Go Wild With Gen Y

Travel takes on a whole new meaning for the gung-ho generation

Issue: Oct 2010

backpacker
Young, savvy, and ready to take off to destination unknown

They are young, confident and tech-savvy with a big appetite for adventure. Called Generation Y or Gen Y, this lot is also known to care deeply about experiencing life in a meaningful and challenging way.

So it’s not an understatement to say that Gen Y does go all out to live life to the fullest. And one of the ways they seek the thrills and spills of life is to travel - their way.

cheryl
Worthy causes and beautiful nature appeal to the heart of Gen Y travellers like Cheryl Chan

farmer and jonathan
Cheryl and fellow WWOOFer, Jonathan, experienced an authentic culture exchange in the laid-back suburbs with farmer (centre)

26-year-old Cheryl Chan, who works as a research assistant at Pathwest Medical Laboratory in Western Australia, is a fine example. During a summer break in 2008, she embarked on a mission with WWOOF – World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. An international movement that started in 1971, WWOOF helps people share more sustainable ways of living. Volunteers help with daily farming chores while learning more about organic lifestyles.

"It was an eye opener for city dwellers like me as I had hands-on experience fixing leaking pipes and feeding animals on a daily basis!" Chan shares. "I even had the chance to join one of the farmers on a hunting trip for rabbits as they were considered vegetation pests."

Meaningful Journeys

Despite notions that technology may dull one’s connection to the real world, Gen Y albeit tech-savvy, is known to be a socially conscious generation. They show altruism towards the environment, poverty and community problems and have been leading a new wave of volunteerism. This passion also motivates them to inject ‘meaning’ to their holidays.

And Chan's meaningful stint at Waminda Farm in Geraldton, Western Australia, certainly reaped memories that will last a long time.

"I had the chance to really be close to nature, especially when we slept under the starry skies one night and found baby foxes staring at us at the break of dawn," Chan recalls fondly. "It felt wonderful to be part of WWOOF's movement to promote organic farming, and slowly but surely, create a positive impact on the Planet. I will definitely do it again once I have the chance to!"

Indeed, such rustic getaways may be regarded as a much needed retreat for the Gen Y's soul.

Under the stars and the dawn
Spontaneity led Cheryl and her friends to take a break at a rest stop on their way to the Waminda Farm and camp out under the stars with their sleeping bags (left) and the scene that greeted them at dawn (right) was priceless

Statistics show that Gen Y is more likely than other generations to have taken at least one overseas holiday or leisure trip in the last 12 months. Their affinity with technology means travelling can be an incredibly spontaneous affair. All it takes may just be an online airfare promotion or an interesting article on travel websites like tripadvisor.com to send them packing their bags. After all, research can be done on the go and that is really part of the fun!

Off the Beaten Track

Gen Y would rather be regarded as a traveller than a tourist, so they steer away from touristy spots or worse, packaged tours. They can be considered intellectual travellers who see each holiday as an opportunity to broaden their horizons and embrace the culture, history, arts, customs and lifestyle. Gen Y also loves to experience the authentic character of a destination so don’t be surprised if all a Gen Yer did on a stopover in Singapore was to hang out at traditional eateries in Little India and talk to locals over thosai and teh tarik!

On the whole, Gen Y is increasingly on the lookout for out-of-the-ordinary experiences in which the choice of destinations and activities need to have a “brag factor”. No longer do postcard-perfect pictures impress but rather, the thrills and tales when one returns from yet another 'trip-of-a-lifetime'. Forget about the usual fare of hiking, fishing, diving, ziplining or rappelling; the weirder it gets the better.

Not for the Faint-Hearted

One of the latest trends Gen Y travellers are latching on to is the idea of geocaching. Geocaching is likened to a worldwide treasure hunt game by adventure seekers equipped with GPS devices. The aim is to locate hidden containers similar to time capsules, called geocaches and share your experiences online. Some geocaches even allow you to exchange an item with whatever’s inside. Anyone can also place a geocache then pinpoint its location using GPS technology and share its existence and location online.

20-year-old broadcast journalism student Lia Steinberg from Phoenix, Arizona shares her experience. "Geocaching is a wonderful hobby for me," she says. "It takes me to beautiful places that I would never think of discovering." Inspired, Steinberg even created a website to share her experiences and provide helpful hints and tips.

Geocache
Lia Steinberg embarked on a bike trail to search for this geocache hidden inside a tree stump in Butler, Pennsylvania
Photo Credit: http://www.collegecacher.wordpress.com/

While there is really no limit as to where these geocaches can be, it is common for geocachers to hide caches in locations that are important to them, reflecting a special interest or skill of the cache owner. These unique locations on the planet can be quite diverse: a prime camping spot, great viewpoint and many unusual locations. And that has made it even more appealing to the Gen Y travellers.

"Geocaching is a great way to explore new places," said Jen Sonstelie, marketing manager of Groundspeak Inc, which aims to inspire outdoor play using location-based technology. "Geocachers often hide caches in places of historical importance or great physical beauty that you would never have discovered were it not for the cache there."

There are close to 1.2 million active geocaches around the world, and the fun of the hunt with a GPS device really makes it a cool travel activity. The world is indeed the Gen Y’s playground!

Tasty Travels

Equally refreshing is the idea of culinary travel. Gen Y thrives on novelty so tantalising their taste buds with exotic cuisines in a foreign land sounds like a game plan, as with learning to cook it!

Cooking Shool
Have fun cooking up a storm in Vietnam
Photo Credit: Red Bridge Restaurant & Cooking School

Gourmet paradise Vietnam offers the chance to experience a truly authentic cooking class experience. Red Bridge Cooking School for instance, gives travellers an in-depth understanding of Vietnamese cuisine by bringing them shopping at Hoi An’s colourful central market which is a boat trip along the Hoi An River and a walk through a herb garden.

The hands-on sessions allow travellers to learn to cook local specialties like beef pho, fried spring rolls, grilled fish in banana leaves and beef salad in bamboo basket. After which, you can tuck into the fruits of your efforts!

market
Go marketing at a local market is a cool activity for a Gen Yer on holiday
Photo Credit: Impress Travel

These sessions have been hugely popular. Tony Nam, a sales executive at another tour agency, Impress Travel, agrees, “Although we have other tourism activities, cooking class is one of the most interesting activities for the younger travellers during their trip in Vietnam.” Impress Travel holds classes in Ho Chi Minh, Hanoi and Saigon.

You can also get a kick from a cuisine culture shock and tuck into a meal of bugs, bees, scorpions and silkworms. Though it hardly sounds appetising, the Gen Yer will definitely dare to try so they’d have something to brag about!

Citadines Apart’hotel
Vibrant and flexible accommodation for a home away from home

Vibrant Accommodation for True Blue Explorers

Gen Yers are game for the quirky and unconventional, and keen to explore. But no matter where they choose to go, flexibility and freedom top their accommodation requirements.

Citadines Apart'hotel fits the bill perfectly by offering vibrant and flexible accommodation for Gen Yers on the go, combining the freedom and privacy of an apartment with the convenience of a hotel. They can even customise their desired stay experience by taking a pick from a menu of service offerings to suit their lifestyle and budget. With prime locations in more than 30 cities all over the world, every Citadines Apart'hotel is within easy reach for the Gen Yer. Bon voyage!

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