Our travellers are back.
You may remember John and Anna, the two backpackers who stayed with us a few weeks back.
This is what we wrote back then:
‘They are both 18. They worked hard all of last year on a number of jobs to save up for this. Now they are spending the next eight months exploring Australia on a working holiday visa.
‘It’s the opportunity of a lifetime…one that can feel a bit daunting too. They are away from friends and family. They are on the other side of the world on their own for the first time.’
Last time we saw them they had set off on a great adventure to the Australian east coast in their campervan. And, let me tell you, they had a great time.
Good news is, they loved Melbourne so much they decided to come back and spend some more time here.
Bad news is, they are cutting their trip short. Instead of spending the next five months working and holidaying in Australia, they have decided to go home soon.
They haven’t really told us the reason why, but we suspect they are homesick. As we wrote, it’s hard to be so far away from family and friends for the first time.
In their final days in Melbourne, they are looking to do as much as they can.
As we see them rushing around visiting the highest ranked coffee shop and burger joint in Melbourne — all according to a certain website — we can’t help but notice how much algorithms are changing travel.
Don’t get me wrong, the internet has brought great things for travelling too. It’s made it more affordable, easier to share experiences and connect with other travellers or locals.
But the thing is, internet has made it easier and more affordable to travel, but it is also causing us to have many of the same experiences as we travel.
You can see this in every tourist destination. People queuing up to take the same photo in the same spot everyone else is taking.
Or instead of soaking up the culture and interacting with people, we go visit the highest ranked places or restaurants.
You may be thinking that by choosing the top-rated experience you are making your travel experience unique. Seeing the most genuine spots and views of the place. In other words, that you are on the road less travelled.
But is it?
Isn’t the best ranked experience, by design, the road most travelled?
It’s not just rankings though.
We are also increasingly relying on algorithms to plan our travels. We look at personalised suggestions on what to visit, where to stay, where to eat, you name it.
And algorithms carefully choose the options for us that will best match what we like, what we are comfortable with, or have expressed an interest in before.
Airbnb for example, uses machine learning to show you results based on your preferences. They also try to pair you up with hosts that you are likely to give a better review to, based on the language you use.
To me, travelling is all about stepping out of your comfort zone and routine. To get exposure to different cultures and different ways than your own to see the world.
But, I am guilty of this too.
How to take the road less travelled?
That’s why in my latest travels I have tried to avoid rankings and searching. Because I feel that they are confining my travel experience.
They guide you to what you are already comfortable and familiar with. They cater to what you already like, to your preconceived notion of what you think the world looks like.
And, you see, this applies to investing too.
News is becoming more personalised, and so are internet searches. Algorithms are already showing us things we are already interested in, something we already think or have searched for, or something that is already popular.
And this, to me, is dangerous.
Because we get less and less exposure to different views, to things that challenge us and our opinions.
Instead we run the risk of falling victim of confirmation bias. To only be exposed to information that confirm our beliefs.
What can you do?
Well, you can get out and explore.
Interact with people, talk to locals and foreigners.
Get different views and philosophies in life. See different ways of living or doing things.
Listen to different reasonings and points of view.
They may not change your views…but then again, maybe they do.
Editor, Markets & Money
PS: We have a new Markets & Money video update. In it, we look at the recent prices falls in the Aussie housing market. Is this a buy opportunity? You can watch it here.