How Travel Has Changed Over The Past 20 Years

Rolf Potts, author of  Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel and Sean Keener, the Cofounder and CEO of the BootsnAll Travel Network and Chairman of Airtreks, both set off on trips around the world in the late 1990s. In this podcast, they reflect on their experience of traveling 20+ years ago, versus traveling today. The major difference between then and now? Technology. And all of the ways it has both connected us to the world and also created a barrier.

Sean and Rolf are not only long time business partners, but also good friends and kindred travel spirits. We hope you enjoy their chat.

Some Highlights From The Podcast

While smartphone apps can make travel easier in many ways, they can also get in the way of an organic travel experience.
“I’ve often said that three big gifts of travel are the opportunities it offers a person to be lost, lonely, and bored – and smartphones have made these counterintuitive travel-blessings easier and easier to avoid.

I can remember the first time I noticed this. It was 2007, I was sitting in a hostel lounge and nobody really wanted to talk like they used to. Everybody was on their device and it was so weird that for a decade I had been using hostel lounges as a resource to communicate with other travelers and now technology has taken that organic connection away.

Travel is about engaging your immediate environment; it’s about living in the moment rather than compulsively pulling up a screen every time you feel uncomfortable. Smartphones – and smartphone apps – have literally been engineered to make us think we need them. The key, on the road, is to find ways to use them without letting them distract us from what is right in front of our eyes.” – Rolf

The rise of influencer travel has taken away from the beauty of experiencing the world in an authentic way.
“In the mid-90s I met a lot of travelers that touted a badge of honor associated with the number of places they had traveled to and the length of time they had been traveling. I didn’t really care about it myself, but I could sense people were attracted and/or not attracted to others by that. Today, with the rise of technology, there are so many Instagramers out there wearing their badge of honor via their posts and stories. Their success is measured by the number of followers they have — and they’re using this to bargain for a travel discount or they’re trying to stay places for free. It just seems to be taking away from the beauty of real life experiences.” – Sean

There’s greater diversity in the types of people who are setting off on around the world travel adventures.
“There’s so many more people taking round the world trips from a numbers standpoint, and from a diversity standpoint. In the mid 90s there weren’t a ton of Eastern Europeans, but now today, they’re traveling all over the world; joining the vagabond group. For a long time there was a population of mostly white males traveling, and now there’s a lot more diversity and people of color and people in the middle class traveling the world.” – Sean

“Twenty years ago the average multi-destination traveler was typically someone considered ‘sophisticated’. Maybe they went to Middlebury College or they were from Oregon, or they were from a place where it was already fairly normal to travel internationally. Whereas now you get more working class or near working class people people from places like Kansas, where I’m from. There are alot of people beyond white dudes taking to the road; including women and people of color. Odds are, you can look for blogs or social media and find people who are pretty similar to you, and you can follow their footsteps or advice and make travel happen for yourself. It’s been cool and progressive shift to see.” – Rolf

Travel is more affordable and more possible than people think.
“The cost of multi-destination travel is a lot cheaper than people think. You can do a full year of vagabonding or independent travel for anywhere between $16k-$20k per year. With technology, it’s possible to work along the way, so you can travel and keep your income coming in. There is so much more infrastructure in popular routes around the world than there was 20 years ago. There are so many inexpensive and safe places to stay while traveling.

And these places are not just low-end places, there’s lots of comfortable middle level places you can stay. In Indonesia, for example, you can find somewhere quite nice for only $10-$15 dollars a night.

It’s almost unbelievable when you think about the prices in many of the modern big cities of the world like London, New York, San Francisco, and Seattle.” – Sean

Listen to their full podcast here!

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