Travel is changing. And if that seems like an obvious statement, sorry. But it's true. It's changing at such a pace, even us LBW globetrotting maestros can find it hard to keep up with all the new-fangled trends in the industry.
But then we do like to take things easy and slow. Anyone who's chilled with us on the Western Islands of Thailand will know that. Anyone who's spent surf days in salt-washed Tamarindo will, too. Anyone who's joined us on our Bocas jaunts to splash in the Caribbean and sip cocktails should, as well.
No matter, we get there in the end. Once we've finished with our morning yoga sessions and managed to stop gawping at the glowing sunsets over the beaches of the Andaman Sea, staring at resplendent quetzals in Monteverde and sunning ourselves on the sands of San Juan del Sur, we do try to stay abreast of what's new and different in the world of travel, you know.
And it's not just boundary-breaking, bucket-list-shortening trips to the far corners we're concerned with, either. No sir, we love all sorts of travel. From treks to the cloud-shrouded corners of Peru to simple weekends away, we firmly believe that all backpacking was created equal.
So, putting jungle hikes and tuk-tuk rides on the backburner for a moment, what's new in the world of the city break? Well, a lot actually. Certainly, enough to be able to say that those treasured multi-day hops to other metropolises will look very different in just 10 years' time. Check out some reasons why…
A Re-focus, From Sightseeing To Life-seeing
If you'd said 10 years back to a city breaker that they could be easily slipping into a local's flat and living like pals with a native of a town on their next trip, they'd probably have laughed in your face. It's always been notoriously hard to get a taste of what it means to really live somewhere, especially if you're only planning on heading in for 72 hours or so before jetting home.
It's something that many travel companies see as the holy grail of the weekend jaunt experience: discovering off-the-beaten-track spots, getting local tips and leaving with a real feel for what life is like somewhere else.
Before the internet came on the scene, all this was done by word of mouth. Then we got the digital flow of information, and big review sites or idea-sharing platforms meant that folk could swap titbits on what to do in various places.
The next decade is set to see the next step of that graduation. With a refocusing of travel priorities to the experiential, to living life like a local would, we're going to see the expansion of sites that help travelers connect with people in specific cities and enlist their help for their explorations. We're likely to see an explosion in tailor-made itineraries, probably based on a pay-per-view or on-demand system – the Netflix of city break planning, if you like.
And there's sure to be a lessening of apotheosis towards major sights. The Eiffel Tower? I'd prefer a quirky café in the Latin Quarter, thanks. The Colosseum? How about an off-beat pizzeria on Rome's outskirts, run by Neapolitan emigres to the capital? There's something undeniably romantic about it all, don't you think?
Memorable Experiences Are The Name Of The Game
City breakers of the past might well be guilty of what could be called the checklist problem of travel. It means having a list of sights to see, checking them off, and folding away that destination in the 'done' pile. Yes, you will have seen oodles of cool places. Yes, you're sightseeing achievements will be through the roof. But are you really experiencing a place?
That's the question that's been posed and posed again by Millennial travelers especially. More and more young people are eager to really participate in their destinations. What does that mean? Well, how about instead of just seeing Big Ben, you go for a craft beer tasting tour in its shadow? How about rather than just eyeing up Berlin's wartime sights you enlist a local guide to reveal their ghostly secrets? How about swapping out a photo opportunity with the leaning tower of Pisa for an evening of Tuscan cooking classes with that reclining Renaissance piece as the backdrop?
See what we mean? Acting in and enjoying a destination doesn't have to be separate from seeing it. They can fuse together, to create an experience-driven trip that's exactly what the young travelers of today are pining for.
New Neighborhoods Come To The Fore
That drive towards new, authentic experiences on city breaks was always bound to spill over into a drive towards new, authentic neighborhoods. And it's true. We're seeing more and more off-the-beaten-path sectors of big cities being slowly uncovered by travelers.
Take Rome, where the cobbled alleys and medieval squares of La Trastevere are taking the spotlight from the ancient heart of the city. Take London, where attention is forever shifting eastwards and south, out to the boho reaches of Stoke Newington and down to multicultural Brixton. Take The Dam, where the Red Light District is now poo pooed in favour of hip and vibrant Oost or Noord. Check out Prague, which has the half-crumbling tenements of beatnik Zizkov – a place to sip craft beers, sit in art cafes and wonder at the Kafkaesque of the shadowy city all around.
Transport Times Are Being Eliminated
Once upon a time, getting around a city could be a truly daunting prospect. Taxis would be hard to find or would be waiting traps for tourists with what seemed like an unspoken right to crank up fares to astronomical levels. Metro lines came on poorly drawn maps with stops only written in the local lingo. Purchasing tickets for buses would require a degree in linguistics and a whole hour to get right.
That's all set to become a thing of the past. Smartphone apps are changing the way we move about metropolises for the better. Citymapper has already made it child's play getting from A to B in major hubs from Moscow to Montreal, Philly to Hong Kong. Uber has gone one step further, offering easy, on-demand taxis in loads of destinations – no need to haggle with money-hungry tuk-tuk drivers now, eh?
We're really looking forward to how easy all that metro hopping is going to become in the next decade.
See It Before You Experience It
Visuals are the new modus operandi of social media. There's a reason that Pinterest and Insta are the growing force in the online sharing world. Just one perfect snap of a Philippine beach can get folk pining for Palawan from their office desk. Just one vision of the snow-topped Himalaya is enough to get even the most cautious globetrotter considering a trek to Base Camp.
In the world of the city break, this penchant for pictures is having another effect. It's now possible to check the looks of things before you try them, to see what it is you're getting for your money before you even reach for the wallet.
So, you're eyeing up that Italian pizza place down the concourses of Milan's Brera? Open your app, check out the hashtags and you'll be able to see exactly what their food looks like, without even stepping across the threshold and greeting the front of house. And it's not just for foodies, either. You can also seek out images of viewpoints in municipal parks to ensure that arduous climb will be worth it. You can discover images of city beaches and gardens to check if it really is the perfect place you thought it was for picnicking. You get the idea.
Goodbye Old Accommodation, Hello Adventurous Digs
Most city break travelers wouldn't even consider opting for anything other than traditional hotels and B&Bs. It just seems like the right thing to do: book those flights, those beds and those transfers all in one go. There's a check-in desk waiting. There's a breakfast buffet option to fill you up before the sightseeing session. Hell, there's even a concierge to make sure everything goes smoothly from arrival to departure.
What's not to like?
Well, nothing. Except that this sort of travel ensures you remain a tourist. It ensures you stay firmly within the tourist sphere and never leave. It's the globetrotting equivalent of never thinking outside the box, and certainly never leaving the box you might want to be thinking outside.
If you think you're more the type to smash said box to pieces, and we think we certainly are, then it's likely you'll enjoy the direction of the accommodation industry in the next 10 years. There are already signs that there's a distinct drive to more creative, quirky digs.
Couchsurfing started the ball rolling, offering backpackers the chance to lay their head with locals, in a local's flat. That's done nothing but grow, while other, similar, services like AirBnB have also gone from strength to strength, promising stylish pads and local hosts in destination cities right across the globe.
We might not be masters of the city break, but we can certainly reveal some of the world's most amazing metropolises on our trips. Perhaps you're after days in buzzing Bangkok, between Khaosan Road and the glorious Buddhist stupas of the Royal Palace. Perhaps you're in search of colonial treasures below the volcanos of Nicaragua. Maybe you're looking for a unique odyssey through the food courts and thumping beer bars of Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City. We got you covered.
"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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