Category: Travel

The Future of Travel Media?

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I am a travel buff, and have been fortunate in being able to travel to many parts of India and beyond. And my love for travel also extends to consuming all forms of media on this topic.

My first love of travel related media is the humble map. As a child, I used to spend hours devouring maps, either in geography books, or stand-alone maps. It gave me such a thrill to ‘see’ different places and where they all fit in this beautiful world.

I think the next step for me was travel literature. I recollect going through a phase of voraciously consuming books by reputed travel authors and trying to imagine what they must have experienced during their travels.

I then discovered Travel Guides, specifically Lonely Planet. I used to enjoy browsing through their various titles, and drawing inspiration from them. It helped that my first job involved visiting many media stores (books and music) where I had the time to browse the book (and music) shelves.

Travel Guides, for me, are not just about specific information about a destination, but a way to learn more about a place in general – it’s history, culture, key highlights. I do have a small collection of Lonely Planet Guides in my library, with my favourite being the one on the Indian Himalayas.

Along with Travel Guides, I also started consuming travel magazines. This was the time when dedicated travel magazines were just being introduced in India, with Outlook Traveller being the pioneer in this space. I used to enjoy reading their issues, as well as the travel related books that they started publishing.

This was also the time when satellite TV took off in India, and we were suddenly bombarded by TV shows from around the world. One of my favourite genres was, and still is, the travel show. I particularly loved watching ‘Globe Trekker’. And it was a great joy to rediscover this during the lock-down.

And then the internet took off. Suddenly, it was much easier to access travel information from all over the world. I started reading online travel blogs, which provided a great resource to experience travel from the eyes (and words) of common travellers.

One of the first casualties (in my experience) of the rise of online travel media was the travel magazine. I didn’t need a physical magazine any longer to read about the latest hotspots.

The second casualty was books on travel. As I started traveling more and more (and writing occasionally about them), I found my interest in reading books about someone else’s travel experiences waning.

On the other hand, during the lock-down, I discovered travel podcasts. It was interesting to hear about the travel experiences of famous people, but I am not sure if this is likely to sustain for very long.

I still read travel guides and use them as reference material while planning a trip. The mode of reading has shifted from physical to online (e-readers) though.

Another genre that I discovered during the lock-down was the travel vlog. It is a bit surprising that I did not know about the existence of such a thing till this year, but then I was never much of a video watcher (till the pandemic enforced lock-down). Again, it is nice to be able to see places and journeys from the eyes of common travellers.

Looking forward, my sense is that the future of travel media is going to be greater and greater authenticity. By this, I mean that content generated by common people is likely to be more popular than the typical travel show where you have the same hosts talking about their visits.

Does that mean that there is no future for travel shows (or books)? I don’t think so. I believe there will always be an audience for quality long-form content. But the content has to move away from basic information about a place or journey to deeper insights and ruminations about the experience. One example of this would be Anthony Bourdain’s travel shows.

I am sure there would exist travel books on these lines as well, but I admit that I can’t recollect reading one. I have read a lot of travellers to Mumbai saying that ‘Shantaram’ was a great source of inspiration for them, so maybe that’s one example, but I can’t confirm because I haven’t yet read it.

Globe Trekker

accomplishment action adult adventure
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I forget the exact time, but it was maybe 15 years ago that a travel show aired on Indian satellite TV that made a big impact on me. The show – ‘Globe Trekker‘.

If you have not watched it, each roughly 50 minute episode of the show has travel hosts taking the viewer along with them on journeys to different parts of the world. The style was casual, with a view to immersing the viewers into the heart of the action. It was meant for budget oriented independent travelers and shot in a corresponding style.

I loved watching this show and seeing different places on TV. I have always loved traveling, but I do believe this show played no small role in developing my passion further.

And so, it came as a pleasant surprise for me to discover, the other day, that Lonely Planet is now providing free access to all the Globe Trekker episodes, along with other travel related shows. It gave me an opportunity to revisit this show. While I enjoyed watching some of them, I am not sure that the show has aged particularly well. Travel shows have evolved from ‘showing’ us new places to deeply ‘immersing’ us in the culture of the place. A prime example of this would be some of Anthony Bourdain’s shows. Or taking us on an education journey, like many of BBC’s travel documentaries.

Having said that, the show has a certain charm, and for me, a certain nostalgia associated with it. Which is why I would strongly recommend that you try and watch a few episodes. And please let me know your comments!

Wrapping my African (Virtual) Journey

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It’s been a fascinating exercise jotting down my Travel Bucket List for Africa. I have discovered so many fascinating places and learnt so much more about this vast continent. This is the last article in the Africa series.

