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The Paradox of Choice

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The Paradox of Choice

story by: Anna Sarjeant

“I’m going to spin a globe, point my finger and wherever it lands, that is where I’ll travel.”

A good idea in theory, but what happens when the first spin lands on the Sahara Desert, the second on Chernobyl and two hours later you’ve also disregarded Antarctica, Siberia and every tribal village of The Yanomami. Your dreams of spontaneous decision-making are all but caput.

The problem with making decisions is that we’re all limited by too much choice. But that’s a contradiction right? Perhaps not. As westerners we live in a world of unfathomable choice. And choices present us with an inescapable necessity to make decisions. And whereas choice was once considered the very epitome of freedom, we now find ourselves paralysed by it; the saturation of choice overwhelms us. A concept that’s widely acknowledged as ‘The Paradox of Choice’.

According to American psychologist and author of The Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz, this abundance of choice is a waste of our time. Quite literally. We are wasting too much time trying to make decisions.

Consider your local supermarket, where entire aisles are dedicated to nothing but the toothbrush. Do your molars require the soft bristle, or a hard one? Perhaps you need the brand that removes coffee stains? Speaking of which, how’s that working out for you? Unless you’re in France, the humble coffee can no longer be consumed unless it’s clearly specified if you want trim, soy, half strength, twice as hot or twice as large. Oh and do you want your froth in the shape of a silver fern, or a dancing, flute tooting leprechaun? "Mon dieu!" (exclaim the French) we’ve all gone mad.

And while you dither between your commodities and your coffees, you’re also expected to pick your next holiday destination. From a planet that boasts 196 countries, over 4000 separate cities and so many beaches we lost count somewhere around 3000. Seriously, even Google can’t hazard a guess. As for Jeeves? He gave up and dismissed himself sometime in the mid noughties.

Exhausted much? Because we are.

Let’s forget the toothbrush; buy the one that complements your bath towel. Take your coffee black and ditch the froth. And let’s narrow down your holiday destination in these five easy steps:

 1. Identify your goal
What do you really want? The question is simple but the answer’s far harder. Take the time to dissect it like you would a university essay paper. Reflect on past holidays, if there was one you particularly enjoyed, why was that? Similarly, if there’s a trip you rarely reminisce about, what was its downfall? Take away all limitations such as money,     time off and logistics. Then work backwards. Of course you’re going to have to compromise, we can’t all choose to holiday on-board a 400 million dollar yacht, but once  you’ve identified your love for the Mediterranean coastline,  maybe your goal will be a Croatian cruise. 

 

2. Talk it out
Don’t presume you have to make a decision by yourself. HOT travel consultants are travellers foremost, agents second.  Pop in and chew their ears off. Talk about your travel ideas, discuss your holiday ideals, and even your fears if you’re considering somewhere unknown. It helps to get other people’s perspectives, especially when they’ve previously made similar decisions themselves. Of course our consultants  want to tell you about HOT’s latest deals, but they also  want to tell you about the time they found fake Raybans  in Andorra, in a really cool market, for less than 10 euros.  It’s your ideas and our knowledge – put them together and you’re in decision-making heaven. 

 

3. Swap impulse for intelligence
The decision to travel is usually impulsive, i.e. my boss is a plonker, I’m moving to the Maldives! However, a wellplanned (and dare we say, cautious) approach is wiser when choosing the destination. An intelligent decision stays in consciousness for a while, so spend a few days, weeks or months doing your research. Get online, download apps, read travel blogs and put your HOT consultant on speed dial. Need to know if the kids are going to get WiFi in the Yasawas? Give them a call every time you have a question. 

 

4. Evaluate the pros and the cons
Don’t roll your eyes and pretend to snore, we know it’s boringly obvious, but we stand by it nevertheless. Write down a list of pros and cons for every destination you’re considering. A visual tally will help your brain process the variables. You might think you want to climb Mt Kilimanjaro with your best mate Benny, until your cons list highlights Benny's irritating sniff, his poor hygiene and the unbearable snoring. Similarly, another trip to Fiji might seem overdone, but when the pros include dad’s heightened mood and the complimentary kids’ club, suddenly your decision seems obvious. 

 

5. Eliminate choices by setting standards
One of the positives from having endless choice, is that it  reduces the obligation to ‘make do’. Gone are the days when St Moritz had only one restaurant, and if you didn’t like salty sausage and cheese fondue, you’d go hungry until home time.  Now’s the time to think about exactly what you do want - and exactly what you don’t. And then stick to it. That could be a budget you refuse to go over (or even under), hotels that are no further than 20 minutes from the airport and beds with a minimum 400 thread count. Egyptian cotton no less. It’s all about eliminating the compromises: if the hotel has to have a swimming pool as well as a beach, well then, it has to have a swimming pool as well as a beach. Simple. 

 

If you follow all of the above and still find yourself in a conundrum, stick to pointing fingers at spinning globes. With a bit of luck you’ll land on the Gold Coast. At the exact location of our top selling hotel.  

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