How would you feel about going overseas without knowing your destination? Would you be brave enough to let a travel company organise a mystery vacation for you?
Welcome to the world of surprise holidays!
One such company that offers this service is Anywhr, a startup operating in Singapore.
According to the company’s website, Anywhr wants to help more people explore and experience the true joy of discovery that travel brings, and break out of the herd mentality of going to typical tourist spots to do typical mass tourism activities.
“Your trip includes bookings for return plane tickets and accommodation, and an Anywhr Travelogue that will be planned according to your selected trip theme and personal preferences,” it said.
Travellers get to indicate their interests such as the type of holiday – adventure, experience or getaway – as well as their budget, travel dates and other information including dietary restrictions and places they prefer not to go to.
In a nutshell, ‘Adventure’ is for the trekkers and adrenaline-seekers, the mountain and waterfall lovers, the explorers who enjoy getting lost; ‘Experience’ is for the travellers who want to meet locals and experience the culture, perhaps try a homestay or eat some local delicacies; and, ‘Getaway’ is for the ones who just want to relax on the beach, soak in a hotspring or just anything that brings them away from the city life.
After payment is made, the start-up begins planning and within 3 days, travellers will receive a “teaser email” with details about the weather, packing list and time to be at the airport.
A week before departure, a customised travelogue with flight and accommodation details, suggested places to visit, as well as $30 (Singapore dollars) worth of the country’s currency will arrive in the mail. Adventurous travellers may opt to open the envelope only after reaching the airport.
“Everything we suggest in the travelogue are local secrets,” said Zelia Leong – who founded Anywhr with her partner, Felix Tan – during an interview with Channel NewsAsia. “We partner (with) airlines, hotels and local homestays to get the best rate and information. We have local partners to help us do quality checks.”
What Do ‘Surprise’ Travellers Have To Say?
The following are what travellers said about using Anywhr services after they embraced the unexpected and ventured into the unknown:
#1. Tharn Chun & Charis who chose ‘Adventure’.
“Partly due to my more sedentary lifestyle, I was quite skeptical about whether the adventurous great outdoors was going to be my cup of tea. It was through this trip that I realised how I actually quite like trekking while soaking in the gorgeous scenic views and enjoying the natural air-con with ‘breeze-mode’ as I got higher up the mountains. The more memorable things on my trip were linked to transportation. My dad was absolutely terrified when we opted for motorbikes to go up a mountain. And, the journey was on meandering paths and steep slopes! But that was hands-down the best experience from the trip. The thrill of sliding downhill, the liberating gush of the wind and the unexplainable bliss of zooming by relaxed padi fields are all moments I would probably not get to re-live here in Singapore.”
#2. Jeslyn & Xinyee who went for the ‘Experience’ package.
“During our regular trips, we usually go to touristy places and the people there will ask you to book a package, tour agencies trying to sell you stuff. Like when I was in Krabi, everyone was trying to tell you to do this and this. Our Anywhr trip really made us explore more. We had to rely on the locals a lot and ask them for suggestions: Where to eat, where to go, what to eat. Even Google didn’t have much information on the destination. There were no touristy signs at the attractions; we didn’t even know that was an attraction. You even have to talk to the bus conductor to let you know where to alight, because there are no signs. And he will be like ‘okay you get down here.’. The people were all very nice, and helped us a lot.”
#3. Stella who opted for a ‘Getaway’.
“If you want to travel but don’t want to plan, or you’re tired of the pressure to find the best deals or check off the most landmarks – or you just want to transcend your own expectations about it means to travel – then go Anywhr! It has become a doorway to a new friend and an exceptional vacation. Spontaneity is something most Singaporeans don’t value – maybe it’s time to change that. I hope you have as great a time as I did.”
Just Sit Back & Relax
Surprise travel is hardly a new concept, brave travellers in America and the UK have been enjoying the thrill of the unknown for many years. However, what is new is that the allure is hardly the mystery of booking an unknown trip but the fact that travellers don’t need to sweat the details.
“We are all so busy these days, there’s hardly time to even think about where to go, let alone book. We do everything for our clients. We talk to them on the phone, get a feel of what they are about and then spend a day putting together the ultimate break for them,” she said.
Some Just Don’t Like Surprises
While going on a ‘surprise holiday’ can a great experience for some, it may not be for everyone. Owen, who wrote an article – Anywhr Review: Is Surprise Travel For Everyone? – for the blog ‘My Turn To Travel’, had some words of advice for those who are wondering if something like this is for them:
1. It’s for people who can see value in experience.
Yes, you can probably book your flights and accommodation much cheaper, but that’s not what you’re paying for. You can buy a piece of beef steak in the supermarket and cook it yourself, but why do you still go to a steakhouse? Likewise, you’re paying for the surprise element, expertise, personalisation, support and convenience.
2. It’s for people who can let go of control.
You can open the Anywhr mail and find out your destination beforehand to be prepared, but if you are the type that requests to change your accommodation even before leaving home, then this is not for you. Why would you even let others book your trip for you?
3. It’s for people who can handle surprises.
At the end of the day, it’s a surprise trip! Anything could happen in a foreign country. Even though Anywhr only sends travellers to safe destinations and have their hotline available 24/7, you’re still physically alone. If you need to be led by the hand at all times, and have everything under control, perhaps joining a tour group would be better for you.