Thursday, 3 January 2008

Where to go in 2008

The newspapers are full of articles telling us "where to go in 2008".

This is not another one.

Let's realise those articles are really a grab bag of several things. First of all, they're about which PR professionals got their press releases in front of the journalists  in time for that article to be produced. Secondly, they're about where the travel industry has added capacity - new routes, new hotels, new tour operations.  Thirdly, they're about trends - where the WTO forecasts people will go, where was becoming popular last year.

So the big question for me is: do I want to go to a destination which has been well promoted, which has seen recent investment in hotels and facilities, which is becoming everybody's favourite destination? Does that matter to me?

It does matter to some people. If you have a family to take somewhere you really do need to know the facilities for the kids are available. (Though some people just book the kids out of school for a year and take them hiking through South America...) If you care about fashion or food, then an assault on the Hindu Kush is unlikely to be your bag.

But serious travellers should follow their hearts. Fascinated by modern cities and the way they recreate or coexist with the old? Head for Bangalore or Shanghai! (Ignore the Red Fort, the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall, Shaolin monks. Experience the shock of the new.)

Want to see desert? Find it. Winterton Dunes or Holkham Beach. Washiba sands or the Sahara. Never mind if it's not popular. John Masefield never asked whether 'the lonely sea and the sky' was 'in'.

Or as always, explore your own back yard. Walk the perimeter of your own city.  Find two points and link them up - try cutting a line across London or Paris, from Montparnasse to Gare du Nord above ground, or from the Stock Exchange to Buckingham Palace. Stick as close to a straight line as possible and see what you find.

And travel how you want to. Take a motorbike trip or use a mountain bike to get off-road. Take a train or a coach, or set out and see what turns up (this approach is also known as 'using public transport' in the UK). Or walk it, rollerblade it, travel with a donkey.

And now, you can throw away all the Xmas and New Year travel supplements. Stop being a consumer, and start to dream.

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