Dhe category “off the beaten track” is booming. What is meant are insider tips, ideas outside the mainstream. This one bathing spot on the Rhine, the cute pub. This applies to spending the evening in your hometown as well as to vacation trips abroad. The fact that individuality is very popular is also reflected in the bookings made by tourists: the German Travel Association has determined for the past year that only every third trip is booked as a package deal. What if guests come? Then you really want to offer them something. Anything but ordinary. Where does this desire come from? Time for a present analysis.
Researchers have been observing for years that individualism is increasing in our society. They read that, for example, from rising divorce rates. Incidentally, Frankfurt is in tenth place nationwide with 56 percent in terms of the proportion of divorced marriages. As a further indication, the naming of children is often used. The more unusual, the more individual. For Frankfurt, one has to make concessions at this point: For 22 years, the most popular names for girls have been Marie and Sophie, for boys Maximilian has remained among the top 2. These are really no exception names.
“The paths of individualism itself are insanely well-trodden”
Sure, classics always work. And for visitors from outside, there may also be a few attractions in the “Oldie but Goldie” category. After all, the Römer, the Paulskirche or the Museumsufer are not so well-known and popular for nothing. But not just mass-produced goods, please. How convenient that there is a sea of guidebooks or ideas like the ones on this page that come up with slightly different ideas. But why all this now?
We often believe that we have to live up to expectations. Expecting to be hip, expecting to have a perfect time, or having discovered the most popular spot in town. The expectation to be different from everyone else, to stand out from the crowd.
Plot twist: It’s not so incredibly individual to want what everyone else wants. “The paths of individualism itself are incredibly well-trodden,” says Martin Hecht. This means that if everyone wants to be non-conformist, that is a new form of conformism. Good to see, for example, at the Iron Maiden concert at the end of July in the Waldstadion: tens of thousands of unconventional men with long hair and metal shirts. Everyone looked the same.
Martin Hecht from Mainz is a sociologist and political scientist and has dealt intensively with individualism. In his book “The Loneliness of Modern Man” Hecht distinguishes between “sham individualism” and real “obstinacy”. The former is an empty shell: the desire to stand out from the crowd – like everyone else. Namely as a status symbol, as proof of one’s own coolness.
How one vacations or hosts can also be such a status symbol. That’s quite a blossom. After all, it shouldn’t appear as if you’re following the beaten path when you visit the most popular places in the world.
For example, there are apps that retouch entire people out of pictures. A few swipes of your finger and they’re gone, in their place the cell phone program reproduces the background of the photo. A selfie in front of a crowded beach becomes one in front of a secluded bay.
A portrait from the Coachella festival, a fairly hyped music event in California with more than a quarter million visitors, looks like the person in it was the only one who found this cool spot for their photo. “Epik” is the name of one of these apps. Her name already insinuates what she wants to do: create pictures that are epic and very special, simply unique and individual.
recovery from expectations
But all of this has more to do with the pressure of expectations than with real individuality. In order to save the term, Martin Hecht examined the concept of “stubbornness” in his book based on Hermann Hesse. This is the ability to truly listen to your own voice. So just do what you feel like doing. “They have to free themselves from social expectations,” says Hecht.
Not easy, because we are “socially pre-figured”, as he explains. We are not autonomous in our decisions. What we like is influenced by a set of societal norms (be individual!) that need to be reflected. But holidays, argues Hecht, should be a time in which we recover from patterns of expectation.
A reading tip for this: In “Somehow we had imagined it differently” Martin Hecht takes a firm look at why vacation is so expectation-driven and why it often goes wrong. What is to be made of this analysis? Do we now have to book all package holidays and crowd our guests to the most well-known squares in the city because none of us are really individual anyway? Of course not!
There is a certain relaxation in recognizing that true individuality lies within us anyway, since there are no two identical genetic sets or the same consciousness in the whole world. With that, we might be able to really find out what we feel like doing and then simply do it, be it a visit to a tourist hotspot, because you sometimes want to stand on the roof of a high-rise building or have this cool photo perspective, or retreat to a shady summer garden. In the end, only you know if it’s really worth it.