New experiences and information that one can access
Recently over a post-meal coffee, the topic of travelling for the sole purpose of visiting something ultra specific such as planning an entire day surrounding a visit to a building came up during a conversation. I am one of those people who will happily do so, have travelled long and far to visit a building and will continue to plan trips like these because no amount of photographs or videos can replace the experience of being in a unique space. Being in a space reveals a lot about the considerations and intelligence of the person or the group of people that designed, engineered and constructed a building. While I have been reminded that most people - usually non-design enthusiasts, non-designers or non-architects find travelling to a foreign country, then embarking on a journey by train to then catch two infrequent buses, followed by another track on foot to see a water temple (Honpukuji Temple by Tadao Ando) in Hyogo, Japan incomprehensible, I wonder, who are the type of people that would do the same in the world? I am curious.
A globally renowned example of travelling for a particular purpose came to mind - individuals or a group who travel to dine in a place. The first Michelin Guide traces as far back as the 1900s, when it was first released by brothers Andre and Edouard Michelin. Andre and Edouard Michelin founded the Michelin tyres and decided to publish the gastronomy guide, initially intended as a tool to create demand for automobiles. Today, the Michelin Guide is well known not only within but also outside food lovers’ circles. Many people would have heard of the guide today, its purpose has largely changed. Today, the Michelin Guide is the guide that marks the excellence of a chef’s work and his or her team in a particular restaurant. In fact, some people religiously await the annual update of the guide and plan their travels surrounding new entrants. For some background information, the Michelin Guides have a clear star rating: one Michelin star stands for ‘very good’, two Michelin stars represents ‘worth a detour’, and lastly, three Michelin stars is where ‘exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey’. And as our mode of transport choices expands from cars alone, some serious foodie with the time and financial resources to match will make the special journey to experience an exceptional cuisine by an aeroplane. From the new revival of rail travel to long haul aviation that is pushing the boundaries of how far a flight could go without stopping, not to mention new technologies in testing to significantly reduce travel time between cities, it is only a matter of time where other forms of travel will emerge and change the way we travel and view the travel experience. What is the norm today may look quite different in the decades ahead.
Back to my curiosity, after trawling through tens or maybe even a hundred Google pages about how people select their travel destinations, my immediate conclusion is that countries with naturally beautiful scenery and internationally recognised landmarks often top the travel spots. For example, places one frequently sees in postcards, social media or similar types of portrayals with dramatic and memorable destinations seems to be a common theme. According to Big 7 Travel who conducted a survey with 1.5 million people, the survey pointed to the direction where bucket lists travel is a resurfacing trend. Interestingly from the same survey, it showed that most people’s bucket list averages to 11 places only. This target does not seem unattainable; for the average person, 11 places can be spread through years and checked off over a long term. Another notable publication from Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travel List in 2023 also showed what the publication described as the ‘most thrilling, memorable, downright interesting places on this planet ranked in order of their brilliance.’ Again, it was topped by places with beautiful sceneries such as Galápagos and Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in Australia.
As it becomes easier and more cost effective to visit different places, what happens after one visits all the 11 places or so on their bucket list? What are the criteria that will expand the average bucket list to include a twelfth place to be added onto a person’s next destination? What makes a place unique that people want to visit it? Is it the destination or the journey that attracts people to make a trip? Or both? I believe that travelling is a means to see beyond our own world view, whether that is experiencing a building or culture of a new place, enjoying the cuisine and local produce of a country, etc. Through these new perspectives, which may or may not always be enjoyable, but it builds upon new experiences and information that one can access.