Elon Musk chatting about colonizing Mars. Seminars about extra-terrestrial arcs and tourism in space. Thoughts of super-sonic transportation devices to replace airplanes. Driverless cars on the horizon. The end of diesel and petrol. It's all going down these days.
Whether you're one of the few who've got a hefty bank account big enough to get you whizzing out into the cosmos on Richard Branson's rockets, or just a humble traveler eager for the next big thing, you can't deny that the world of travel is a-changing. Yep, it's an exciting time to be a backpacker, folks. We're surely on the verge of something new.
And with such boundary-pushing times comes seismic changes on the micro scale, not just the macro scale. Setting aside dreams of being the first Full Moon partier on the actual Moon, let's just focus on Earth for a moment and see what sort of trends we can look forward to in the coming years.
There's everything from a newfound love of corporate travel to a repudiation of the traditional travel agent in favor of something more "out there" and experimental. There are exciting destinations entering the fold. There are new modes of getting about the globe. There are new travel demographics. In short: In 2017 and 2018, it's still all going down…
The end of the world as we know it, or, when the globe becomes your office
Just imagine it: The beach as your new coffee room; that Thai cocktail shack overlooking the Andaman Sea as your staff space; a little oceanside cabana brushed by the swells of the Nicaraguan Pacific as your office. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the fabled dream of what's known as the digital nomad.
It's a new breed. A sub-genus of the Millennial, if you will. Touting tech and smartphones, seeking out speedy internet connections, and forever on the lookout for somewhere new to crack out the laptop, these guys are hailed by many to be the future of the professional world.
They certainly aren't just a crazy minority of dreamy travelers without work, either. For starters, it looks as though their coveted lifestyle is on the rise. In fact, some mind-boggling predictions have it that as much as 50% of the workforce could be working remotely with just their devices and the web by 2030.
Now that's a formidable figure. And one that raises some serious questions for all those swish office blocks we've been building over the last couple of decades. Will 2017, 2018, 2019 and the 20s be the age in which we finally bid farewell to clocking in and clocking out, to long commutes, and overbearing bosses. Many will hurrah with a 'hopefully!'. Others will be more cautious.
Still, the point is that the dream of the digital nomad isn't over. It's not even peaked yet. Hell, for many, it's not even started. Just check out the results of the latest industry-wide census courtesy of Digital Nomad Survey, which reported that 86% of answerers were actively interested in becoming a digital nomad, while a majority of other responders would have only classed themselves as location independent for less than 2 years. Are we seeing the rise of a new Leviathan in the world of work?
Cue coworking spaces, or, 'that sounds like me – where's my next office?'
We thought you'd never ask! Yep, you might have guessed we've got a hand in this at LBW. Always ones to champion a departure from the 9-to-5, we've been busy setting up our very own solution for digital nomads working around the globe. We're not saying we invented them. We are saying our swish little villa on the hills above San Juan del Sur in Nicaragua is better than all the rest though. Obviously.
Anyway, that plug aside, the upshot here is that we're talking about the rise in coworking spaces. These all-in-one work and play stations have everything you could need to set up your office on the go. High-speed internet? Check. Comfy beds? Check. Workplaces and desks? Check. Ergonomic keyboards? If you really insist.
But it's more than that, too. It's more than that because the rise of the coworking space – and some stats show that 90% of coworking spaces are likely to increase their membership count in the coming year – is about nurturing an all-new sort of lifestyle on the road. Not content with just providing somewhere to set up the laptop and type the day away with reliable internet and beautiful scenery all around, they are also offering a ready-made community, a family of like-minded folk, and emotional support for anyone taking the first steps into the digi nomad landscape.
TLDR: If digital nomadism were a Pokemon, the co-working space would be its highest evolution.
Aloha to the world of 'BLEISURE'
Nope, we didn't just sneeze. The late 2010s are going to be the age in which business travel and leisure travel join as one ('B-leisure', get it?). At least that's what the experts are telling us. According to some outlets, nearly half (around 43%) of all work trips these days are being extended to include some sort of element of personal enjoyment.
About time! Too long have suited folk been carted back and forth from Bangkok Airport to the stuffy boardrooms in high up skyscrapers. Too long have office goers been limited to the confines of Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. Too long have workers hopping to Jakarta and back only pined for the beaches of Bali as they scoot in and out of the runways in a jiffy.
But why's it taken so long for people to realize that those business trips halfway across the globe don't have to be just business trips at all? Perhaps it's to do with a loosening of procedure on a corporate level. Has governance noticed the importance of fulfilling travel, finally? Perhaps. Or is it that people are slowly beginning to value LIFE BEFORE WORK. We hope it's the latter.
The internet is traveler supreme
Imagine the bestest, darnest traveler who ever did live. Picture them. Got it? There's long dreadlocked hair, right? There's a scruffy backpack with patches pinned all over it? There's tanned skin and a sort of Zen 'okayness' with everything that happens? (Oh, and an irritating habit of always having a story for every situation that could occur, ever.)
