Yesterday our team at Smiling Albino and I had the good fortune to host 6 local expat + Thai guests on a cycling adventure exploring the diverse riverside communities in old Bangkok. Hosting locals can sometimes be a daunting task, some of whom are in the travel biz, or media world, or were born and raised here and know the city well.  It forces us to up our game and ensure we’re delivering value. Value might be a tricky thing to define, but for us it’s simple:

– make the experience hard – if not impossible – to duplicate on your own

– take the guesswork and thinking out of the equation for the guests and transport them into another zone / free from workaday life

– provide side-door access, inside knowledge, and connect them with people and places they may not have known on their own

– make it fun, stupid!

Over 7 hours we biked, learned, sweated, laughed, lit incense, prayed, ate, discovered,  instagrammed, indulged in history, and wound things up with a three-stop bar crawl on a boat to some hidden gems along the river for sunset cocktails. The seamlessness, adventure, authenticity and value were all there. I believe the guests feel this way too! But most of all, the by-product of all these things, resulted in fun. This is the most important part of the value chain.

It reminded me of what travel is about anyway: fun.

Currently there’s a lot of talk about how travel will change post pandemic, or how people have irreversibly changed due to Covid. There are articles about how spiritual renewal and finding oneself via travel are the future, and that 2021 has taught us that people will never travel the same again.

But will we still have fun!?

I don’t see as much written about that very obvious element of the human condition. We seek harmless joy, surprises, enlightened experiences, and largely plan our lives around that. Let’s not forget what makes us human.

I’ve been invited to join online forums commenting on how travel mirrors our journey into being more sentient being

s, and how being a travel experience designer is similar to being an enlightened healing agent.

I don’t deny that there is a very real part of this in travel. I’m all for spiritual renewal and zen-seeking journeys, and travel certain plays a part in helping us all “heal”. I certainly agree that there are ways to use our holiday time to renew our connection with the earth, and ourselves. But at the end of the day, once the value is established, we just want to have fun.

Yesterday seeing this group of guests, seasoned expats and Thai locals, enjoying sites they’d heard of but never been, or connecting threads of history they remember from school, or finding new locations they never knew they never knew, reminded me how important the fun card plays into the value chain. For me it was the perfect day – and a rare chance to host a trip during the pandemic.

There was less of a need to escape or find ourselves, and more an opportunity to bond, learn new things, challenge oneself.

I believe as we emerge from this pandemic that we’ll put more emphasis on meaningful “me time”. Our holidays should also have meaning (don’t they?), and we’ll seek value perhaps more discernibly than we did a few years ago.

But most of all this pandemic has been an agonizing slog, a never-ending hangover. I’m a firm believer that we just want to get back to having fun again.

A huge high-five to our fabulous guests who joined us on our Bangkok Riverside Ramble bicycle adventure yesterday. You put “F” in Fun, friends!