Lost towns?

Technology and urbanization. Now these two words might not seem to be very linked to each other, but we tell they are so. Because from our view, technology’s advancement is one of the developments alongside urbanization. True that there are many other factors for growing urban living, but today we are not debating this.

As the title of this post suggest, we are focused on towns. Villages if you will. Some months back we read this article about the dying towns of Italy (our interpretation). An interesting read if we may recommend.

Oh how we identify with this trend. The gradual and sometimes fast moving changes that decimate depopulate towns of people, mostly youths leaving to seek their fortunes in the big city. We’ve seen this in Japan, China and to much extent in countries such as Thailand and Cambodia too. Towns being “absorbed” by megacities as they grow fat large. We’ve seen almost entire towns inhabited mostly by elderly folks. And as these folks pass on, so does the towns that once bustled with life. And a loss that is not just people but also culture, heritage and traditions.

Where have all the flowers gone? Long time passing…. so goes an old song.

The article cited above also spoke about rejuvenation. And not just as specks of attractions that see thousands in the day and fall into still silence in the night. We’ve stated out view on how we’ve witnessed to much loss while living in China.

When will we ever learn?

The Long Journey Q2-18

It seems that winter in the northern hemisphere had been a little unpredictable this year. Shovelling snow to clear one’s driveway is perhaps not the idea of a nice winter day… and we hope that this freakish weather is past. Spring is definitely being looked forward to right?


Dear friends,

How has the last 3 months been for you? Have you been traveling much for work? Do take care not to overwork yourself or take too many ‘red eye’ flights… we’ve laid off doing that already. Time to take it slow! We’re sure your air miles will still continue to accrue…

To be honest it had been a lean past 3 months for us. Nothing but work. Even if that means jetting a little about. And Mel had been a little under the weather too. So it had been Suan that’s been doing a little more of the heavy lifting around home. Now you take care too you hear?

Read all about our latest newsletter issue here. Hear about how we once got back to school and cooked out way out.

This is not just a ‘Bearen’ place

Just leafing through one of the editions of NatGeo travel magazine some months back, we came across the ‘expeditions‘ planned to the polar region. One in particular caught our eye : the one that covers Svalbard, Iceland, and Greenland’s East Coast.

Coming in at US$14,950pp for the lowest category (of cabin), these journeys are led by a NatGeo expert who Svalbard NatGeo Expeditionworks with the ship’s experienced captain to chart a course for the voyage. You will be in safe hands!

In particular, our interest was piqued by the stop at Svalbard, kingdom of the polar bears. There you can seek an audience with the monarch of the bears provided they are not in hibernation… Seriously, in the capital Longyearbyen, one never venture out of town without your guide who has a loaded rifle cocked at all times for use.

Because in a “Bearen” place like that, one could become bear fodder in an instant. It would be an ignominious way to add to the statistic of chewed up tourists. Ponder that.

We plucked the following from the website:

  • Explore Arctic Svalbard, the polar bear capital of the planet, to observe these majestic creatures in their natural habitat, on the sea ice. Got that.
  • Navigate the arctic wilderness of the Greenland Sea to Iceland’s wild western coast, with expert naturalists and a fully equipped expedition ship—making multiple stops en route completely dependent on ice, wildlife and weather conditions. Ok sounds like fun.
  • Watch for huge walruses, whales, and reindeer, and spot rich birdlife. Woah… Wunderbar!
  • Glide between soaring ice floes, exploring via ship, Zodiac, and kayak. Now that’s super!

Sounds so exciting. Time to save up for it.

Nope, not the average expedition ship where you pay to work… heheh. But no dancers performing evening shows either. Now you know why we categorize this post under “Sweet Dreams are made of these”. Aside from the fact it’s the title of an Eurythmics song.

Obvious question, will you go on this journey if you have the means to do so?

Travel is life and death

Now a dramatic title like this coupled with a nice map of Easter island means either an exciting topic or a juicy piece of news. Perhaps not for you, but we find this report quite disturbing yet promising.

What is it?

