I think what has made the organization of my travels so painless has been the advent of Travel 2.0. In what may perhaps seem ironic, Travel 2.0 has also made my parents feel more comfortable with my travel plans, especially when I am traveling with just one other friend or when I am going somewhere where the languages I speak are not used often to communicate. When I tell my parents: I booked my transportation through this website and my hostel through this website, and can verify that what is a whimsical plan of action to them, does have some logic and organization to it, they are satisfied; and to an extent so am I. I definitely rely on the Internet and social media to determine where I am going, how I am getting there, and where I will be staying. I suppose the saying “you can’t trust everything you see on the Internet” does not quite apply in this situation. Perhaps we do not allow it to apply because we do not want to let anything interfere with our travel plans; admittedly, we may develop a blind trust that every site is reliable because our desire to travel is so overwhelming at times, we have to hope everything will go as planned.
I remember when I booked my very first trip in February 2016 when I was a sophomore at NYU Paris. I wanted to go to Amsterdam with a group of friends and was so nervous about the whole process. Since it was my first time organizing a trip on my own, and I was the one who volunteered to book everything for everyone, and it was only the second week of the semester, I was not quite yet a part of the traveling “community;” and therefore did not have nay points of reference to which sites I should use. After reviewing multiple sites, reading several reviews, viewing photographs and videos, I calmed down a little bit. I figured: these people are real people, not robots. They are just like me: they want to travel and explore the wonders of the world for great deals. However, part of me still prayed a little, hoping that the buses and hostels I had booked were legitimate and that I had not just squandered money. In the end, everything worked out perfectly!
Since this is my second study abroad, my fears have nearly dissipated. I would like to think that I am now officially, part of that online community of travelers; and it is quite satisfying and reassuring to recognize that. My fellow travelers and I know that, despite the very clear fact that we may never meet or get to know each other, we can rely on one another for tips, ratings, recommendations, etc. The virtual community of travelers found on HostelWorld, booking.com, TripAdvisor, Yelp, Flix Bus, Student Agency/Regio Jet, etc. that exists somewhere in the ether, has made my experiences so much more enjoyable because I am reassured of the decisions I make; or inspired to do things I would not have thought of doing/exploring. Thanks to that online community, I feel like I will get the most out of my trips when I am able to plan everything beforehand, especially the itinerary; and in this way, I do not waste time or money, and more importantly, I do not disrespect the city I am visiting by only going to McDonalds because I could not organize myself properly in advance.
In what may appear kind of comical or paradoxical, I feel like I am the most organized I ever am in my life, when I am on my weekend trips because I have everything nailed down perfectly. I of course am aware that travel should include spontaneity and often it is born out of spontaneity; but because of the online community that helps me out with transportation, accommodations, and tips on things to do/where to go, and what to eat, I pretty much have everything set and that gives me such a huge sense of relief. To me the worst thing would be to dislike a place simply because I did not organize myself well enough for the experience; or to visit a place and come back saying that I barely learned anything or did anything because I was unprepared and did not do enough research in advance. That is just disrespectful to the travel destination. That to me is what perhaps a tourist would do—not a traveler— and I consider myself a traveler.
- Screen Shot of my confirmation emails from online travel sources for my next trip: Maria Alejandra