Carson Poplin | March 28, 2016 4:45 PM ET
In Defense of Millennials
Say what you will about millennials ... though chances are you probably have. The Internet is inundated with articles calling us out for our need for “safe spaces” and social media “likes.” It seems like The New York Times publishes something every week about how narcissistic and entitled we are (most recently, how that affects the workplace.) We’re the generation every other generation loves to hate.
I’m not going to try to change your mind about millennials. We do indeed love kale and we put too much stock in what Lena Dunham says. We don’t own appropriate career clothes, or anything else for that matter, except for our MacBooks.
Despite all this, millennials are literally changing the face of the travel industry. We travel more than any other generation and we have expectations that are unlike those who came before us. I know, because I’ve lived it. I’ve done my best to travel as much as I can, whether that be for a job, as part of my college experience, or simply because I saved up my money.
So here’s some insight, non-millennials, into why we go where we go and do what we do.
1) We value opinions over advertising
Most travel decisions we make are likely because of something we saw online. We don’t trust advertising as much as previous generations, but we’ll definitely listen to people on the Internet. Whether it’s a friend who ’grammed a killer lunch spot in Germany or a stranger posting a review on online, these are the opinions we value.
I was traveling in South Korea with a friend when he happened to find a restaurant on TripAdvisor that was a bit out of our way, but had amazing reviews. It was a small place with sushi, and we were all about that #sushilife. The owner spoke great English and after talking to him for a while, we discovered he used to live all around the States, including Greenville, S.C., where I went to college. He gave us free dessert and we left sufficiently impressed with our restaurant find.
2) We want the best deals and all the spontaneity that brings
We’ve got student loans, remember? We’re not going to be mad at budget airlines that offer cheap flights, just without the peanuts. (Though I’m pretty mad at non-budget airlines charging me for checked bags. I mean, really?) And when we’re deciding where to stay at a destination, we typically don’t put much emphasis on the hotel. Most of us are happy to stay in hostels and socialize with other travelers while figuring out public transit.
After two months in Brazil, I stayed in a hostel for the last night because the budget flight I booked was cheaper if I left on a Tuesday, rather than a Monday. There wasn’t much I had left on my Rio bucket list at that point, so I decided to spend my last day hanging out at the beach. I was getting ready to leave the hostel when another dorm-dweller let me know that he wanted to join me.
Apparently, he was Brazilian but visiting from another city for a few days. Apparently, he hadn’t ever been to Rio. Apparently, he didn’t know how to get to the beach. Apparently, he loved meeting strangers. I say “apparently” because I’m just guessing. We couldn’t actually communicate because he didn’t speak English and my Portuguese hadn’t progressed much past, “Obrigada.”
But we spent the whole day together, taking the subway to Ipanema Beach, staying there for a few hours while he bought everything from churros to a selfie stick from the beach vendors. We then headed to a restaurant when we got tired of the sun. There wasn’t much communication, but now we follow each other on Instagram.
3) We want to have meaningful experiences
As a rule, we’re not interested in emulating other generations by buying houses, cars and whatever just because that’s what you do. We want to go places and have a good time, connect with people and learn.
When I studied abroad in South Africa, I did more than learn about the country and its complex history. I immersed myself in the cultures of all the people I met there, whether they were from Norway, Botswana or somewhere else in the States.
I came back with more than just memories of hiking Table Mountain and visiting Nelson Mandela’s cell at Robben Island. I had friends and experiences under my belt that were impossible to communicate over the Internet. It didn’t stop me from trying, which brings me to my next point.
4) We demand free and reliable Wi-Fi
We’re the generation of the “selfie” and we all feel like we have something worthy to blog about. This requires Internet connections, and we’re definitely going to have attitude about it if we don’t get it, or if we actually have to pay.
I’m no different. I want to post pictures of my students in China or blog about that time I tried bungee jumping, even if the only person who reads it is my mom (and whatever poor soul is on the receiving end of the link she emails out). And I don’t want to pay for Wi-Fi because I’ve never had to and I’m not starting now.
Also, if we don’t have Internet connection, how will we know where to go in the first place?
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