The Internet is a wonderful resource for quick facts and information, lists (here are a few of mine), and tidbits of knowledge you can easily absorb when planning your next trip or vacation. The problem is that facts and information change – but you knew and accept that. Human beings are very good at noticing and remembering sudden change (think Iceland’s economic collapse or protests in Bangkok) but much less adept at realizing slow change (think Iceland’s economic recovery or South Africa’s improving crime rate).
You all know to brush up on the ‘free stuff to do in Sydney‘ when researching for your next trip but you should brush up on the subtle “mesofacts” to ensure you stay on budget and consider all of the places you didn’t because they were too dangerous, expensive, isolated, or whatever.
What Is A Mesofact?
According to Samuel Arbesman a mesofact is something that doesn’t change too quickly or slowly, but is in the “meso” or middle and may be causing your reality to be out of date.
How They Mess With Your Travel Plans
You read that there is a terrorist bombing in Mumbai or that there is a conflict in Lebanon and they’re off your plate. It ends up as the basis of so many of those “up and coming places” lists or articles about how Syria is “suddenly” a safe place to travel. It’s news to you but in reality the change has been happening all along, you just haven’t noticed.
- From there you can go either of two ways; reject the new information or be impressed at “how quickly” things can change.
Most times though, people don’t bother to update the knowledge they’ve learned some time ago. You can talk about what a bargain Istanbul is and book a trip there only to go seriously over budget or never book that trip to Panama because you haven’t heard of anyone else going there.
Updating Your Reality
In the planning stages before any vacation or trip make a list of all the places you don’t want to go see. Countries you feel aren’t safe, interesting, or simply never crossed you mind. You might even have to break out that trusty globe to find a destinations and put them on paper if you don’t know where to go.
- Get Online and Check The Dates – When you do a Google search about a place odds are you’ll get older information rather than newer. You might happen on someone’s old travel blog posts that haven’t been updated in a while or tourism sites. During your search to update your reality make sure to check the dates of the articles you’re reading or do a Google news search for the latest information.
- Twitter – You don’t need a Twitter account to do a search for information. Go to http://search.twitter.com and look up anything you want to know about a given locale, political situation, or simply get firsthand advice from people who’ve already traveled there.
- Use These Online Budgeting Tools – There are a number of good online tools that can help give you an idea of what you’ll need to save up and set aside for your simple travel budget.
- Budget Your Trip – Gives you cost estimates for cities around the world based on other travelers’ experience.
- cost4travel – A similar budgeting tool with an emphasis on social networking.
- Economist’s Foreign Exchange Map – See how any two currencies are moving against each other on a daily, weekly, or annual basis.
- Ask Travel Bloggers – There are people blogging right now from most everywhere in the world and are an excellent up-to-date local resource. You can look under my local blogs section to find some, email some of these RTW bloggers, or get in touch with me and I’ll try to help or at least point you in the right direction.
How Current Is Your Travel World?
You can stay on top of the slooowly changing world by being one step ahead of it. You can visit places before they become expensive tourist hot spots by noticing the warning signs of losing that cheap destination or figuring out the best places to travel on a weak dollar. Another way to see all of the places you aren’t considering is to realize you make your own reality and you can really visit most anywhere on Earth with proper planning. It’s the safest time in human history and despite the rising and collapsing economies you see on the news, the change is subtle enough for you to afford.
[photos by: jenpilot (baby turtle), shoothead (screws), rachellake (girl studying)]
What a great post- and not just for the travel scene. I think this post can translate over to other knowledge we have which we have not cared to update- thus impacting the way we think or do things. Definitely a post to be saved!
Also- I absolutely LOVED the pic of the child in the Turtle suit- sooooooo sweet!!!!
Thanks for the kind words Anjuli 🙂
As I was looking for pictures there were plenty of cute baby turtles but this was the best – a baby dressed as a turtle!
Yeah I agree. This concept extends far beyond travel. I guess Human minds work a lot like how Human eyes work: they’re designed to see fast movement, but aren’t always so good at seeing gradual change.
We’re all a bit like the frog is boiling water 🙂
This is actually very poignant advice. Depending on where you get your information you could be fairly out of date by the time your trip rolls around. Especially if you’ve bookmarked something back when you started planning and the actual date of travel is months or years later. (I still get people asking if Bombay is safe yet, or if Phuket has recovered from the tsunami!)
News travels fast on the internet but you have to remember to keep up with it. Thanks for reminding us, Anil.
Excellent point Nico, some people start planning RTWs years in advance and tend to get flashes of information rather than see the gradual changes happening over time.
I’ve never heard of the term mesofacts before…but a really thought provoking article. All I can say is thank God for the internet as at least with a little research you can find up to date information. Imagine what it was like prior to the internet…news would travel slow!
Gosh I can’t even imagine anymore what it was like before the Internet – or cell phones! I remember it but wouldn’t want to go back to it 🙂
Awesome — thanks for introducing me to some new vocabulary — “mesofacts”. Ironically, creating a blog and publishing posts was one way we thought we could combat the decay of info over time. However, as soon as anything’s published, it’s prone to decay over time!
Samuel Arbesman’s blog is a pretty fun read, I was introduced to the term there. I think you’d like it, sorta pop-math:
Such a good point. I was going to Istanbul recently and I hadn’t heard any news about it recently, so I thought everything was all good and safe. I wasn’t paying attention to fresh news, so I didn’t realize until just days before I went (when my dad called to tell me) that there was a political/military conflict happening. Nothing too major, but definitely something to be concerned about. Travel guidebooks become outdated as soon as they are printed, and blog posts age, too. You’re right — Google news is a great source. Next time I plan to visit a new city, I might set up a Google news alert for their name.
The best thing about blogs is the comments where you can add opinions to the original content. Hard to search though, nothing stays the same, even for a moment!