This fascinating piece on nostalgia in today’s New York Times got me thinking about the role that nostalgia plays in the decisions we make about where and how we travel — especially as it relates to baby boomer travelers.
The Times piece points out that nostalgia was traditionally considered a “mental defect” of sorts, related to sorrow and depression. Recent studies have shown, though, that feelings of nostalgia for days, events and people gone by can actually brighten your mood and make you more optimistic for the future.
As someone who has a fair amount of nostalgia for places I’ve lived and traveled to in the past, I’m a big believer in the findings of those more recent studies.
Baby boomers (now 49 to 67) have reached the age when nostalgia tends to be at its peak (the other stage of life when nostalgia is prevalent, says the Times piece, is young adulthood, when, after separation from family, cherished childhood memories often come flooding back).
My own favorite travel memories — for which I’m unapologetically nostalgic — include the family car and car ferry trips around the country that I took both as a child with my parents and sister, and again with my wife and our own kids when they were young; and the six months traveling in Europe that my wife and I spent in the early 1970s (on $7.50 a day each) when newly married.
One thing they have in common is that they took place years ago. While I’m sure they weren’t all nectar and roses at the time, in my nostalgic memories they’ve taken on a kind of rosy glow in which all roads were scenic and clear; the trains were romantic and mysterious havens straight out of Agatha Christie novels; the (incredibly cheap, copious) food was all wonderful and served beneath vine-covered arbors; the background music was all Golden Oldies (though new at the time); and museums, theme parks and other attractions were all devoid of crowds and long lines.
And every place we traveled had the aura of authenticity — existing in a kind of wondrous land that flourished before so many things “got spoiled.”
Of course, such a land never fully existed, but that doesn’t stop me — or many of my baby boomer brethren — from waxing nostalgic about it or trying to recapture the magic that arises from truly authentic experiences.
Think about this: does your destination — or hotel, or restaurant, or mode of transport or other travel-related business — have an aura of nostalgia that will evoke warm memories in baby boomers? Something that might be straight out of the 1950s to 1970s, when boomers were growing up?
And, especially, something that remains truly authentic?
If so, consider forming a marketing campaign around it — and prepare to welcome the resulting flood of baby boomers eager to embrace it.
I’ll be writing more about the role nostalgia plays in baby boomer travel in future blog posts. Meanwhile, don’t forget to download my free report, “How to Ride the Coming Wave of Boomers,” available here. It’s all about the best ways to market travel to baby boomers — the biggest-spending group of travelers the world has ever seen.
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