Budget travel has seen a surge of popularity in recent years. Bare-bones airlines promise flights to Europe for less than your weekly paycheck. Airbnb makes it easy to find a comfortable spot to stay literally anywhere. A result of this popularity is an increase in advertising for travel. Social media feeds are filled with ads for cheap travel options: Unbelievable prices are pasted upon backdrops from all around the world. All varieties of wanderlust are constantly promised satisfaction.
Thus, few people will be immediately taken aback when, while scrolling through Facebook or Instagram, they stumble upon an advertisement for a trip to, say, Barcelona, for a mere $17. It must just be another budget airline with unbelievable prices and tiny seats.
But wait, all the way to Barcelona, for $17?
That begs for a second glance, followed by a skeptical click on the link. $17?
The advertisement will take them to gobookatrip.com. They will scarcely glance at the details of the website as they pick out a desired destination. This is when a little confusion creeps in. The tickets to the destinations don’t offer departure times, means of transportation, places to stay. Rather, they offer curious titles and blurbs about them. The travel-eager clicker might start to think about the multiple meanings of the word “book.” And then, they notice the subheading to the name of the website. “Book a trip,” the website reads, “with the Wild Detectives.”
Most people will be at least tangentially aware of The Wild Detectives, the cozy bookstore/bar/venue in Oak Cliff known for its books, its booze and its old-school literary atmosphere. Think of any two writers you like, and you can imagine them sitting down for a chat over a beer at The Wild Detectives.
But what does a bookstore have to do with an online travel agency offering really, really cheap trips around the world?
Well, The Wild Detectives is really offering figurative trips around the world. "Book a Trip" is a campaign that sets customers up with a book to read based on where they’d like to travel in the world, and if so desired, a customer can then order the book and pick it up at Wild Detectives. The books are carefully curated to deepen a reader’s understanding of a place, regardless whether they’re actually going to travel there. One may choose one of the site's "travel deals" or search a destination. For instance, typing in "New York" will result in a deal to "book" Catcher in the Rye.
What’s the point of this campaign? Is Wild Detectives just trying to trick people into buying books when they think they’re making travel plans?
That’s certainly part of their reason. This campaign comes from Wild Detective’s advertising partner Dieste, whose advertising work often includes what Chief Creative Officer Ciro Sarmiento calls a “hack element.” It’s a sleight of hand that attracts people to an advertisement for a reason other than the product being offered. The point isn’t to confuse and mock consumers, but to attract them to a superior product they would have otherwise overlooked. In this case, the superior product is literature. The campaign wants to remind people that reading can be just as valuable, if not more valuable, than traveling the world.
“People can spend thousands of dollars to just go to this beautiful place, take a selfie and post it on Instagram. It’s like the most expensive photo you can take. As opposed to just buying a $15 book and getting smarter,” says Sarmiento.
And in a way, reading a book can be even more rewarding than traveling to a new city. When you read a book, “you can add so many things in your imagination, and reality sometimes limits that,” says Javier Garcia del Moral, co-owner of Wild Detectives.
But reading a book that takes place in a specific location can also vastly improve the reality of that location for a traveler. It’s difficult to visit a foreign place today and realize all the significance of its history and its culture when all you can see is the present moment. Del Moral has an antidote to this problem, as well: “Every time I go to a place for the first time, I always try to read one or two books that happen somehow related to that place, so it expands the experience of visiting the place.” Reading a book about a place you’re going to visit enriches your view of the place, giving you an understanding of the history and culture that you can’t necessarily get from an ignorant visit.
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But it works the other way around, as well. Del Moral hopes people will also discover places they want to visit through books that they love.
“It’s really a win-win,” says del Moral. “No matter how you look at it, it enables curiosity.”
Because ultimately, traveling and reading both ignite a curiosity within people: a curiosity about the nature of other cultures and individuals. If one is curious about a place, they can search for it through "Book a Trip" and learn about a place and its culture without traveling there. Likewise, if somebody has read a book and has become attached to a place through reading about it, they are then better equipped to have a meaningful experience in the place itself.
So although "Book a Trip" is a little sneaky in how it attracts customers, the payoff ultimately makes up for the trick. A customer learns about a new place through a new book, a place earns more cultural awareness, and literacy and a love of reading are promoted. So go ahead; visit gobookatrip.com and find a new way to travel.