As an exceptionally warm and eventful September gives way to a (presumably) cooler October, I find myself reflecting on two important events of the past month, events that are on the surface unrelated but that I, in true gonzo journalist tradition, plan to not merely connect, but to do so in a way that makes sense.
The first of the two events is that September has seen MyTaiwanTour busily creating customized tours for a series of bloggers, journalists and other influencers visiting Taiwan as part of an ongoing program sponsored by the Taiwan Tourism Bureau. The program, called Live Like a Local, differs from standard FAM trips (of which I’ve done plenty as a travel writer) in a few ways. Rather than coming as a group, the influencers are all visiting individually. And Instead of being carted around on group tours, they’re traveling independently, charting their own courses based on their individual passions, with suggestions, customized itineraries and on-the-ground assistance provided by the MyTaiwanTour team.
The second of these two important September events was the launch of the long awaited series, Star Trek: Discovery.
I’m imagining readers – and maybe even my colleague April (MyTaiwanTour’s Social Media specialist, also in charge of sourcing images for all of our articles and blog posts) – asking how could there possibly be any connection between travel in Taiwan and Star Trek?
To these naysayers I say: Hear me out.
Star Trek, in addition to being the world’s most beloved TV franchise – with legions of fans spanning every generation from Baby Boomers to Gen Z, also presents an optimistic vision of the future based largely on a philosophy celebrating diversity. This philosophy is best summed by a phrase that, while technically the basis of Vulcan philosophy, seems to have largely been adopted as a loose philosophical guideline of the many races forming Star Trek’s chief group of protagonists, collectively known as The Federation. That phrase, for my non-Trekkie readers, is
“Infinite diversity in infinite combination”
Boiled down to its essence, infinite diversity in infinite combination (or IDIC, for short) celebrates the vast array of variables in the universe. Though diversity has been one of Star Trek’s defining characteristics since it’s first inception in 1966, Discovery takes it to a new level. This isn’t just through the obvious, by having the main protagonists in the first two episodes be a powerful women, including a woman of color (Sonequa Martin-Green, better known to Walking Dead fans as Sasha) and an Asian woman (Malaysian born Michelle Yeoh, better known to Chinese-speaking audiences as Yáng Zǐqióng), but through the subtext being set up for the show’s actual plot arc through it’s first real story. In short, the conflict being set up is between The Federation, an organization made up from a diverse variety of species (and races within those individual species) and the Klingon Empire, a mono-ethnic species that regards this diversity as impurity, something to be fought against rather then embraced.
“Great, Josh. But what connection does this have with travel in Taiwan?”
Glad you asked!
Two weeks ago I wrote about a conference I’d attended in Tainan to discuss changing trends in the global travel industry. One of the things that came up again and again was how the internet is changing not just the way people travel, but the reasons that people travel. The bucket list approach is rapidly giving way to travel based on individual interests and passions. While this seems to be true across the board, it’s especially pronounced among millennials, the generation to which the influencers who we’ve been customizing itineraries for over the last month belong. For these travelers, we knew that the MyTaiwanTour’s personalized approach would be the perfect fit.
The first of September’s influencers was a young Canadian named Jonathan Waiching Ho. A quick pre-trip perusal of Jonathan’s blog revealed that not only was he interested in fashion and lifestyle, but that he had a definite runway model sensibility about him. Providing ground support, hotel arrangements and transportation, we created a free-flowing itinerary based around a few activities based on these interests. Jonathan took the experience and made it distinctly his own. You can read about his trip here.
Another influencer, Chelsea Pearl told us she was into beauty and fashion. Checking out some of her previous work online led me to discover that she was also a serious foodie and coffee aficionado. So I met up with her on her first day and brought her on a food and coffee tour of Taipei that included a visit to an awesome place for eel (which she’d discovered online), the Nanmen Market (which is part of our own Ultimate Taipei Culinary Experience tour) and a cat-themed coffee shop with excellent coffee. Chelsea spent the next two weeks traveling around the island on an itinerary we’d curated together, creating her own unique Taiwan experience as she went. (She made an excellent video from the trip, in which yours truly has a spazzy cameo.)
A third influencer had a distinct niche. Taylor Fuller’s blog, Travel Colorfully is devoted to travel in places where vibrant colors are present. This sort of thing being right up Taiwan’s alley, we created an itinerary that would allow her to explore this passion to the fullest, starting with a personalized first day tour of a seriously colorful fish market, the ultra-vibrant Dadaocheng neighborhood and the nearby street art of Ximending. Taylor’s still traveling around Taiwan as I write; today I think she’s visiting Taichung’s Rainbow Village, which seems totally apropos. We can’t wait to see what she posts from her Taiwan experience when it’s over.
These are just the first three of nine bloggers and photographers coming to Taiwan over the next few months, each of whom, having their own interests and passions, will have their own distinct Taiwan experiences. Like the parable of the elephant and the blind men, the Taiwan that one experiences will not be identical to that experienced by another. This is what we mean by customized travel.
While Taiwan is still a small island, constrained by a few general parameters (subtropical, so if your passions are skiing and ice fishing we’d suggest you consider Hokkaido instead), there’s a ton of distinctly different experiences to be had here. It’d be hyperbole to claim infinite diversity in infinite combinations but we do our best to provide impressive diversity in impressive combinations. It’s Taiwan’s version of IDIC, and I think Spock would be satisfied with it.
I know I am.
Until next week, Live Long and Prosper,
Joshua Samuel Brown