The transience of trends
"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes." Marcel Proust
My father travelled Africa and Europe before airfares were economically viable for most, and the passage from Australia to the rest of the world was a long voyage by ship. In those days it wasn't easy to travel overseas. To explore beyond the oceans you either had to be uncommonly wealthy or uncommonly adventurous. My father was the latter, and as a result of his wanderings through strange landscapes and faraway locales, he formed a vision of the world that opened him up to much more than a middle class Anglo-Australian upbringing moulded him for.
I have vivid memories of the stories he told me as a child. About driving toward Mount Kilimanjaro for days looking at its immense peak on the horizon in front of him. About discovering his hotel had no running water in Heraklion on Crete, and marching down to the local police station to procure help obtaining it from the owner. About his mates, who always seemed to be getting my gentle, law-abiding father in trouble—in Johannesburg, in France, and anywhere else they went together. About crossing through checkpoint Charlie from West Berlin into the Eastern block, giving his ten West Deutsche Marks as surety and only getting ten East Marks on the way back, even though the two currencies were nowhere near comparable. About standing in front of the Wall in West Berlin over a decade before it fell, and feeling the burgeoning, exciting energy of a newly rebuilt and revitalising city.
My father travelled before it was a trend, and he loved Berlin before it was the thriving, creative hub it is today. He isn't sure if he visited Prenzlauer Berg in those days, because it lay beyond the Wall in the communist block, but I'd love to go back with him someday; to explore the city streets together and hear his stories of what once was.
The wonderful and unfortunate thing about emerging cities such as Berlin, is that once the world hears about their charms, they become a trend, and then they become something else entirely. In the days my father roamed the West Berlin streets, it was a city on the rise with some of the most modern and exciting architecture in the world. It was also in the midst of a counter-culture movement that has never quite left it. In fact, in the years after the Berlin Wall fell some of those counterculturalists set up shop in the bombed-out neighbourhood of Prenzlauer Berg. Many of them are still there, although their lifestyles are less bohemian and they've gentrified the area for their growing families.
Change is always inevitable, and one trend will always be swept away by another, so experiencing a country on the eve of its emergence as the next greatest destination is not a common thing. It is usually down to luck and a certain adventurousness that not everyone possesses. These are places that still bear the grit of a tempestuous past and the beauty of an unknown future.
Vietnam is one such place. It is a little-explored frontier in the world of wanderlust, and is following a growing trend in Southeast Asia as the perfect destination for wellness travel. No longer just a term encompassing spas and yoga retreats, wellness travel is a trend now including adventure, and any journey undertaken to improve mental, physical or spiritual wellbeing.
At être we've been discussing circuit breakers a lot lately. These are events that force reevaluation and change in your life; that snap you out of the cycles you've been trapped in, strip away the things that no longer bring meaning to you, and force you into a new direction or onto a completely different path. Circuit breakers are important and mysterious, because without them we would not change or grow, and we also never know when they will appear.
We can plan a journey, but it is only when it becomes a circuit breaker that it is truly wellness travel. There is no healing of the mind and spirit that can happen without some introspectiveness. That in itself can be a circuit breaker, but it is also often brought on by these moments of epiphany we look to have on a journey of discovery.
I have wondered recently if this trend to travel in search of healing, as transient as all trends are, is a reactionary bi-product of the fast-moving world we live in. There is a peace and a slowness to immersive travel that is hard to come by in our daily lives. Having the space and time to truly slow down goes a long way to giving us back what the modern world has taken away, with all its consuming technology and distraction - it is perspective, or the ability to view our thoughts, feelings, lives and actions from outside of ourselves and from many angles.
And so the lessons in all this? Observe trends as a cultural curio but don't blindly follow them. Visit amazing places like Berlin and Vietnam before they become so popular they lose some of their magic. Find trusted sources and look for off-the-beaten-track or unusual destinations. Listen to those you trust to know you, because it it their advice, not the internet bucket lists, that will lead you to your most authentic experiences. It is this mindset that will have you scale 387 steps to a bell tower atop Notre Dame, and not take the lift to the apex of the Eiffel Tower instead. My aunt told me it was the best view of the city, and standing amid the gargoyles and buffeting winds on my last afternoon, I knew that she was right. It was a sweet moment I will never forget, and it was made all the sweeter because my aunt had led me there.
Trends are transitory for a reason, so find authentic moments by following your own adventurous spirit. Believe in that spirit, because at one point or another, we all display this quality, it just may not be obvious.
Thinking of exploring an emerging city? Check out our collection of Emerging Cities including Berlin—Prenzlauerberg and Vietname—Hanoi. They feature some of our favourite little-known hangouts and hidden gems, in some of the most amazing places on earth.
If you're heading to Berlin soon take a look at our Prenzlauerberg story, and wander with us for a day in this unmissable neighbourhood.