May 01, 2005

Travelling the world (wide web)

Imagine there’s no countries,
It isn’t hard to do


The web, brothers and sisters, has no boundaries. We’re one big, happy family, connected by Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s invention.

The world is literally at one’s fingertips, and for many a geek, that’s nirvana.

But, thankfully for the tourism industry, vast multitudes move their atoms and disposable incomes around the world, instead of pulling bytes to their desktop.

Today’s enlightened travellers make their own itineraries, rather than doing the despised package holiday routine. So guidebooks still figure largely in holiday plans, and travel magazines aren’t just for the armchair traveller.

But the net is now ubiquitous enough for it to have an increasingly bigger influence on travel choices. There are sites run by tourism boards and the like. And every resort and hotel worth its IT budget has a website of sorts too. For you, that’s plenty of places where you can check rates, preview local attractions, research taboos, check out possible side-trips and so on. But these are commercial sites, which, by definition, paint a seductive picture of what they’re promoting (and some can be rather economical with the truth). And there’s so damn many of them.

Where, then, does the canny netizen go to get an unbiased picture of the place s/he wants to visit?

There are sites (like the one run by this mag) with articles by specialist writers and photographers, of course. God bless ’em all, and may they prosper and continue to pay me (preferably more than they do already) to travel and write for them.

But there’s another, more democratic phenomenon which might interest you: the travel community site.

Here, ordinary people, people like you (not me, I’m a specialist, m’dear, don’t do this at home, etc.), exchange info, tips, raves and rants about the places they’ve visited or are about to, make connections with potential travel companions, show pictures, and much more.

These sites usually support themselves with ads, but are not beholden to their advertisers, since the ads are usually served by automated processes. So, while you most certainly will see bias on an individual level, you can rely on them not having a commercial axe to grind.

So, when you next wanna wander, whisper softly into you search engine’s ear, “travel community.” Happy trails.

Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world.


Siteseeing

virtualtourist, aside from the standard members’ articles and pictures, features a nifty do-it-yourself guidebook. As you wander the site, you can flag stuff to be included in your personal folders, then assemble it into a PDF which you can print or save.

world66 offers the basics, plus PDF guides, and stuff you can download to smart phones, GPS systems and other handheld devices.

bootsnall is geared towards the independent traveller, the backpacker, go with the flow type.

http://thorntree.lonelyplanet.com is the forum run by the backpacker world’s bible. ’Nuf said?

indiaresortssurvey, as the name suggests, covers Indian resorts. It lets you rate them, and check out other people’s ratings, and adds on goodies for regular contributors.

hermail.net is an international directory of women travellers.

flyertalk is dedicated to frequent flyer miles. As the site says, “all miles, all the time”

couchsurfing, hospitalityclub.org and globalfreeloaders all (in slightly different ways) let you link up with people at the other end of your return ticket to get yourself accommodation that’s free, cheap, or bartered on a reciprocal basis.

In addition, many online communities have channels or sub-sections devoted to travel. A random example anothersubcontinent.com, a community of (mainly) expat desis, who have, among their other fora, one dedicated to travel: www.anothersubcontinent.com/forums/index.php?&showforum=23


Published in Outlook Traveller, May edition.

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