Restaurants were chosen the same way, and if a restaurant was packed with locals, that was always a good sign. We always ate local, it was usually cheaper, tastier, fresher, and a lot more adventurous! And we relied a lot on tips from friends and fellow travellers, guiding us to many small places full of local flavour, with the nicest hosts, leading to interesting conversations after dinner.
These days I find the LP often outdated, and I therefore combine a number of resources. I sometimes still take a peek into the LP (but I do not buy them anymore, I just lend them out at the local library). I read travel blogs and distil the good and interesting tips given. I look on Tripadvisor, Booking.com and Expedia, to compare prices for flights between the online booking sites from the airline company with those online travel agents offer. And I also often read the online official tourist information site of the place of destination. I sometimes ask direct questions to other travellers through Tripadvisor, ask friends and family for their experiences, and then put it all together to find the best deals on flights and other transportation, try to find that exceptional guest house or B&B or apartment to rent or book. I put together a document with all the collected travel information and sights to see, often with extra tips from other travellers in the sidelines. I book most entrance tickets to sites and museums online to avoid queues at the entrance of major tourist sites. I try to find out if by any chance there is a certain day the site can be visited for free, and then plan around it. If people gave me tips on certain restaurants, bars, or other special places I make a list of it. I will ask the owners of the mostly small scale B&B or guest house where we stay for advice on restaurants and sites to see. All the documents and tickets are saved on my smart phone, often using special apps, like Tripadvisor, TripIt, Passbook,and Evernote for all my notes. I download off line city and metro maps and other interesting (free) apps for the destination I will visit, and I also research if there are any local products or delicacies I should taste. I keep a blog and twitter account to share my experiences, and post reviews on Tripadvisor. And I recently discovered a hugely interesting site as an alternative for eating in a restaurant: EatWith where you can eat locally at peoples homes for a very good price, and meet other travellers. I will certainly try it out next time, but I already checked and cannot use it for our next destination: Thailand and Myanmar, pity.
I just wonder, does this make me really more ‘Social’ or just more ‘Resourceful’? Maybe the better definition should be, ‘Resourceful Traveller’?