The idea of relying on a travel agent to book a vacation and offer recommendations to a place he or she may never have visited before seems as absurd to me as not taking the extra shampoo and conditioner bottles at hotels. According to the “What is Travel 2.0?” article interactive websites providing travel information “structured to allow users to easily contribute words and images, reviews and travelogues” are called travel 2.0 sites, a term I find odd because I almost entirely rely on sites such as TripAdvisor when planning. For me, they are my number 1. So to call them 2.0 really illustrates how rapidly the ways in which people travel change.
There is no doubt that travel 2.0 sites can be extremely helpful in finding places to stay and go that travelers may not find on their own. Yet there are also benefits to not using travel 2.0 sites. People’s mindsets are not the same, and caution must be exercised before trusting what a lot of people say. Sometimes it is hard to find truly local spots because even if they were local at first, after they are discussed on travel 2.0 sites they become filled with tourists and lose their original unique charm. Contrary to popular belief, not everything can be found online. I have a huge sense of pride when I find something traveling that I did not read about online or see anywhere else.
Upon traveling to Cairo, I visited many travel blogs and travel 2.0 sites warning of pickpockets and essentially stalkers. I also read reviews on TripAdvisor about an Egyptian bazaar that was a top tourist destination. But it was a great destination for tourists, and although I walked around with my camera bag, fanny pack, and sensible shoes that screamed “tourist” with every screech they made as I jumped back on the sidewalk to avoid getting my ass run over by a donkey, I would rather visit local places. I wanted to live like a true Egyptian, even if I could not walk like one.
I do not want surface levels of cities; I want to peel them back, jump in, and never leave. I ended up making the decision to go to the other side of the bazaar, the exact place reviewers told me not to go because it was the purely Egyptian side and I would find nothing there. The trip advisors were right; I did find nothing there. I found nothing except for a taste of the entire essence of Egyptian culture. I got hopelessly lost in the labyrinth of the marketplace and passed cow heads sitting in a bucket inches away from me and the shock on men’s faces as two white girls wandered alone through their part of the market. I found fresher vegetables that were not in the tourist section, and I discovered great hospitality.
A man followed me upon noticing I was lost, and against the reviews and advice of Travel 2.0 sites, I trusted him. Before helping me find my taxi back, he offered me traditional food and led me to an old, hidden shop where they sold jewelry boxes made of seashells and camel bone. I may not have liked everything I saw, but I loved that I experienced Cairo in this way.
Travel 2.0 sites have the ability to be both helpful if consulted slightly before hand but also limiting if one plans entire trips using them. Had I listened solely to the advice on TripAdvisor and not thought for myself, I would not be able to say I saw a true Cairo market.