The Enigma of Nostalgia
We Know It When We Feel It...
Don't you love stepping into a place only to be transported to a completely different point in time? Nostalgia is a powerful thing, but it isn’t something we recognize or discuss on a day to day basis. We feel it constantly, but we don’t take the time to reflect on why we feel it or why it matters. I felt this quote sums it up perfectly as nostalgia pertains to travel and exploration:
“Special places can bring back a broad range of emotional feeling and intellectual responses when they are revisited, or even when visiting for the first time, places about which one has only read about or heard stories. For many people the discovery of special places through one’s explorations can be nearly as powerful as revisiting one’s sacred place” – Richard W. Wilkie
I recently asked my good friend Lourdes Martin of Please, Do Tell if she felt people were feeling more nostalgic now, or if people have always been this nostalgic and we just didn’t realize it. We both agreed that it has always been lurking under the surface, but that social media is bringing it to light in a bigger way.
With 9 million photos tagged with #Nostalgia, and 45 million photos tagged with #ThrowbackThursday, it's easy to see that Instagram has been a catalyst for what you might think is a newfound intrigue. Social media is essentially one giant time machine.
Nostalgia comes from two Greek words; nostos meaning “return home,” and algos meaning “pain", which leads us to the double-edge sword of this familiar feeling. On one hand, nostalgia can create a longing in us that keeps us stuck in the past. It’s about holding on to what’s safe. But at the Feel-Good Forecast, we’re choosing to look at nostalgia as a positive thing. In fact, the act of reminiscing has been shown to counteract loneliness and anxiety. When people speak fondly and lovingly of the past, they also tend to become more hopeful for the future. By recalling the past, we look forward to what’s to come.
Lourdes shared this with me, and it sums up Nostalgia at its best:
Nostalgia is about the memories we make as travelers that keep inspiring us to continue experiencing these special moments with the world around us.”
- Lourdes Martin
Please, Do Tell
Take me back!
You’ll often find boutique hotels and off-the-beaten-path experiences do the best job at evoking a feeling of nostalgia. Design Hotels, a collection of independently owned properties, does this deliberately. And with 310 hotels to choose from, you can experience nostalgia in so many different ways.
In fact, I just received an email from them the other morning entitled "Go back in time 500 years" featuring a Dolomites property that is "a place of lives well lived". Intriguing, right?
Lourdes stayed at the Torre De Palma by Design Hotels, and you can read about her journey here. You can bet that when a hotel dates back to 1338, there’s a bit of history hiding in every nook and cranny.
But what about more modern properties? Oftentimes, chain hotels, accommodations, and eateries can suffer from “placelessness”, defined as places that have no sense of place, having been stripped of their unique attributes.
Many destinations and travel experience have history they can unlock, it's just a matter of getting back to their roots. For a place that has been stripped of its history and culture, how can they get it back? When you can seamlessly blend nostalgia (nods to the past) with modern trends (nods to the future) you create a destination that is 100% unique.
What are the sights, smells, sounds, tastes, and touches that bring you back? What about the things that bring an entire culture back? While nostalgia is incredibly personal, it's not uncommon for people to be nostalgic for the same things.
The Great Escape
UNCOVR Encourages People to Travel Deeper
Change is a catalyst of nostalgia, encouraging people to seek escapism when turmoil is rampant. And what better way to experience a great escape than an immersive vacation living a more primitive life? Before cell phones & never-ending social feeds, processed food, and ultra-scandalous TV shows. The enlightened traveler is doing everything they can to get away from these modern nuisances.
In fact, most people report experiencing nostalgia at least once a week, and nearly half experience it three or four times a week. Nostalgia brings to mind cherished experiences that assure us we are valued people who have meaningful lives. We romanticize about the past, and many of us recognize that it is an idealized version. But that doesn’t stop us from wanting to relive it in the best way possible. And that’s where travel experience leaders like UNCOVR Travel come in.
As travelers demand more authentic experiences, travel experts like Jason Wertz (Uncovr Founder) leave no stone unturned in seeking out the unusual, the inspirational, or simply the extraordinarily beautiful. In doing so, this leads them to untouched places that exude history and nostalgia. It's no longer about experiencing history in the confines of a museum. The best experience leaders are orchestrating moments that allow travelers to relive history first-hand. And it seems Jason has an eye for what makes a place special! We absolutely love his perspective on nostalgia's ties to travel:
"It is a well-known fact in psychology that a lot of who we are as adults - our likes, dislikes, tastes and fears - is formed in our childhood. Subconsciously, we are drawn to reconnect with that seemingly lost part of ourselves and with that time when life was simple and planning never had to go further than the next sleepover at a friend’s house... Maybe - just maybe - travel is a deep-seated nostalgic quest to reconnect with the child within, be a stranger to the world around and see things with a childlike innocence-to again feel the pure ecstatic joy or a 5-year-old YOU?"
There is indeed something so freeing about allowing ourselves the time and space to reconnect with our inner child! And doing so in places that encourage this type of behavior makes it even better. Nostalgia is exploring medieval villages perched on rock outcrops in Catalonia, cycling to an 14th century eco goat farm in Croatia, and meeting an amazing local olive oil producer for storytelling and dinner in Portugal. These are tours for the traveler repelled by mass tourism and all that it encompasses.
Jason explains it better than any of us, when he says "small group tours allowing for genuine human connection and exchange, broadening perspectives through laughter and story. We travel not to merely check off places seen, but to truly engage with the world around us. This is the essence of travel, this is the nostalgia of travel."
There are people all over the world preserving history, tradition, and ancient culture. How can we as travelers and professionals in the hospitality/tourism space partner and collaborate with them to create experiences worth traveling for? As the kind people at UNCOVR point out, there is more to discover. There is always more to discover. Their model of co-hosting experiences with local creatives is one that transcends industry standards, resulting in once-in-a-lifetime trips that embody nostalgia in the most luxurious way possible.
Special Note To The Hospitality & Tourism Professionals
Everyone's concept of nostalgia will be different. Focus on a nostalgic experience that aligns with your values and brand personality. Don't try to force it or it will come off as inauthentic!