Is Social Media killing the Element of Surprise in our lives?

Life on the beach

My wife and I went to Mexico last year for our vacation. Like most travelers these days, we read hundreds of reviews: about flights, where to go, where to stay, what to eat etc. After spending days reading the many reviews, we settled in a place in Tulum (near Cancun) called Azulik. Check out some of the Tripadvisor reviews of the place:

- We spent 2 nights in #4, a Sea View cabana and one night in #1, a Romance cabana. Sea View got more air and the crashing waves sound; Romance had slightly more privacy. We preferred Sea View. In both rooms we had to keep the doors open all night to get enough circulation.
- You can’t be squeamish about bugs, iguanas etc
- You may have to banish your partner to the deck in order to have enough privacy in the loo.
- Room service has decent food and is relatively inexpensive. The best meals we had while in Tulum were at El Tabano, a few kilometers South of Azulik. The breakfast included was insufficient for us; we always had to supplement it.
- I highly recommend you attempt to score the unbelievable last-minute deal– check the website for details.

Excerpts from another review

- The location: we stayed at another place after Azulik and took countless walks up & down the beaches of Tulum (which stretch for kilometers), I don’t think there is a better location. You are literally perched off the edge of a cliff, with the best winds and the most peaceful sound of the waves.
- The outdoor tub: What an amazing idea! We loved that tub, with a view of the beach from any location you turned.
- The incredible food in the surrounding restaurants: El Tabano (by far the best restaurant I may have ever eaten at). It’s a short bike ride or cab ride away and well worth the trip. We had excellent ceviche with mango, meatballs, crepes with jalapenos, stuffed peppers, tomato/papaya soup, excellent wine and service)
- Posada Margerita: Also a quick cab ride away. This is managed by Italians and you can quickly see the Italian touches in their food. The menu includes home made pasta, fresh fish and some other great specialties.
- Trece Lunas: Best breakfast in town! Carlo, the owner will take such special care of you and he is willing to answer any questions you have. He quickly became our friend and we found out so much great info about where to go and what to do in Tulum from him.

Now, if you have read this far, you must be wondering where the hell I am going with this. Don’t worry, I have not started writing a travel blog.

Whenever we visit somewhere new, regardless of whether we expect greatness or squalor, we harbor an expectation of some sort. And we try and validate our expectations by reading about other people’s experiences. Before reaching the Azulik, I knew exactly what to expect: which room to choose, what the view would be, where to go for lunch, dinner and breakfast, what the bed would feel like etc.

Research has shown that past experience and expectations cloud our judgment of settings and stimuli. Vacations are meant to unwind, let go and experience new things. Are we closing ourselves to new stimuli and experiences because we are “expecting” our vacation to deliver a certain experience? Did we miss the roses that just blossomed because we were too preoccupied finding out the “best breakfast place in town”? Do we end up being disappointed because our experience doesn’t “live up” to its expectations?

Are we missing out on certain mysteries of life as a result of what we learn through social media? Is Social Media clouding our judgment? Is Social Media killing the element of surprise?

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About Nitin Gupta

This blog compiles my thoughts and views on the innovations, tools and trends in digital marketing. I have spent more than a decade in financial services, last few studying retail banking and payments industry trends. Particularly interested in the convergence of digital, data, technology and financial services. Email: Twitter: NitinGuptasays LinkedIn:
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Brooke Pitts
Brooke Pitts

I have also pondered this same question recently. My wife & I went on our 10th anniversary trip at the end of December (coincidentally, to Tulum Mexico as well) and I fell into this trap of spending way too many hours reading thousands of posts (on Trip Advisor, etc.) written about hundreds of hotels, restaurants, etc. in the Yucatan area. I definitely felt like there is a degradation of the surprise / adventure element, not to mention the time spent over-analyzing so many posts. However, on balance, I believe it was worth it to ensure we had a great trip given the amount of $$ we were spending. I don't think we would have made the decision to go to Tulum without all of the easily accessible information, and I'm very glad we went there. BTW, we also learned about / ate at several of the same restaurants mentioned in the posts you cited as examples, and they were indeed excellent!


Hello from Russia! Can I quote a post in your blog with the link to you?


Certainly. Glad that you found the posts useful. Look forward to seeing you again

Mark W Schaefer
Mark W Schaefer

I am planning a trip to Spain and am feeling a similar anxiety. My wife is researching everything to the Nth degree, while I would prefer a little more ... adventure. Last year I went to Italy and made a reservation at a small hotel I got off of the NYT. It was in a location I sought but other than that, I knew nothing about it. When I got there, there was a grizzled old man sitting behind a weathered counter. He opened an enormous leather book to find my name. No computer. No credit cards. That was one of the best moments of the whole trip. This is probably what the review would have said, if I had found one... "This place needs to be updated. The check-in desk looks dilapidated. Service is slow because there is no computerized check-in. They had to look for my resrvation in a BOOK while I stood there in the heat of the day. And then they wouldn;t take my credit card! I will never go back."


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