Empirical evidence suggests that I’m oblivious to most experiences attached to any significant cost. Granted, I’m an amateur even with respect to my own mind and cannot infallibly predict what impact the experience today will have on the future. I can, however, analyze years of past travel experiences along with their features, observing their impact on my memory footprint, and train my internal model to probabilistically predict the value of any new potential experience. (This, by the way, is Supervised Machine Learning.)
From here on, my definition of a valuable experience is one that leaves a lasting impression in the long term. That is, months or even years later I can recall the overall experince highlights or at least the minimal contour, and perhaps reminisce even, with certain nostalgia.
Sometimes I deviate from the model for the sake of acquiring new data. Otherwise, I run the risk of entirely neglecting possible false negatives. First off, any experience erroneously predicted as valuable is a false positive. I would then readjust the model to account for the recently misclassified experience. However, by strictly respecting the classification predicted as valuable, I train a more conservative model, becoming inductively biased towards inflexibility and lack of compromise.
In light of the above, I occasionally entertain a negatively predicted experience, despite my intuition, introducing some stochasticity into the model. This opens the possibility for not only the discovery of a false negative (and the successive model readjustment), but a more liberal, flaw admitting model.
Generally, I encounter false positives with far greater frequency than false negatives. This carries one of two implications. Either
- the pool of experiences I find valuable have naturally become more conservative, in which case I need not take special action since the model will gradually eliminate the recurrence of similar false positives, or
- I need to increase the model stochasticity and allow a greater percentage of ‘bad decisions’, that is even more aggressively pursue a negatively predicted experience in hope of training a more objective model.
Leaving the data scientific terminology aside, what sorts of travel experiences have I found valuable and lasting, and what sorts have I found artificial and quickly fading?
- Long random walks throughout city streets, parks, and elements of nature.
- Conversations, and leading them in random directions.
- Entering random establishments.
- Strange encounters and improvised situations.
- Invasion of small groups with (and sometimes without) the pretext of this presumably being an organized meetup.
- Eclectic lodgings and sleeping arrangements
- Expensive meals, restaurants, or service.
- Tours. Even free tours I find largely exhausting and energy draining, irrespective that I might remain oblivious to some interesting historical detail. Any tour greater than 45 minutes or an hour I find unnecessarily long, incorporating an unreasonable amount of content. Meetings, presentations have a reputation for carefully being organized and compact to facilitate the gradually declining attention span. If only the tour organizer could pay the same due diligence…
- Museums. I rarely enter one nowadays, even in case of free admission. I spent an hour in one museum during all of my time in Brazil. Yes, it leads to certain trivia acquisition, but I prefer to direct my energy and attention to the learning I already conduct on a daily basis by means of books and other written sources. I don’t recall a single museum having ever left a memorable, long-term impression.
- Overhyped natural wonders. I generate value from an experience based on internal reflection and not based necessarily on charm, historical significance, admission fee, marketing, and tourist presence. I didn’t care much for the three days I spent in Angkor Wat or for the Grand Canyon. Generally, most packaged and marketed experiences lose much value for me.
- Sports tourism. Most related activities provide certain adrenaline, but I can find other means to reproduce this, not requiring the expenses, preparation, attire, or the organization. I haven’t nearly extracted the cost benefit from an overwhelming majority of such activities in the past. One bungee jumping experience in Thailand was maybe an exception, provoking an unusual amount of adrenaline at that time for a respectively low cost. A repeated experience of the sort would unlikely fulfill the same expectations.
- Pictures. I don’t care for them. Any relevant detail of a memorable experience finds its way into some journal entry.
So how do I continuously travel on an inexpensive basis? First, I spend weeks to months in a place, not wasting financial resources or energy on transit. I pay longer-term rates on lodgings, yet still identify much room for optimization in that regard. Lastly, I simply don’t care for most experiences that cost anything substantial (or often anything at all). In the worst case I can reproduce the value by means of a free alternative. Mostly everything I care for involves daily low-maintenance activities, the people, and resources that naturally surround me.