Ethiopia – I did not know until now that Ethiopia, with a population of over a 100 million people, is the most populous landlocked country in the World and the second most populous country in Africa. I would start my visit at the ‘political capital of Africa’, Addis Ababa. It is so called because the African Union is headquartered here. The country also has the most number of UNESCO World Heritage sites in Africa. These include the historic towns of Harar, Gondar and Aksum, Tiya and probably the most famous of them all, Lalibela. For natural beauty, there is the Simien National Park and the Danakil Depression, one of the lowest (and hottest) places on Earth.

Djibouti – This small country at the confluence of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden seems like an interesting place to visit. In addition to the capital Djibouti City, I would visit Lake Assal, the second lowest place on Earth and the Goba’ad and Hanle Plains for bird-watching.

Eritrea – The UNESCO World Heritage listed city of Asmara, the capital of Eritrea, and the city of Keren are the places I might visit in this country.

Sudan – The country where I conclude my (virtual) travel around the continent. The capital city of Khartoum seems like an interesting city to visit, straddling as it does, the confluence of the Blue and White Nile rivers. I would then visit the UNESCO World Heritage listed region of Meroe. Other places to explore include Kerma and Naqa. I would wrap up my journey at the northern town of Wadi Halfa, close to the border with Egypt.

My East Africa Travel Bucket List

Giraffe, Serengeti, Tanzania
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The region of East Africa contains all the sights that one usually thinks of when one thinks of Africa. This is what my bucket list for the region looks like.

Tanzania – Another country that can justifiably claim to be a microcosm of the continent, from beaches to history to wildlife, this country has it all. I would probably start with the wildlife. Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti National Parks are undoubted bucket-list places when it comes to wild-life watching. But there are other interesting areas of natural beauty that I would like to explore, such as Gombe National Park, made famous by Jane Goodall’s work with Chimpanzees, Mount Kilimanjaro – the highest mountain in Africa and Selous Game Reserve, one of the largest protected areas on the continent. I would then make my way to Zanzibar, and explore Stone Town. Finally, I would end my journey on the Indian Ocean beaches of Pemba Island and Mafia Island.

Rwanda – A country that’s unfortunately been in the news for the wrong reasons; I would probably start in the capital city of Kigali before making my way westwards to Volcanoes and Nyungwe National Parks before finishing my journey at Gisenyi on Lake Kivu.

Uganda – It came as a surprise to me that this relatively small country (82nd largest in the world) is the 31st most populous country in the world with a population of over 45 million. Kampala, the capital city, would be where I start my visit to this country. I would then make my way westwards to areas of natural beauty such as Murchison Falls and the wonderfully named Bwindi Impenetrable National Park! I would finish my journey with some rest on the Ssese Islands on Lake Victoria.

Kenya – I would start my exploration of Kenya country at its capital – Nairobi. Next up would be wild-life spotting at some of the most famous National Parks in the world – Masai Mara and Amboseli. I would probably also visit Tsavo East National Park and Lake Naivasha. I would then head off to the Indian Ocean coast, to visit places such as the UNESCO World Heritage Listed Lamu Old Town and Mombasa.




South East Africa Bucket List

Madagascar - Avenue of the Baobabs
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My virtual journey across Africa now brings me to the South East part of the continent. India shares a common ocean with the countries on this part of Africa – the Indian Ocean – and this has led to centuries of trade between India and this part of the world.

Mozambique – This country of close to 30 million people has some interesting sights that I was, frankly, unaware of before I began to research them. I would begin at the extreme south of the long country with the capital city of Maputo with its colonial era architecture. Moving northwards, I would halt at Bazaruta Archipelago. The next halt would be at the UNESCO World Heritage listed Island of Mozambique. I would end my journey through this country at the city of Pemba and Quirimbas National Park.

Malawi – The city of Blantyre would be where I would start my exploration of this country. From Blantyre, I would head to Mulanje Mountain. I would then make my way north to Lake Malawi National Park and conclude my visit at the island of Likoma.

Madagascar – The name itself evokes images of the truly exotic. The fourth largest island in the world would rank very high in my list of places to visit for nature and wildlife (alongside Papua New Guinea and the Amazon). The capital city of Antananarivo with its French colonial heritage is most probably where I would start my visit. I would visit Ifaty and Nosy Be to get my beach fix. Among the numerous places to spot wildlife, I might pick Ranomafana and Isalo National Parks. Finally, I would try and visit the Avenue of the Baobabs.