“That is a really good commercial,” my wife said of Travelocity’s latest TV spot starring the pictured Roaming Gnome. With exception to the undying use of the finding yourself cliche, I wholeheartedly agree—it’s a wonderful ad.
But instead of the playful humor normally associated with the inanimate humanoid, this year’s gnome takes a more reverent, if not, preachy approach to selling his online booking wares. Don’t travel … Adventure. Do something you’ve never done. Wander so you can tell more interesting stories.
Is that the path to more profound travel experiences? If so, how might that be achieved?
Keith Nowak, director of communications for Travelocity, echoes the gnome’s advice, starting with the distinction between vacation and travel. “There is certainly a lot of overlap between the two terms, but in general, a vacation is best defined as a period of time set aside for leisure travel,” he says.
Those kinds of trips are good for the soul in that they help us unwind. But they often fail at making us more social, confident and interesting. To do that, we need adventure—which by definition involves some level of risk. A skinned knee. A bruised ego. Broken bones. Stuck in a situation you can’t immediately evade. A challenging idea, emotion or lifestyle. In extreme cases, maybe even death.
In that sense, “journeys are best measured in experiences,” Nowak says. Meandering or irregular activities that help us experience something new and unique. Or re-experience a sensation we haven’t felt in a long time.
“It could be an hour, a day, a week or a month—anything from exploring a different part of town to trekking a continent for a month,” he adds. “While a journey can happen during a vacation, it’s mostly a state of mind.”
Or as his employer counsels, “Wander wisely.”
It’s a catchy motto. In a busy world of overwork, social media selfies and travel bragging, however, it’s also easier said than done. I ask Nowak how he thinks we can accomplish this.
First, wander without a set to-do list. In other words, rethink how you fill and measure your bucket list. Then tap the wisdom of other travelers on how they’ve amassed their experiences.
“Not to copy exactly what others have done,“ Nowak says. “But to get ideas on where you might find your own meaningful experiences.”
That’s doing it wisely. Despite being a crutch sometimes, technology is an amazing enabler of that, the gnome’s representative says, because there are countless people who are sharing their best ideas on blogs, forums and more.
To be clear, this column is called “Off The Grid.” Sometimes you just gotta take a risk with where and how you go.
But that doesn’t mean the column is an indictment of technology or learning from others. On the contrary, it’s an endorsement of anything and everything that helps us collectively achieve more enduring escapes.
Off the Grid columnist Blake Snow writes epic stories for fancy publications and Fortune 500 companies. Follow him on Twitter.