Rediscover the magic of travel

Slow down, go local and seek advice

Simon Mustoe

Simon Mustoe

Writer, photographer and founder of Wildiaries

DeluxeLife's CEO, author and conservationist Simon Mustoe, talks about some of the ways travel has changed in recent years. And how we can all rediscover some of the lost magic by relearning how to travel and dispensing with bad habits we've created for ourselves in recent years. 

When I began to travel in the 1990s it was with a backpack, map, compass and a sense of adventure. I'd disappear into outback Madagascar or the steppes of Spain and Portugal with a ceramic water filter, binoculars and a drawing pad. One day we'd be riding camels around mud-brick fortresses during sandstorms in Pakistan, later we'd be living with foresters on the Himalayan snow line.   

I had all the time in the world.

The planet today is a different place. There is nowhere left to explore that can't be seen from Google Maps. The thrill of the unknown has somewhat disappeared. For many, the reward of taking a journey has been replaced by the need to know exactly what will happen.

Or at least that is what you may think. It doesn't have to be true though. Can you remember that travel used to be like this? Do you yearn to rediscover those lost rewards? 

Here are a selection of a few short films I've made over the last few years documenting some of my favourite places. For me, these represent some of the quintessential elements of travel. Going slow, placing trust in locals and allowing yourself to see the world through their eyes – a world they were destined to share with you and love everything about doing it. 

The planet feels a lot smaller these days. I coordinate travel in English with people from remote villages on WhatsApp. It's extraordinary how connected we've all become and it opens up a whole new  world of things to do safely and comfortably. 

Building incredible journeys

To build your own incredible journeys means changing your behaviour. First, you can't plan this alone. You need to take advice from someone who cares. Second, you can't rush the planning. 

Thirty years has passed since my heady days of remote adventure. These days I prefer a bit of personal comfort but despite having less time, I still seek slower journeys. They say, as you get older, the days become compressed and life speeds up. So, why would you want to rush the remaining time you have on this amazing planet?

The key is always in slowing down – watch a turtle coming down the beach after laying, an animal that's been around for millions of years, and you'll understand why.

The unhealthy side of bucket lists 

Since COVID, there has been a deluge of travellers eager to quench their thirst for bucket-trip experiences. The travel market's main players have capitalised on this. They've doubled prices and everyone is trying to cram in as much as possible in the name of 'value.'

I have a particular interest in eastern Indonesia. Life is simply too short to see it all so I go back twice a year. 

The standard expedition cruises advertised online for this region have pivoted away from the experience. The ships have become the destination instead. Floating hotels with bars and restaurants have replaced on-the-ground experiences.  

Friends of mine who lead these tours tell me how they've turned into food and booze cruises. I look at the itineraries for the Solomon Islands to Indonesia and wonder how it's possible to cover such distance and see anything at all. 

On my expeditions, I'm struggling to fit everything into 12 days over a tiny fraction of the distance. And we see so much, it's almost bewildering!

A new way to see

What we are finding is many people – maybe like you, if you're reading this – seem to be tiring of these trips and wondering how to do things differently. Perhaps, like me, you used to travel differently.  

Maybe you also yearn for a return to the more authentic style of travel.   

We certainly have a lot of guests these days who choose to come to us and ask us to help them 'see them properly'.

I asked one lady what the village experience was like on a cruise they did before one of mine. She said they'd organised the village to entertain them and by the time hundreds of them had descended to the shore, it was scary. For comparison, they'd just returned from a village with the tiny crew on our 14-guest ship and had been invited to meet the chief. One chap ended up being strolled around in a wheelbarrow by the local kids. 

The price can be equally right 

Ironically, creating trips that are slower pace and suit a more discerning type of traveller, doesn't necessarily cost more. The large companies have huge overheads to pay for: well-paid executives, vehicles that can guzzle a few hundred gallons of fuel per guest (in the case of ships), and absolutely enormous marketing and advertising budgets.

What you can do instead is fine those quintessential small operators who've devoted their lives to looking after people like you. They have low overheads and are intimately connected with local people, accommodation, food providers and transport.

They will look after you like a member of their family. 

Refinding the path to a real journey

Over the last few years in particular, travellers have lost their way.

The younger generation flit between insta-spots, while the older generation sup champagne while the hills and seas pass by behind glass.  Wild animals are corralled and sometimes even abused for a micro-second phone-photo. In the video earlier we watched a baby orangutan and its mother for an hour or more, long after every tourist had left, satisfied with the 10-minutes at the feeding station (for orphaned and refugee primates). 

Local guides will tell you, they prefer you slow down and enjoy their home. That's all they want, to share their passion with you. It rubs off when you spend time with them and you might even make friends forever. 

By going slower we certainly see more and build more lasting memories. The value to our own personal wellbeing is infinitely greater. 

About the Author
Simon Mustoe

Simon Mustoe

Writer, photographer and founder of Wildiaries

Simon is CEO of DeluxeLife. He is also an ardent conservationist and has been studying and observing wildlife for over 40 years. He's written a book called Wildlife in the Balance. He loves taking his worldwide travel experience to help people discover new and exciting places to visit,as well as contributing to science and conservation.

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