It’s about how the millennial generation (in the west) have lower priority to save for a home and paying off debt (student loans or otherwise). Instead, saving to travel is of a higher priority in the sample population surveyed. Talk about asking the barber (in this case a travel company) if you need or want a hair cut…We suppose the report (cited here) needs more scrutiny on who and how they surveyed and we hadn’t the time to search and slice/dice the report. So we will take it at face value (which is really unusual for Mel).

In any case, anecdotal evidence in the form of web chatter suggests that there is a higher proportion of younger folks who yearn to push out onto a life of traveling. The plethora of blogs and instagram accounts bent in that direction could be cited as evidence. Or can it? What if, as in the recent political elections – these high profile examples are merely a vocal and highly visible yet tiny minority? Or that the sampled population in the above report had skewed in favour of those already predisposed to travel over other aspects of life?

Have we marginalized the silent majority (again) because the limelight that has been usurped from them? If you are a 20+ year old today, what would your aspirations be?

Digitization and virtual travel

An interesting development that could in some way revolutionize travel – the use of digital travel documents. Doing away with passports altogether is a very likely prospect as technology advance to replicate and even surpass the security features that are now embedded in our paper documents. The advent of smartphone payment is one of the clearest indications that digitization is on a relentless march to replace more than just a tiny segment of traditional approaches to life as we know it.

Some day, we may just need a biometric chip embedded into each of us which is all that is needed to effect payment, identity validation etc. Afterall, the paper documents were created to validated/proof who we claim to be in the first place! And in the cloud which this biometric can be linked to will be stored all the information about you – financial (how much money you have, what properties you own), physical (appearance, blood type etc)… Scary thought but some form of this is surely coming!

However my thoughts are : with digitization, will this lead to VR travel over ‘real’ travel?

Virtual travel.jpg
Trying on the Occulus Rift with BA

I mean, will we abscond from the pleasures of physical travel and retreat to the cocoon of virtual experiences?

Since last year, Marriot had been ramping up its 4D VR teleporter. We are not talking about the abstract 4 dimensions. It’s about the 4 senses – sight, sound,smell and touch. Nah, not possible to virtually taste something yet…(but watch this space as there are serious develoments out there make it a ‘reality’).

And look at Samsung’s VR headset that integrates with its smartphones. Its not “coming near you soon”, its here.

At this time, the technology is in the employ of brick and mortar businesses augmenting their customer acquisition strategies. And some articles out there will claim that VR travel will never* replace “real” travel. You will recall from the Matrix movies that reality is what the brain’s receptory sensors tell it. From these moments of reality, experience and thereafter, memories are formed. So what is real?

If two persons described to you their joys of seeing the pyramids at Teotihuacan (which we REALLY want to go) and one of them did the VR experience, how would you tell who actually walked it? At some point in the technology development spectrum, the VR experience is going to feel so real that it’s surreal. And you may just build your memories of trips to the exotic based on the virtual experience alone.

*Never say never

The joy of physical travel is to taste the unknown, meet with circumstances unexpected and gain experiences and memories from them.

VR will intrinsically wrap you in moments at its most pleasant. Which marketing blok won’t make it so? The brainchild being that you will be potentially seduced by the siren calls to do the real physical trip.

The flip side is, that you heed the siren call and actually do the trip. And you find out that in real life it is not all that the VR experience promises it to be. The wind that blew gently against your hair as the sun shone on you, punctuated with the smell and sound of the sea lapping on the beach. You are enticed. Bait, hook and sinker.


In real life you might emerge from several hours of flying dreary eyed. You have trouble sleeping because of the timezone. You find yourself on the same beach with hundreds, perhaps thousands of other people. Children wailing, touts coming up to offer you something you don’t know what its about. Its cloudy and expected to stay that way for a few days, the same amount of time you had planned to be here…the food was not quite what you expected it to be. And the smell, well…hmm… Oh boy do we have those kinds of memories in our many journeys.

Remember “Rekall, the vacation memory company” in the movie Total Recall?

You might just be converted to being a permanent VR traveler.