It's a stunning day. We pass a beautiful square and on the edge of the square is a nice looking restaurant. It seems to be the perfect location for some good people-watching and a light lunch. We look at the menu. It's the standard tourist menu. Nothing fantastic, all the usual gringo suspects, at very reasonable prices. I would happily eat here, I would go in with low expectations and be delighted to be surprised.
I'm thinking this place is great, but some of the group I'm with are not convinced. They're unsure of the TripAdvisor rating and one of the crew knows a place around the corner which is rated well.
We go to the other well-rated restaurant and have one of the most amazing burgers I have had in my life, but at the end of the exceptional meal I am left feeling a little unsatisfied. What did I miss seeing in that beautiful square? Was the meal at the other place just as good or right for the price?
Is the constant urge to look at what a bunch of other people recommend enhancing my experience as a traveller or taking something away?
The birth of TripAdvisor
TripAdvisor was founded in February 2000.
TripAdvisor® is the world's largest travel site*, enabling travellers to plan and have the perfect trip. TripAdvisor offers advice from travellers and a wide variety of travel choices and planning features with seamless links to booking tools.
TripAdvisor branded sites make up the largest travel community in the world, with more than 260 million unique monthly visitors**, and over 150 million reviews and opinions covering more than 3.7 million accommodations, restaurants and attractions. The sites operate in 37 countries worldwide, including China under daodao.com.
TripAdvisor has had a remarkable rise over the last few years and as I travel around South America it's rare that the website does not get a mention from someone.
Of course before TripAdvisor the blue travellers bible, the Lonely Planet Guide, had dictated the travel habits of thousands of travelling sheep, but one would argue with each edition of the guide the editors would insert some new treats or discoveries previously unknown to the masses.
Recommended reading: Guide Books, they're just a guide.
Does this editorial control allow us to discover something different on each journey as opposed to TripAdvisor, where recommendations (which essentially become a ranked listed of things to do) prevent us from experiencing anything else, just like a googler will generally only look at the top 3 search results when searching for something online?
Are we missing out?
Are travellers so full of fear and value the opinions of perfect strangers so much that we are unwilling to discover something new? Unwilling to support that new entrepreneur in an emerging country who has just opened his restaurant or started his tour company and risked so much? Are we just a bunch of boring travelling zombies content with being the same as everyone else?
I feel like I'm missing the treat that is discovering something for the first time that is mine alone, if only for a moment.
Image from tripadvisor