Now scratch that image because it's totally wrong.
The internet is the traveler supreme. Or, at least, that's what the stats are showing. Some reveal that a whopping 95% of people consult online review websites before they go ahead and book their next hotel, hostel, trip, flight, you name it. We can only imagine that the 5% who don't end up suffering endless delays, poor service, missed connections, ugly hotels, and rubbish tour guides. (We're totally online with our reviews, just in case you were wondering!).
The upshot here is that the coming years are likely to see a bending to the travel fashion that's prescribed by the internet. We're talking about a world where humble bloggers become fully-fledged influencers. Where one-star reviews make tour organizers gag like they've just nailed straight shots of Sang Som. Where the hottest destinations are decided not by tourist boards but by the whim of Instagram.
We quite like it, to be honest.
Asia booms and beckons
With the glowing white beaches of the Andaman Sea, the misty jungles of Borneo, the incense-scented Buddhist temples of the Land of Smiles, the soaring, snow-capped Himalaya, the spice-packed bazaars of India, the wild party nights of the Gilis, the smoke-belching volcanos of Bali and beyond, curious creatures like the Komodo dragon, taste-bud-tingling food packed with chilis, rolling plains, misty wetlands, ancient history, and oodles, oodles more up its sleeve, it's easy to see why Asia is suddenly such a popular destination.
But even that could be understating things. In fact, the rise of Asian destinations in the last couple of years has been nothing short of phenomenal. We've taken our fair share of boundary-breaking backpackers across to the tea fields of Vietnam and the elephant-peppered rivers of Central Thailand, we know that's true. But it can't all be down to LBW's awesome Asian trips, surely?
However much we'd love to claim that one, we can't possibly take the credit for a mega 9% increase in the inward arrivals to the whole continent in 2016. Maybe one day we will, but for now that represents something in the region of 25 million individuals exploring the land between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific each year! Wowza.
It's a travel trend that we at LBW are simply thrilled about. Anyone who's been on any one of our tours in the last decade will know just how much we go on about sustainable living and reducing that footprint on the planet. Well, finally, it's becoming the mainstream.
Eco-conscious warriors are winning the day with their crusades against everything from plastic bottles (you won't catch too many of them on our Thailand tours these days) to parks and attractions that have a dubious history of animal welfare (just think of Blackfish and SeaWorld!). A case in point: We've made the switch to certified elephant welfare sanctuaries on all our itineraries, leaving behind the uncertainty of visiting trekking camps we weren't 100% sure were fighting the good fight.
The upshot here is that the scales of the travel industry are finally beginning to tip in the direction of ethics. The effect will likely be a sort of maturity amongst travelers, once that directs people to fork out just a little more to ensure they aren't abusing the world they claim to love so much. It's a real, positive trend for sure.
Let's take those ethics one step further, shall we? Not content with just having a conscience for the world around them, the modern traveler of 2017 is also waking up to a whole spectrum of new possibilities when it comes to moving around the globe and actively participating in it.
Where once it was all about checking off the main sights, encountering an elephant, devouring pad Thais and shooting off back home again with the T-shirt and the story. These days, people want something unique. They want something from travel that sets them apart from the 'tourist' of the masses. They want something catered especially for them, something to uplift them, something to inspire.
It's no wonder then that there's been a huge spike in the popularity of chakra-aligning yoga tours, meditation retreats, wellness courses, self-improvement holidays, fitness trips – the list goes on. If you can return home with a newfound respect for life, a new knowledge, an understanding of mysticism, a deeper connection with the Earth, or anything else that could be termed 'spiritual' in the broader sense, then you can justify that famous mantra: "The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page…"
We've instigated whole new trips because we love this sort of travel so much. The IslandLife Experience is the pinnacle of the lot though. Encouraging self-expression, oneness with the planet, eco pursuits, love for Mother Nature, enjoyment of other human beings, an abandonment of material life, and simple, good old fun, it's like our answer to the mystical chanting retreats of the Buddhist monasteries. Only better.
If you can think of any more travel trends that are hot on the heels of 2017, then we'd sure love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Or, if you think it's time you headed out and explored the wide world and all its changing, challenging, eye-opening destinations, then we'd love to be your hosts! Just check out our range of awesome tours and travel odysseys…
"Rich is a traveler, writer and filmmaker who's always after somewhere new to go. He's been hopping around the globe since 2011, from Poland to Paris, Mumbai to Ho Chi Minh. He runs several travel sites of his own, from Ski Eastern to Live Krakow to Crabs Move Sideways. When he's not planning his next trip, he's usually listening to 50s jazz, surfing in Wales, skiing in the Alps, or just swigging (too much) great craft beer."
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