I’ve been traveling my whole life and blogging about it since 2012. But it’s only in the last few months that I’ve taken this blog public and learned more about the crazy world of travel blogging and travel in general. I’ve joined travel groups on Facebook and followed travellers on Instagram. I’ve started reading lots of travel blogs and have even tried out Pinterest. And while I have definitely learned a lot, gotten some great travel tips and even made some new online friends, I’ve also noticed there are some darks sides and an almost competitive nature of travel.
The downside of social media
When I decided to take this blog public a couple of months ago, one of the first things I did was create an Instagram account. The first few days were really fun – I loved watching my follower count rise, finding new cool people to follow and posting photos from some of my past travels. But a few weeks in, I was growing really sick of it.
Excuse me while I get on my high horse and rant a little bit…
So much of Instagram is beautiful models in perfect poses in front of dreamy settings that are edited and photoshopped to perfection. Some of these images are obviously fake and others just look like they’re fake. I’m all for taking a nice photo. But when you’re waking up at the crack of dawn or waiting for hours to get the scenery to yourself, packing a beautiful dress and doing your make up, and then spending so long editing the photo until it’s barely recognizable – that’s not what I’m looking for. And, in my humble opinion, that’s not travel. That’s just a photo shoot. If the only reason you’re heading to a spot is to grab the photo and see how many likes you can get, you’re not traveling for the right reasons.
My next biggest gripe with social media is all the fakery. There are so many programs out there that will like posts, follow accounts and leave nondescript comments for you. Or, worse, if you’re not using a bot and just leaving these awful generic comments all by yourself. I roll my eyes every time someone posts something like “Your account is amazing!” on an Instagram post of mine. I even got a comment like that on a post where I was calling out comments like that! It’s even worse when it’s someone trying to sell a product who follows up their generic comment with an even more generic direct message and invitation to their Facebook group.
I’m on social media because I enjoy being social. I want to read stories, share experiences and genuinely interact with people. I absolutely hate when people post photos with something like “Paradise!” or “Tag someone you want to go here with!” as their only caption. This is your chance to tell me a story. Talk to me about this paradise-like place you traveled to. Or share your thought of the day. Just share SOMETHING! I promise you, I’ll read it and leave you an actual comment.
Okay, rant over (for now).
Keeping up with the Joneses
When you enter this space and begin following well-known travelers on Instagram and reading travel blogs, you start to feel like you’re a very tiny fish who just can’t keep a float in a big pond dominated by big fish. Or, at least that’s how I feel. I love following along with some of my favourite bloggers on social media and reading their latest posts. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say that it fuels that competitive nature of travel. I am constantly comparing my travels, my photos, my readers, my writing and even my life to the picture perfect lives of these bloggers out there.
And that’s just it – what I’m seeing is their picture perfect life. I’m only seeing the best parts of their days, the one selfie out of hundreds that turned out and the version of their latest travel story that is the most captivating. As they say, you shouldn’t compare your behind the scenes to someone else’s highlight reel. I have to constantly remind myself of this while I scroll through perfect Instagram feeds and read amazing blog posts.
Hurry up and get there
Now here is where the competitive nature of travel really rears its ugly head. In the last little while, I’ve joined a number of travel groups on Facebook. I love that there’s this huge community of people online going on awesome trips and exploring all of these places. I really enjoy sharing some of my knowledge and picking up new tips for my next trip.
But one thing I’ve noticed is that so many people in these groups have a “hurry up and get there” mentality when it comes to traveling. Every single day there are posts from people saying, “I have a week in Europe and plan to hit these six cities, what do you think?” And the answer is always: SLOW DOWN!
Look, I get it. As travelers, we have an insatiable need to see and do as much as we can. And especially coming from North America, where two weeks of annual vacation is the norm, it makes sense to want to cram in as much as possible. Plus, when you’re somewhere like Europe where it’s so quick and easy to hop into another city or country, it’s hard to sit still for even a second. I’m even guilty of it – we crammed four cities into 10 days in Ireland.
But why are we in such a rush? Is it just to get the passport stamp or check something off a bucket list? Probably. There’s no way you’re getting a good understanding of the city of Rome if you take one photo in front of the Colosseum and then move on to your next city. And you know it’s those same people who spend one afternoon in Rome who then can’t stop talking about it and giving everyone advice since they’ve “technically” been there.
So, why do we travel?
So, why do we travel? Why do we blog? Why do we share our travel photos on social media? What is the point of all of this?
Is it all just so we can “win” this travel competition? I don’t think so. While sometimes the competitive nature of travel can catch up with us, at the end of the day, I don’t think it is what fuels us to keep traveling. Because there will always be someone out there with more Instragram followers, nicer photos and more checks on their bucket list. If you’re traveling to win, you’ll always be a loser.
So what is it then? I don’t want to speak for the entire travel community, but for me, it’s about living a life outside of my bubble. I travel because I crave adventure and new experiences. I want to see an ocean in a previously unfathomable shade of blue. I want to eat a dish I have never heard of before and that has me coming back for seconds and thirds. I want to walk through little towns and look out at view points with the most giddy smile on my face. I know there is so much more to life than my little home here in Surrey, BC, Canada. And because I’ve had a little taste for what else is out there, I know I need to get some more.
And why do I share it? Because that’s who I am. I’m a writer. I love to tell stories. I’ve been making up stories since I was a little kid. At every point in my life, I’ve always turned to writing to help me express myself, work through my feelings, share my experiences and use as a creative outlet.
I don’t want to let the competitive nature of travel ruin travel and ruin blogging for me. I don’t want to be buying tickets and booking trips just because I want to have something for my blog. I don’t want to groan every time I open Instagram and have to wade through accounts that make me feel bad and comments that bug me. At the end of the day, traveling and blogging are important to me and they bring me joy and meaning. I never want to lose that. So if that means I spend more time playing with my dog on the beach instead of snapping photos of the view, so be it. And if I go a few days before posting on Instagram, I’m sure my 300 followers really won’t mind.
I do all of this for joy. The moment it isn’t joyful for me is the moment I know I’m doing something wrong.
Thanks for reading!
Has the competitive nature of travel ever gotten to you?
(And yes, I understand how hypocritical this is after ranting about social media…)