I don’t know about you, but I would love to take my time wandering around, meeting great people and getting to know exotic places. I don’t mean going on a vacation as a tourist either. Tourists run through their tour agendas and exit their destinations too fast to see or hear anything of real value.
“Ok, two hours for the Louvre! Then its off to the Eiffel Tower. Then lunch. Then the left bank … “
That sort of thing wears me out just thinking about it. I have in mind spending time and getting to know about real people and the real things that they do — even if those things are not building rockets or dating movie stars or whatever. Oh, and BTW, in the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I don’t have the money to do it. But I still wonder. Could something like this be done without having to secretly pillage a hedge fund account? And I would like to do this without having to leave my morning coffee behind. Best of all, I would like to get the benefit of the travel without having to go anywhere. Well, as far as I can tell, the answer these days is “yes and no”.
You would think that the internet would offer us chances to visit exotic places and get to know great people via web platforms. But so far, I am underwhelmed by the offerings. For example, the travel magazine industry is built around the idea of selling destinations — not people. So when you visit their sites, like Travel+Leisure, you get advertising for hotels and spas and restaurants that you can’t afford. It’s rather sterile travel porn. I get the business model, but it is not really what I hanker for.
Food magazines also offer travel sections, like Saveur and Epicurious Well, ok, this is food and restaurant porn, instead of hotel porn. The difference is not that huge. But at least with these articles, you get a glimpse of different products that are indigenous to certain places. Like “genuine, thick Roman hot chocolate” from Saveur. And if you follow the link offered on that page to another blog called “In Rome Now“, you get the sense of being handed over to a local expert. It is still essentially porn, but it is a bit more fun. I like the cheap thrill. Errr … that is, the free thrill.
So here is my question. Why doesn’t someone start up a new service with a different sort of business model. Instead of selling hotel and food porn, why not sell wandering access to real people and real communities? I have in mind a web platform that acts as a gateway to insider views of who and what really is out there. For example so that I can wander around hoi an while I sip my coffee. Or I can learn where to get yakitori in LA. Sort of anti-hype. Low key and in that sense, subversive. In the way that Three Men in a Boat still subverts!
FOLLOW - There is a model out there for the style we need - Tony Bourdain has been doing this stuff on TV for quite a while. He also ran a blog for a while for Travel Channel. But we need to get more institutionalized subversion going, not just rely on one brilliant subverter. Remember - Keith Floyd also was great, rest his soul. But while he did once get me into the kitchen of a funky restaurant in Marseilles, he did not launch an industry.
2d FOLLOW - And one should not forget the masterly subversive writing style of Jeffrey Bernard. For example, he wrote back in the 1980’s
Speaking as a man with little faith I find this whole business of Christmas one hell of an inconvenience. It must be even worse for a turkey.
Bernard didn’t travel. But he made me want to travel to him.