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Experience is everything
Experience is everything
Posted at: 5:01pm , 7 Feb 2018 By James Eacott

Experience is everything

How often do we hear “you’ve not got enough experience”?  Whether it’s applying for university or a job, experience is often held in higher regard than formal qualifications.  I am fortunate to have had a good education, but past employers have all admitted it was my interesting travel background and hobbies that won me an interview.  Experience is what gives you something to say for yourself.  A story.  Something to differentiate among the rest.

The same applies to travel.  As the world seems to shrink on a daily basis, it becomes ever easier to rack up an impressive list of countries visited, but I argue that this list is meaningless if it comes with no experience.

We have a choice on how we spend our precious holidays and I’d like to show the great void that exists between destination and experience and highlight some examples where I believe you can visit the same region, even to take part in the same activity, and yet have a very different experience.

When we go on holiday, we tend to focus on location (where we want to go) rather than the experience (what we want to do). Of course, destination and experience are inextricably linked (you’re unlikely to have similar encounters in the Brazilian Amazon as you are in Hull, however hard you try).  Having said that, you can have two families travel to the same destination and come back with very different stories.

Below are five examples of popular travel destinations that can be 'done' in very different ways.  This is just five of the dozens I have encountered both first and second hand.

1. The Grand Canyon should not be missed.  If you’re ever in the American mid-west, you must visit this immense scar on the Earth’s surface.  95% of the 5 million annual visitors flock to the Grand Canyon Village, where they’re herded onto crowded platforms to view the spectacle from afar.  Knowledge of the Canyon helps escape the crowds: either hike to the bottom or visit the quieter north side.  Better yet, visit the lesser known but equally impressive Bryce Canyon.  A massive succession of amphitheatres, Bryce is technically not a canyon but it's extraordinary sandstone pillars are considered more spectacular than the Grand Canyon by many, and it is considerably easier to access and walk around.

2. Kilimanjaro is a mountain climbed by some 25,000 people every single year. 95% of those 25,000 climb via one of two routes.  Visualise the traffic on the narrow paths and the crowded camp sites.  This is an unfortunate result of an attractive mountain, but there is no need to compromise and follow the masses.  Climb via a route trodden by just 450 each year, the Lemosho route, staying in your own campsite each night.  It costs no more but you’ll be pleased you went to the effort of finding the quieter route.  I did this and it enhanced my experience…I saw Kilimanjaro for what it really is: wild and pristine.

3. According to the Guinness Book of Records, it is not Rio that hosts the largest carnival on Earth.  Oh no.  Salvador Carnival holds the record as the Biggest Street Party on the Planet, with more than 2 million revellers taking the designed 30km of streets by storm the week before Ash Wednesday. 

4. Everyone has an image of Mount Everest.  The great hulking mass that is the tallest mountain on Earth towers with such grandeur.  Trekking to Everest Base Camp is, for most, a worthy challenge and about as high as we’ll ever venture.  About 40,000 walk to Everest BC every year – a staggering number – and the toll this is taking on the local population and environment is evident to evevryone who visits.

A more environmentally friendly, remote, adventurous and certainly more picturesque alternative is to trek in the shaddow of another Himalayan giant: Mount Annapurna.  Less trodden, rich in culture and dramatically beautiful, the Annapurna Sanctuary trek is a perfect alternative with around 20% of the visitor number that Everest attracts.

5. Closer to home, as magnificent as Stonehenge is it receives well over 1 million visitors per year.  Just 20 miles north lies Avebury, a mystical circle of stones erected in the same era as Stonehenge, but much larger offering guests better access to the stones themselves.  Avebury receives one fifth of the visitors that Stonehenge does.  Those who have visited both know the difference and, whenever relatives come to stay, we’ll always walk around Avebury and save our viewing of Stonehenge for the inevitable traffic jam on the A303.

Most of us have less ‘free time’ than ever, in which holiday-planning takes place.  But sometimes help is needed to see a location through different eyes, so I encourage you to take the time to either scour the internet yourself for ideas, or speak to an expert – someone who’s actually been there and done that.

So, next time you think about booking a holiday or some travel time, consider what you want to do, and how you want to do it, rather than solely where you want go.


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